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In this Aug. 10 photo, a helicopter drops water to protect a home from the Holy Fire in Lake Elsinore.
In this Aug. 10 photo, a helicopter drops water to protect a home from the Holy Fire in Lake Elsinore. (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

A new surcharge on landlines, cellphones and data plans meant to bolster 911 operations sputtered in the Legislature on Friday, even as lawmakers cited the need for an improved system in the wake of the state’s deadly wildfires.

“The current system is based on technology from the 1980s,” said state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), urging her colleagues to pass the bill. “Because of this outdated technology, the numbers of failures and response times continue to increase.”

The proposed charge would have been between $0.20 and $0.80 per month for each phone line. The bill would have also authorized a $0.75 monthly charge for prepaid mobile services.

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(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

A two-year battle to set middle and high school start times at 8:30 a.m. or later was finally put to bed in the Legislature when the measure squeaked through Friday night. 

Last year, Senate Bill 328 by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) failed to pass the Assembly by 15 votes. Since then, the bill was amended to exempt rural school districts in order to accommodate farming needs.

Lawmakers enthusiastically affirmed the research the bill was based on, which shows that early start times combined with teenagers’ natural sleep schedules lead to sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep, in turn, increases risks of poor grades, mental illness and car accidents. One study found moving start times from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. made students happier and more likely to show up for class.

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  • California Legislature
Campers are having trouble getting reservations at state parks.
Campers are having trouble getting reservations at state parks. (Oscar Vasquez / California State Parks)

Californians hoping to reserve campsites at state parks may find them all booked up.

That’s because the electronic reservation system is being gamed by private operators who use computer software “bots” to snap up campsites for weeks in advance before selling them at a premium on the web.

On Friday, state lawmakers sent the governor a bill that bans using the state park service reservation system for profit without first getting approval from the Department of Parks and Recreation.

Scott Slater, president and general counsel of Cadiz Inc. watches as water pours out into a spreading basin on April 18, 2012.
Scott Slater, president and general counsel of Cadiz Inc. watches as water pours out into a spreading basin on April 18, 2012. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A last-ditch effort to impose additional environmental review on a controversial groundwater pumping project in the Mojave Desert sputtered Friday night after a key state Senate committee held the bill over concerns about legislative process.

The measure, Senate Bill 120, would have given the state Lands Commission and Department of Fish and Wildlife the authority to study the project by Cadiz Inc. to make sure the pumping would not harm surrounding lands.

A similar measure was shelved by the Senate last year. Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside) revived the proposal in recent days using a legislative maneuver called a gut-and-amend, or inserting a new policy into an existing, unrelated bill. 

  • California Legislature
Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles)
Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

State legislators approved a measure Friday that aims to help California taxpayers who face larger federal tax payments following the Trump administration’s recent overhaul.

The bill would allow taxpayers to claim a charitable deduction for state tax payments above the $10,000 limit set in the tax cuts passed by Congress last year. But the Internal Revenue Service announced last week that it believed such plans, which other states have passed, were tax dodges, and is working to pass a rule that would nullify them by the end of the year.

The author of the bill, state Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), said the passage of the measure was worth it for state taxpayers, even though it would lead to litigation between the state and federal government.

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  • California Legislature
ICE agents detain a suspect inside Fresno County Superior Court in July.
ICE agents detain a suspect inside Fresno County Superior Court in July. (Pablo Lopez / Fresno Bee)

A proposal that would prohibit immigration arrests at state courthouses was sent to Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday, part of a broader move by Democrats to ensure public institutions remain “safe zones” for immigrants without legal status.

The approval comes as concerns continue to rise over the presence of federal immigration agents in courtrooms across the country. The latest such arrest to spark criticism took place this month in Sacramento.

“Civil arrests in our courthouses interrupt the administration of justice and hurt all those who use our courts — crime victims, survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence, and witnesses who are aiding law enforcement,” bill author Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said.

(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The leader of the California Senate said Friday that she would delay a closely watched proposal to link oversight of the state’s vast electrical power grid to those in neighboring states.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) released a terse statement saying the bill would not be brought up for a vote before the Legislature’s final adjournment at midnight.

"We will continue this important discussion next year," Atkins said.

Rape kits from 2017.
Rape kits from 2017. (Rick Bowmer / Associated Press)

A bill sent to the governor on Friday would require the swift testing of all rape kits in California.

Under Senate Bill 1449 by state Sen. Connie M. Leyva (D-Chino), law enforcement would have to send DNA evidence collected in every sexual assault case to a crime lab within 20 days. The lab would then need to process the evidence within four months, or send it to another lab within one month. 

California currently has thousands of untested rape kits. Officials sometimes skip testing when it would not help an investigation — when a victim drops charges or a suspect has already pleaded guilty, for example. But failing to test the kits could cause law enforcement to miss connections to previous crimes, supporters of the bill argue.

“All survivors deserve to have their rape kits tested promptly, which in turn can help ensure justice for survivors, identifying serial perpetrators and even exonerating the wrongfully convicted,” Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) said.

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  • California Legislature
Proponents of net neutrality protest against Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai in May in Washington.
Proponents of net neutrality protest against Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai in May in Washington. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Nearly nine months after federal regulators voted to do away with net neutrality rules instituted under the Obama administration, state lawmakers are on the verge of bringing them back to California.

The state Senate on Friday sent a broad proposal to Gov. Jerry Brown that would prevent broadband and wireless companies from favoring some websites over others by charging for faster speeds and from blocking, throttling or otherwise hindering access to content.

At a press conference later that day, lawmakers said California should be setting the national standard on internet policy and vowed to persuade the governor to sign the legislation, calling it vital to the state’s resistance to the Trump administration.  

  • California Legislature
  • California Republicans
State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa
State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

A California state senator has been admonished for violating the Senate’s code of conduct after a woman complained he put her in a headlock and gave her a “noogie” during a reception.

According to documents released by the Senate Rules Committee on Friday, Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) was the subject of a June complaint by a woman who said he grabbed her, put his arm around her neck and gave her a “noogie” while taking a photo at a reception for GOP lawmakers sponsored by a healthcare advocacy group.

An investigator hired by the Senate determined that Moorlach acted in a way that bothered the woman, who was identified only as a member of the public who worked for the healthcare group.