Essential Politics September archives: Brown signs new laws and issues vetoes, fall campaigns heat up

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This is the September archive of Essential Politics, our daily feed on California government and politics news.

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California offenders are no longer eligible for early release in the deaths of police officers

California offenders will no longer be eligible for early release if they have been convicted of murder in the death of a police officer.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed legislation that exempts offenders from consideration for compassionate or medical release.

Currently under the law, the secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and the Board of Parole Hearings determine whether a prisoner meets those provisions.

Offenders are typically recommended for early release if they have six months or less to live and would not pose a threat to public safety under court conditions or if a prisoner is permanently medically incapacitated.

Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) has said she filed the legislation, SB 6, to target a group of offenders sentenced during a period in the 1970s, when California had neither a death penalty sentence nor a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. During that time, she said, people convicted in the deaths of police officers were sentenced to life with parole.

Opponents of the bill said the parole board was capable of screening the petitions to determine who is appropriate for release. They said medical parole was meant to decrease the financial strain of caring for medically incapacitated inmates.

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Bill increasing penalties for possessing date-rape drugs becomes law without governor’s signature

Gov. Jerry Brown allowed a bill to become law Friday without his signature.
(Lenny Ignelzi / Associated Press)

In a rare move, Gov. Jerry Brown said Friday he was allowing a bill increasing penalties for possession of date-rape drugs to become law without his signature.

Brown normally signs bills he supports or vetoes them if he doesn’t, but bills can become law if the governor fails to act by Friday’s midnight deadline. The governor’s representatives declined to explain his decision, but Brown has in the past been reluctant to approve bills that added to prison overcrowding.

The measure by Sen. Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) targets drugs that cause victims to become completely incapacitated, leaving them with no memory of their assault.

The bill restores the authority of county prosecutors to pursue felony charges against individuals caught with the most common date rape drugs and who have also demonstrated the intent to commit a sexual assault. It addresses a change in the authority that was included in Proposition 47, previously approved by voters.

“The issue of sexual assault has received increased attention in both state and national media recently as California’s inadequate sexual assault laws have been brought to light,” Galgiani said in a statement.

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New law aims to help keep sexual assault survivors’ addresses private

Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon), center, authored the bill to help keep domestic violence survivors' addresses confidential.
(Rich Pedroncelli / AP)

Protections to keep domestic violence survivors’ addresses confidential will be standardized under a bill the governor signed Friday.

The new law will also apply to people who have been sexually assaulted or stalked and reproductive healthcare providers. It will prohibit people, businesses and associations from publishing the addresses of people protected under the law who have requested that their addresses be kept confidential.

The bill, authored by Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon), will also require the California Secretary of State’s office to provide those protected under the law with information about how to keep their addresses private.

The law will take effect Jan. 1.

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Workers in small businesses will not get mandatory parental leave, after veto by Gov. Jerry Brown

(Vadim Ghirda / Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown refused on Friday to extend parental leave requirements to Californians who work for some of the state’s smallest businesses, saying he worried about the plan’s impact.

In his final bill actions for the year, Brown vetoed Senate Bill 654 and its mandate of six weeks of unpaid leave for mothers or fathers at businesses that employ between 20 and 49 workers.

Current job protections for workers with new children are focused on businesses of at least 50 employees. The bill would have given these employees access to the state’s paid family leave program, with subsidies that are paid for through worker paycheck deductions.

Brown’s veto message said that he was concerned about the “impact” of the leave proposal on small businesses, and cited potential liability issues that could be resolved through a modified proposal in 2017.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), said in a statement that “everyone deserves the basic right to take time off to care for a newborn.”

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Ring the bells of freedom. Denim is now California’s official state fabric

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‘Yes to Prop 62’ releases new ads in campaign to abolish death penalty system broken ‘beyond repair’

Thirty-eight years ago, lawyer Ron Briggs and his father wrote the ballot initiative that brought the death penalty back to California. They worked tirelessly to get it passed, gathering petition signatures and mailing out literature.

But in a new online ad airing this weekend in support of Proposition 62, the November ballot measure that would abolish the practice, he tells viewers he made “a big mistake and you have been paying for it ever since.”

“I thought we’d save money,” he says in the ad. “Instead, we have wasted $5 billion on just 13 executions.”

The video is one of two commercials that will begin playing this weekend as paid content on Facebook to raise support for the proposition. Past efforts to end the death penalty in the state have tended to focus on moral arguments against state-sanctioned executions. This year, Prop 62 organizers said they also want to emphasize the cost to taxpayers’ pockets.

The second ad features a porcelain vase shattering on the floor as a voice says, “Sometimes something is so broken it just can’t be fixed.” It goes on to list what it calls the flaws in the state’s death penalty system: suspended executions, endless appeals and millions in legal fees.

Both Prop 62 videos tell viewers the measure will save the state $150 million a year.

But not all agree with its financial estimates. The proposition, which would replace capital punishment with life without parole, is one of two competing death penalty measures voters will weigh on the Nov. 8 ballot. Prop 66 aims to speed up the execution process by limiting the number of appeals that death row inmates can file and by expediting deadlines.

Prop. 66 supporters argue the Prop. 62 campaign has “wildly inflated” the costs of the death penalty system.

The “Yes on 62” campaign says it took its $5-billion estimate from a report by California’s Loyola Law School in 2011. But one of its authors told PolitiFact California that was the figure spent on the entire system since 1978 — not just the the cases of 13 death row inmates.

Briggs said he began to change his perceptions on the death penalty about a decade ago. “It is important for people to understand that 38 years ago we threw a pebble into the political pond, creating waves of unwanted effects,” he said.

This story has been updated with a comment from Briggs.

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Democrat who lost in the primary says he will vote for Republican Rep. Steve Knight in heated House race

Lou Vince, an L.A. police lieutenant who finished third in the 25th Congressional District’s primary contest this June, crossed party lines Thursday and said he will vote for Republican Congressman Steve Knight over Democratic lawyer Bryan Caforio in the heated congressional race that national Democrats are targeting as a potential seat pick-up.

In a letter sent to reporters Thursday, Vince said while he wants Democrats to win back Congress, Caforio is new to the district and “isn’t a member of this community and certainly doesn’t reflect the values of our district.”

Vince, who said he was asked to drop out of the race by Democratic Party leaders when Caforio entered, complimented Knight for his military service and career with the Los Angeles Police Department.

“Steve Knight isn’t perfect — I’ve opposed him on issues like climate change and healthcare,” he said in the letter. “But I know Steve, I’ve known him for many years. While we may disagree on policy issues, he is a man of integrity and genuinely believes he is doing the right thing.”

In the letter, Vince accused Caforio of misrepresenting his legal career on the campaign trail and promoting “false accusations about my professional conduct as a police officer.”

During the primary campaign, L.A. Weekly and other outlets reported on a lawsuit filled by Cecil Miller, who claimed Vince and another officer, Timothy Gallick, beat him in front of his family after Miller ran over Vince’s foot during a traffic stop in 2000.

The suit alleged one of the officers held Miller up while the other punched him in the face before Vince also punched a passerby in the face, according to the suit.

The case was eventually settled by the Los Angeles City Council for $150,000 and the matter was sent to the Los Angeles Police Commission, according to city records. The commission asked the LAPD to review the incident, but Police Commission Executive Director Richard M. Tefanka said they never received a report back from the department.

Caforio’s campaign denied spreading information about the suit or the settlement, which was covered by local press in 2002.

In response to Vince’s letter to reporters, Caforio’s campaign released a statement from Maria Gutzeit, a Newhall Water District board member, who also ran for the seat but dropped out and endorsed Caforio.

“After multiple failed campaigns, it’s disappointing that Lou Vince is standing with an extremist like Steve Knight, who is against a woman’s right to choose even in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is at risk, and would be another vote for the Trump agenda,” she said.

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Will denim be California’s official state fabric? A decision looms

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Distributing secret recordings like those in Planned Parenthood case now a crime in California

Distributing secret recordings involving healthcare conversations will become a crime in California in 2017, under a new law inspired by the high-profile case involving videos of Planned Parenthood employees discussing abortion procedures.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature on Assembly Bill 1671 came after last-minute changes to the bill seeking to ensure journalists wouldn’t be prosecuted for the use of video, audio or transcripts they are given but did not help to record.

Existing law focuses on the illegal nature of the recording itself, not what happens to any copies of the recording.

Planned Parenthood, a sponsor of AB 1671, argued that the new law is necessary in the wake of the controversial videos taped by David Daleiden and other anti-abortion activists that purport to show Planned Parenthood employees illegally trafficking in fetal tissue.

The organization, which has not been found guilty of any wrongdoing, has insisted that the videos were manipulated and sparked a number of threats made to their medical providers and clinics.

In an emailed statement, Daleiden said the conversations recorded were not confidential. “California’s existing recording law and the new distribution provision are simply inapplicable to our work,” he said.

News organizations including the California Newspapers Publishers Assn. had opposed earlier versions of AB 1671. Late amendments sought to assure that only those involved in actually making the recording are subject to criminal prosecution for distributing it — not those, including reporters, who may receive it from another source.

“Gov. Brown sent a clear message to anti-abortion extremists that you cannot break the law in California or you will be held accountable,” said Kathy Kneer, president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, in a statement on the signing of AB 1671.

Update 3:45 p.m. This story has been updated with comment from David Daleiden.

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More large electronic billboards are possible for downtown Los Angeles after governor’s action

More electronic billboards could be allowed in downtown Los Angeles under a new law signed Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown that community activists charge will add to visual blight in the city core.

The controversial bill allows developers to erect several giant electronic billboards around the $1-billion Metropolis high-rise project in downtown Los Angeles as long as they also are allowed by the city.

The measure is opposed by Dennis Hathaway, president of the Coalition to Ban Billboard Blight, who said it will create an atmosphere of flashing, changing electronic signs like Times Square in New York City and cause a dangerous distraction for motorists on nearby streets and the 110 Freeway. He also said it would create an eyesore.

“I’m really disappointed,” Hathaway said. “Having big, multistory advertisements for things like beer and Coca-Cola is not the highest and best use of the visual environment.”

He also said the law sets a bad precedent for allowing a developer to get legislators to grant exemptions from state sign laws limiting billboards near freeways.

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles) said his measure is aimed at helping the economic revitalization of a downtown neighborhood. The measure is needed to provide some financial incentive for developers to revitalize the city core now that redevelopment agencies have all been shut down, the lawmaker added.

Billboards can provide extra revenue to help make developments more profitable, he said. The bill provides exemption from the Outdoor Advertising Act for an area bounded by West 8th Street on the northeast, South Figueroa Street on the southeast, Interstate 10 on the southwest, and State Route 110 on the northwest, and to a nearby area on the westerly side of State Route 110 bounded by West 8th Place, James M. Wood Boulevard and Golden Avenue.

“I’m hoping it will spark up the much-needed revenue to make development happen in downtown Los Angeles and create thousands of jobs and hopefully become more of a world city,” Santiago said Friday, adding it could help the area targeted to become “an anchor like we saw with L.A. Live.”

Santiago said the city of Los Angeles, which will have final say on any signage, has lost $5 billion in economic development over the last four years alone because of the lack of hotel rooms and an outdated Los Angeles Convention Center.

The Los Angeles Metropolis project, which includes 350 hotel rooms, is a 6.3-acre, $1-billion development adjacent to LA Live that is expected to bring $156.7 million in tax revenue into the city over the next 25 years, he said.

Brown also signed a bill exempting two existing advertising billboards along Interstate 405 in Inglewood from the Outdoor Advertising Act restrictions on changeable, electronic signs through Jan. 1, 2023.

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Stronger equal-pay protections for women and people of color coming soon in California

State Sen. Isadore Hall III (D-Compton) authored one of the pay-equity bills the governor signed Friday.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Equal-pay laws in California will get tougher under two bills Gov. Jerry Brown signed Friday.

The two new laws will strengthen wage-equity protections for women and people of color.

One will prohibit employers from paying women less than male colleagues based on prior salary. The other will bar employers from paying workers doing “substantially similar” jobs different wages based on their race or ethnicity.

The announcement comes less than a year after California lawmakers passed one of the toughest equal-pay bills in the country. That law applied the “substantially similar” provision to protect against gender-based wage discrimination.

The bills signed Friday take effect Jan. 1.

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California toughens laws against rape after Brown signs bills inspired by Brock Turner case

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed legislation that expands the legal definition of rape and imposes new mandatory minimum sentences on some sexual assault offenders -- measures inspired amid national outcry over the sexual assault case of former Sta

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday signed legislation that expands the legal definition of rape and imposes new mandatory minimum sentences on some sexual assault offenders -- measures inspired amid national outcry over the sexual assault case of former Stanford swimmer Brock Turner.

The decision comes as heated debate has raged this year over the mishandling of sexual assault investigations on U.S. college campuses by police agencies and courts. But increasing punishment for sex offenders posed a challenge for Brown, as the state has been undertaking a broader effort to move away from a focus on prison sentences.

In a message released with his signature, Brown said he was generally opposed to adding more mandatory minimum sentences.

“Nevertheless, I am signing AB 2888, because I believe it brings a measure of parity to sentencing for criminal acts that are substantially similar,” he said.

Assembly Bill 2888, authored by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) and Assemblyman Bill Dodd (D-Napa), will prohibit judges from giving convicted offenders probation when they sexually assault someone who is unconscious or intoxicated.

Assembly Bill 701 by Assemblywomen Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), will expand the legal definition of rape so it includes all forms of nonconsensual sexual assault.

Currently under the law, those convicted of rape using additional physical force must serve prison time. But offenders, like Turner, convicted of sexually assaulting someone who is unconscious or incapable of giving consent because of intoxication, can receive a lesser sentence based on a judge’s discretion.

Rape has previously been defined as “an act of sexual intercourse” under certain conditions of force, duress or lack of consent. Other types of sexual assault, like penetration by a foreign object, were categorized as separate offenses.

The laws go into effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

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Gov. Jerry Brown makes it crystal clear: He really doesn’t like ranked-choice voting

(Manuel Balce Ceneta / Associated Press)

An effort to expand the use of ranked-choice voting in California, in which voters choose second- and third-choice candidates, was struck down by Gov. Jerry Brown this week with a pretty simple message.

He just doesn’t like it.

“Ranked choice voting is overly complicated and confusing,” wrote Brown in his veto message on Thursday.

The system is currently only in use in a handful of Bay Area elections, most notably used in cities such as San Francisco and Oakland.

Senate Bill 1288 would have allowed a number of California cities, counties and school districts to switch to the system that asks voters to rank their top candidate preferences.

The candidates receiving the most votes then move on to successive “rounds” where ballots that picked a now defeated candidate as the top choice are then redistributed based on the voters’ next preference.

Brown certainly knows about ranked-choice voting as a former Oakland mayor and, until recently, an Alameda County resident. His veto message seemed not only a succinct rejection of SB 1288, but ranked-choice voting in general.

“At a time when we want to encourage more voter participation, we need to keep voting simple,” he wrote in his veto message. “I believe it deprives voters of genuinely informed choice.”

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Few new rules on the use of drones as governor rejects ‘piecemeal’ approach to regulation

A drone hovers over seals and sea lions at Children's Pool Beach in La Jolla.
A drone hovers over seals and sea lions at Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

In a win for lobbying efforts in a budding industry, California has made it through another year with few limits on drones in its skies.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed legislation that protects emergency responders and volunteers from liability should they damage a drone in the course of their work. But he vetoed the last four pending drone bills, saying he found it “more prudent to explore a more comprehensive approach” to the regulation of unmanned aircraft systems.

As drones have multiplied in number and category, lawmakers in the 2016 legislative session had attempted to come up with a comprehensive approach. But drone manufacturers and associations boosted their politicking, successfully beating back several bills they said would create a patchwork of laws that vary by state and hinder innovation.

Of the bills Brown vetoed, one would have banned the use of drones in state parks without permission. Another would have made the use of drones unlawful during illegal activities such as violating a protective order, interfering with emergency response personnel or facilitating the delivery of contraband to jails.

In messages released with his veto signature, Brown said current laws were sufficient to prosecute those crimes, while authority fell to the appropriate parks and wildlife departments to develop their own regulatory approach on their properties.

Brown also rejected a bill mandating that drones be sold with a copy of FAA rules and that those with GPS technology must be turned off near airports, sensitive infrastructure or fires.

To that proposal, Brown said it created “significant regulatory confusion by creating a patchwork of federal, state and local restrictions on airspace.”

“Piecemeal is not the way to go,” he said.

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California is removing all limits on who can drop off your ballot on election day

(Mark Boster/Los Angeles Times)

Californians will be able to legally hand off their sealed ballot to anyone to mail or deliver in person under a new law signed Thursday.

Assembly Bill 1921, written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), removes language in state election law that limits the delivery of a voter’s ballot to close family or household members.

It also repeals, starting in local elections in 2017 and the next statewide election in 2018, the current ban on a volunteer campaign worker from gathering as many ballots as possible from voters for delivery to elections officials. The only restriction is that a campaign official cannot be paid to gather and deliver ballots.

While other states also have more liberal laws on who can deliver a voter’s ballot, those states usually place a limit on how many ballots can be delivered by a single person. The law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown places no such restrictions.

Supporters of the new law said that limits on who could deliver a voter’s ballot were an unnecessary obstacle in an era when millions more Californians are choosing to cast their ballots by mail.

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Single-user restrooms to become ‘gender neutral’ in California

Edgar Lopez, a maintenance worker with the city of West Hollywood, cleans the front door of a restroom at Plummer Park.
Edgar Lopez, a maintenance worker with the city of West Hollywood, cleans the front door of a restroom at Plummer Park.
((Al Seib / Los Angeles Times) )

Single-user bathrooms in public buildings in California will soon become “gender neutral” so anyone can use any restroom, a result of legislation signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said his bill moves California in the opposite direction of some states that restricted the ability of transgender people to choose which bathrooms to use.

“California is charting a new course for equality,” Ting said in a statement. “Restricting access to single-user restrooms by gender defies common sense and disproportionately burdens the LGBT community, women, and parents or caretakers of dependents of the opposite gender.”

He noted that 19 states this year have considered restricting access to restrooms, locker rooms and other facilities based on the user’s biological sex.

The new law in California was championed by Equality California, a gay rights group that cited a 2013 study by the UCLA Williams Institute that found 70% of transgender and gender non-conforming people face serious threats, including verbal harassment, when using gender-specific restrooms.

“This law is a simple measure that will make everyone’s lives easier,” added Kris Hayashi, executive director of the Transgender Law Center.

The law takes effect March 1, 2017, to allow businesses time to change restroom signs and otherwise comply.

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More Californians will vote by mail and fewer at polling places under a new law

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

California voters may be asked to cast more of their ballots by mail as soon as 2018 under a sweeping law signed Thursday, one that would eliminate thousands of neighborhood polling places.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature on Senate Bill 450 sets in motion a major remodeling of the state’s election operations, inspired by a similar system in Colorado. Counties that opt to implement the new system will open community “vote centers” in the weeks before election day that offer last-minute registration and limited in-person voting.

Those counties will also have more places to drop off completed ballots.

“This landmark law will provide voters more options for when, where, and how they cast a ballot,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla in a written statement.

But the move away from polling places could some as a surprise to Californians who have spent decades voting in their neighborhoods. A report released two weeks ago by UC Davis’ California Civic Engagement Project found the “vote center” model raised fears with some African Americans about voter suppression and voting access.

Supporters of the new law say voter education efforts will be key to making it work.

The changes to election operations will come in two stages: 14 counties will be able to move toward less in-person voting in 2018, and the remaining counties will be allowed to opt in to the new system in 2020. Counties that implement the new system will have to mail ballots to all registered voters, though Los Angeles County will not have to do so until 2024.

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When are marijuana users dangerous drivers? Gov. Brown approves study to find out

Customers buy products at a medical marijuana dispensary in San Francisco in April.
( (Haven Daley / Associated Press))

Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday signed a series of bills preparing California for a new era of marijuana regulation, including one launching a study of the effects of cannabis on motor skills.

Brown also approved measures preserving small medical marijuana growing operations from bigger competitors and allowing cannabis dispensaries to pay taxes and fees in cash.

However, Brown vetoed bills that would have allowed 135 cannabis dispensaries to operate in Los Angeles without city licenses as well as provided a tax amnesty to medical cannabis dispensaries that owe back taxes,

The governor’s decisions follow his approval last year of a new system of regulating and licensing the growth, distribution and sale of medical marijuana beginning in 2018.

The governor’s action Thursday also comes as California voters are set in November to consider an initiative that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana.

Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) authored the measure calling for a University of California study of marijuana’s physical impacts.

“This bill addresses the issue of the lingering effects of medical marijuana on motorists, which is a very important piece for public safety,” Cooley said. “A lot of medical marijuana issues affect the person using it, but when they are on the roads everyone is affected.”

Police agencies have struggled with enforcing laws against driving while impaired after using marijuana because there is not the same amount of research as exists with the effects of alcohol.

“Law enforcement needs the best informed understanding of those effects in order to deal with suspected cases of drugged driving from marijuana,” Cooley said.

The measure also sets standards for processing marijuana that, if met, will allow medical cannabis manufacturers to operate without threat of state law enforcement action.

Brown also approved a bill that will allow medical pot businesses to pay the state with cash and not face steep penalties that currently exist.

The bill was proposed because marijuana possession and sale is still illegal under federal law, so banks will not accept business from medical marijuana dispensaries. That makes it impossible to write checks or do electronic transfers to pay taxes and fees to the state.

The governor also signed a measure aimed at protecting small medical marijuana farms by creating a special state license for “cottage” operations of less than 5,000 square feet.

However the governor vetoed a measure that would have exempted 135 marijuana stores in Los Angeles from a requirement that they get a city license. The stores were grandfathered in when voters approved a ballot measure in 2013.

He noted the measure conflicts with state law requiring dispensaries to get licenses from both the state and the city.

“This bill is inconsistent with dual licensing requirement established last year by the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act,” Brown wrote in his veto message.

He also nixed a bill that would have provided tax amnesty to hundreds of dispensaries throughout California that are believed to be delinquent on about $106 million in back taxes.

“While increasing tax compliance among medical marijuana businesses is important, it is premature to create a tax amnesty before the regulations that link enforcement to licenses are promulgated,” Brown wrote in the veto message.

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California now subject to tighter rules for taking property from those who haven’t been convicted of a crime

California will now have much stricter rules for when police can seize citizens’ cash, cars and other property under legislation signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The measure, SB 443 from Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), now requires a criminal conviction before law enforcement can permanently take from a suspect assets valued under $40,000, ending what supporters have said is a practice that incentivized officers to target low-income residents to pad their police budgets.

A more wide-ranging bill from Mitchell failed last year amid significant concern from law enforcement organizations that a requirement to obtain a criminal conviction before the permanent seizure of any property would harm police’s ability to target high-level drug dealers. After Mitchell agreed to the $40,000-threshold for a criminal conviction, major law enforcement groups dropped their opposition to the measure and the bill easily cleared the Legislature with bipartisan support last month.

California is now one of 18 states that have tightened similar laws regarding what’s known as “civil asset forfeiture” in the last two years, according to the libertarian Institute for Justice, which tracks asset forfeiture across the country. Other states have banned the practice entirely, but California’s new policy for permanent seizures of property is among the strongest in the country, the organization said.

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More California communities could see public financing of campaigns under a law signed by Gov. Brown

More cities and counties will be able to offer public funds for political campaigns under a law signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Brown’s signature on Senate Bill 1107 makes public financing an option, though it does not require any local government to participate.

The bill was a major goal of watchdog groups critical of the influence of money in politics. They have suggested that the communities that allow limited public funds can then match those dollars with requirements for candidates to seek out small donations, ones that come from diverse parts of a community instead of a handful of big donors.

“California’s leaders are hearing from voters who are fed up with playing second fiddle to wealthy special interests,” Kathay Feng, executive director of California Common Cause, said in a written statement. “SB 1107 gives Californians new options to amplify the voices of everyday voters in election campaigns.”

While a few California cities already offer some form of public financing for campaigns, dozens more were banned from doing so under a 1988 ballot measure. The new law removes that ban.

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Californians will soon be allowed to take selfies with their completed ballots

Ballot selfies soon will be legal in California under a law the governor signed Thursday that permits voters to photograph their completed ballots.

Residents hoping to take a selfie with their vote in the upcoming presidential election are out of luck, however. The bill will go into effect Jan. 1, after the national election in November.

The first time Californians will be able to exercise their new right will be in local elections next year.

Supporters of the bill have said it protects Californians’ rights to engage in political speech.

For now, Californians are still prohibited from showing others their ballots after they have marked them, although the bill’s author, Marc Levine (D-San Rafael), told the Los Angeles Times in January that no Californian has ever been prosecuted for taking a ballot selfie.

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For Kamala Harris’ Senate campaign, the state Democratic Party’s endorsement has been a jackpot

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris applauds at the California Democratic Party convention in San Jose in February.
(Ben Margot / Associated Press)

In California, it pays to be the state Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate.

The California Democratic Party has spent more than $500,000 supporting Democratic state Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris for U.S. Senate, and forked over another $100,000 for campaign materials promoting her bid.

Harris overwhelmingly won the state party’s endorsement in February, and now the party is all in to make sure she wins in November.

Her rival, Orange County Rep. Loretta Sanchez, is getting nothing from the state party even though, like Harris, she’s a Democrat.

The party help for Harris could tip the balance in a race where both candidates have had a hard time raising money for their campaigns.

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Nanette Barragán scores endorsement from Bernie Sanders-affiliated group in south L.A. County congressional race

Another day, another endorsement for former Hermosa Beach City Councilwoman Nanette Barragán in the race to replace outgoing Rep. Janice Hahn (D-San Pedro) in the 44th Congressional District.

Barragán, who is running against state Sen. Isadore Hall III (D-Compton), scored the endorsement of Our Revolution, a political 501(c)(4) nonprofit that sprung up after Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ failed presidential bid to support down-ballot, progressive candidates.

Hall beat Barragán in June’s crowded primary election, with 40% of the vote to Barragán’s 20%.

But Barragán’s strategy of hitting Hall for his ties with special interests in the oil, alcohol and tobacco industries has helped her win a number of endorsements from progressive and environmental groups.

“Nanette Diaz Barragán understands there’s nothing more important than the health of our families and community,” the group writes in its endorsement. “That’s why she stood up to the big oil companies and helped win the fight to keep them from oil-drilling in our neighborhoods and off our beaches.”

This week, Barragán has been endorsed by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and the Torrance newspaper the Daily Breeze, which covers the South Bay cities of Los Angeles County.

Both candidates were running low on cash as of their last filings with the Federal Election Commission: Hall had $132,836 in the bank, and Barragán had $127,775.

Our Revolution has already dabbled in a number of races around California including the crowded race to replace longtime Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates.

The group has also endorsed Eloise Reyes, who is challenging Assemblywoman Cheryl R. Brown (D-San Bernardino) — another intra-party race in which one of the candidates, Brown, has been criticized for accepting campaign contributions from oil companies.

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More transparency is coming to California’s scandal-ridden energy regulator, and Gov. Brown has pledged more action

The San Onofre nuclear power plant closed in 2013.
(Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Changes to increase the transparency of communications between the state’s energy regulator and the industries it oversees are now law after Gov. Jerry Brown signed five measures designed to restructure the California Public Utilities Commission.

Most notably, Brown signed a bill from Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that would open up some details of private meetings between industry and PUC executives — a response to numerous concerns about an overly cozy relationship after the 2010 San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion and the circumstances surrounding the 2013 closure of the San Onofre nuclear power plant in Southern California.

“The reforms approved by the governor today will ensure commissioners disclose their private meetings with utility executives and will result in heavy penalties for those who violate the rules,” Leno said in a release.

The bills signed Thursday were part of an overhaul of the agency first announced in June by Brown and legislative leaders. But major components of that deal failed to pass the Legislature this year, and fingers have been pointed at Brown-appointed PUC President Michael Picker, who had last-minute hang-ups over parts of the legislation, Democratic leaders who failed to bring the bills up for a vote and Republican leaders who refused to waive legislative rules to allow a last-second decision on the package.

In his bill-signing message, Brown announced that he would ask the PUC to directly implement changes called for in many pieces of legislation that did not pass the Legislature. Those changes include appointing an ethics ombudsman, transferring some oversight over Uber, Lyft and other ride-hailing companies out of the PUC’s control and studying whether telecommunications regulations should be transferred to a different agency.

“These important reforms cannot wait another year,” Brown said.

The governor also said that he would continue to work with the Legislature next year to pass into law all parts of the overhaul that failed.

“The governor continues to support the entire package of reforms announced in June, and it’s disappointing all the legislation did not get to his desk,” Brown spokesman Evan Westrup said.

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Four California Democrats headed to Israel for Shimon Peres’ funeral