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The People's Business

An A-to-Z guide to what our legislators have been up to in Sacramento

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Following their springtime Easter break, Sacramento lawmakers headed back to the capital city faced with an enormous number of bills to consider—around 1,900 at last count. The Bohemian thought it would be instructive to take a spin through the offerings now making their way through the legislative process, and highlight an A-to-Z sampling of what's currently under consideration, with an emphasis on proposals of especial concern to the North Bay. Stay tuned to the Bohemian in coming weeks, as we'll be following the progress of these bills, and any other that you'd like to contact us about.

Abalone and other shellfish harvesting is a key and beloved California industry, and Assembly Member Wesley Chesbro, D-Santa Rosa, has introduced a joint resolution that aims to enhance state efforts at building a commercial aquaculture infrastructure—even as the fate of our local Drakes Bay Oyster Company seems sealed. Chesbro offers support for a clean, healthy marine environment that protects shellfish beds and provides "access to additional acreage for shellfish farming and restoration." It also pushes for greater cooperation among industry, environmental, and federal and state officials to develop a permitting process that's "efficient and economical for both shellfish restoration and commercial farming." The resolution won't do much to help Drakes Bay stay in business, but it sets the stage for future growth in the industry. (AJR-43)

Bicycle taxes sound like yet another way for Big Government to squeeze pennies from people just trying to make the earth a greener space by pedaling to the corner deli instead of firing up the Escalade. But there's a fine public-policy rationale behind Concord Democratic senator Mark DeSaulnier's proposal, which would open the door to localities to slap a point of sale tax on adult bicycle sales and use the money to fund and maintain bike trails. (SB 1183)

Campaign finance reform is one of those pro-Democracy conceits that the U.S. Supreme Court has thrown under the bus, favoring a money-is-speech approach to financing elections that favors deep pockets over empty ones. Citizens United gave undue power to corporations' ability to influence elections, and the recent McCutcheon ruling dispensed with limits on how much cash Daddy Warbucks or his underworld Corporate Campaign Cabal can throw at a candidate. Growing public outrage over these supremely undemocratic moves is reflected in Assembly Member Bob Wieckowski's House Resolution 37, which puts fellow lawmakers on the spot by asking that they support his resolution, which proposes the notion that Democracy is by, for and of the People. Radical thought, that. (HR 37)

Dogs in outdoor restaurants, aka the "Fido Alfresco bill," would undo a state ban on bringing your beast into any part of a restaurant, including the outdoor dining area. That seemed a little extreme, no? Well, it's a health-code deal, and you know how those people are, always counting bugs and stuff in the kitchen. But dogs are wagging their tails over the bill, offered by Assembly Member Mariko Yamada, D-Davis, which leaves it to localities to make their own rules for pets in alfresco settings. Cats are livid at the slight, but fear not, felines, we've got the American Cat Liberties Union on line one. Ferrets, we're not so sure about you guys. (AB 1965)

Electric cars are coming just as fast as you can say "Get a horse, eco-freako," but there are a whole host of logistical issues dogging the industry's ascent, not the least of which are Big Oil efforts to stymie electric wheels in the name of the Global Death March of Oligarchic Delights. But let's say you have an electric car and are moving into a new apartment. Congrats. Your landlord, he's a Tea Party lad who thinks it's his patriotic duty to resist befouling the world with those horridly quiet little machines of green. He's even got a militia, fresh from the Bundy ranch. Well, too bad. A proposed bill from Al Muratsuchi, D-Torrance, would require your landlord to work with you, the tenant, to establish an on-site charging station in the apartment complex. The catch is, tenants foot the bill. (AB 2565)

'Fish" is one of those words you used to see on the restaurant menu, and you'd say, "I'll have the fish." What kind of fish? Didn't matter, you were ordering the fish. Restaurants are a lot more specific these days, but Big Grocery has a bad habit of mislabeling the monkfish—or did. Public awareness of the rampant mislabeling of fish comes courtesy of a 2013 report by Oceana and led to a push by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Pacoima, to mandate accurate labeling of the fish at your grocer's. There are all sorts of fish out there, some tastier than others – and some more endangered or otherwise overfished than others.

GMO labeling isn't just something that's being promoted on your bottle of Dr. Bronner's soap. California voters rejected a 2012 push, Proposition 37, to require the labeling of genetically modified O's, thanks for that, Big Ag. Now Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, has taken up the call with another proposed GMO-labeling law. (SB 1381)

Hound dogs aren't just the subject of an Elvis Presley song; there's a legal designation set up by state Fish and Wildlife people to differentiate between regular dogs and licensed hound dogs that are used to chase off bears or other beasts, especially when said beast wanders onto ranchland in search of a BLM employee or a quickie burger. Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, the Tea Party GOP candidate for governor, has offered a bill that repeals the state-mandated designation, so that any ol' dog can go right ahead and chase a bear, so you can shoot it—in the name of sport. Sport-hunting bears and bobcats with hounds was banned in 2012. Just let it go, Tim. (AB 2205)

Immigration is this amazing thing that helped stand up the United States of America as it strode into "its century" (the 20th) and needed a whole bunch of new people to man the ramparts of industrial capitalism. These days, people come to this country because they think, wow, we have some pretty great stuff going on over here: Democracy, Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, Game of Thrones—what's not to love? Then they get here, and Louie Gohmert wants to beat the crap out of them. Some do everything they can to assimilate, which includes paying taxes. A non-citizen can get a taxpayer ID number. But you can file your taxes like a good citizen-to-be and still find yourself on the receiving end of a deportation order. Seems a little unfair? Assembly Member Luis Alejo, D-Watsonville, has offered a bill that would ask the feds to lay off on deporting tax-paying immigrants, regardless of their status. Good luck with that. (AB 2014)

Juvenile justice is a big issue these days, as states grapple with progressive notions like "restorative justice" in an economic climate that often leaves young people of limited means with few options beyond Burger King or a life of crime. The "schools-to-prison pipeline" plagues lawmakers' best efforts to undo or undermine that awful dynamic, and Assembly Member Nora Campos, D-San Jose, has offered an amendment to the state penal code that requires corrections officials, when seeking grant monies for job-training programs and the like, to include at-risk youth as a target population. (AB 1920)

Klansmen of the Ku Klux variety won't like it much, but 2014 marks the 60th Anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision that set the stage for desegregation in schools and universities. A resolution introduced by Assembly Member Shirley Weber, D-San Diego, reads, in part, "The United States Supreme Court's decision became the legal impetus to school desegregation throughout the U. S., and led to one of the most profound social movements in the history of the United States." Tell it to the "New Jim Crow" segregationists who are trying to turn that clock back. (ACR 140)

Low-income people get thirsty, too. And yet they are often faced with immense water bills that they can't pay, or can only do so after a visit to the local payday lender. Assembly Member Yamada has offered a bill that would set up a low-income water-rate-assistance program to provide subsidies and water bill discounts. (AB 1434)

Marijuana is very popular in California, sources say, but the state's medical dispensary laws are a hodge-podge of bong-spillage messy whereby localities have created laws that don't carry over into the next bud-unfriendly burg. So what's good to go in Santa Rosa isn't necessarily so in Santa Ana, almost 20 years after Proposition 215 was approved by California voters. Earlier this year, the conservative California League of Cities and the California Police Chiefs Association wisely dropped their longstanding opposition to a uniform set of dispensary laws throughout the state. Now Sen. Lou Correa, D-Anaheim, has introduced a bill offering a platform for statewide regulation. We have high hopes for its passage, which looks pretty good given the twin pillars of dope-hate have dropped their opposition. Heck, the police chiefs even helped write the bill. (SB 1262)

Naxolone: ever heard of it? There's a reason why you haven't—California pharmacies have been forbidden from dispensing the opioid-overdose medication to families of heroin addicts. While we appreciate that the preferred stupid-drug of choice in these parts is meth, heroin's the sleeper in this unfortunate bid for bragging rights to which drug can ruin more lives. We're all human, we've all read William S. Burroughs, and people still shoot their smack. When they do, it's a problem. Naxolone is an effective way to save you from an overdose croak-out. Cut to the scene where John Travolta plunges a needle into Uma Thurman's heart. The proposal by Assembly Member Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, is a far-less-draconian life-saving measure. (AB 1535)

Oil and gas fracking is bad juju all around. Tap water that can turn into blue flame with a flick of a lighter? Are you fracking kidding? Anti-fracking forces are finding a home in Sacramento, where Holly Mitchell and Mark Leno, Democratic senators both, have offered a bill that would put a moratorium on the extraction practice, which, if you've been living under the Monterey Shale, uses vast amounts of fresh water on the way to marginally reducing the price of energy. Then there's that whole bit where fracking has caused earthquakes in Oklahoma. Nothing to worry about here . . . pffft. (SB 1132)

'Paid sick leave" sounds like a basic right that any worker should enjoy. Not so. Assembly Member Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, has a bill that compels employers to offer at least three days of paid leave for workers. By way of pushing back on the job-killing howls of opposition coming from the likes of the California Chamber of Commerce, Gonzalez says on her website that "providing employees with paid sick leave could reduce healthcare costs by allowing workers and their family members time to visit a primary care physician to address an illness rather than rushing to an emergency room to seek care due to their fear of missing work." (AB 1522)

Quick, what do you think is the most California-centric of all the "awareness weeks" on a vast roster that includes the Armenian Genocide and colorectal research? Oh, come now: it's Compost Awareness Week, May 5–11!

Reverse mortgages can provide a chunk of cash to seniors, but the industry is growing faster than regulators can keep up, with vulture lenders circling in the post-subprime crash to push offers on seniors that sound great until you read fine print loaded with fees and other weird charges. The state is getting tough by putting in protections such as those offered in Riverside Democratic Assembly Member Jose Medina's bill, which would "prohibit a lender from taking a reverse mortgage application or assessing any fees" until a week or more after a prospective reverse-mortgage applicant has come forward. It puts some much-needed brakes on a juggernaut that's already seen more than a few buyer-beware stories. (AB 1700)

Sugary drinks are one of those "nanny state" issues that folks like Sarah Palin like to tout out when they need a whip-dog for their anti-government hysteria, itself grounded in a fantastical vision of apocalyptic Ayn Randian selfishness whereby "Don't Tread on Me" extends to your right to a pair of wrecked kidneys. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg piqued the pituitary gland of the Palin hordes when he banned the sale of massive vats of sugar-laden drinks, on the grounds that the medical costs associated with high-fructose fizzie bevs wind up at the doorstep of taxpayers. A bill offered by Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, would slap a label on sugary drinks warning of obesity and a host of unpleasant diseases. Everything in moderation—with an emphasis on the moderation, a concept lost on nanny-state hysterics. (SB 100)

'Trafficking in Humans" spans a range of human behaviors under the state penal code, some more odious than others. Among other new penalties related to child sex-trafficking, an amendment to the code stiffens penalties for solicitation of prostitution by tossing a would-be john in the county lockup for at least two days. The bill is sponsored by a trio of senators, Ted Lieu, Jerry Hill and Holly Mitchell, Democrats all. (SB 1388)

'Unsafe handgun" is either an oxymoron or a redundancy, depending on your view of the Second Amendment. Assembly Member Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, tends toward the latter view—he added altered semiautomatic pistols and single-shot pistols to a state roster of "unsafe handguns" that can't be transferred between non-familial parties. The gun lobby is naturally not happy about this. (AB 1964)

Viva la Hermana Estado! California and the Mexican state of Jalisco enjoy a sister-state relationship that's been re-upped in a resolution offered by Sen. Ben Hueso, D-San Diego. Are you wondering how many Californians get deported from Jalisco each year? (SCR 82)

Winegrowers throughout California, rejoice! We're at the end of the state-sanctioned "Down to Earth" wine-celebrating month of April, where efforts are afoot to highlight the $61.5 billion industry. Speaking of your liver, April is also Alcohol Awareness Month, thanks to a resolution by Assembly Member Joan Buchanan, D-Livermore. (SCR 94, ACR 83)

X-rated filmmaking is a big industry in L.A., and, setting aside the feminist argument against porn, can we agree that it's not going anywhere? As such, we'd like our porn to be disease-free, thanks, and we'd like for actors in the industry to have worker-safety protections. Porn actors in L.A. already have to slip a jimmy, and if you want to open a porn studio in Petaluma, a bill from Assembly Member Isadore Hall, D-Compton, would extend the protection statewide. It would also require regular testing for STDs. (AB 1576)

You really thought we'd get through this list without working in a mention of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling? Well, check yourself before you wreck yourself. If you happen to see that dude skulking around at a game and feel compelled to give him a smack, Assembly Member Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, has offered a bill that fines violent fans up to $16,000. (AB 2457)

Zip lines and bars were singled out in a recent state auditor's report, when it was revealed that over $600,000 had been spent at the Veterans Home of California in Yountville on such frivolities, when the state has thousands of homeless vets on its streets. Assembly Member Yamada has offered a bill that would ramp up accountability for expenditures needing approval from the California Department of Veterans Affairs, with an emphasis on the outside-contracting services that led to the Yountville controversy. (AB 1580)

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