Brown’s list of ‘public safety’ bills might be telling

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bunch of bills today that he said will strengthen public safety in California, but what he didn’t sign might be just as interesting.

Among the bills he signed was one that extends from 45 days to 60 the advance notice that the state prisons must give local police and prosecutors before the scheduled release date of an inmate convicted of a violent felony. Another will incrementally increase minimum restitution fines from $200 to $300 for a felony and from $100 to $150 for a misdemeanor. Yet another lets crime victims request to be notified by e-mail when there’s a change in the custody status of their victimizers.

The governor signed two bills by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro. SB 534 changes California’s sexual assault testing protocol to conform with federal requirements for Violence Against Women Act funding – for example, the bill specifies that any sexual assault victim who seeks a forensic medical exam isn’t required to engage with law enforcement in order to receive the free exam. And SB 622 requires out-of-state sex offenders to register in California upon moving here; Corbett said today this “makes it tougher for those who commit sex crimes in other states to hide in California.”

But the governor vetoed SB 296 by state Sen. Roderick Wright, D-Los Angeles, which would’ve created a process for someone subject to a gang injunction to petition for relief from that injunction if he or she meets certain criteria including no arrests, gang activity or new gang tattoos within the past three years.

“This measure would require that a special form be given to gang members when they are served with an injunction to make it easier to petition the court for an exclusion from the injunction,” the governor wrote in his veto message. “Under current law, people who are served with a gang injunction are given the full panoply of legal rights to contest an injunction against them. Prosecutors believe this bill will increase meritless litigation in our courts which are already laboring under severe cut backs. I agree.”

And conspicuously missing from the list of public safety bills the governor addressed was AB 144 by Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, D-La Canada Flintridge, which would ban the “open carry” of unloaded firearms in public places. The California Police Chiefs Association and the Peace Officers Research Association of California, along with various gun-control groups, say open-carry practices should be banned for the sake of public safety, and to protect the safety and conserve the resources of police officers checking to ensure the guns aren’t loaded, in accordance with state law.

Gun-rights activists have seized upon open-carry laws in states across the nation as a means of expressing their political beliefs, acting individually, or gathering to carry their weapons both as an exercise of constitutional rights and for self-protection. They say they’re both protecting their rights under current law as well as advocating for changes so that more people can get permits to carry concealed weapons, something that’s sharply limited under current law.

An absence of action on the bill so far certainly isn’t conclusive, but it does seem interesting that the governor apparently didn’t see it as easily categorizeable with the public safety bills on which he acted today.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.