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New laws signed on prostitution, child car seats

Gov. Jerry Brown signed several bills by Bay Area lawmakers today, including one that lets juveniles convicted of prostitution seal their records without proving they’ve been rehabilitated, and another that aims to boost infant car-seat safety.

AB 2040, by Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, D-Oakland, “provides that an adult who was previously adjudicated to be a ward of the juvenile court because he or she committed a prostitution offense may petition the court to seal the records of the offense, regardless of the person’s criminal record or proof of rehabilitation,” according to the most recent legislative analysis. This relief isn’t available to those minor “johns” who paid or offered to pay a prostitute. The Assembly had passed this bill 49-21, and the state Senate approved it unanimously, 36-0.

AB 1452, by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo “requires hospitals, clinics, and birthing centers, when discharging a child, to give the parent or the person to whom the child is released specific contact information for organizations that provide assistance with the use, law, and installation of child passenger restraint systems,” the analysis said. The Assembly passed this bill on a 61-14 vote, and the state Senate on a 31-6 vote.

See what other Bay Area bills the governor signed into law today, after the jump…
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Will Jerry Brown sign them or not?

The Legislature has adjourned for a month, and now we sit with bated breath, waiting to see which of the slew of bills it sent Gov. Jerry Brown this week – including some interesting ones from the Bay Area delegation – will actually get his signature.

signature gatheringFor example, SB 168, by state Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, forbids paying ballot measure petition signature gatherers on a per-signature basis, which she says will reduce fraud by reducing the temptation to pad out petitions with bogus names. Opponents say there’s little evidence of such fraud, and outlawing per-signature payment will make it prohibitively expensive to wage ballot-measure campaigns. Secretary of State Debra Bowen, the state’s chief elections officer, is among those who have endorsed the bill. The state Senate passed SB 168 in May on a 23-15 vote, and the Assembly passed it yesterday on a 48-28 vote.

National Popular VoteAB 459, by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would ratify a national “National Popular Vote” plan by agreeing that California would award its Electoral College votes to the presidential ticket that gets the most popular votes nationwide. Similar bills already have passed in Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Jersey, Vermont and Washington plus the District of Columbia, but approval by California – with its 55 electoral votes – would push considerably closer to the goal of reaching the 270 out of 538 needed to activate the plan. Proponents say the bill would boost California’s stature in the presidential election process. The Legislature approved similar bills in 2006 and 2008 but Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed them. The state Senate approved it yesterday on a 23-15 vote, and the Assembly passed it later yesterday on a 49-5 vote.

jailhouse informantsAnd SB 687, by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would ensure that no judge or jury convicts a defendant, or approves an aggravating factor in a crime that allows for a stricter penalty, based solely on the uncorroborated testimony of a jailhouse informant. The bipartisan California Commission on the Fair Administration of Justice recommended this in 2006 as a means of avoiding wrongful convictions; it’s supported by the San Francisco and Los Angeles district attorneys, among others, but the California District Attorneys Association opposes it. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar bills. The state Senate passed it in May on a 23-15 vote, and the Assembly passed it yesterday on a 47-26 vote.

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It’s no NY, but CA still mulling same-sex rights

New York State on Friday enacted a law allowing same-sex couples to marry, and while the California Legislature is somewhat stymied from following suit until courts figure out whether our state constitutional ban on the practice will stand, it is moving on other same-sex equality fronts.

SB 651 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, would eliminate the requirement that couples must live together before entering into a domestic partnership. The state Senate passed this bill June 1 on a 24-15 vote; the Assembly Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hear it at 9 a.m. tomorrow, Tuesday, June 28.

SB 117 by state Sen. Christine Kehoe, D-San Diego, would require that all state contractors paid more than $100,000 don’t discriminate on the basis of gender or sexual orientation of their employees’ spouses or domestic partners. Current law requires agencies to ensure contractors don’t discriminate between married employees and employees in domestic partnerships when providing benefits, but doesn’t cover same-sex couples who married during the period from when the statutory ban on it was voided by the California Supreme Court in May 2008 until voters approved Proposition 8’s constitutional ban in November 2008. The state Senate approved this bill May 9 on a 21-15 vote; it’s now awaiting an Assembly floor vote.

And AB 1349 by Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, would clarify that courts can consider the relationship between a child and his or her biological and non-biological parents are when they’re asked to rule on who that child’s legal parents are. Current law lets biological parents sign a Voluntary Declaration of Paternity that can be used to cut off a non-biological parent’s relationship. The Assembly passed this bill May 2 on a 52-22 vote; it’s now awaiting a state Senate floor vote.

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More from local lawmakers on Brown’s budget

I spent the day speaking with Bay Area lawmakers about Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget proposal, and as always, there was a lot more than could fit into the story filed for the print editions.

Fiona Ma“Democrats elected Jerry Brown and part of why we elected him is because of his leadership, the fact that he’s been there and done that and now has the courage to tell the voters the real deal and make those cuts, even in the face of opposition from our traditional allies and friends,” said Assemblywoman Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, predicting that while some details might be dickered over, Brown’s overall plan won’t see much opposition from legislative Democrats.

As for legislative Republicans, she said, they’ve never presented a full budget plan of their own: “They have not been part of the solution… They’ve just been saying ‘no, no, no.’”

Voters will have to see past ideology and idealism this year, she said. “We just explain the reality: We have 33 cents in our pocket yet we want to go buy the toy that costs a dollar and we’ve maxed out all our credit cards – well, that’s not going to work anymore.”

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, said she already has been telling her constituents they can’t both expect lowered taxes and full, quality state services, and has found “people are very receptive in terms of knowing someone understands the problem and is honest with them.”

Buchanan said everyone has certain programs they’d like to protect, but the reality is that California must decide how to get the most bang for the bucks it already has. Brown’s plan acknowledges this, she said: “I can’t say it’s perfect or that I’ll necessarily agree with every single part of it … but when I look at how he’s put the whole package together, I think overall he’s done an excellent job.”

Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, says specificity will be the key in convincing Californians to support extending the taxes already in effect for another five years, as Brown proposes. The message has to be that if those taxes aren’t extended, “then your school district will look like this, and your public safety system in California will look like this,” he said. “We need to show everyone, and I need to see it too – I have an understanding and a perception of how it would be, but I need to know how painful it would be – how many fewer teachers would we have?

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said she’s “pleased that our schools are at least being maintained, our K-12 schools, at the level they were this year – we can’t throw away a generation of children. The other cuts, we’re going to have start engaging in great detail.”

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley, said “we just have to be realistic about what we can do, where we’re going, and focus on creating some real structural reform,” adding that while she may not agree with every element of Brown’s plan, his personal engagement with lawmakers is refreshing. “It’s great, but at the same time, this is going to be really tough.”

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New bills on booze, child care, energy, bullies

Like the swallows to San Juan Capistrano, state lawmakers flocked back to Sacramento today, some to be sworn into their new terms, some to introduce bills, some perhaps just to keep their seats warm.

Among the Bay Area delegation’s legislative priorities: sangria, child care, party buses, public utilities, human trafficking, renewable energy and bullying (in no particular order).

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco – who was announced today as the new chairman of the Senate Budget Committee – introduced a bill that would lift state law’s ban on sale of infused alcohol. Believe it or not, it’s illegal under existing law for a bar to mix up a big jar of sangria, or to infuse a big container of vodka or some other liquor, for later use and sale; such things can only be made to order. As a resurgence of the art of the cocktail has swept the state, many bar owners have ignored this rule – at their peril, it turned out, when the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control started handing out warnings and citations earlier this year. Leno estimates half of the Bay Area bars’s create and serve infusions, including limoncello, sangria, fruit flavored tequilas and many flavors of infused vodka, and his SB 32 is supported by the Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, was named Majority Leader – second in command, responsible for setting the Democratic agenda and the Senate’s floor operations – and introduced a bill to restore the $256 million for Stage 3 child care that Gov. Schwarzenegger line-item vetoed out of the state’s budget. The Stage 3 program provided child care services to more than 81,000 children and some 60,000 working families statewide; a court has put the cut on hold until Dec. 31, and the First 5 Commissions in many counties – including Alameda and Santa Clara – are footing the program’s bills until funding can be restored. “This money is vital for thousands of working parents, their children, and their caregivers who depend on these centers being open,” Corbett said in a news release.

On the Assembly side, Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, co-authored the Assembly version of the bill to restore the vetoed child-care funds, and also introduced his own bill to crack down on operators of “party buses” that allow underage drinking aboard their vehicles. Prompted by the death of a 19-year-old from Burlingame, Hill’s AB 45 would require bus drivers – just as limousine drivers already are required – to make underage passengers sign statements that their consumption of alcohol is illegal, and then end the ride if any underage passengers imbibe. Fines starting at $2,000 for a first offense could be imposed by the Public Utilities Commission against companies that don’t comply, and further violations could result in license suspensions or revocations; party bus operators also could be charged with a misdemeanor.

Hill also introduced a bill, inspired by the Sept. 9 natural gas blast that killed eight people and flattened 27 San Bruno homes, that would prevent utilities from using ratepayer money to pay penalties or fees assessed by the Public Utilities Commission; require utilities that own or operate gas facilities to annually report to the PUC any pipeline problems; require utilities to create public education programs on their emergency response plans; require gas pipeline owners or operators to prioritize pipelines near seismically active areas for increased safety oversight, and by 2020 to create programs to upgrade their facilities for state-of-the-art inspection methods; require the PUC to set minimum standards to install automatic and/or remote shutoff valves; and require the PUC to ensure utility owners actually use rate increases to pay for the projects they propose, with any diversions publicly explained.

Lots more, after the jump…
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Bowen: Contractor messed up voter guide mailing

A contractor’s error was responsible for some Bay Area households never receiving their official state voters’ guides before the June 8 primary, Secretary of State Debra Bowen reports.

In a letter sent yesterday to Assemblyman Jerry Hill, who’d contacted Bowen’s office after taking complaints from San Mateo County residents, Bowen said managers at Admail West, the Sacramento firm contracted to mail the guides, admitted “their company is responsible for duplicate or triplicate mailings of state voter guides to voter households in some counties, while at the same time failing to mail a single state voter guide to other households.”

“No one at Admail West has ever been able to fully explain the extent of the mailing problem, or why the company did not have better quality-assurance procedures in place for such an important statewide project,” Bowen wrote. “Moreover, Admail West managers reported that the one employee who handled the mailing data and caused the San Mateo County mailing errors passed away in June, and many key details are not known by anyone else at the company.”

Regardless of who screwed up at Admail West, she wrote, “there is no excuse for the sloppy tracking and lack of quality control by any vendor when the Secretary of State’s office provides extremely clear mailing specifications and voter address data.”

Checking around online, I see that Admail West’s president is Kathleen Pescetti. Her husband is Anthony Pescetti, the Republican former Assemblyman from Gold River; their son, also named Anthony, is Admail West’s business development manager.

Hill, D-San Mateo, issued a news release today noting there are still unanswered questions that must be resolved to ensure this doesn’t happen again: “I will be working with the Secretary of State to identify corrective actions that may include legislation or a state audit.”

Hill on June 16 introduced AB 814, which would require that for a statewide election, officials include a notification with the sample ballot informing voters they can obtain a voter information guide on the Secretary of State’s website. The notice also would include the telephone number, designated by the county elections official, at which a voter could request that a ballot pamphlet be mailed to him or her; ballot pamphlets also would be made available at polling places. The bill passed the state Senate Appropriations Committee on a unanimous vote Monday, and now awaits a Senate floor vote.

Hill also this year authored AB 1717, authorizing county and city elections officials to create procedures letting a voter opt out of receiving their sample ballot, voter pamphlet and polling-place notice by mail and instead get them electronically by e-mail or on the county’s or city’s Web site. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed that bill into law last month.