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Not much hubbub over veto of Oakland gun bill

Those who wanted Oakland to be able to pass its own, stricter gun laws seemed unwilling to criticize Gov. Jerry Brown for his veto Monday.

AB 180 would’ve let Oakland establish its own ordinances – stricter than state law – on registration or licensing of firearms.

“The State of California has among the strictest gun laws in the country. Allowing individual cities to enact their own more restrictive firearms regulations will sow confusion and uncertainty,” Brown, who was Oakland’s mayor from 1999 to 2007, wrote in his veto message issued Friday. “I am mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence, but this is not the right solution.”

Rob BontaThe bill’s author – Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland – seemed to take it in stride.

“I will continue to fight for the people of Oakland to be free from the gun violence which plagues our community,” said Bonta, who as chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay has held field hearings on the issue. “In his veto message, Governor Brown stated that he was ‘mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence. I look forward to continuing the conversation with the governor as to how the state can continue to assist Oakland in the future.”

Oakland City Council in May unanimously approved a resolution – introduced by council members Libby Schaaf and Rebecca Kaplan, as well as the city attorney’s office – supporting AB 180.

“Though we’re certainly disappointed that AB 180 was vetoed, it’s important that we recognize and celebrate the victories of our advocacy,” Kaplan spokesman Jason Overman said Monday. “Governor Brown signed an important bill authored by Assemblymember Skinner to create new common-sense gun laws that seek to reduce gun violence, both in Oakland and across California.”

The Skinner bill Overman referred to is AB 48, which makes it a crime to make, import, sell, give, lend, buy or receive any conversion kit that can convert a legal ammunition-feeding device into an illegal large-capacity magazine. The bill also makes it a crime to buy or receive a large-capacity magazine; manufacturing or selling such magazines already has been illegal in California for more than a decade.

Posted on Monday, October 14th, 2013
Under: Assembly, gun control, Jerry Brown, Oakland City Council, Rebecca Kaplan, Rob Bonta | 9 Comments »

Brown signs, vetoes political reform bills

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed one political-reform bill but signed several others Tuesday.

SB 3 by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, would have required the Fair Political Practices Commission to create an additional online training course for campaign treasurers. “This is a costly and unnecessary addition to the extensive training and outreach that the Commission already provides,” Brown wrote in his veto message.

The bill also would’ve required the Secretary of State to write a report on what it would take to have comprehensive online campaign disclosure, and Brown acknowledged “the current system – widely viewed as outdated and cumbersome – needs upgrading.” He directed the Government Operations Agency to consult with the FPPC and the Secretary of State “and come back to me with recommendations on the best way to improve campaign disclosure.”

“While I’m disappointed SB 3 hasn’t become law, I’m glad to share common ground with the governor on the need to improve Cal-Access,” Yee said in a news release this afternoon. “I look forward to working with the FPPC and the Secretary of State in finding the best means of making the system more effective. The end goal is for California to have an easily accessible and searchable system that ensures accountability in our elections.”

Philip Ung, policy advocate for the good-government group California Common Cause, said in Yee’s release that although his group disagrees with Brown on the need for treasurer training, Brown’s movement to update the Cal-Access campaign finance filing system “is a step forward to improving transparency in our elections. This action would not have been taken without the pressure from the Legislature, voters, and organizations like Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of California.”

Brown did sign AB 409 by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton, which lets the the Fair Political Practices Commission develop and operate an online system for local and state officials and candidates to file their statements of economic interests.

A legislative analysis of AB 409 said allowing electronic filing could save the state a lot of money on the staff time and public access that paper statements require, and might reduce errors on the statements too. The Legislature passed this bill with unanimous votes.

The governor also signed two bills by Assemblyman Paul Fong. AB 552 lets the Fair Political Practices Commission collect unpaid fines and penalties without needing to file a civil lawsuit in superior court. And AB 1090 lets the FPPC bring civil and administrative enforcement actions for violations of a longstanding state law prohibiting conflicts of interests in contracting decisions; it also lets the FPPC issue advice regarding a public official’s obligations under that same law.

Fong, D-Cupertino, issued a statement saying the new laws strengthen the FPPC’s authority and provide resources so those who violate the public trust can be held accountable.

And Brown signed AB 1418 by the Committee on Elections and Redistricting. That bill repeals a requirement that campaign statements must be open for public inspection and copying from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Saturday before a statewide election in the offices of the Secretary of State and the registrars of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego counties; online availability of such reports has made those office hours obsolete, the committee said.

AB 1418 also makes some technical changes to the state’s Political Reform Act of 1974, in part to conform with California’s new top-two primary system.

Posted on Tuesday, October 8th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, campaign finance, Jerry Brown, Leland Yee, Paul Fong | 2 Comments »

New laws bar threats against illegal immigrants

The TRUST Act wasn’t the only immigration-related bill that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law this weekend: Others could cost businesses their business licenses and hefty fines if they threaten workers based on their immigration status.

SB 666 by state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg makes it illegal to report or threaten to report workers’ immigration or citizenship status, or that of their family, in retaliation of an employee filing a complaint of unsafe working conditions, sexual harassment, or otherwise attempting to exercise his or her rights in the workplace.

Employers and businesses found violating this new law could be subject to civil penalties of up to $10,000 per incident, and with business license suspension or revocation under certain conditions. Steinberg, D-Sacramento, issued a statement calling the new law “another tremendous victory for civil rights.”

“Workers deserve fairness and safe conditions when they go to their jobs every day without the fear of retaliation when they stand up for their rights. Our labor laws are supposed to protect all California workers, regardless of their immigration status,” he said. “When employers use threats and intimidation like this, the voice of workers is silenced and law-abiding businesses face unfair competition. This law will ensure justice.”

Steinberg said there’ve been many cases in which employers ignore immigration status when hiring, but then use threats of deportation when workers stand up for themselves. This new law prohibits that and clarifies that an employer can’t retaliate against an employee who makes a written or oral complaint regarding unpaid wages, adding a civil penalty of up to $10,000 for violations of California Labor Code Section 98.6.

“There are people every day who come into our office with valid claims (and) with valid complaints,” Michael Marsh, an attorney with California Rural Legal Assistance, said in Steinberg’s news release. “Their rights have been violated and yet they’re afraid … Even when they’re told that they have these protections they don’t want to pursue these claims because they fear deportation. This is a persistent problem and I think it really needs to be addressed.”

In a similar vein, Brown also signed into law AB 524 by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, which includes threats to report a person’s immigration status in the definition of extortion.

A recent National Employment Law Project report found labor violations and retaliation have become widespread in California’s low-wage labor market. Jose Mejia, director of the California State Council of Laborers, called the bill “a major step toward improving job quality in the low-wage jobs that fuel our state’s economy and to remove the ability of employers to use immigrant status for retaliation or other unlawful purposes.”

Mullin, D-San Mateo, noted “California is home to over one quarter of the immigrants who live in the United States. We have a civic obligation to ensure our laws adequately protect all people from exploitation and workplace retaliation based on immigration status.”

Brown also on Saturday signed:

    AB 35 by Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina – Provides that immigration consultants, attorneys, notaries public, and organizations accredited by the United States Board of Immigration Appeals are the only individuals authorized to charge a fee for providing services associated with filing an application under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s deferred action program.
    AB 1024 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego – Allows applicants, who are not lawfully present in the United States, to be admitted as an attorney at law.
    AB 1159 by Gonzalez – Imposes various restrictions and obligations on persons who offer services related to comprehensive immigration reform.
    SB 141 by Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana – Requires that the California Community Colleges and the California State University, and requests that the University of California, exempt a United States citizen who resides in a foreign country, and is in their first year as a matriculated student, from nonresident tuition if the student demonstrates financial need, has a parent or guardian who was deported or voluntarily departed from the U. S., lived in California immediately before moving abroad, and attended a secondary school in California for at least three years.
    SB 150 by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens – Authorizes a community college district to exempt pupils attending community colleges as a special part-time student from paying nonresident tuition.

Posted on Monday, October 7th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, Immigration, Jerry Brown, Kevin Mullin | 19 Comments »

Brown signs Corbett’s ‘Made in California’ bill

You win some, you lose some.

So state Sen. Ellen Corbett discovered today as Gov. Jerry Brown signed one of her bills – creating a “Made in California” program to let manufacturers capitalize on the Golden State’s reputation – but vetoed another, which would’ve required that certain parts of prescription drug labels be printed in a larger, easier-to-read font.

Ellen CorbettCorbett’s SB 12 aims to let California manufacturers better market their products in increasingly competitive national and international economic environments. The statewide marketing strategy created by the bill will operate within the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) so that consumers are better able to recognize the high quality products developed in California.

It’ll be similar to the “Buy California” / “California Grown” program already promoting in-state agricultural products both within and outside of California. Products that meet program criteria will be eligible to use the state-sanctioned “Made in California” label.

Corbett, D-San Leandro, issued a statement thanking Brown for signing the bill “and recognizing the importance of helping California’s small businesses maintain a competitive edge against businesses that decide to manufacture out of state or even out of this country.”

But Brown vetoed SB 205, which would’ve required parts of the information on prescription labels – including the patient’s name – to be printed in at least 12-point sans serif typeface. Corbett had contended seniors have a hard time reading smaller print and so could be endangered, especially those who take multiple medications.

“The Board of Pharmacy is required to provide an update of its 2010 labeling guidelines to the Legislature next month,” Brown noted in his veto message. “I prefer to wait for their findings before mandating such a change.”

Posted on Friday, October 4th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Ellen Corbett, Jerry Brown | 2 Comments »

Game wardens urge Brown to veto lead ammo ban

Gov. Jerry Brown has yet to sign or veto any of the major gun-control bills that the Legislature sent to him in the final days of its session, and so advocates on both sides of the debate are pressuring him to see things their way.

ammoFor example, the California Fish and Game Wardens’ Association, representing current and retired sworn state game wardens, sent a letter to the governor Wednesday urging him to veto AB 711, which would ban the use of lead ammunition in hunting by mid-2019.

“Our California Wardens are the state’s environmental police, teachers of conservation, protectors of fish and wildlife, and a premiere law enforcement presence for public safety and disaster relief,” the association’s officers and board wrote to Brown. “California Game Wardens are on the front line enforcing the ban on lead ammunition for most hunting in condor range. But there is insufficient data to justify such a drastic action across the entire state.”

In taking this position, the wardens are breaking with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, which had supported AB 711.

Environmentalists say the bill – authored by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, D-South Gate, protects California condors, eagles and other wildlife from lead poisoning. “There’s no reason to keep putting toxic lead into the food chain or risking human health when there are nontoxic bullets already on the market and in use by hunters,” said Jeff Miller, a conservation advocate from the Center for Biological Diversity.

But the vast majority of ammunition used today contains lead, and opponents of the bill say the environmental argument is a smoke-screen. The California Association of Firearms Retailers has noted there isn’t much non-lead ammunition on the market, because federal authorities have determined that it meets the definition of armor-piercing ammunition, which is banned. Unless that’s resolved, the group said, there would be little or no legal ammunition for hunting.

Brown has until Oct. 13 to sign or veto this session’s bills.

This bill and SB 374 by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento – which would add all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines to the state’s list of banned assault weapons – are probably the most controversial gun-related bills sent to Brown’s desk this year. Others include:

    SB 299 by Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord – would require gun owners to report a gun theft or loss to police within seven days of knowing about it
    SB 475 by Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco – would essentially ban gun shows at the Cow Palace by requiring approval from San Francisco and San Mateo supervisors for such shows
    SB 567 by Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara – would update the definition of an illegal shotgun to include a shotgun with a revolving cylinder and a rifled bore
    SB 683 by Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego – would require owners of long guns to earn safety certificates like those already required of handgun owners
    SB 755 by Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Vacaville – would expand list of convicts who can’t legally own guns to include those with multiple drug or alcohol crimes, street gang members and others
    AB 48 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley – would ban conversion kits that allow people to turn regular magazines into high-capacity magazines
    AB 169 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento – would tighten exemptions to the law prohibiting purchase of handguns that haven’t been tested and deemed safe by the state
    AB 180 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland – would give Oakland an exemption from state pre-emption so it can pass its own stricter gun registration or licensing statutes
    AB 231 by Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco – would make it a crime to leave a loaded firearm somewhere a child is likely to be able to get it without permission
    AB 1131 by Skinner – would extend from six months to five years the prohibition from owning firearms for those who’ve described a credible violent threat to a psychotherapist

Bills that DID NOT make it to Brown’s desk include:

    SB 47 by Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco – would have banned “bullet buttonsthat allow fast swapping of rifle magazines
    SB 53 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles – would have required background checks for ammunition purchases
    SB 293 by DeSaulnier – would have required all newly made or imported handguns in California be “smart guns” personalized so only their owners can fire them, effective 18 months after such guns go on the market and meet certain performance standards
    SB 396 by Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley – would have forced Californians to give up all ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, no matter when they were bought

Posted on Friday, October 4th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Jerry Brown | 2 Comments »

Jerry Brown signs ‘revenge porn’ bill

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Tuesday that criminalizes “revenge porn” – the online sharing of what had been private photos.

SB 255 by state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Modesto, takes effect immediately, and those convicted of illegally distributing private images with the intent to harass or annoy will face six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine.

“I want to thank Governor Brown for recognizing that this bill was needed. Until now, there was no tool for law enforcement to protect victims,” Cannella said in a news release. “Too many have had their lives upended because of an action of another that they trusted.”

Cannella noted revenge porn often begins when relationships end, as vengeful or spiteful partners post without the victims’ knowledge what were once private photos taken with consent. Some websites even specialize in posting such materials, and charge subjects unreasonable fees to take down the illicit photos.

Posted on Tuesday, October 1st, 2013
Under: Jerry Brown | 2 Comments »

Brown blames shutdown on ‘extreme radicals’

Gov. Jerry Brown today signed a package of bills to tweak and advance Obamacare’s implementation in California – and he took a shot at congressional Republicans in announcing it.

“While extreme radicals in Washington shut down our government, here in California we’re taking action to extend decent health care to millions of families,” Brown said in his news release.

See the complete list of bills Brown signed today, after the jump…
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, October 1st, 2013
Under: healthcare reform, Jerry Brown | No Comments »

Brown signs bill inspired by BART phone shutdown

A bill inspired by BART’s shutdown of cell-phone service during public protests in 2011 has been signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

SB 380 by state Sen. Alex Padilla prevents arbitrary shutdown or interruption of cell phone service without a court order; it takes effect Jan. 1.

“Open communication networks are critical to public safety and a key element of a free society,” Padilla, D-Van Nuys, said in a news release. “This new law will require a court order to interrupt modern mobile communication networks. For decades this requirement has been in place to protect traditional landline telephone service from arbitrary shutdown, now it will be in place for modern wireless communications as well. We need to make sure our laws keep up with changes in technology.”

BART turned off electricity to cellular towers in four San Francisco stations for three hours during an August 2011 protest about a BART Police officer’s fatal shooting of a knife-wielding homeless man.

The incident led the Federal Communications Commission to probe wireless service shutdowns, bringing public comments that indicated such shutdowns create more problems then they solve because they impede emergency communications. BART later in 2011 adopted a new standard for when it could interrupt phone service; this new law pre-empts that policy.

Brown had vetoed a similar bill last year, saying that giving law enforcement agencies only six hours to make findings about service shutdowns “could divert attention away from resolving the conflict without further threat to public safety.” SB 380 differed from last year’s bill by making carve-outs for hostage and barricade situations, and by adding process for a shutdown in certain emergencies so long as it’s followed by court review to determine whether free speech and public safety standards were met.

SB 380 was approved by the state Senate 35-3 in May; was approved by the Assembly 77-0 on Sept. 4; and was concurred upon by the state Senate 37-0 on Sept. 6.

Posted on Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Jerry Brown | 2 Comments »

Brown signs law to let distilleries sell tastings

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law Thursday that grants distilled spirits and brandy manufacturers the right to charge customers for tastings on their premises, just as wineries do.

St. George Single Malt WhiskeyNo, this is not the most important legislation on his desk. But I like whiskey, so I’m writing about it anyway.

AB 933 was carried by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and was sponsored by the California Artisanal Distillers Guild; the Assembly and state Senate both passed the bill unanimously.

Skinner contended tastings are a traditional, responsible way for adults to sample alcohol in modest quantities and learn more about how the tipples are made. California distilleries already were allowed to offer free tastings, but couldn’t charge for those tastings to offset the costs of hiring staff.

Northern California is home to several distilleries, including St. George Spirits in Alameda, Charbay in St. Helena, Falcon Spirits in Richmond, Old World Spirits in Belmont, and – coming soon – Russell City Distillery in Hayward.

Posted on Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Jerry Brown, Nancy Skinner | 3 Comments »

TRUST Act activists target sheriffs in Sac, Oakland

Four protesters supporting the TRUST Act anti-deportation legislation now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk reportedly were arrested Wednesday after a protest and sit-in at the office of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, which opposes the bill.

The sheriffs’ association said the four refused repeated demands that they leave the private property, and were taken to Sacramento County Jail. Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern, the association’s president, later contacted protesters to explain his group’s position.

But apparently they’re all too aware of that position, as they’re planning to hold a “pray-in” at Ahern’s Oakland office Thursday morning.

Among the leaders of Thursday’s protest will be Pancho Ramos-Stierle, who was arrested as he meditated while police cleared the Occupy Oakland encampment in 2011 and was held by Ahern’s office on behalf of immigration authorities; his immigration case is still pending.

Currently, when someone is booked into a county jail, the suspect’s fingerprints are sent to the FBI for comparison with criminal databases. Under the Secure Communities program launched in 2008, the FBI shares that information with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency. If ICE thinks the inmate might be deportable, it asks jail officials to hold that person until an immigration agent can review the case and perhaps take the inmate away for deportation.

AB 4 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco – the TRUST (Transparency and Responsibility Using State Tools) Act – would forbid jail officials from honoring those immigration holds in many cases.

The sheriffs’ association issued a statement Wednesday afternoon explaining that the law “would require offenders that have been subject to prior removal orders, previously deported from the country, or have been charged with serious and violent felonies to be released into the community. It also would require sheriffs to release persons that, while not having been previously convicted of a serious or violent offense, have been deemed threats to national security or public safety by the Department of Homeland Security.”

Finally, the association noted, AB 4 would require a sheriff to let someone go if required by “local law” or “any local policy.”

“These terms are not defined and could defeat even the narrow exceptions provided by AB 4 that would allow a sheriff to hold a person that has been convicted of serious and violent felonies,” the association’s statement said.

But the groups behind tomorrow’s protest in Oakland – Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice, Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy, and the East Bay Interfaith Immigration Coalition – contend AB 4 gives law enforcement much broader discretion to honor immigration “hold” requests than the similar bill Brown vetoed last year, while ensuring that those with most low-level, non-violent offenses are not wastefully held for deportation.

“We pray for renewed trust between law-enforcement and immigrant communities in Alameda County and throughout our state. And we pray that Sheriff Ahern will open his heart to hear the pleas of the people, for safety and protection from indiscriminate detention and deportations,” Rev. Deborah Lee said in a news release. “And we pray that the Governor will sign this bill, so as to advance immigration reform.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 18th, 2013
Under: Alameda County, Assembly, California State Senate, Jerry Brown, Tom Ammiano | 2 Comments »