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Good news for California beer & spirits lovers

There’s good news from Sacramento this week for Californians who enjoy a sip of this or a shot of that.

beer tastingGov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed into law AB 774 by Assemblyman Marc Levine, which will allow limited beer tastings at certified farmers’ markets.

“This bill recognizes that at farmers’ markets brewers meet consumers face-to-face and build a relationship,” Levine, D-San Rafael. “AB 774 allows tastings where brewers are already selling their products at certified farmers’ markets.”

The new law, which also lets nonprofits receive donated beer as items for auction, will give farmers’ market managers full discretion on whether or not to allow beer tastings; limit tastings to one brewery per day per market; allow tastings only in a controlled, cordoned-off area; and limit tastings to eight ounces per adult customer.

Brown one year ago signed Levine’s similar bill to allow wine tastings at farmers’ markets.

Levine also made headway this week with his bill to create a new license for craft distillers so they can sell up to three bottles of distilled spirits per person per day at an instructional tasting; hold private events at the distillery; and have ownership in up to three restaurants. AB 1295 was approved Tuesday by the Senate Governmental Organization Committee.

Current state law prevents distillers from selling their products directly to consumers.

“This historic legislation changes Prohibition-era laws for craft distillers to reflect the modern marketplace,” Levine said, letting craft distillers “operate in a similar manner as wineries and breweries under existing law. This bill helps craft distillers to be competitive with large out-of-state distillers. Growth of the craft distillery industry means jobs in our local communities.”

Bottoms up!

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Lawmakers OK bill to boost grease-theft penalties

A bill to boost penalties for stealing used cooking oil is on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk.

Yes, you read that correctly – used cooking oil. Apparently oil from restaurants’ deep fryers has become a hot commodity worth a lot of money, with thieves draining it in the dead of night and selling it for conversion into clean-burning biofuel. Ah, California.

There's gold in that there fryer“As the alternative fuels market keeps growing, the demand for inedible kitchen grease based biofuels will grow as well,” Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, the bill’s author, said in a news release.

“The price increases stemming from this new demand will make grease theft a more lucrative crime in the coming years,” he said. “AB 1566 provides law enforcement with the tools to combat grease theft and protect the burgeoning biofuels market by beefing up requirements for licensed haulers, increasing the penalties for stealing grease and allowing law enforcement to impound vehicles for up to 15 days.”

The penalties have been so minor that many law enforcement agencies don’t even respond when owners report the theft, Holden contends. But according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, a typical fast-food restaurant produces 150-250 pounds of grease a week and a fully loaded pumper truck could bring in as much as $900 at a recycling center.

The Assembly voted 70-0 Monday to send the bill to Brown’s desk. The state Senate had approved it 35-0 one week ago.

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John Yoo weighs in on NSA/PRISM leak

Berkeley’s John Yoo, the Cal law professor who previously was the George W. Bush administration’s architect of legal policies supporting the war on terror and “enhanced interrogation techniques,” wrote a piece in the National Review urging the prosecution of NSA/PRISM leaker Edward Snowden – and perhaps some other folks, too:

John YooRecall that the Obama Justice Department claimed that Fox News reporter James Rosen was a co-conspirator in the alleged leak of classified intelligence. If the Justice Department truly believed what it told the courts when seeking a wiretap on Rosen, then it should indict the reporters and editors for the Washington Post and the Guardian newspapers who published information on PRISM.

Except, of course, that Rosen wasn’t indicted. I guess we should just be glad Yoo isn’t offering a legal justification for waterboarding reporters.

Actually, Yoo goes on to say he believes “the Post is protected by the First Amendment, but Holder’s Justice Department clearly doesn’t think so.” Wonkette offers a (rather profane) smackdown of what it says is Yoo’s hypocrisy on such things. What do you think?

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Federal judge to SF nudists: Keep it zipped.

A federal judge today dismissed a lawsuit challenging San Francisco’s new ordinance banning most public nudity, clearing the way for it to take effect this Friday.

District Judge Edward Chen’s order sided with the city’s arguments that the constitutionality of local restrictions on public nudity has been repeatedly upheld in the courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, and that such bans are a valid and longstanding feature of municipal codes throughout the nation.

“Even though we’re not surprised by Judge Chen’s ruling, we’re gratified by an outcome that affirms established case law and preserves reasonable exceptions for permitted events,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a news release.

“Ironically, the nudism advocates’ equal protection claim raised legal questions about the validity of exceptions that the Board and Mayor approved, which allow nudity at events like Bay to Breakers and the Folsom Street Fair,” Herrera said. “The plaintiffs took an unlikely position in their case that if they couldn’t be naked everywhere, no one could be naked anywhere. We believed their legal challenge to be baseless, and we’re grateful that the court agreed.”

Chen ruled that the nudism advocates’ First Amendment-based challenge lacked merit because “public nudity alone is not expression protected by the First Amendment,” and because the ordinance was “not substantially overbroad.” He also rejected their arguments that exemptions for such permitted events such as Bay to Breakers and the Folsom Street Fair violated constitutional Equal Protection guarantees, holding that plaintiffs failed to demonstrate that the exceptions lacked a rational basis.

Chen dismissed this challenge without leave to amend, but left the door open for nudism advocates to amend their pleading later with “as-applied” claims – meaning, after they’re arrested – provided they can do so.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors late last year adopted an ordinance barring people from baring their genitals on public streets, sidewalks, and most other public rights-of-way as well as on transit vehicles and in transit stations. Exceptions were carved out for permitted events and festivals, and for children under the age of five.

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Nudists to descend upon SF City Hall again

Nudists say they’ll descend upon San Francisco City Hall again Tuesday for the Board of Supervisors’ 2013 inaugural meeting.

Naturally, they stand ready to disrobe should Supervisor Scott Wiener – who authored the public nudity ordinance they so vociferously and visually protested last year – be elected president of the board at the noon meeting. And whether or not Wiener gets the gavel, they’re planning to be out on City Hall’s steps – or if it rains, at the Center for Sex and Culture on Mission Street – right after the meeting.

Later Tuesday, they’ll convene at the center for the release of their eBook – “Free Your Body, Free Your Mind!” – with proceeds to pay for nudist legal defense and direct action. The book contains more than 200 color photographs, they say, as well as essays and first-person accounts of “body freedom” and public nudity.

The ordinance that supervisors approved in November won’t take effect until Feb. 1, leaving time for the opponents to have their day in court. That day is coming next Thursday, Jan. 17, with a hearing at which U.S. District Judge Edward Chen will consider whether to grant the nudists an injunction against the new law.

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SF seeks dismissal of nudists’ federal lawsuit

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera filed a motion today seeking the dismissal of a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s new ban on public nudity.

The city and county’s Board of Supervisors approved the ban – which provides exceptions for certain city-permitted events and for those under the age of five – at a climactic meeting Nov. 20, and affirmed it Dec. 4.

Opponents of the ban had sued even before the ordinance was passed, claiming it would violate their rights under the First and Fourteenth amendments. The plaintiffs originally sought a temporary restraining order to stop the supervisors from passing the law, but U.S. District Court Judge Edward Chen opted instead to consider the challenge instead as a petition for a preliminary injunction, once the ordinance was enacted.

“Public nudity bans are a longstanding feature of municipal codes throughout the nation, and their constitutionality has been repeatedly affirmed by the courts – including the U.S. Supreme Court,” Herrera said in a news release today.

“Ironically, the only novel legal theory plaintiffs put forward in this case is an equal protection claim that could actually undermine exceptions that allow nudity at permitted events like Bay to Breakers and the Folsom Street Fair,” he added. “The nudism advocates seem to have taken the position that if they can’t be naked everywhere, no one can be naked anywhere. Fortunately, the legal challenge is without a basis in the law, and we’re confident the court will dismiss.”