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Reactions to Obama’s line in the (tar) sand

The White House says President Barack Obama would veto legislation approving construction of the long-stalled Keystone XL oil pipeline, the AP reports.

From House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio:

John Boehner“On a bipartisan basis, the American people overwhelmingly support building the Keystone XL pipeline. After years of manufacturing every possible excuse, today President Obama was finally straight with the them about where he truly stands. His answer is no to more American infrastructure, no to more American energy, and no to more American jobs. Fringe extremists in the president’s party are the only ones who oppose Keystone, but the president has chosen to side with them instead of the American people and the government’s own scientific evidence that this project is safe for the environment. This is simply another sign that President Obama is hopelessly out of touch and has no plans to listen to the American people or champion their priorities.”

From U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.:

Barbara Boxer“The President should only sign bills that are good for America, but the Keystone tar sands pipeline does nothing for our country and everything for Canada. In addition, reports show the pipeline project will increase the price of gas, while the tar sands flowing through the pipeline will result in pollution that causes serious illnesses like asthma and increases in carbon pollution – the main cause of climate change. It is a puzzle to me that after a deep recession, Republicans turn to legislation that according to the State Department will only create 35 permanent jobs. Instead, Republican leadership should immediately take up the highway bill which supports millions of jobs and will run out of funding in four short months.”

More, after the jump…
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‘Nanny state?’ Brown vetoes diaper changing bills

So much for the “nanny state” – Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a pair of bills Friday that would’ve required more diaper changing stations across California.

SB 1350 by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, would have required the California Building Standards Commission to adopt building standards governing the installation of baby diaper changing stations in places of public accommodation for equal use by men and women. The Senate had passed it 32-0, the Assembly 67-8.

diaper changing stationAnd SB 1358 by state Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, would have required buildings owned or partially owned by state or local governments, as well as certain other private buildings open to the public, to maintain at least one safe, sanitary, and convenient baby diaper changing station accessible to women and men. The Senate had passed it 29-1, the Assembly passed it 66-11, and the Senate concurred in Assembly amendments 31-2.

Brown nixed them both Friday, issuing a joint veto message.

“At a time when so many have raised concerns about the number of regulations in California, I believe it would be more prudent to leave the matter of diaper changing stations to the private sector,” he wrote. “Already many businesses have taken steps to accommodate their customers in this regard.”

“This may be a good business practice, but not one that I am inclined to legislate,” he concluded.

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ALD newborn-testing advocates fear veto for cost

Supporters of a bill that would require newborns to be tested for a deadly disease fear it may be headed for a veto because of its cost.

Assemblyman Richard Pan’s AB 1559, requiring newborns to be screened for adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), is now headed for a Senate floor vote, having been approved last week by the Appropriations Committee on a 5-0 vote. In fact, no lawmaker has voted against the bill so far; the Assembly approved it 79-0 in May.

But the only entity on record as opposing the bill is a big one: The California Department of Finance. Its analysis found adding a new disease to the current screening panel would require raising the $111.70 fee by another $11 – and that means an added $2.75 million per year in cost to Medi-Cal, which covers testing for about half the state’s births.

The Finance Department noted the federal government is reviewing whether ALD should be added to the list of recommended screenings for all newborns, but that review will take about two years and the state typically waits for that final approval before adding new diseases to its screening panel.

Gov. Jerry Brown typically doesn’t comment on bills before they reach his desk.

ALD – spotlighted in the 1992 movie “Lorenzo’s Oil” – is a degenerative brain disease mostly affecting young boys. The disease affects the myelin sheaths that insulate brain cells, essentially preventing the brain from communicating with the body.

It’s a rare disease – estimated at one in 20,000 to one in 50,000 births – and those who have it often have normal early childhoods. Early symptoms often seem to be behavioral and are misdiagnosed, but once the degeneration begins, it’s very rapid and usually leads to a vegetative state and then death. Advocates say cord-blood and bone-marrow transplants in the disease’s earliest stages can treat and even heal patients – if anyone knows the patient has the disease.

“Every year that California delays testing, we can expect that 30 families won’t get the early diagnoses that could save their vibrant and seemingly healthy child from this cruel disease,” said Pan, D-Sacramento, who is a physician. “For the parents who have lost their child to ALD, it is particularly tragic and painful knowing that a simple and effective test at birth could have saved their child’s life.”

Shane Louisell, 53, of San Leandro, lost two brothers to the disease – Bobby, at age 5, and Richard, at age 44 – the latter having suffered the less-common, adult-onset version of the disease. Now his nephew, in his 30s, has it too.

“The bill is so important – getting newborns screened, at least they have a chance to do something about it before it’s too late,” said Louisell, an artist and retired teacher. “It would save a lot of families grief.”

And supporters say the bill actually would save California millions because the difference in treating an early diagnosed patient and a late-diagnosed patient is roughly $1 million per year.

New York just began testing newborn babies for ALD at the end of last year; so far, six boys and one girl were found to have the disease, and so have been given a chance at life; testing of those babies’ families found a four-year-old who also was diagnosed.

You could’ve heard a pin drop as ALD victims’ mothers told their stories at the Senate Health Committee hearing in June:

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Beall tries again on bills for sex abuse victims

A South Bay lawmaker is taking another stab at legislation to allow more time for child-molestation prosecutions and civil lawsuits, after the governor vetoed his last effort.

Jim Beall“California must not allow sex abusers to turn the law on its head so they can continue to molest children,” state Sen. Jim Beall said in a news release Wednesday. “Changing both the criminal and civil statutes of limitations will give victims more time to report crimes and allow the justice system to get child molesters off the streets.”

Beall, D-San Jose, said medical research has found trauma inflicted on childhood sex abuse victims can result in memory loss and severely affect their ability to report the crime to authorities. “But the law fails to recognize pedophiles are using that psychological harm to help them hide from justice,” he said. “We can’t allow this injustice to continue.”

Beall’s new SB 926 would reform the criminal statute of limitations by raising the age at which an adult survivor of childhood sex abuse can seek prosecution from 28 to 40 years. The bill would affect sex crimes against children including lewd and lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, and other offenses.

And SB 924 would reform the two standards that now govern the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits. It would increase the age deadline – the age by which the victim must make a causal connection to his or her trauma – from 26 years old to 40. And it would increase the time in which to sue after discovering the link between a psychological injury and childhood sexual abuse from three years to five, starting from when a physician or psychologist first informs the victim of the link.

Both laws are co-authored by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach.

Beall last year carried SB 131, which would have applied retroactively to a small number of adult survivors of abuse, letting them sue the organizations that harbored their abusers. The bill was passed by the Assembly on a 44-15 vote and by the state Senate on a 21-8 vote, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it.

In an unusually lengthy veto message, Brown wrote “there comes a time when an individual or organization should be secure in the reasonable expectation that past acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further lawsuits,” given that evidence can be lost, memories can fade and witnesses can become unavailable over time. “This extraordinary extension of the statute of limitations, which legislators chose not to apply to public institutions, is simply too open-ended and unfair.”

Beall noted his new bills apply to both to public and private entities and will be applied starting Jan. 1, not retroactively, if they become law.

He had bitterly criticized Brown for vetoing last year’s bill, calling the governor’s “policy paper” on the importance of statutes of limitations a step backward for the state and a smack in the face for victims. “Saturday was a sad day for sexual abuse victims who clearly got the message that the governor is not on their side,” Beall said at the time.

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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.

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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