The California Legislature is in session.
An important deadline to remember:
- February 22, 2013: Deadline to introduce bills.
Each member of the Assembly and State Senate are allowed to introduce up to 40 bills in this two year legislative session.
On to today’s California headlines:
- S.F. GOP leader slammed by Republicans – As chairwoman of the San Francisco Republican Party, attorney Harmeet Dhillon possesses an unusual background for a GOP leader. The Indian American is a past board member of the American Civil Liberties Union and doesn’t focus on the divisive social issues that have alienated the GOP from Californians. But now that Dhillon is running to be vice chair of the California Republican Party – she would be the first female of color in the job – one of the state’s top conservative groups is ripping her for being a little too San Francisco, warning that Dhillon is a Bay Area liberal who “simply doesn’t represent our values.” The California Republican Assembly, a conservative activist group, says Dhillon’s political contributions to Kamala Harris when she was running for San Francisco district attorney and Dhillon’s 2002-05 stint on the board of the Northern California chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is a deal-breaker.
- CARB honcho Mary Nichols makes power grab – What do the California Air Resources Board, the Transit Authority, the Highway Patrol, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Bar Pilots have in common? More than you would think. Because all vehicles, railroads, aircraft, freight movers and floating vessels are polluters, California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols (pictured nearby) would like a say in regulating them. The Assembly Transportation Committee originally announced it would meet on Monday, Feb. 4. The meeting agenda said it was to be about Assembly Bill 8, which would increase or extend $2.3 billion of fees on car owners until 2023. According to Jon Coupal, President of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, these will include smog abatement fees, air quality management district fees, vehicle and boat registration fees and new tire fees. However, AB 8 was dropped from the agenda, and no mention of it was made at the two and one-half hour hearing.
- California passes up millions for prison healthcare, report says – California’s court-run prison healthcare program is missing out on tens of millions of dollars a year in federal funds because of disagreement with counties and software problems, a new legislative report states. The legislative analyst’s office found increasing numbers of prison inmates who, because of their low income status, are eligible for the state’s Medicaid program. That program, delivered through counties, draws matching federal reimbursements. The LAO notes that federal policy has allowed states to collect federal Medicaid reimbursement for eligible state prison inmates since 1997. The agency states that California has only recently developed a process to obtain this funding, and is not yet seeking the full amount possible.
- Compromise pot measure placed on May ballot – A third measure to regulate how medical marijuana clinics operate in Los Angeles was placed on the May 21 ballot by the City Council on Tuesday, offered as a compromise to two other measures that are also going before voters. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich urged the council to adopt the measure to resolve the marijuana issue after years of dispute and legal challenges. “This will put in place what we had back in 2010,” Trutanich said. “I believe this is the most sensible regulation we can come up with. This will give us the opportunity to regulate medical marijuana while making it accessible to those who need it.” Under the proposal, approved on a 10-3 vote, the original 135 dispensaries that registered with the city when an interim control ordinance was in place will be able to operate in the city. Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who has admitted using marijuana as part of his cancer treatment, hailed the council action.
- California cities likely to keep right to ban medical pot dispensaries – California cities appear likely to retain the power to ban medical marijuana dispensaries, over the objections of medical pot advocates who argue such restrictions undermine the state law allowing the use of cannabis for medical reasons. During a hearing Tuesday in San Francisco, the California Supreme Court appeared inclined to allow cities to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in a case that has sweeping ramifications for local governments across the state and in the Bay Area, where dozens of cities have enacted dispensary bans. The dispensaries argue local governments cannot ban what California law allows, but the Supreme Court appeared unready to embrace that position. Most of the justices were openly skeptical of the arguments of a dispensary that challenged Riverside’s right to ban medical pot providers. The justices appeared particularly troubled that the 1996 voter-approved law allowing medical marijuana use, and later legislative revisions, did not expressly bar local gov..
- Gov. Brown dismisses Texas’ job-poaching efforts as ‘a big nothing’ – Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday dismissed the efforts of Texas Gov. Rick Perry to recruit California businesses to relocate as a political stunt motivated by a breathless media. The story received wide attention Monday when the Texas governor launched a statewide radio ad urging California businesses to move to the Lone Star State to take advantage of what Perry called a more favorable environment for companies. Speaking at a news conference in West Sacramento, the California governor quoted philosopher Marshall McLuhan as Brown dismissed Perry and scolded reporters for giving more attention to the story than it deserves. Noting that Perry spent just $26,000 on statewide radio, Brown called the ad campaign “a big nothing.” He went on to say people have been seeking to take what belongs to California since the gold rush. “You go where the gold is,” he said. Perry is “not going to Lubbock, or whatever those places are that make up that state.”
- Environmentalists and unions band together to fight CEQA changes – Environmentalists and labor unions are banding together to fight efforts to overhaul California’s landmark environmental law. Organizers said the new coalition, made up of dozens of advocacy groups and dubbed “CEQA Works,” was formed to counter an aggressive campaign by business groups to make changes to the California Environmental Quality Act. While legislation has yet to be introduced, Gov. Jerry Brown has called on the Legislature to streamline the law to help speed the state’s economic recovery. Environmentalists fear a repeat of last year, when lawmakers tried and failed to push through last-minute changes that activists said would have gutted CEQA. “CEQA is the most foundational environmental law in California,” said Bruce Reznik, executive director of the Planning and Conservation League, one of the coalition’s founding members. “We decided we couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore and wait for bad things to happen.”