Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

Does California's death row protect the state? Is it worth the cost?

Sen. Loni Hancock doesn't think so. The Berkeley Democrat's Senate Bill 490 would abolish the death penalty. It gets its first hearing today in the Legislature.

The proposal would close death row and replace the death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. If the Legislature passes the measure, voters would have to agree in order for it to take effect.

Hancock cites a recent study by U.S. 9th Circuit Judge Arthur Alarcon and Loyola Law School professor Paula Mitchell estimating that California taxpayers have already spent more than $4 billion on only 13 executions since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978. More than 700 people are on death row.

Several witnesses are expected to testify, including representatives of victims groups opposing the measure, as well as Jeanne Woodford, who oversaw four executions as warden of San Quentin State Prison and who is now executive director of the nonprofit Death Penalty Focus.

The Assembly Public Safety Committee will conduct the hearing after the lower house's floor session is adjourned. Both the Assembly and the Senate have scheduled sessions at 9 a.m. Click here for the Senate's schedule, and click here for the Assembly's.

Down in the south state, Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, a Democrat, and Republican businessman Craig Huey face off this morning in their only debate before next Tuesday's special runoff in the 36th Congressional District. Listen to it live at starting at 10:30 a.m. on public radio station KPCC 89.3 FM.

The Washington-based newspaper Roll Call is reporting that Hahn's ads don't mention her party affiliation. They've also hit Huey on being more conservative than Sarah Palin, as this Capitol Alert post shows.

Roll Call says neither national party is putting much money into the race, calling it a sign that it's Hahn's to lose. She and Huey are seeking to replace former Rep. Jane Harman, D-Venice, who resigned in February. Turnout in the special election is expected to be low.

STATE BUDGET: What's next with the state budget? The Bee's Kevin Yamamura hosts a live chat on all things budget-related starting at 11:30 a.m. on Capitol Alert.

REDISTRICTING: The Citizens Redistricting Commission continues its consideration of the second version of the state's new district maps, scheduled to be released next Thursday. Click here for the agenda of the meeting, which starts at 10 a.m.

PET MICROCHIPS: Pet owners can get free microchips implanted in their dogs and cats, plus low-cost vaccines, at an event sponsored by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, and animal-protection groups. Lieu is carrying a measure, Senate Bill 702, to require that small microchips be implanted in recovered or adopted animals. Supporters say this would save taxpayers up to $300 million a year. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Capitol's east steps near the fish pond.

TOWN HALL: Sen. Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, holds a town hall at Rocklin City Council chambers, 3970 Rocklin Road, starting at 6:30 p.m.


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