Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

January 26, 2012
Assembly passes bill sparked by Caylee Anthony murder case

The Assembly approved new parental obligations today in response to a much-publicized Florida case in which Casey Anthony waited a month to report her 2-year-old daughter missing but ultimately was acquitted of her murder.

Assembly Bill 1432 would make parents or guardians guilty of a misdemeanor if they knowingly fail to report, within 24 hours, the disappearance of a child younger than 14.

Maximum penalties would vary, however.

Offenders could be jailed for a year and fined $2,000 for failing to report the death of a child from crime, or one who is missing under circumstances that would suggest danger.

Violations stemming from disappearances in which no danger of physical harm exists would be punishable by maximum jail sentences of six months and fines of up to $1,000.

The bill declares itself "Caylee's Law," a reference to Caylee Anthony, the Florida toddler whose body was found in a wooded area not far from her grandparents' home in 2008. She had been missing six months.

AB 1432, by Assemblywoman Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, passed the Assembly with bipartisan support, 66-3. It now goes to the Senate. If signed into law with two-thirds support from the Legislature, the measure would take effect immediately.

January 26, 2012
Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye fights Calderon's court bill

California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye visited The Bee's Editorial Board today to make her case against Assemblyman Charles Calderon's effort to reduce her clout over statewide spending on the judicial system.

The chief justice said Calderon's bill, Assembly Bill 1208, would "reduce and eliminate the authority of the Judicial Council" to control significant parts of judicial branch spending."

Senior Editor Dan Morain filed an account of her visit on The Swarm blog. Read it here.

January 26, 2012
California Supreme Court to rule Friday on state Senate maps

The California Supreme Court will rule Friday on what state Senate district boundary lines will be in effect for this year's legislative elections if a pending referendum qualifies for the ballot.

Justices will post their ruling at 10 a.m. Friday on the court's website, said Lynn Holton, Supreme Court spokeswoman, in a press release.

The matter stems from a referendum attempt by a Republican-backed group, Fairness and Accountability in Redistricting, which opposes new state Senate maps drawn by a citizens commission and has gathered signatures in an effort to overturn them at the ballot box.

Because this year's legislative elections will be held before the group's map challenge could be decided by voters, the Supreme Court must decide which boundary lines will be used if the referendum qualifies for the ballot.

County elections offices currently are counting signatures filed by FAIR to determine whether 504,760 are from valid voters, which would place the newly drawn Senate maps on the November ballot.

The Supreme Court conceivably could order the FAIR-challenged Senate maps to be used this year. Justices also could revive maps that were in effect from 2002-10 or select a special master to draw new districts.

California's legislative and congressional districts were drawn last year, for the first time ever, by a 14-member citizens commission consisting of five Democrats, five Republicans, and four independent or minor-party voters. The Legislature drew political districts in decades past.

* Updated at 2:20 p.m. to add information about the Supreme Court's options and about the structure of the redistricting commission.

January 26, 2012
Assembly passes measures to expand private health insurance

Bills to require private health insurance plans to cover costs of oral chemotherapy and the treatment of mental illness and substance abuse were passed today by the Assembly, largely along party lines.

The lower house also approved Assembly Bill 369, which would bar health plans from requiring a patient to try more than two lower-priced medications before providing access to the product prescribed by the patient's physician.

AB 369 passed, 46-19, with most Democrats but no Republicans supporting it.

Democratic Assemblyman Jim Beall of San Jose crafted the bill covering mental health and substance abuse treatment, Assembly Bill 154. It passed the lower house, 47-18, with no GOP votes.

Current law only requires private insurers to cover severe mental illness, while AB 154 targets other types of disorders, including depression and substance abuse but not bereavement or antisocial behavior.

Services covered under AB 154 include outpatient, inpatient and partial hospital services, as well as prescription drugs if the plan's contract already includes coverage for medications.

The oral chemotherapy bill, Assembly Bill 1000, was pushed by Assemblyman Henry Perea, a Fresno Democrat who said he conceived of the idea during his mother's treatment for lung cancer.

AB 1000 passed, 52-17, with support from only three Republicans: Paul Cook of Yucca Valley, Kevin Jeffries of Lake Elsinore, and Kristin Olsen of Modesto.

Health plans typically cover the price of a patient's intravenous chemotherapy, charging only a minor office co-payment. By contrast, most insurers cover only a portion of oral chemotherapy costs, leaving patients with bills that can total hundreds of dollars per month, Perea said.

AB 1000 would not require insurers to provide coverage for prescription drugs, but those that do would be required to bankroll much of the costs of oral chemotherapy as they do now for intravenous chemotherapy.

All three bills now go to the Senate.

January 26, 2012
Think Long announces it will back California Forward's measure

An independent committee backed by billionaire investor Nicolas Berggruen announced today that it will support a proposed ballot measure that would make major changes to the state's budget and governance processes.

Berggruen, who previously pledged to spend at least $20 million on the Think Long Committee for California's effort, said the California Forward Issue Action Fund proposal "perfectly reflects both the growing public demand in California for a more accountable government and Think Long's mission of strengthening California's democracy for the long term. "

"We are looking forward to working together with California Forward to take historic steps to increase public confidence in government and are prepared to dedicate ample time and resources to this worthy cause," he said in the statement.

January 26, 2012
Steinberg: Extending redevelopment agencies 'not going to happen'

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said today that he believes an effort to extend the life of local redevelopment agencies through April 15 is "not going to happen."

Legislation to that effect, Senate Bill 659 by Democratic Sen. Alex Padilla, faces a Tuesday deadline for winning passage in the state Assembly, in addition to the planned Feb. 1 date of closure for the agencies

"I'm skeptical," Steinberg said. "I think the speaker is skeptical, and the governor is dead set against the bill. The focus needs to be on recreating a new set of economic development tools for cities and not on trying to keep alive the current form."

The Legislature axed the agencies, which subsidize local projects in blighted areas, and created a new redevelopment entity as part of last year's budget package. But the state Supreme Court ruled in December in response to a legal challenge to the move that while the Legislature had the power to dissolve the agencies, the replacement organizations could not stand.

Local governments have pushed for the extension measure, saying it is needed to allow lawmakers to address legal and contractual issues related to terminating the taxpayer-funded agencies. Gov. Jerry Brown expressed doubts about the proposal on a campaign stop last week, saying, "I don't think we can delay this funeral."

Steinberg said he is interested in exploring ways to take money and assets now held by the agencies and "hand (them) back to the cities and counties for economic development, but with a connection to ... our goals of better planning."

The Sacramento Democrat has introduced legislation to allow local governments to retain and use redevelopment money earmarked for affordable housing projects. That bill also faces a Tuesday deadline for winning approval.

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez appears to be on the same page as Steinberg.

"The governor certainly made his feelings absolutely clear for extending them for the sake of an extension," said Pérez spokesman John Vigna. "So I think our focus is preserving some of the (long-term) economic development functions of them."

California high court says state can eliminate redevelopment

January 26, 2012
California single-payer health care bill stalls in state Senate

California's "Medicare for all" universal health care legislation fell short of the 21 votes needed to pass the state Senate today.

Senate Bill 810 failed on a 19-15 vote during this morning's floor session, with four moderate Democrats abstaining and one voting no.

Democratic Sen. Mark Leno, who authored the bill, said the proposal would stabilize health care costs and expand access to coverage.

He called the bill, which does not include funding to cover the projected $250 billion annual cost of running the single-payer system, the first step in a "many year project" that will likely require asking voters to approve financing. He encouraged members to support the bill to allow the policy discussion to continue.

No Republicans voted for the bill. Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, criticized the proposal as an attempt to create "another costly and inefficient bureaucracy."

"There's no doubt that we need health care reform, there's no doubt that we need to improve our health care system, but members, this is not the bill to move forward," he said.

The bill faces a Tuesday deadline for passing the state Senate in the current legislative session. Several similar bills have cleared one or both houses in recent years. The last version to win legislative approval was vetoed by then-GOP Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

January 26, 2012
Senate approves bill restricting picketing at funerals

Legislation aimed at restricting protests at military and other funerals won unanimous approval in the state Senate today.

Senate Bill 661, by Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, would prohibit picketing within 500 feet of a burial or memorial site within one hour of the service. Violators of the law could face misdemeanor charges punishable by up to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.

Supporters say the bill, which is backed by veterans groups, will protect grieving families from distress while maintaining the First Amendment rights of protesters. Opponents, including the American Civil Liberties Union and California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, say the bill goes too far in protecting the interests of funeral attendees over free speech.

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar version of the bill last year, writing in a message that while he was "very tempted to sign it," he felt the language "plainly fails to comport" with a 2011 Supreme Court decision.

Lieu's office believes changes to the language, including decreasing the zone around the funeral where picketing is banned, addresses the governor's concerns.

The bill now heads to the state Assembly for consideration.

January 26, 2012
AM Alert: Jerry Brown to speak at L.A. Chamber of Commerce

True to his quip after the State of the State address, Gov. Jerry Brown is spending more time in Southern California.

Brown took part Wednesday in a private roundtable in Santa Monica with members of the California District Attorneys Association. He'll attend another private event today -- a luncheon celebrating the 50th anniversary of San Juan Capistrano's incorporation.

Tonight, he's scheduled to speak at the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce's inaugural dinner held in the Diamond Ballroom of the JW Marriott at L.A. Live.

Back in Sacramento, both the Senate and the Assembly have scheduled floor sessions at 9 a.m. Next Tuesday is the last day for each house to pass bill introduced last year.

The Assembly Elections Committee will hear an urgency measure, Assembly Bill 1413 by Assemblyman Paul Fong, that tweaks the "top-two" primary system regarding write-in candidates and other issues. The hearing starts in the Capitol's Room 3162 after the session adjourns.

Reducing wait times at the California-Mexico border is the topic of discussion for an Assembly select committee, which meets at 2 p.m. in Room 444.

And a Senate subcommittee looks at challenges facing the olive oil industry. Presenters include Dan Flynn, the executive director at the UC Davis Olive Center, and Tom Mueller, author of "Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil," which picked as one of the best books of the month in December. Look for that hearing starting at 1:30 p.m. in Room 3191.

FUN FACT: As of Wednesday afternoon, there were now 60 -- yes, 60 -- ballot measures cleared for signature gathering in California, plus 17 more pending at the attorney general's office. The Bee's Torey Van Oot has details in this story about several you're likely to see at the grocery store. Click here for more information at the secretary of state's website.


Capitol Alert Staff

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee.

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert.

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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