Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

May 7, 2013
California senator wants to ban guns made with '3-D printers'

LelandYeephoto.JPGA Democratic state legislator has announced a push to ban technology that could let people make guns with a "3-D printer" in the wake of media reports of the successful test fire of such a weapon.

A Texas company called Defense Distributed says it has successfully fired a handgun made mostly of plastic using a 3-D printer.The group posted videos of the test online.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, announced Tuesday that he will introduce legislation to ban the process here, saying California "must be proactive in seeking solutions to this new threat rather than wait for the inevitable tragedies this will make possible."

A 3-D printer makes a three-dimensional object from a digital model, using a process that adds successive layers in different shapes. Traditional machining techniques subtract material through cutting, drilling and other methods.

"While I am as impressed as anyone with 3-D printing technology, and I believe it has amazing possibilities, we must ensure that it is not used for the wrong purpose with potentially deadly consequences," Yee said in a statement.

Language for the bill is still being drafted, a spokesman for Yee said.

PHOTO CREDIT: State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco speaks to members of the press in his office at the Capitol in Sacramento on Feb. 14, 2013. Sacramento Bee/Randall Benton.

May 7, 2013
First 2 GOP amendments to Boxer's levee bill? They're about guns

TomCoburn.jpgThe Senate began consideration of U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer's Water Resources Development Act Tuesday, but thanks to the first two Republican amendments, the legislation won't merely address flood control, port and navigation improvements and storm protection.

If Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma has his way, the bill could allow people to carry guns on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers property. A similar effort three years ago lifted a gun ban in National Parks.

Coburn's other amendment would require federal agencies to report the firearms they own or that were lost or stolen -- with national security exceptions for the Pentagon and CIA, provided those agencies explain their reasoning to Congress.

After a contentious, four-month debate, the Senate last month failed to enact any new legislation aimed at curbing gun violence, and most observers didn't expect lawmakers to revisit the issue anytime soon. Amid other polarizing debates on immigration and the federal budget, the water resources bill, cosponsored by Boxer, a California Democrat, and David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, was expected to have relatively smooth sailing.

"I hope it doesn't get bogged down in extraneous amendments," Boxer said on the Senate floor Tuesday. Among other things, Boxer's bill would authorize projects such as the Natomas Levee Improvement Program.

Read more here.

Later, Boxer expressed frustration at Coburn's move but said the Senate would consider them. The bill moved unanimously out of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which Boxer leads, though some environmental groups object to some of its provisions.

"We will deal with those amendments," she said.

PHOTO CREDIT: Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., in 2008. Doug Mills/The New York Times

May 7, 2013
Brown administration joins push to amend Prop. 65

Gatto.jpgGov. Jerry Brown is throwing his weight behind a push to update Proposition 65, California's safeguard against exposure to toxic chemicals.

Passed by voters in 1986, Proposition 65 sought to shield the state's water supply from contamination and to protect consumers by requiring companies to post clear warnings about harmful chemicals in products.

The law has been "a resounding success" as a consumer safeguard, California Environmental Protection Agency Secretary Matthew Rodriquez said in a conference call with reporters today. But he said the time has come to amend the law, citing a proliferation of "abusive" profit-seeking lawsuits and scientific strides that make some of the standards set 27 years ago obsolete.

May 7, 2013
Darrell Steinberg calls for more investment in CA mental health

Steinbergmentalhealth.JPGCalifornia's top Senate Democrat called Tuesday for more investment in mental health services in the state, saying his proposal could improve lives, prevent future tragedies and reduce the burden mentally ill patients put on the state's prisons and hospitals.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is proposing significantly increasing mental health services in the state by adding 2,000 beds and at least 200 "triage personnel" to help individuals with mental health issues. His plan, which he hopes to enact through the state budget process, would also add 25 "Mobile Crisis Support Teams" to provide a range of resources to help people manage their mental illness without turning to emergency rooms or jails.

Steinberg said "invariably heart-breaking and often tragic" stories of what happens when mental illness goes untreated motivated him to craft the proposal. He highlighted the December mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school, a federal appeals court's ruling on health care in California prisons and stories chronicled by The Bee of Nevada busing mentally ill patients to California and other states as recent examples of the need for care

"How many more sad stories must we hear? With Newtown, Nevada and the 9th Circuit it is time for action," he said at a press conference in the state Capitol.

The unveiling of the plan comes days after Gov. Jerry Brown submitted a court-ordered plan to reduce the state's prison population. Steinberg said while his mental health services plan might not satisfy the three-judge panel's call for further inmate reductions, it will lower the prison population and recidivism rate for mentally ill inmates over time.

"Ultimately, if we are going to reduce overcrowding over the long term, we have to provide more effective, cost effective ways to keep people who leave the prisons and the jails from returning," he said, citing the success one three-year project for mentally ill parolees has had in cutting down the rate of repeat incarceration.

Steinberg said he has not yet calculated the full price tag for the plan, which would include grants of up to $500,000 for eligible projects. He said he envisions paying for the added services through grant funding offered by the California Endowment, a nonprofit that promotes health care coverage, money from the Proposition 63 tax on millionaires for mental health services, general fund revenues and by enrolling eligible individuals for health care benefits under the new state-run marketplace. He argued that any additional investment would provide big returns for the state over time.

"We are paying already, and we are paying big time," he said. "Our current system is a budget buster, also it's inhumane."

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg describes his proposal on increasing investment in mental health services as Democratic Sen. Jim Beall, chair of the Senate's mental health caucus, looks on. Sacramento Bee/Torey Van Oot.

May 7, 2013
Jerry Brown on broken Bay Bridge bolts: 'S--- happens'

chpbrown.jpgGov. Jerry Brown, apparently unfazed by reports of broken and suspect bolts on the new eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, said today when asked about the problem, "Look, s--- happens."

The Democratic governor said it would be "premature to pull our hair out" over the cracked bolts, which threaten to delay the $6.4 billion structure's scheduled opening in September.

"Don't know if it's a setback," Brown told reporters after a California Highway Patrol memorial event in West Sacramento. "I mean, look, s--- happens."

Brown since last summer has maintained unwavering support for the state's construction and oversight of the new bridge, dismissing questions about its structural integrity.

He said this morning, "There are very professional engineers that are looking at this thing, and when they're ready to give us their report, I think the public will be satisfied."

PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown, right, speaks with reporters in West Sacramento on Tuesday, May 7, 2013. David Siders / Sacramento Bee

May 7, 2013
California has 2.6 million illegal immigrants, USC study finds

ha_IMMIGRANTS0001.JPGCalifornia has 2.6 million residents who are in the country illegally and thus would be heavily impacted by any immigration reform legislation, a massive new study by the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration concludes.

The state's undocumented population is about a quarter of the nation's, and about 72 percent comes from Mexico.

The study also found that California's illegal immigrants have $31.5 billion in income but individually earn less than half of U.S.-born workers, even though 74 percent of working-age immigrants are in the labor force.

PHOTO CREDIT: Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, right, talks at the state Capitol on April 30 about his SB 516 and SB 666 on ensuring immigrants' rights, regardless of legal status. Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

May 7, 2013
New revenues ease California school district fiscal woes

RP GOVERNOR PROP 30 SIGN.JPGVoter approval of a multi-billion-dollar tax increase last year has reduced financial pressure on California's nearly 1,000 school districts and thus dropped the number of districts in fiscal distress, the Legislature was told Tuesday.

Joel Montero, who heads the Bakersfield-based Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team, told an Assembly budget subcommittee that the number of districts in distress is half what it was a few years ago, when the state was routinely "deferring" billions of dollars in aid to local districts because of its own budget problems.

Last year, voters passed Proposition 30, which hikes sales and income taxes by about $6 billion a year, much of which will go to schools. Gov. Jerry Brown says he wants to spend much of the new revenue to repay the state aid deferrals.

"The impact of Proposition 30 has been positive," Montero said during his annual update on school financial problems.

May 7, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Legislature shows resolve on immigration

It was only a resolution, but Dan sees signs of bipartisan will in an immigration measure that sailed through the Assembly almost unopposed.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

May 7, 2013
AM Alert: Consumer attorneys lobby California lawmakers


The lobby day carousel continues to spin. Today it's the turn of the Consumer Attorneys of California, who will be in town to urge lawmakers to oppose a handful of bills, advocate for more funding for the court system and push to lift a $250,000 cap on damages in medical malpractice cases established by the Medical Injury Compensation Reform Act. Representatives will start the day with a breakfast address from Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento, and dine on a luncheon address from Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Los Angeles.

VIDEO: Dan Walters is surprised to see a faint glimmer of cooperation at the Capitol, particularly on an issue as volatile as immigration.

PRO TEM PRISON PLAN: With California's standoff with the federal government over prison overpopulation continuing to smolder, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is holding a 10 a.m. press conference in room 211 on his plan to ease the strain on California's correctional system and raise the quality of mental health care.

ONLINE GAMBLING: Capitol Weekly and the University of California Sacramento Center are sponsoring an event that takes a look at the business and politics of online gambling today. Speakers are expected to include Sen. Rod Wright, D-Inglewood, who has authored a bill to regulate online gambling; Assembly Governmental Organization Committee chair Isadore Hall, D-Compton; and Leslie Lohse of the California Tribal Business Alliance. At 1215 K Street.

LONG-TERM CARE: As The State Worker's Jon Ortiz has been reporting, people who bought private long-term insurance plans via CalPERS are bracing for painful premium hikes. The the Assembly Aging and Long-Term Care Committee is examining the implications today during a hearing that starts at 2 p.m. in room 127.

TOBACCO AWARENESS: Representatives from local health departments and community organizations will be meeting with lawmakers at the State Capitol today as part of an event organized by the American Lung Association's Center for Tobacco Policy & Organizing. The day will be bracketed by a morning address from Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, in the morning and Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, in the afternoon.

HIGHER EDUCATION: Have you been thinking about the future of California's public universities and the students they produce? If so, you're in luck: a Public Policy Institute of California event in San Francisco will be taking a look with a conference headlined by University of California President Mark Yudof at the Bechtel Conference Center in San Francisco, from noon to 1:30 p.m.

PHOTO CREDIT: A statue of Lady Liberty who holds the scales of Justice on the Washoe County Court House in Virginia City, Nevada. Jebb Harris/the Orange County Register.


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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