LEG­IS­LA­TORS FO­CUS ON cli­mate, im­mi­gra­tion, roads

Imperial Valley Press - - LOCAL & REGION - BY JONATHON J. COOPER & DON THOMPSON AP Writ­ers

SACRAMENTO — Cal­i­for­nia’s Demo­crat­i­cally-con­trolled Leg­is­la­ture kicked off 2017 pledg­ing to stand strong against Repub­li­can Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump and pur­sue a lib­eral slate of poli­cies on ev­ery­thing from cli­mate change to health care.

They headed home Fri­day for the year hav­ing reau­tho­rized a ma­jor cli­mate change-fight­ing ini­tia­tive and hik­ing taxes to pay for road and bridge re­pairs. But a pro­posal to pro­vide uni­ver­sal health care cov­er­age for Cal­i­for­ni­ans fell by the way­side.

Demo­cratic Gov. Jerry Brown has un­til Oct. 15 to sign leg­is­la­tion.

Here’s a look at what law­mak­ers did — or didn’t do — this year.


Law­mak­ers gave an­other decade of life to Cal­i­for­nia’s cap-and­trade pro­gram, the cen­ter­piece of the state’s ef­fort to curb green­house gas emis­sions.

The mea­sure passed with bi­par­ti­san sup­port, ul­ti­mately cost­ing As­sem­bly Repub­li­can Leader Chad Mayes his job fol­low­ing an in­sur­rec­tion from party ac­tivists. En­vi­ron­men­tal jus­tice groups, mean­while, ar­gued it was too gen­er­ous to oil com­pa­nies. They weren’t mol­li­fied by com­pan­ion leg­is­la­tion to ad­dress toxic air around oil re­finer­ies.

Cap and trade puts limit on car­bon emis­sions and re­quires pol­luters to ob­tain per­mits to re­lease green­house gases un­der the cap. Some per­mits are auc­tioned off, pro­vid­ing bil­lions of dol­lars in state rev­enue. Law­mak­ers voted to spend $1.5 bil­lion of that money on elec­tric vehicle re­bates, cleaner trucks and buses and other ini­tia­tives to re­duce pol­lu­tion.


After years of failed at­tempts to ad­dress much-needed road re­pairs across Cal­i­for­nia, law­mak­ers voted to in­crease the gas tax to gen­er­ate $5 bil­lion a year.

Gas prices will rise 12 cents per gal­lon in Novem­ber and 19.5 cents by 2020. Diesel taxes will in­crease 20 cents, and driv­ers will pay a new vehicle reg­is­tra­tion fee rang­ing from $25 to $175 depend­ing on the value of their ve­hi­cles.

The money pays pri­mar­ily for road re­pairs, not new or ex­panded high­ways, though some of it will also fund tran­sit, parks and other projects.

The tax in­crease is at the cen­ter of an at­tempt by Repub­li­cans to re­call Demo­cratic Sen. Josh New­man, who sup­ported it.


As­sem­bly Speaker An­thony Ren­don, D-Para­mount, faced a back­lash when he shelved a plan to elim­i­nate health in­sur­ance cov­er­age and pro­vide gov­ern­ment-funded health care for ev­ery­one in Cal­i­for­nia.

Ren­don said the pro­posal, which did not have a plan to raise the es­ti­mated $400 bil­lion per year that it would cost, was not fully de­vel­oped. He’s since formed a spe­cial com­mit­tee to ex­plore uni­ver­sal health cov­er­age.

Mean­while, the Leg­is­la­ture ap­proved a drug-price trans­parency bill that had stalled for two years. It re­quires phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies to pro­vide ad­vance notice be­fore in­sti­tut­ing large price in­creases. The bill is await­ing a sig­na­ture or veto from Brown.


Law­mak­ers failed to act on one of their high­est-pro­file law en­force­ment is­sues: chang­ing a money bail sys­tem that crit­ics say dis­pro­por­tion­ately pun­ishes poor de­fen­dants. They plan to try again next year.

But the Leg­is­la­ture did send Brown two bills that would lighten crim­i­nal penal­ties for young of­fend­ers. One would bar sen­tenc­ing ju­ve­niles to life with­out pa­role, in keep­ing with re­cent U.S. Supreme Court rul­ings. The other would ex­pand the state’s youth­ful pa­role pro­gram by re­quir­ing pa­role con­sid­er­a­tion for of­fend­ers who com­mit­ted their crimes be­fore age 25, up from age 23 in cur­rent law.

An­other would write into state law a federal court or­der that re­quires of­fi­cials to con­sider re­leas­ing in­mates age 60 or older who have served at least 25 years in prison, ex­clud­ing death row and other no-pa­role in­mates along with po­lice killers and third-strike ca­reer crim­i­nals.

Other bills would re­strict em­ploy­ers from ask­ing about prior crim­i­nal con­vic­tions on job ap­pli­ca­tions, al­low ju­ve­nile of­fend­ers to ask a judge to seal records of crimes com­mit­ted be­fore turn­ing 17 and end ad­di­tional three-year sen­tence for re­peat drug of­fend­ers.


The cen­ter­piece of Cal­i­for­nia’s ef­fort to push back against Trump’s im­mi­gra­tion poli­cies is a plan to limit co­op­er­a­tion of lo­cal and state law en­force­ment with federal im­mi­gra­tion agents. Dubbed a “sanc­tu­ary state” pro­posal, it passed the Leg­is­la­ture late Fri­day and heads to Brown for sig­na­ture.

Un­der other im­mi­gra­tion bills await­ing Brown’s ac­tion, im­mi­gra­tion of­fi­cials would need war­rants to en­ter col­lege cam­puses or work places.

And law­mak­ers ap­proved $30 mil­lion in le­gal and col­lege fi­nan­cial aid for par­tic­i­pants in a pro­gram that gives tem­po­rary le­gal pro­tec­tion to young im­mi­grants brought to the United States il­le­gally as chil­dren or by par­ents who over­stayed visas.


A pack­age of bills to ad­dress the state’s af­ford­able hous­ing cri­sis like­wise cleared the Leg­is­la­ture at the last minute, with Brown plan­ning to sign them. The three key bills will place a $4 bil­lion hous­ing bond on the 2018 bal­lot, stream­line devel­op­ment ap­proval in com­mu­ni­ties that aren’t meet­ing hous­ing goals, and add a $75 fee on real es­tate trans­ac­tion doc­u­ments.

Cal­i­for­nia is home to many of the na­tion’s most ex­pen­sive rental mar­kets, and de­mand for hous­ing out­paces sup­ply by about 1.5 mil­lion homes.


People who don’t pay traf­fic fines will no longer face a sus­pen­sion of their driver’s li­cense un­der a bud­get bill signed by Brown. That’s one of a hand­ful of bills passed this year aimed at elim­i­nat­ing fines that dis­pro­por­tion­ately harm poor people.

A bill headed to Brown would let Cal­i­for­ni­ans choose the third gen­der op­tion of “non-bi­nary” on driver’s li­censes and other state doc­u­ments. Law­mak­ers also sent the gov­er­nor a bill to ban pet stores from sell­ing dogs, cats and rab­bits bred at mass-breed­ing op­er­a­tions, in­stead re­quir­ing them to work with an­i­mal shel­ters and res­cue op­er­a­tions.

An ef­fort to push back mid­dle and high school start times to 8:30 a.m. or later also failed to pass, but will be ad­dressed next year.

In this Wed­nes­day photo, a young woman holds onto a small Amer­i­can flag dur­ing a nat­u­ral­iza­tion cer­e­mony at the Texas South­most Col­lege Arts Cen­ter in Brownsville, Texas. JA­SON HOEKEMA/THE BROWNSVILLE HER­ALD VIA AP

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