1,660 bills make it past legislative deadline

The Associated Press
Saturday June 09, 2001

SACRAMENTO — Bills helping overworked nurses, nursing mothers, ferrets, shepherds, backpack-lugging students and supporters of an official state tartan have survived a major legislative deadline. 

Also still moving are measures that would require licensing of handgun buyers, set nursing home staffing standards, limit secret settlements of product-defect lawsuits and make kindergarten mandatory. 

But hundreds of bills will have to wait until next year for a chance to become law. 

Friday was the deadline for most bills to pass their initial house. A total of 1,660 made it; more than 1,300 didn’t. 

The deadline doesn’t cover emergency legislation, constitutional amendments and energy-related bills introduced in the special session that’s running concurrently with lawmakers’ regulator session. 

The bills that made it include measures that would bar mandatory overtime for nurses except during a government-declared emergency and require businesses to provide facilities and breaks to allow working mothers to pump breast milk. 

Another measure would allow Californians who owned a ferret before May 1 to legally keep it if it’s spayed or neutered. California is one of two states that bars the small, weasel-like animals as pets. 

A bill to improve working conditions for the state’s approximately 800 shepherds got out of the Assembly. It would require meal breaks and set housing standards for the shepherds, who now work “virtually as indentured servants,” according to the bill’s author, Assemblyman Paul Koretz, D-West Hollywood. 

Another bill passed by the Assembly in the weeks leading up to the deadline would require a study to determine if carrying book-filled backpacks hurts students’ backs. Many schools have removed their lockers, forcing students to carry their books around all day. 

California has 23 official state things, including a flag, motto, dance and song.  

The Assembly thinks it also an official state tartan: a brightly colored plaid pattern like those used in Scottish kilts, to honor the contributions of Californians of Celtic heritage. 

Both houses approved different bills requiring handgun buyers to give a thumbprint and get a state license. Supporters say the measures would make it tougher for people with criminal records to buy guns. 

The two houses also passed different measures limiting confidential settlements of product-liability lawsuits.  

Supporters say the bills would keep companies from hiding product defects from the public, but critics say they could give business competitors access to sensitive information. 

About 95 percent of California children attend kindergarten, but it’s not mandatory. That would change if a bill approved by the Assembly becomes law.  

The measure’s supporters say all children should be attending to avoid falling behind their classmates. 

A bill setting nursing home staffing standards as tough as one caregiver for each five patients also made it out of the Assembly.  

The bill’s supporters say California nursing homes rank near the bottom of the country in quality of care. 

Among the hundreds of bills left behind were measures to ban the use of hand-held cellular telephones while driving, exempt drug possession charges from the state Three Strikes sentencing law, bar telemarketers from calling consumers on a state do-not-call list, and bar the access of minors to video games that contain graphic violence or explicit sex. 

This year’s regular legislative session is scheduled to end on Sept. 14. Bills not enacted by then can be approved in 2002. 



Some of the bills that survived and didn’t survive the Legislature’s deadline for bills to pass their first house: 

The survivors include bills that would: 

• Require health insurance plans to cover treatment of drug and alcohol abuse. 

• Make medical patients and their caregivers immune from arrest on state marijuana-use charges if they joined a state registry designed  

to improve California’s medical marijuana law. 

• Require handgun buyers to give a thumbprint and get a state license. 

• Set nursing home staffings standards. 

• Limit confidential settlements of product-defect lawsuits. 

• Bar mandatory overtime for nurses except during a government-declared emergency. 

• Require banks and other financial institutions to get written permission from their customers before releasing information about them. 

• Expand the legal rights of gay and senior couples who register with the state as domestic partners. 

• Try to combat student obesity by limiting the fat and sugar in much of the food served at California schools. 

• Attempt to improve the state’s foster care programs, in part by reducing social workers’ child welfare case loads. 

• Extend the middle-school year by 20 days instead of the 30 suggested by Gov. Gray Davis. 

• Bar Internet gambling. 

• Reduce the sales tax on tractors and other farm equipment. 


Bills left behind include measures that would: 


• Ban the use of hand-held cellular telephones while driving. 

• Exempt drug possession from the Three Strikes prison sentencing law. 

• Bar telemarketers from calling consumers on a state do-not-call list. 

• Bar access of minors to video games that contain graphic violence or explicit sex.