State Legislature enters last week of session
SACRAMENTO — Lawmakers started their last week of a two-year legislative session by approving bills Monday that include measures to require retailers to label genetically modified seafood and giving crime victims the right to money their assailants earn from selling the story of their crime.
Hundreds of bills are still awaiting action before Saturday, when the session ends at midnight. Among the bills are measures to ensure family leave, strengthen financial privacy laws and approve a $99 billion state budget that’s already two months late.
“There are more than 500 bills on file, so that means about 100 a day. That means we’re going to have to be cooking,” said Senate President Pro Tem John Burton.
A frustrated Burton, D-San Francisco, earlier had admonished senators to “know what’s going on with your bills. It might make life easier, if we don’t want to be here at midnight.”
There are about 700 bills still active in the Assembly, including the state’s 2002-2003 budget, which the Senate passed in June.
Assembly OKs sales of needles
SACRAMENTO — The Assembly passed a bill on Monday allowing pharmacies to sell hypodermic needles to adults without a doctor’s prescription.
The bill, by Sen. John Vasconcellos, D-San Jose, said his legislation would reduce the number of cases of HIV and other diseases caused by the sharing of needles among drug addicts.
“California is one of only six states nationwide that requires people to have a prescription to purchase a syringe,” said Assemblyman Joe Nation, D-San Rafael. “SB1785 would help save lives in our state.”
Supporters say needle sharing is linked to 19 percent of all AIDS and half of all Hepatitis C cases.
But Assemblywoman Lynne Leach, R-Walnut Creek, argued that the measure “encourages drug use.”
“You are saying to people that ’we can’t stop you so we are going to help you (use drugs),” Leach said.
The measure passed in a 42-24 vote. It now goes back to the Senate because of amendments made in the Assembly.
Assembly passes bill bringing back
traditional June primary
SACRAMENTO — The state Assembly narrowly passed a bill Monday to bring back California’s traditional June primary for state and congressional elections.
But the state’s new March primary for presidential elections every four years will stay.
The bill passed 41-13, by a single vote, after passionate exchanges on the Assembly floor about growing voter apathy and long campaigns between March and November since the state experimented with a March primary for the 1996 presidential and legislative elections.
The California primary returned to June for the 1998 gubernatorial and legislative elections, and then to March for the 2000 presidential and legislative primary and 2002’s gubernatorial and legislative races.
“The results have been, in my judgment, and that of many commentators, abysmal,” said Assemblyman Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto.
Assembly defeats bill to ban insurers
from buying auto shops
SACRAMENTO — The state Assembly defeated a bill Monday to prevent Illinois-based Allstate Insurance Co. from entering the California market with its 40-shop Sterling Auto Body Centers.
The vote killed an earlier Senate attempt to block insurance companies from taking over auto repair shops in California. The bill, SB1648, received 24 favorable votes in the Assembly, short of 41 needed to pass. Twenty-two Assembly members voted against the bill.
The legislation’s supporters argued that vertical integration of insurance companies and auto body shops will hurt consumers by leaving them without an advocate for quality repairs.
Assemblyman Fred Keeley, D-Boulder Creek, warned his colleagues that insurance companies want “a larger and larger stake in a vertically integrated way” and that passing the bill would “prevent it from spreading like wildfire.”
But opponents argued the bill would stifle competition, block willing investment in California and protect an existing auto repair industry they alleged is rife with fraud.