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Sacramento Report: Maienschein in the Middle

The infamous suspense file hearing determines hundreds of bills’ fates, San Diego water officials knock a proposed “water tax” and more in our roundup of news from Sacramento.

Assemblyman Brian Maienschein / Photo by Sam Hodgson

The Assembly this week passed a gun control measure that would let employers, co-workers and school employees seek gun violence restraining orders that could allow law enforcement to seize the guns of someone who’s exhibited threatening behavior. Two Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for the bill, Catherine Baker of Dublin and San Diego’s Brian Maienschein.

Though Republicans generally oppose gun-control measures, Baker and Maienschein’s votes shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

When the Sacramento Bee analyzed lawmakers’ votes in 2016, it found Baker and Maienschein were the two Republicans most likely to vote with their Democratic colleagues. In this chart the Bee created, each dot represents a lawmaker and his or her tendency to vote along party lines – Baker and Maienschein are the two red dots in the very center:

Image via Sacramento Bee

Maienschein memorably crossed the aisle at the end of the last legislative session to provide a crucial vote for Sen. Toni Atkins’ SB 2, which funds affordable housing projects through a new fee on real estate transactions.

Maienschein and his Republican neighbor to the north, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, both crossed the aisle to vote for the main budget bill last year.

Maienschein’s votes might have frustrated Republicans at times, but they’ve also earned him some unlikely fans. This year, the group Equality California, which bills itself as the state’s largest LGBT civil rights group, took the unusual step of endorsing both Maienscehin and his Democratic opponent, Sunday Gover. The group endorsed another Republican, too: Baker.

The Suspense Is Over

Friday marked the infamous suspense file hearing for the powerful Assembly appropriations committee, chaired by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher.

Virtually every bill that would cost the state money must pass through the committee, and many don’t survive the treacherous journey. Gonzalez Fletcher’s office said in a statement Friday that this year, 374 of the 568 bills considered advanced. Since there are so many bills at play, we’re still learning about which ones made it through. Unofficial results will be posted here.

The statement from Gonzalez Fletcher’s office suggests her bill to end mandatory arbitration agreements in employment contracts made the cut.

“The bills approved today align with the values of our state and confront the steepest challenges we face today. I’m proud we are able to advance efforts that show our continued support for expanding gun safety, improving our schools and colleges, making health care and housing more affordable, the recovery of communities struck by natural disaster, and protecting all Californians from sexual assault and harassment,” the statement said.

Arbitration clauses have been widely criticized for helping perpetuate sexual harassment by forcing victims to keep quiet about what they experience.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Melody Gutierrez tweeted Friday that a bill requiring stricter testing requirements for rape kits passed through the committee. That could impact how rape kits in San Diego are processed.

San Diego Officials Warn Against ‘Water Tax’

Cities and water agencies across the state, including in San Diego, are trying to stop a “water tax” pending in the Legislature.

The goal of the tax is to help provide clean water to 200,000 Californians who live in communities with unsafe water. The idea of such as tax has been floating around for a while, but this year it’s found homes in both SB 623, backed by Sen. Bill Morning, D-Carmel, and in one of Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget bills.

Like other taxes, the tax redistributes money: So, urban San Diego ratepayers who pay a lot to ensure they have clean water would help subsidize people who live in places served by rural water departments that can’t manage their own affairs because they are underfunded and understaffed.

“While California law recognizes the human right to water, the state is still divided between the clean water ‘haves’ and ‘have nots,’” Nicole Lampe, a spokeswoman for a coalition favoring the tax, said in an email.

The tax for most people would be about $1 a month, though there could be exemptions for low-income water customers. One version of the bill would also cap liability for farmers who pollute the state’s waters – which raises the obvious specter that this could end up being a backhanded subsidy for polluters.

Most people seem to agree that the money to help people get safe water has to come from somewhere, whether it’s another water bond, the state’s cap-and-trade program or existing tax revenue.

Water agencies are also generally leery of getting blamed for things that increase water bills.

The water industry’s main trade group, the Association of California Water Agencies, opposes the tax, as does the San Diego County Water Authority and local pro-business and anti-tax groups. They say it’s a bad idea to start taxing water.

“What’s next, the air we breathe?” said Jack Monger, CEO of the Industrial Environmental Association.

He was appearing at a press conference this week on the steps of the county administrative building to oppose the tax. Kristin Gaspar, the chairwoman of the County Board of Supervisors, also came out to oppose the tax.

Ry Rivard

Op-Ed Pages Boost San Diego Lawmakers’ Bills

Op-ed pages up and down the state weighed in on bills written by San Diego lawmakers this week:

The dean of UC Irvine’s law school writes in the L.A. Times that it’s “essential” to reform the laws governing when police can be charged in deadly use-of-force cases, and urges lawmakers to pass Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s AB 931, which changes the standards for judging those cases. Weber talked to us about the bill here.

The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board endorsed SB 1094, Sen. Joel Anderson’s bill that would make it easier and quicker for victims of wrongful imprisonment to receive compensation. “The number of people expected to be affected by SB 1094 is very small — and very important,” the paper writes. We broke down that bill here.

The Sacramento Bee editorial board boosted Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s AB 3080 to end mandatory arbitration clauses in employment contracts. “If workers can’t work without signing away civil rights, and can’t complain unless it’s in secret in a stacked, shadow court system, those rights aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.”

Bates’ Opioid Education Bill Passes Senate

A bill by Sen. Pat Bates requiring warning labels and notices for prescription opioid painkillers, including a notice for student athletes requiring a parent’s signature, passed the Senate this week.

Earlier this month, I asked Bates why it was important to specifically target student athletes. Her response:

Many minors are prescribed opioids and may not necessarily even know they are in the opioid family. Prescriptions such as Norco, Vicodin, etc. are all opioids and have the same addictive nature. Student athletes playing contact sports tend to be at higher risk for injuries. Media reports have made us more aware of head concussions in student-athletes. I hope my legislation, Senate Bill 1109, will bring awareness, aim to educate student-athletes, and require parents to sign a form informing them of the risks of opioid prescriptions.

San Diego mom Sherry Rubin testified in favor of the bill. Rubin said her son became addicted to opioids after being prescribed a painkiller, and eventually overdosed and fell into a month-long coma that left him unable to speak.

“We have to become educated and invest in our own health care by making the choices. I was never even given a choice of what painkiller to use. I was told to use this painkiller. And I took the physician’s word,” Rubin told lawmakers.

San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan is a sponsor of the bill.

Golden State News

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