AB 1578 – Protect state cannabis from federal enforcement

Excuse the cheesiness of writing about a pot bill today. But I’m in the Bay, so it’s sort of inescapable.

The Basics

    • AB 1578 would prohibit state and local agencies from assisting with the enforcement of federal marijuana laws unless coerced by a court order.

    In-Depth

    Since California legalized recreational cannabis last year with the passage of Prop 64, it’s had the same struggle with implementation that other states that have legalized face: weed is considered illegal federally, in the United States, of which California is one…weed is legal and illegal at the same time…hope those of you partaking in today’s festivities take a moment to soak that paradox in. In fact, marijuana is considered a Schedule I drug federally (basically meaning the federal government has categorized it as one of the most harmful and addictive substances) alongside heroin, LSD, peyote, and ecstasy.

    This is problematic as the state considers how to commercialize and gain tax revenue from its newest cash crop. 

    The bill text is here.

    Who to call

    News coverage

    Advertisements

    SB 394 – No life without parole for minors

    Trying to speed up my posts–the next couple weeks I’m traveling quite a bit, and I’ve already gotten behind on my two-posts-per-week goal, so posts might be shorter in favor of quantity.

    The Basics

    • After 25 years of incarceration, convicts given life sentence when they were under the age of 18 would be eligible for parole.

    In-Depth

    Who to call

    News coverage

    SB 135 – Media literacy as a public education requirement

    I’m not even going to pretend to be neutral on this issue, as a journalist, I believe media literacy is important. That said, I’ll try to separate my feelings on this issue more broadly from my explanation of this bill. Since we’re on the subject of media and civics though, I’ll take this moment to link to the last of Capitol Weekly’s series of helpful legislative process explainers.

    The Basics

    • This bill came to me as a reader suggestion (I can’t say enough how happy I was to get a reader suggestion–if you have a bill you’d like me to cover, please email me!): SB 135 by Senator Bill Dodd. This bill would require California public schools to teach their students media literacy.
    • The bill defines media literacy as “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, develop, produce, and interpret media and encompasses the foundational skills that lead to digital citizenship.”
    • I define media literacy as the ability to read and understand news, discerning objective facts from subjective points of view and to think critically about the facts that you learn.

    Who to call

     

    In Depth

    While the term ‘fake news’ seems to have lost all meaning at this point, the phenomenon it evokes is still relevant. The public has lost both its trust in the media and its ability to consume it critically. The issue is something I’ve researched pretty extensively as a member of the press. It’s complex, but it seems that even in cases where someone has the insight to see if an article is factual, they seek online environments and forums that only circulate the facts that confirm their opinions.

    It’s probably obvious that I think improved media literacy is a good idea, but I’m not in the business of endorsing bills, so I have still have questions.

    • Is this the best way to improve public media literacy? Using public schools as an avenue seems logical, but it could be costly, and it neglects the lack of media literacy among educated adults. Having attended California public schools, I know my teachers struggled to educate us while keeping to the curriculum that would be tested by a fairly pointless state test under dwindling budgets. Is it fair to add this expectation to their already heavy burden? How do teachers’ unions feel about it? How do parents feel about it?  Is there another, better approach?
    • Who controls the curriculum? One of the biggest obstacles standing between us and a more media-literate society is bias. How can we guarantee that those who design the curriculum won’t create a bias towards the sources they prefer and a mistrust among those they disagree with? The truth is that the truth is complicated. Knowledge is fraught with power and history, and we should consider that as we legislate how it’s consumed.

    The text of the bill is here, read it and form your own opinions, and you’ll already be on your way to a heightened level of media literacy.

    News coverage

    AB 42 / SB 10 – Reform the bail bond system–Hearing 4/4!

    One of my old high school teachers posted about these two bills on bail bond reform on facebook. I’ll try to avoid getting too much into the legal nitty gritty, as you’re unlikely to understand it unless you’ve been arrested and sought bail yourself, but if you know anything about the American criminal justice system, you’ll know that it’s so broken that it’s one of the few issues over which bipartisan coalitions for reform have emerged over the last few years.

    The Basics

    • This pair of bills would essentially reform the bail system, rather than allowing the judge or magistrate to set it at a fixed amount, there would be a pretrial risk assessment agency to provide recommendations to the judge. There would still be provisions in place for prosecutors and judges to ensure that potentially dangerous offenders.

    In-Depth

    • The argument in favor of this bill is that the ability to post bail is an economic privilege, making our justice system based on income rather than justice. What I find really interesting bills like this is the fact that they are legislating on economically disadvantaged groups as a protected class of sorts. In the past, protected classes have been defined by innate characteristics such as race, sex, gender, religion, etc. And certainly, we haven’t progressed entirely beyond the need for such groups’ protection, but acknowledging socioeconomic circumstances as a legislative issue is one step towards addressing inequality in America head-on. Though this bill doesn’t explicitly describe protected classes of any sorts, it’s unique in its awareness of economic privilege and the concrete consequences.
    • Here is the senate bill’s text.
    • Here’s the assembly bill’s text.

    Who to call

    News coverage

    SB 29 – Committee Hearing 3/28!

    I’ll have to start this post by revealing an embarrassing secret. You may have noticed that I cover quite a few of Senator Ricardo Lara’s bills. There is no kickback or arrangement involved (though if he wants to be forever in my debt as a background source or just open a tab for me at any nearby brewery, I will take it!), it’s simply this: after I left my gig as a Capitol reporter to go to Peace Corps I unenrolled from pretty much all my press release listservs. The exceptions were those for which I couldn’t figure out how to unenroll. Or those which required a direct email to unenroll. I’m not trying to trash talk Senator Lara’s communications director, I’m sure he would remove me if I asked, but I haven’t. I’m a millennial, unless something is automated and clickable, I can’t deal.

    Anyways, that’s the story with Senator Lara’s bills. I also get the Governor’s press releases, but he doesn’t write bills, so here we are.

    Anyways, there is a hearing for this bill today, so listen up!

    The Basics

    • This one is kind of a package deal in that it is closely related to the measures Lara hopes to take with SB 30 and SB 31. If passed and signed into law, SB 29 would essentially prevent local and state government from paying private contractors to detain undocumented immigrants.

    In-Depth

    • When I read this bill, I immediately went looking for news coverage to delve into this bill. Sometimes my eyes glaze over reading legal jargon, so if I read something that seems interesting, I usually pause and try to find a reporter who has called the staffers to confirm I’m understanding what I read correctly. There was surprisingly little news coverage of this one, however, so if you’re so inclined, check out the full text. Basically, as of now, it is legal for state and local governments to contract with private entities to detain undocumented immigrants. This bill would make that illegal.
    • One factor proponents focus on is the lack of accountability that comes with private detention centers. They don’t face the same rules and regulations as public corrections facilities and aren’t subject to the same level of public scrutiny (in particular, the Public Records Act).
    • I’m definitely interested to hear the committee testimony on this one before I make up my mind: how much do private contractors cost compared to state corrections facilities? How often is detention chosen over deportation? What determines whether or not an immigrant will be sent a private facility, or deported, or released, or sent to a state prison? What would this cost the state (often, this excellent non-partisan bureau called the LAO performs such analyses)?

    Who to Call

    • It’s currently in the Senate Judiciary committee. Call your senator, especially if they sit on that committee!

    Media Coverage

     

    An unimportant addendum to this post is just an apology, as I’ve lagged on my promise to post twice a week. I don’t have any excuses. I adopted a dog, so I’m busy with her. Her name is Stella, and she loves running and hates other people, so we are a good match for one another.

    AB 16 – Expand DNA Collection for Certain Convicts

    AB 16

    The Basics

    Expands provisions that require felony convicts to provide fingerprints and other DNA samples to require those convicted of certain misdemeanors to provide DNA samples.

    In-depth

    • The specific samples required would be: buccal swabs, right thumbprints, full palm imprints, and ‘any blood specimens or other biological samples required for law enforcement identification analysis,’ a final provision, which strikes me as quite broad (and would be a big question for any source I got in touch with).
    • Proponents include victims of crimes who say it would help solve cold cases and other criminal investigations, such as rape, murder, and assault.
    • Opponents are concerned that this law would violate individual rights to privacy, particularly for minorities and immigrants, who are already disproportionately targeted by most criminal justice laws and enforcement.
    • Here is the bill text.

    Who to call

    Media Coverage

    SB 239 – HIV transmission laws

    I’ll start this post not with a bill but with another little plug for my former outlet Capitol Weekly: they’re posting this great series of explainers on California’s legislative process, and if you’re reading this blog (or writing it), these pieces are super helpful to get a grip on how the state Legislature works.

    Also, I’ll throw in an update on a bill I’ve covered–SB 31 passed out of committee unanimously.

    Now to today’s law: SB 239.

    The Basics

    • Would reform the criminal penalties associated for having sex without disclosing HIV-positive status. This bill would lessen the penalty of the crime from a felony to a misdemeanor, as intentional transmission of most diseases already is under California law.

    Who to Call

    • Your state senator, especially if they are on the Public Safety Committee. The bill is in the Public Safety Committee with a hearing scheduled for March 28.

    In-Depth

    I’ll try to keep this brief because this area of legislation is exactly the type of thing I wrote my honors thesis on and would love to get into the weeds on. But since you’re probably not following this blog for a dissertation on Foucault’s theories of human sexuality and power relations, I’ll just give you the bill text and some bullets, but you really should go read this article on Stat News.

    • Here’s the full text of the bill.
    • Right now, it’s a felony punishable by imprisonment to have unprotected sex with the intent of transmitting HIV to another person. Intent can even be construed as knowingly failing to communicate HIV-positive status, even if you don’t transmit the disease. Senator Scott Wiener’s bill would make it a misdemeanor to transmit any infectious communicable disease. Wiener and advocates argue that existing law, which singles out HIV for generally harsher penalties, is discriminatory.
    • Honestly, go read this Stat news article, I found myself writing and rewriting the details of this bill with such difficulty because this issue is so loaded with history, emotion, and politics. I could barely find news articles with headlines that I considered neutral. Foucault on the brain.

    Media Coverage

     

     

    SB 31 – Religious Freedoms Protections (hearing this Monday–call call call!)

    Here’s another pointedly anti-Trump bill I’ve been meaning to write about. This one is another from Senator Ricardo Lara and following SB 30, his effort to make California a sanctuary state, and the “Religious Freedom Act” is in keeping with those principles.

    The Basics…

    are all I’m providing today, as I got the idea to write at happy hour, after seeing a press release that the bill’s hearing is set for this Monday, which makes it more timely than most of my “here is a bill that’s been introduced” posts.

    – This bill would prohibit public entities from sharing information about individuals’ religious practices or beliefs with the federal government.

    Here is the bill text.

    – We don’t know for sure that Trump would try to create a religious registry and that if he did the courts would upholds it, so this bill could be largely symbolic in the face of a struggle that might not happen. That means that supporting the  bill (or opposing it) could have little or no fiscal effect. That said, if Trump does try to collect such info, it sets the stage for conflict between CA and the feds.

    SB 584 – 100% Renewable Energy by 2045

    Here’s a pretty big measure that has received surprisingly little coverage, at least from major news organizations (I have only linked the NY Times ‘California Today’ newsletter and the LA Times below, I didn’t have time to research into the energy-focused sources where I found other pieces to ensure they were sufficiently balanced). Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon has authored a bill to put California on track for 100 percent renewable energy by the end of 2045.

    The Basics

    • The state’s Public Utilities Commission has a renewables portfolio: basically the standards for renewable energy it sets. The bill would revise those standards to aim for 100 percent of the state’s electricity products to come from renewable energy sources, such as solar power, wind power,

    Who to call

    In-Depth

    This proposal is quite ambitious when you consider it in light of the existing expectation for the state to achieve 50 percent renewable energy by 2030.

    The text of the bill alters legislative declarations and finding to accelerate the 50 percent benchmark to 2025, with the pipe dream of 100 percent renewable energy by 2045. The question I would try to answer as a reporter here–what I consider the crux of this debate–is whether or not it’s fair to call that goal a ‘pipe dream.’ The New York Times newsletter I linked to below addressed some of these considerations, but I still have some questions:

    • What qualifies as ‘renewable’? Hydroelectric power seems like a great source after our particularly wet year, but in drier years, will tapping into such a scarce resource be sustainable?
    • Are there penalties if we don’t meet the standards set by the renewables portfolio?
    • What are the cons to speeding up the schedule? Less sustainable development? Or is it simply a goal to work towards?

    Still, like many recent bills, this one is just as much symbolic as it is practical. Even if you have concerns about the bill in its current form and aren’t settled one way or another, talking to your representation about it is a good way to have your voice heard on state energy issues. The outcome of this bold proposal will be a way to gauge where California is going in terms of renewable energy.

    Media Coverage

    AB 393 – Freezing college tuition in California

    The Basics

    • Freezes mandatory tuition and enrollment fees for all Universities of California, California State Universities, and California Community Colleges until the end of the 2020 school year.

    Who to call

    In-depth

    As an alumna, and possibly a future grad student of the UC system, I can’t pretend I don’t have a personal stake in this one, so keep that in mind. Over the four years I was a student at UC Berkeley, my tuition increased by about 50 percent. I chose Cal in part due to cost, and though it was still cheaper than a private university, and I was lucky to have the financial resources to continue my education in spite of the increases, the impact this may have on less fortunate students is concerning. California has one of the best public higher education systems in the country. We also have the largest population, and there’s something to be said about the pool of potential we tap into by providing education to those talented students who can’t afford the Ivies. As the UC’s are also huge research universities, funding for the system is in the public’s interest, and having the broadest pool of talent to conduct such research maximizes its benefits.

    • Here is the text of the bill. It currently sits in the Assembly Higher Education Committee, and the author (Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva), analysts, and advocates should be presenting reports on the cost of post-secondary education in the state, to give constituents a better idea of the financial situation California students face in seeking advanced degrees.

    Media coverage