There oughta be a law
They may not be buzz worthy, but there are plenty of divisive, vital, even strange bills popping up inside the Capitol this year
While most eyes are on Mitt Romney’s tax returns or Facebook’s IPO, a month-old legislative session under downtown Sacramento’s Capitol dome is currently churning out brand-new bills every day—hundreds since session began on January 4—in addition to making over old bills.
Some of these bills don’t have the buzz worthiness of single-payer health care or the budget, but are still living and breathing and out there. For now. Here are a noteworthy 10—some vital, some divisive, some doomed to failure, some just kinda out there—that may or may not make the cut and get inked into law.
Ride the lightning, err, gondola
On the lighter side of the Capitol push-and-pull: gondola rides. That’s right: Senate Bill 346 argues that gondolas should be treated like hot-air balloons and limousines—which means people should be able to get drunk, or at least sip the booze, while enjoying a gondola ride. Additionally, the bill would define what a gondola is. Finally!
Apparently, there are at least a half-dozen companies in Southern California that offer romantic gondola cruises. They, of course, support the bill. S.B. 346 hasn’t seen any serious action since April 2011, however; in July and August, Harman canceled the last two hearings in Assembly appropriations. But this could be the year, because, as they say in Venice, “Mangia e bevi che la vita un lampo”—or, “Eat and drink, because life is a lightning flash.”
No raises for UC heads
Every time UC regents or trustees raise student fees or their own salaries, Facebook and college campuses go nuts with news stories on the apparent double standard. Introduced last month, Senate Bill 967 would prevent trustees from doling out pay raises or bonuses within two fiscal years of any statewide fee increase or cut to funding.
This recently introduced bill stops short of requiring the same of UC regents—it simply asks that they “refrain” from such practices—so perhaps students will take this into their own hands?
I wanna to sext you up
From Weinergate to grade-school bullying, “sexting” is one of those digital-era issues many people don’t know how to actually do, let alone legislate.
But kids know how to sext. And so, Senate Bill 919 would both define “sexting” and also grant authority to public schools to expel or suspend students caught doing it.
Bill author, state Sen. Ted Lieu, says that students may suffer long-term distress from being subjected to sexting. But the American Civil Liberties Union is fighting the “Sexting Bill,” arguing that its definition is too broad and would allow schools to infringe on students’ civil rights. They also say the bill is redundant with existing regulations already in place that allow schools to address inappropriate behavior.
The bill, which was introduced in 2011, enjoys bipartisan support and zero opposition. Yet the appropriations committee is holding S.B. 919 until it can decide how much implementing the proposed law would cost.
Meanwhile, nearly one-in-four teens have sent nude or semi-nude photos of themselves in a text, according to Lieu’s office.
No broccoli for you
It’s important to note that cuts to public education also extend to bills that never make it through the Capitol high jinks, due to a freeze on laws that have a fiscal impact. That’s even when the law would surely benefit California students. Assembly Bill 909, the “Farm to School Bill,” is one of those victims: If made law, it would reimburse districts that obtain 80 percent of its school-lunch produce from California farms. The bill, penned by a Salinas Valley Assembly member, is currently being held “under submission” while legislators lunch at one of Midtown’s excellent slow-food, farm-to-table eateries.
What would Banksy do?
Cleaning up unwanted graffiti is costly. Just ask Sacramento’s Midtown Business Association, which has spent upward of $80,000 in a year to remove some 10,000 tags.
Enter Assembly Bill 498, which would create a graffiti-abatement fund in the state treasury. How might this work? Someone who is convicted of graffiti vandalism would have to pay a $30 fine, on top of all other fines, jail time, restitution, community service, possible imprisonment and driver’s license suspension.
Analysis from the streets includes: “Think of Keith Haring, man.” Or, “What’s next, a Skateboarding Abatement Fund to pay for grinding damages?” And “Sure, and why not a Rainy Day Yarn Bombing Endowment?”
Another one floundering its way upstream: Assembly Bill 88, which zeroes in on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
The bill, which failed to make it out of committee again in January, would require genetically modified fish products to include a label that prominently displays to consumers its scientific origin. Republicans, who oppose the bill, apparently don’t care what they eat. Additionally, the biotech industry opposes the bill.
Both, in fact, question whether or not consumers actually have the right to know how their food is developed, arguing that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration already regulates food safety and that a label would falsely imply a product is dangerous.
But bill author, Assemblyman Jared Huffman, says the California salmon industry is suffering because consumers are reluctant to by products without appropriate labeling. Plus, there are a school of complaints: Thousands of fishing jobs have been lost due to GMO salmon; the ecosystem is endangered by escaped GMO fish; there are health concerns, such as the food allergies; religious groups adamantly oppose eating GMO meat products.
In the meantime: red fish, teal fish, fake fish, real fish?
The proverbial Capitol red tape might extend to your pup or kittens’ stylist if recently introduced Senate Bill 969 becomes law. The bill proposes that pet groomers acquire a license and be regulated by the Veterinary Medical Board. This could be a good thing—surely all pet owners have encountered a less-than-ideal grooming experience—but it might also price out independent-business owners in favor of the Petco and PetSmarts of the world. A ruff call, for sure.
Show me your ID
File this under bills that are unlikely to ever see the light of day: Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s Assembly Bill 266, which would allow students to participate in sex-segregated school programs (such as gym class and team sports) based on their gender identity, not the gender listed on their records. Ammiano pulled the bill last week before its hearing in the education committee, perhaps because of pressure from right-wing groups such as the California Family Council.
What’s up, quack?
Let’s not get into a debate over the safety and efficacy of naturopathic medicine. Let’s simply note that Senate Bill 667, by Republican state Sen. Sharon Runner, would expand said doctors authority by giving a medical committee under the Osteopathic Medical Board of California the right to license and regulate naturopathic doctors. And the bill, which was recently held back from committee vote by the author, would also allow naturopaths to prescribe hormones, such as epinephrine, the same chemical that is released in response to stressful and situations. Such as BASE jumping off of a bridge, or sky diving. Adrenaline junky, anyone?
No helmet, no problem
Last year in New York, a motorcyclist died from a head injury—while protesting the state’s new mandatory-helmet law. This year, a Republican Assembly member’s 2011 leftover bill, Assembly Bill 695, is back and would allow persons over the age of 21 to die from head trauma caused by a crash during an anti-helmet protest. Err, it would reverse existing state law and allow anyone over 21 to not wear a safety helmet. Sexting while biking, however, would remain illegal.