SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - State lawmakers have wrapped up the first half of this year's legislative session by advancing hundreds of bills addressing a wide range of issues, including gun violence, environmental protection, oil drilling and even whether prison inmates should have access to condoms.
Lawmakers introduced 2,255 bills this year - 1,429 in the Assembly and 826 in the Senate. After Friday's deadline to pass bills from their original house, the Senate had approved 514 while the Assembly advanced 755.
Lawmakers have until mid-September to decide which of the remaining 1,269 bills to send to Gov. Jerry Brown. Details about each bill are available at www.leginfo.ca.gov .
Among the hot topics are dozens of gun-control measures intended to deter the sorts of mass shootings that took place recently in other states.
"I think these bills put California at the head of the pack again in the nation" in regulating firearms, said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, after the Democratic majority advanced legislation limiting military-style assault weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines.
Lawmakers also want to tinker with the state's landmark environmental protection law. There was bipartisan support for changing the four-decade-old law as the Senate unanimously approved Steinberg's SB731. Steinberg said he expects more changes in the Assembly as lawmakers work to find the proper balance to speed up worthwhile construction projects while protecting the environment.
There is less consensus about regulating fracking, an increasingly popular method of extracting oil and gas. California has vast deposits that could once again make the state a leader in petroleum production at the same time it is taking aggressive steps to limit greenhouse gas emissions. But critics fear groundwater pollution from the chemicals injected into the earth and, at a minimum, want more disclosure.
Several bills attempt to shine more light on financial contributions that can influence elections and legislation. One would require increased disclosure in political ads, while another would make it more difficult for contributors to hide their identity by laundering their money through nonprofit groups. That bill responds to a secretive $11 million donation funneled last year through Americans for Responsible Leadership, an Arizona nonprofit corporation.
Then there are more specific bills, like the one that would require the state corrections department to distribute condoms in prisons. Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, said his AB999 would save the state money in the long run by reducing the spread of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, which he called "a tragic reality of life in prison." A pilot program has already been conducted at the state prison in Solano.
A report based on that pilot program says condoms are currently available in the prison systems of two states, Vermont and Mississippi, and in five county jail systems in the U.S. That includes Los Angeles County, where they have been available since 2001, and San Francisco, which has distributed them to inmates since 1989.
Other bills that advanced to the next house include:
- SB38 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, would give gun owners on the state's Armed and Prohibited Persons list a window to turn in their illegally held weapons under an amnesty program. The state Department of Justice says about 40,000 weapons are owned by individuals who bought them legally but are no longer allowed to own them.
- SB39 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, and AB39, by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, would give poorer schools, those in more extreme climates and those with older, energy-wasting buildings priority for $450 million to be spent on energy-efficiency projects at schools. The bills differ from Gov. Jerry Brown's proposal on how best to spend money generated by voters' approval in November of Proposition 39, which closed a corporate tax loophole.