Proposed Right-to-die legislation moved forward in the Assembly yesterday, in spite of a warning from the governor that he preferred to see the measure not be included in the current Special Session. Assembly Bill X2-15 cleared the Assembly Committee on Public Health and Developmental Services Tuesday, gathering Republican votes for the first time. Jessica Calefati, San Jose Mercury News:
“Two Christian legislators -- Catharine Baker, the Bay Area's lone GOP state legislator, and Eduardo Garcia, a Southern California Democrat -- both spoke at the hearing about their struggle to decide how to vote on the End of Life Option Act. But they said because the bill's authors have agreed to include safeguards aimed at preventing coercion, they decided to vote yes.
"’I've had concerns about this bill from the beginning, but having this option still allows me as a Christian to try and change someone's mind,’ said Baker, who became one of two Republicans to vote for the measure.
“Looming over supporters' joy about the outcome of the committee hearing are recent cryptic comments made by a spokeswoman for Gov. Jerry Brown that suggested the governor may not support the legislative maneuvering to push the bill forward as part of a special session on health care funding for the poor.”
In the other house, legislators approved the Right-to-try Act, a measure to allow doctors to try untested treatments to combat deadly diseases. Patrick McGreevy, LAT:
“The state Senate on Tuesday approved a bill that would allow makers of experimental drugs to make them available to Californians with life-threatening diseases.
“The measure, which goes back to the Assembly for action on amendments, applies to drugs, devices and biological products that have undergone clinical trials but have not yet been approved for general public use by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.”
As expected, Yucca Valley Republican Chad Mayes has emerged as the leader of Assembly Republicans following a closed door vote on Tuesday. Mayes will replace Senate Minority Leader Kristin Olsen (R-Riverbank) after the end of session. Mayes is setting some high goals for himself. Jeremy White, Sacramento Bee:
“Under new term limit rules, Mayes is eligible to serve another 11 years in the Assembly. He said he planned to start reversing the Republican party’s stagnant electoral fortunes by focusing on the innovation economy, a topic Olsen has emphasized in her short tenure, and working to reduce California’s high poverty rate.
“’We’re going to fight with everything that we have to be able to turn back the tide,’ Mayes said. ‘Right now we’re at 28 (Assembly seats). We’re going to go to 30, 32, 34 – we’ll get there. We’ll get to 40, we’ll get to 41,’ a majority, ‘at some point.’”
Mayes does start with one advantage: a “celebrity” pet.
According to a new poll from the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, more than two out of three Californians agree with Mayes on the idea of raising gas taxes to pay for road improvements, saying, ‘nope.’ Steve Milne, Capital Public Radio:
“A bill pending in the state Legislature would raise both the gas tax and vehicle registration fees to pay for road improvements.
"’But what our poll found is that voters don't want to do that," says Ethan Rarick with the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, which conducted the poll of about 1,000 Californians.
“Rarick says respondents opposed a gas tax increase, 63 percent to 37 percent, and higher vehicle registration fees, 74 percent to 26 percent.
"’Republicans and independents are strongly opposed to raising the gas tax and the registration fees,’ says Rarick. ‘Democrats narrowly favor the gas tax, but it's close. And even Democrats oppose the vehicle registration fees.’"
With those numbers, backers of the plan to raise the gas tax to pay for infrastructure improvements probably won’t be taking the idea to the ballot if it fails in the legislature… but if they do, filing the initiative will cost them ten times as much as it would have cost yesterday. Peter Fimrite, San Francisco Chronicle:
“Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill Tuesday that raises the fee for filing ballot initiatives from $200 to $2,000 in an effort to discourage what has become a plethora of over-the-top measures in recent years.
“’It has been over 72 years since this aspect of the initiative process has been updated. This reform is overdue,’ said Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, who co-authored AB1100. ‘We live in California, the cradle of direct democracy, but we also need a threshold for reasonableness. And this bill will do just that.’
“The $200 filing fee, unchanged since 1943, has been too small of a price to pay for satirists and cranks intent on using the initiative process for making outrageous statements. It really got out of control this year when an Orange County lawyer filed what he called the “Sodomite Suppression Act,” which would have called on the state to execute gays and lesbians.”
In what is being heralded as a ‘game changer’ California has agreed to significantly reduce the use of solitary confinement in state prisons, and will return nearly 2000 prisoners to the general prison population. Paige St. John, LAT:
“The litigation settled Tuesday was filed in 2009 by two inmates accused of membership in the Aryan Brotherhood, Todd Ashker and Danny Troxell. Both denied active membership with the gang. Ashker was among the leaders of a series of mass hunger strikes, including one in 2013 that was the largest in the nation.
“Their lawsuit was picked up and argued by the Center for Constitutional Rights, a New York-based advocacy group. Its president and lead attorney in the case, Jules Lobel, said he hoped the settlement would be a model for other states.
“’I would get rid of [solitary] totally,’ Lobel said. ‘I think it is inhumane.’”
With daily reminders of the severity of the drought it is easy to forget that for most of California’s history, the problem wasn’t too little water – it was too much. Sacramento flooded regularly in the early years of the state, a problem solved partially by building up the Downtown area one full story (those storefronts in Old Sac started out as the second floors of the buildings) – and you can still see evidence of this in the alleys that slope down from Downtown streets. Another solution was the levee system in the Delta, erected by farmers – not engineers – to control water flow. The Delta sits at the eastern edge of the San Andreas Fault zone - one of these days, the big one is going to hit, and it’s not going to be pretty. Nick Stockton, Wired:
“Over the years, farmers piled the levees higher, like ancient cities built atop one another. Since then, federal and state engineers have shored some levees up a bit, but overall the system is a hodgepodge, based on no uniform design, construction, or standards. Robert Bea, professor emeritus of civil engineering at UC Berkeley, prefers to call the infrastructure protecting two-thirds of California’s water supply ‘antiquated piles of dirt.’
“The vulnerability runs even deeper. Under the Delta are layers of sand, silt, and peat. This viscous soil is vulnerable to liquefaction—shaking causes it to lose strength and compaction—which can cause levees to slump below sea level, letting water over the top. In the Kobe, Japan quake of 1995, liquefaction dropped some levees by up to 3 meters.”
And, our final story comes from the Minnesota State Fair, which found itself in multiple layers of criticism for exhibiting a crop-art portrait of comedian Bill Cosby - made from rapeseed (which most Americans call ‘canola.’)
“It took Nick Rindo just a few hours to throw together a crop art portrait of Bill Cosby. The medium: canola seeds -- a variant of which is also known as rapeseed.
“It took just a day for the State Fair to give it the boot.
“After a flurry of complaints by fairgoers about the subject matter and taste, the portrait of the comedian -- who has been accused of drugging and sexually assaulting dozens of women -- was pulled from the Agriculture Horticulture Building…
“Subversive wordplay aside, Rindo mentioned rapeseed in parentheses in the portrait's label to make it clear he wasn't simply a Cosby fan.
"’The point was just to see, would there be outrage?’ he said.”