Ethics Bills, Exit Exams and Vaccines: Lawmakers March Toward Friday Deadline
Senator Jerry Hill's ethics disclosure legislation was sent to the governor Thursday. (Max Whittaker/KQED)
With Friday's deadline looming for the California Legislature, lawmakers worked Thursday to get through hundreds of still-pending bills -- but ones that were relatively small when compared to the year's biggest issues, issues where momentum seemed to be quickly evaporating by week's end.
Here's a quick sketch of bills that saw action on Thursday.
Greenhouse Gas Bill Sidelined: The biggest action Thursday may have been the decision to delay action on one of the year's most ambitious bills focused on climate change.
Senate Bill 32 was one of the most high-profile attempts by Senate Democrats to double down on the state's greenhouse gas efforts. Building on the landmark 2006 law, the bill would have ratcheted the cap on carbon emissions up to 80 percent below 1990 levels by mid-century.
But the bill ran into strong opposition from both the business community and like-minded Democrats who argued it was impossible to look that far into the future.
On Thursday afternoon, the bill was shelved until next year.
"Unfortunately, the state Assembly and the administration were not supportive, for now, and we could not pass this important proposal," said state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Agoura Hills, in a statement that took a mild swipe at Governor Jerry Brown.
Ethics and Campaign Finance: Lawmakers sent Brown three separate measures dealing with ethics and campaign finance disclosure.
The two ethics bills -- Senate Bill 21 by Senator Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, and Assembly Bill 10 by Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Glendale -- are linked, meaning both must be signed by the governor for either to become law.
SB 21 would require nonprofits that pay for elected officials to travel to junkets to disclose more information about the donors that funded that travel. It also would require elected officials who receive a gift of travel to say where they went.
AB 10 originally expanded the disclosure requirements around behested payments -- donations to organizations, often nonprofits, solicited by elected officials. But the Senate Appropriations committee stripped that language from the measure, leaving it as a bill that focuses on disclosure of elected official's financial investments and potential conflicts of interest.
Gatto's measure increases the thresholds for when a public official's financial interest can potentially create a conflict of interest (for example, raising it from $2,000 to $5,000 for investments in a business entity) but also requires officials to more accurately disclose details of their business dealings and investments.
Currently, elected officials simply must disclose if their financial holdings are worth between $10,000 and $100,000 or $100,000 and $1 million. This bill would narrow those ranges to make them more accurate. It would also require elected officials to disclose who their business partners are, what their businesses do and to report specific instances when they recused themselves from a vote because of a conflict of interest.
“Increased transparency is essential to protecting public resources, preventing corruption, and restoring public trust,” Gatto said in a written statement. "This legislation will modernize disclosure forms to reveal the business dealings of political insiders and give Californians greater access to information about their representatives.”
The Legislature also sent Brown Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla's Assembly Bill 990, which would require political advertisements to carry larger and more clear statements about who actually paid for them. Bonilla, D-Concord, said voters often don't see the disclosure statements on election mailings -- as she learned in her recent, unsuccessful race for Senate.
"I had people ask me, 'How did you send such a nasty piece of mail about your opponent?' And I said: I didn't," she told lawmakers.
Ending Exit Exams... For Now: The summer of discontent for California's long running high school exit exam continues. Lawmakers on Thursday sent the governor a bill to stop offering the test for the next three academic years, and to also award diplomas to some 40,000 students who never passed it. Senate Bill 172 was born out of the ongoing discussion about how the current test doesn't mesh well with new Common Core education standards. The bill also, if signed into law, calls for a working group to help fix the test in the long run.
No Redskins Here: Brown will also have to decide whether to sign a measure that would phase out the use of the term Redskins at California public schools.
Assembly Bill 30 was authored by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, D-Salinas.
"As the state with the largest Native American population in the country, we should not continue to allow a racial slur to be used by our public schools,” he said in a written statement. "Affected schools will be able to build school pride around a new mascot, just like other schools already have done.”
Daycare Vaccinations For Workers: The subject of vaccines was one of 2015's most intense state Capitol discussions, but one small bill cleared the Legislature with hardly a raucous moment. Senate Bill 792 would require vaccinations for employees and volunteers at child care centers, and easily passed its final hurdle in the Senate. The bill, if signed into law, would take effect next September.