SACRAMENTO — The California Assembly has advanced legislation limiting the state’s felony murder rule that holds accomplices to the same standard as if they had personally killed someone.
The bill passed the Assembly on Wednesday with no votes to spare. It now goes to the Senate.
The bill would limit murder convictions to those who actually commit murders. The law defines such people as those who “with the intent to kill” knowingly aid, solicit or assist the killer, and those who are major participants and act with reckless indifference to human life.
Supporters say it is unjust that accomplices can face execution or life prison sentences even if they were unaware someone would be killed. Opponents argue the bill’s resentencing requirements would be overly burdensome on prosecutors and too lenient on criminals.
Police Weapon Use Bill Won’t Advance
A California bill that would toughen the standard for when police can fire their weapons won’t advance this year.
Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins announced Wednesday night that the Senate would not take up the bill before the Legislature’s Friday deadline to pass legislation.
The bill would have let police use deadly force only in situations where it is necessary to prevent imminent and serious injury or death to the officer or another person.
California currently lets officers use deadly force when they have a reasonable fear of being harmed. That standard that makes it rare for officers to be charged after a shooting and rarer still for them to be convicted.
The legislation was introduced amid national outrage over police killings of unarmed black men.
Review of Cadiz Water Project
A last-minute effort to create more state oversight of a project to pump water from under the Mojave Desert has cleared the California Assembly.
Lawmakers voted 45-20 Wednesday to pass a bill requiring more environmental review of a project by Cadiz Inc. The Los Angeles-based company wants to pull water from a desert aquifer for Southern California customers.
Lawmakers who voted for the bill argue that more studies are needed to ensure the project is sustainable and won’t harm the desert’s ecosystem. Opponents say the bill is an attempt to stop a project that would bring thousands of jobs and increase California’s water supply.
The oversight bill now heads to the state Senate. Gov. Jerry Brown has said he supports the measure.
Insurance Coverage Following Mudslides
The California Legislature has approved a measure clarifying insurance coverage following mudslides near Santa Barbara.
The Senate voted Wednesday to send SB917 to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Insurance policies generally cover damage from fires but not mudslides. The mudslides in Montecito were triggered by a wildfire, creating confusion about whether damage was covered by insurance.
In such cases where multiple factors combine to destroy property, courts have ruled that insurers must pay if the policy covers the most important cause of damage.
Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson says enshrining the existing legal doctrine in law should help future mudslide victims avoid fights with their insurance company.
Investigating Allegations of Workplace Misconduct
The California Assembly has approved $1.5 million to create a unit to investigate allegations of workplace misconduct at the Legislature.
It’s part of the Legislature’s efforts to overhaul how it handles sexual misconduct allegations in the wake of the #MeToo movement that prompted three lawmakers to resign.
The new unit would work under the legislative counsel, which would hire a director and investigator. The unit would accept and investigate workplace misconduct complaints, including harassment and discrimination.
The findings would then be handed to a panel of experts to decide whether the allegation can be substantiated and recommend discipline. Legislative leaders would have the ultimate say on what action to take.
The bill still requires approval from the Senate and Gov. Jerry Brown.
DMV Could Get an Additional $16.6 Million
The California Department of Motor Vehicles could get an additional $16.6 million and potentially more to alleviate long wait times under a budget bill approved by the Assembly.
The DMV has been under fire for hours-long lines officials say are partially due to the rollout of new federally mandated ID cards.
Republican Assemblywoman Catharine Baker says the bill amounts to a blank check for the DMV and chided her colleagues for not speaking out against it. She says the department hasn’t shown it’s doing enough to fix the issue.
The bill gives the director of finance the authority to give the DMV money after notifying lawmakers on various budget committees.
Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting denied the bill is easy money for the DMV and says he shares outrage over the long wait times.
The bill needs final approval in the Senate.
Blocking New Offshore Oil Drilling
The California Legislature has approved a measure aimed at blocking new offshore oil drilling in federal waters of the state’s coast.
The Senate sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that would ban docks, pipelines or other onshore infrastructure needed to support new offshore drilling rigs.
Democratic Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara introduced the legislation after President Donald Trump’s administration announced plans to allow oil and gas drilling off most of the nation’s coastline.
California can’t directly block drilling in waters controlled by the federal government but hopes to drive up costs so it’s unprofitable.
In the 1980s, many coastal cities passed ordinances to block such infrastructure when President Ronald Reagan looked to expand offshore drilling. Many of those laws remain in place.
Women on Corporate Boards of Directors
California would become the first state to require that women be included on corporate boards of directors under a bill moving through the Legislature.
The Assembly on Wednesday approved the requirement for publicly held corporations with their principal executive offices located in California.
The measure requires at least one female director on each board by the end of next year. Companies would have to have one- to three women directors by the end of 2021, depending on how many directors are on the board.
Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher of San Diego says women make up 52 percent of the state’s population but just 15 percent of corporate directors.
The measure was approved on a 41-21 vote with no debate. It now returns to the Senate for a final vote.
Must Public Universities Offer Medication Abortions?
The California Assembly has voted to require all public universities to offer medication abortions at their campus health centers.
The measure approved Wednesday would make California the first state with such a mandate.
None of the 34 University of California or California State University campuses currently offer abortion services.
Private donors have agreed to pay millions of dollars in startup costs including ultrasound machines and staff training. Universities would be required to offer the service by 2022. Medication abortion uses two pills to induce abortion up to 10 weeks into pregnancy.
Abortion rights advocates say it can be difficult and expensive for women to seek abortions off campus.
The anti-abortion group Students for Life called the vote a tragedy.
The measure returns to the Senate.