Sophia Bollag, California Assembly votes to remove time limits on rape cases in wake of Cosby accusations, Los Angeles Times

The California Assembly on Thursday passed a bill to end the time limit for prosecuting rape and other felony sex crimes, paving the way for the legislation to reach the governor before the session ends.

The Assembly approved the bill 70-0. SB 813 now goes to the state Senate, which passed an earlier version of the legislation 33-0 in June.

If the governor signs the bill, crimes including rape and continuous sexual child abuse would no longer have a statute of limitations and could be prosecuted at any time.

“There are some crimes that are so heinous that there should never be a statute of limitations,” Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) said.

Under existing law, such crimes generally must be prosecuted within 10 years unless DNA evidence emerges later. Sex crimes against minors generally must be prosecuted before the victim’s 40th birthday.

Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D-Carson) called the bill “long overdue” and one that would “ensure that criminals be placed in jail.”

State Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) introduced the bill in the wake of news that dozens of women have alleged comedian Bill Cosby raped them. Many of their cases cannot be prosecuted because the statutes of limitations have expired.

Cosby has said his relationships with his accusers were consensual.
For months, powerful interest groups battled behind the scenes at the state Capitol over a plan to require new disclosure over the price of prescription drugs. But the bill was officially killed this week, the victim of amendments crafted in private that weakened its efforts at transparency.

On this week’s California Politics Podcast, we discuss the collapse of talks over drug price transparency and how it might impact a Nov. 8 ballot measure on the same topic.

We also take a close look at the latest negotiations on a new climate change law and some of the clashes it’s sparked between Democrats.

And in our final segment, the latest statewide voter registration data suggests continuing troubles for California’s Republican Party.
A casino operator has hired former Rep. Gary Condit’s firm to lobby the state Legislature at a time when the legislative panel overseeing gambling issues is chaired by Condit’s son-in-law.

Condit is a founder of BBC Public Affairs, which was hired Aug. 2 by the Pechanga Band of Luiseno Indians in Temecula to lobby in Sacramento on “utility/energy” issues. The hire came just before Condit’s son-in-law, Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced), proposed changes to his bill legalizing Internet poker in California in a way that specifically addressed concerns by Pechanga.

A Pechanga spokesman said there is no relationship between the hiring of BBC and the tribe’s efforts to get Gray to change his bill.

On July 29, Pechanga announced the formation of the first tribally owned and operated wholesale electric utility located in the state of California.

BBC is “monitoring utilities issues for us and have nothing to do with I-poker,” said Jacob Mejia, a representative of Pechanga.

“This is the first we have heard of this,” said Trent Hager, Gray’s chief-of-staff.

Condit’s daughter, Cadee, is married to Gray. Condit lost a reelection bid to Congress in 2002 after the scandal over the disappearance and killing of federal intern Chandra Levy.

Condit and other BBC officials did not return calls for comment.

Kathay Feng, executive director of the watchdog group California Common Cause, suggested it’s an optics problem.

“It still leaves the question, the public perception about whether a bill has been influenced by considerations other than just public policy,” Feng said.

Assemblyman Roger Hernández’s campaign to take fellow Democrat Grace Napolitano’s U.S. House seat was quickly marred by accusations of domestic violence.

Baldwin Park City Councilwoman Susan Rubio gave graphic testimony detailing abuse she said she suffered at his hands over the course of their three-year marriage. Her comments, as well as past accusations of domestic violence, were used against him in mailers from Napolitano’s campaign.
A political mailer attacking state Assemblyman Roger Hernández was paid for by Rep. Grace Napolitano’s campaign. None
A political mailer attacking state Assemblyman Roger Hernández was paid for by Rep. Grace Napolitano’s campaign.
When June primary polls closed, Hernández sat in third place in the race behind Napolitano and first-time Republican candidate Gordon Fisher.

But, on the same day a judge granted Rubio’s the request for a domestic violence restraining order, the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder released its final count of votes showing that Hernández had moved into second place by a margin of just 792 votes over Fisher.

Despite a swift political backlash after the restraining order was issued, including the loss of several endorsements as well as all of his committee assignments in the Assembly, Hernández was ostensibly still in the race until Friday when the West Covina Democrat indicated he would stop his campaign altogether.

Over the last several weeks while the assemblyman was on medical leave, his campaign remained quiet on social media. Laura Herrera, who managed his campaign during the primary, told The Times last week that she was not running his general election campaign and has not been in contact with Hernández.

Fundraising efforts crashed after the primary as well, according to the latest disclosures filed with Federal Election Commission.

Hernández reported raising just $8,849 between May 19 and June 30 and having $60,668 left in the bank for the general election. Napolitano raised just shy of $100,000 in that same period and had nearly $250,000 in cash on hand.

Hernández’s campaign headquarters on Rowland Street in Covina has been leased to new tenants, according to real estate agent Michael Wong, who represents the property.

The campaign also was a financial burden for Hernández personally: He lent himself $80,000.

Hernández launched his campaign last December at a park in West Covina with local union supporters and family by his side. He made jabs at Napolitano for not living in the 32nd Congressional District and sought to cast himself as a young “activist” lawmaker.

Napolitano suffered a stroke in February but vowed to keep campaigning for a 10th term.

Though Hernández cannot seek reelection to the Assembly because of term limits, he has an existing account to raise money for a potential run for the California’s 22nd Senate District in 2018.

Hernández’s office said “he is keeping it as an option.”

The seat is currently held by state Sen. Ed Hernandez, who cannot seek reelection in 2018 because of term limits and is running for the Lt. Governorship that year.

Under fire over domestic violence allegations and questions about taking a medical leave of absence from the Legislature, Assemblyman Roger Hernández (D-West Covina) indicated Friday that he was no longer actively campaigning for a U.S. House seat against Democratic Rep. Grace Napolitano.

“Because of the damage, I don’t have the fight in me to continue forward in a congressional run,” Hernández told reporters after returning to work Friday in Sacramento following more than two weeks on leave.

The assemblyman, who was stripped of his committee assignments after a judge issued a domestic violence restraining order against him, said he has been suffering from blood pressure issues but is back for the rest of the session. He went on medical leave on Aug. 1, providing a physician’s note that did not explain any conditions, and continued to take his pay.

He compared his ex-wife, Baldwin Park City Councilwoman Susan Rubio, to “Tonya Harding,” and said her accusations that he beat her during their marriage have been like “a baseball bat to my knees.”

Hernández said he has been in his district, either at home or at his doctor’s office, during his leave. Asked by reporters if he had been in a rehabilitation program, he said no and added that any rumors of a drug problem were being spread by “haters.”

“I’ve made a big mistake,” Hernández told reporters, saying he should have been more open about his situation with the public.

“I’ve been going through a traumatic experience in my life. … I wasn’t healthy. My health was not at par to be at work,” Hernández said.

John Casey, communications director for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), said Hernández had previously submitted a new medical note extending his leave.

Friday was the last day to amend legislation for this year and Hernández has several bills pending a final vote.

The current legislative session ends Aug. 31 and term limits mean Hernández is not returning next year.

Rendon removed Hernández from his post as chairman of the Committee on Labor and Employment in July after a judge ordered the assemblyman to keep away from Rubio for three years.

For the record: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Casey as Rendon’s chief of staff.

California’s motorcyclists could soon have clear rules on lane splitting after the state on Friday became the first in the nation to formally legalize the practice.

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed legislation by Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) that defines the practice and authorizes the California Highway Patrol to establish rules for motorcyclists on how to do it safely.

Assemblyman Tom Lackey (R-Palmdale), a retired state highway patrol sergeant who co-wrote the bill, called the new law a “groundbreaking step.”

“This is a huge win for roadway safety,” Lackey said in a statement. “We are now giving riders and motorists clear guidance on when it is safe.”

Lane splitting, in which a motorcyclist passes other vehicles by riding between them along the lane line, has long been a controversial issue.

Technically, it has not been legal or illegal, falling in a gray area where it was treated as acceptable by law enforcement agencies. But when the CHP published guidelines on the practice in 2015, a citizen complained that the agency should not be allowed to create public policy. In came AB 51.

Quirk’s original bill proposed that lane splitting could occur legally only when a motorcycle was moving no more than 15 mph faster than the traffic around it, and it prohibited the practice at speeds above 50 mph.

Several motorcyclists’ groups objected to that, saying the limit was too low. Other groups and individuals, who believe that lane splitting is dangerous regardless of speed, objected to the proposal entirely.

The revised bill, which sailed through the legislative process, provides a basic definition of “lane splitting” and leaves the rest to the CHP. Quirk has said it has many benefits, including reducing traffic congestion and promoting safety.

“I am thrilled to see that California is once again at the forefront of common-sense road safety legislation,” Quirk said. “Signing of this bill will bring legitimacy to this practice and help to keep our roads safer and our drivers – both motorcyclists and motorists – better educated.”

The father of Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) was sentenced to one year and one day in prison for breaking federal campaign finance law, but will likely serve closer to 10 months behind bars.

Babulal Bera, 83, was sentenced in federal court in Sacramento on Thursday. A spokesperson for the U.S. attorney’s office said that a defendant must serve at least 85% of the sentence.

“Currently, there are no further negotiations on housing,” spokesman Kevin Liao said Thursday.

Rendon’s comments, which were first reported by the Sacramento Bee, likely provide the death knell to the governor’s effort to tackle the state’s spiraling housing costs by making it easier to build. Brown’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Negotiations over the plan had made little progress since June when Brown agreed to spend $400 million on low-income housing subsidies should the Legislature agree to pass a version of his housing plan.

Brown’s proposal had faced strenuous opposition from influential labor and environmental groups, which had wanted higher wages for construction workers and were upset that the plan allowed projects to bypass some review under the state’s main environmental law governing development. A coalition of 60 labor, environmental and community advocacy groups walked away from negotiations over the plan last week.

When that happened, the Brown administration said it still held out hope for a deal. But in a further sign that the plan wasn’t moving, low-income housing advocates sent a letter to the governor and legislative leaders Wednesday asking them to spend the $400 million in subsides without the streamlining plan passing.

“Please do not penalize our state’s most vulnerable residents for the failure to reach agreement on the streamlining proposal,” the letter reads.

The Brown administration has given no sign it was willing to spend the money without the housing affordability legislation passing. Last month, a Brown deputy warned that there might be little appetite for future housing subsidies or regulatory relief if lawmakers didn’t act this year.

Other housing measures, including Brown-endorsed bills to make it easier to add small additional units in backyards and a $3 billion low-income housing bond remain alive in the Legislature.


5:30 p.m. This post has been updated to list other housing measures still pending this year after Rendon’s staff expressed concern that their comments could be interpreted as implying that negotiations had ceased on all housing bills.

SB 1322, authored by Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), would make the crimes of solicitation and loitering with intent to commit prostitution misdemeanors inapplicable to children younger than 18. It also would allow law enforcement to take sexually exploited children into temporary custody if leaving them unattended would pose an immediate threat to their health or safety.

The measure passed Thursday with a 42-29 vote. It was one of two bills heard Thursday seeking to decriminalize prostitution.

SB 1129, authored by Bill Monning (D-Carmel), would repeal mandatory minimum sentences for specified prostitution offenses. It moved out of Assembly with a 42-26 vote and is also headed back to the Senate for a final vote.

Legislation to curb human trafficking has been a prominent issue at the state Capitol this session, as prosecutors and advocates in recent years have pushed the issue to the political forefront. Most of the proposals have focused on the trade of forced sex and reflect a cultural shift in the approach to prostitution that aims to divert victims forced into the industry away from the criminal justice system.

Gov. Jerry Brown in 2014 signed legislation placing sex trafficking victims without legal guardians under the authority of the dependency system, which centers on caring for abused and neglected children.

SB 1322 drew the support of a large coalition of advocates who said the bill was a step further in that direction, taking young victims entirely out of the juvenile justice system. But law enforcement officials oppose the move, saying the state’s child welfare system is woefully low on resources.

On the Assembly floor, lawmakers agreed the legislation was well-intentioned and promoted the idea that “there is no such thing as a child prostitute,” as children cannot legally consent to sex.

But while supporters of the bill argued that it would provide a better way to connect young victims with social services, opponents countered that it would prevent law enforcement from helping vulnerable children who often don’t see themselves as victims, run away from unsecured shelters and remain tied to their traffickers through complicated psychological and emotional bonds.

“Right now the best way to get these young women help, the best way to rescue them from this lifestyle is by keeping law enforcement involved through the ability to arrest,” Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto) said. “Maybe in a few years from now, when we are doing better job at both the state and local level, we will better equipped and ready for this bill because services to young women will be readily available. But we are not there yet.”

Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley), who co-authored the bill, said the Legislature had put $20 million in this year’s budget to address the issue. Forty of 58 counties, he said, had already applied for funding to develop social services, shelters and other programs.

“All we are doing in perpetuating current law is saying, ‘You are not the victim, you are the criminal,’” he said. “Let’s say collectively there is no such thing as a child prostitute because there is no such thing as a child prostitute.”

Other lawmakers agreed.

“This is not the end of it,” Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) said. “This is the beginning of us thinking differently about the problem.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer on Thursday visited the Salton Sea and tried to put pressure on state and federal agencies to use more of their resources on saving it.

“This is a crisis waiting to happen, and it is the time for firm leadership by every single stakeholder,” she told reporters after touring a restoration project at Red Hill Marina, according to a transcript.

The Salton Sea was created in 1905 when the Colorado River broke through a silt-laden canal and poured into a basin near Brawley known as the Salton Sink. It grew into a 360-square-mile lake straddling Riverside and Imperial counties, but it has been shrinking, causing record-high salinity levels and animal die-offs.

Boxer’s visit came a week after The Times reported on complaints from local officials that the state is years behind on efforts to protect wildlife and mitigate pesticide-laced dust that blows up from the drying basin.

Boxer praised recent state and federal moves to put more money into the project, but said it isn’t enough.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a state budget in June that included $80.5 million for Salton Sea restoration. The funding came from a $7.5-billion water bond passed two years ago by California voters.

And earlier this year, the Obama administration announced an additional $3 million in funding for Salton Sea restoration.

But Boxer criticized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for not funding a restoration program that she created in 2007 even though President Obama put money for it into last year’s budget.

Boxer has said resolving Salton Sea’s funding issues is one of her priorities before she leaves office in January.

full article with links: