2012 California Legislation

Protecting Consumers from Abusive Debt Collectors

By State Senator Mark Leno

A friend and colleague of mine recently received an unexpected call from his employer notifying him that his wages would be garnished. Apparently, a judgment had been issued on an outstanding debt of several thousand dollars, and as a result, the courts had approved the wage garnishment. The only problem was that my friend had no outstanding debts, nor was he notified of any lawsuit. It turns out that the unpaid bill actually belonged to another man with a similar name and a different address. With time and effort, my friend was fortunately able to clear up the mess, but there are no safeguards in state or federal law that would prevent it from happening again to him or another innocent consumer.

Several In-Home Supportive Service Related Bills Introduced in State Legislature

By Marty Omoto
California Disability Community Action Network

Several regular legislative session policy bills impacting the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program were introduced earlier this month and last week by the February 24th bill introduction deadline.  Two bills – and possibly a third – deal with IHSS providers that would propose changes to existing State law that currently prohibit an individual from working as an IHSS provider if he or she was convicted of certain crimes. Current State law allows the IHSS recipient to hire such an individual by submitting to the county a signed waiver document.

State Senate President and Assembly Speaker Both Introduce IHSS Bills

Legislation Needed to Revise Penalties for Simple Drug Possession

By State Senator Mark Leno

Following the lead of 13 other states and the federal government, I'm introducing legislation that revises the penalty for simple drug possession under state law from a felony to a misdemeanor. The new legislation, SB 1506, does not apply to anyone involved in selling, manufacturing or possessing drugs for sale. The bill would help alleviate overcrowding in state prisons and county jails, ease pressure on California’s court system and result in millions of dollars in annual savings for both state and local governments.  

Your Toxic Couch: New California Legislation Will Address Chemicals in Flame Retardants Found in Furniture

By Ngoc Nguyen
New America Media

Where there’s smoke – fire is still likely after California’s out-dated 12-second rule. And toxic flame retardants in your bed or couch may harm your family anyhow.

Those worrisome factors are behind a bill introduced Friday by California Assemblymember Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, seeking to change the state’s fire-safety testing standards for furniture.

Currently, furniture makers have to use stuffing and foams treated with flame retardants to meet California’s current rule. Under an obscure state law known as Technical Bulletin 117, furniture must withstand being ignited by on open flame for 12 seconds, even though fire-safety experts have determined that even a smoldering cigarette taking more than 12 ticks of the clock can set furniture ablaze.

Toxic Money: Big Chem, Dirty Politics, and the Poison in Your Couch

By Valerie Pacino

Clausewitz said that war is politics by other means. Big Chem knows that politics can be business by other means. You’ve got to hand it to them: they’ve used politics with astounding effectiveness to secure their bottom line. The result is literally toxic for the rest of us.

The chemical industry spent nearly $5 million a year over the past five years on lobbying and campaign contributions in California. That’s a lot of money for one industry and one state. On the other hand, it’s a pittance, considering the payback: by defending an obscure and ineffective fire-safety regulation, the industry extends its North American stronghold in a market worth billions of dollar of sales each year. That’s one of the best returns-on-investment imaginable.

Wasting Juvenile Justice Tax Dollars

By Selena Teji
Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice

California has demonstrated it no longer has the capacity to serve the state’s high-risk juvenile offenders by a 75% recidivism rate and continued scrutiny under the Farrell lawsuit, now in its ninth year.  The state-run Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF) is still unable to provide adequate education and programming to its youth population despite reform efforts and a per capita cost of approximately $190,000 this past year alone.  Not to mention that the facilities themselves are in dire need of reconstruction. 

Groundbreaking Political Advertising Disclosure Bill Moves to Assembly Floor

By Trent Lange
California Clean Money Campaign

Last week, the California Assembly Appropriations Committee voted AB 1148, the California DISCLOSE Act, to the Assembly floor for a full vote next Tuesday, January 31st.  Coming two days before the second anniversary of the Supreme Court’s infamous Citizens United decision that unleashed unlimited anonymous spending on campaigns across the country, the vote moves forward a bill that would shine a spotlight on political spending so voters know who is behind the ads they’re seeing.

Over $235 million was spent on ballot measures in 2010, almost all of it by veiled actors hiding behind innocuous-sounding names that deliberately mislead voters about who is paying for them.  Independent expenditures have increased more than 6,000% since 2000.  It will come as no surprise that a recent study by the New York City Public Advocate showed that such anonymous spending groups are significantly more likely to fund negative advertisements.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Parity Bill Advances to Assembly Floor

By Marty Omoto

Legislation that would significantly increase coverage for mental health and substance abuse treatments that private health insurers and managed health care plans are currently required to provide under state and federal mental health parity laws, faces a key hurdle, as the bill comes up for a final vote on the Assembly floor as early as this coming Thursday (January 26) .  If AB 154, authored by Assemblymember Jim Beall Jr. (Democrat - San Jose, 24th Assembly District), passes the Assembly as expected, the bill then heads to the State Senate, where it faces likely more difficult prospects for passage in the Senate Health Committee.  

Bill To Label GE Fish Fails in California Legislature

By Dan Bacher

You would think that a simple bill requiring the labeling of Frankenfish would pass easily through the California Legislature.

Unfortunately, that wasn't the case, since Assemblymembers apparently beholden to the bioegineering and biotechnology industry voted last week against a bill, AB 88, that would have required that all genetically engineered (GE) fish sold in California contain clear and prominent labeling.

The legislation, authored by Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-6), failed in the Assembly Appropriations Committee by a vote of 9-7. Assemblymembers Harkey, Calderon, Hall, Nielson, Norby, Solorio, Wagner, Campos and Donnelly voted no on the bill, while Fuentes, Bradford, Chesbro, Gatto, Hill, Ammiano and Mitchell voted yes.

Assemblymember Blumenfield, who voted for the bill last May, was out of the room during the vote.

Fighting for Relief for Californians in Pain

By Assemblymember Jared Huffman

An Iraq war veteran suffering with chronic pain. A mother with fibromyalgia. A teenager with Lupus. The US Pain Foundation this week brings its traveling photo exhibit, The INvisible Project, to the Capitol in Sacramento to help raise awareness of those living with painful conditions, and to chronicle the day-to-day experiences of pain survivors.

A troubling and dangerous emergent trend in health care is health plans denying coverage to policy holders for proven and effective pain treatments. Every day in California, patients suffering from severe and often crippling chronic pain – rheumatoid arthritis, MS, lupus, nerve damage, and diabetes-related pain, among many others – walk into a doctor’s office seeking respite and relief. The doctor determines the most effective course of treatment and writes a prescription. And every day, patients in pain are denied the treatments they need by health insurers who have introduced significant barriers to access.