Just In Time: 10 Bills Gov. Brown Passed This Session
And those are only three of the bills Brown signed into law over the past couple of weeks in time for yesterday’s deadline.
Many of the Senate and Assembly Bills signed by Brown are not only historical decisions for the state, but for the nation as well.
Here are 10 bills that will have the most impact on the people who call California home.
Senate Bill 9: The Fair Sentencing for Youth Act.
Sen. Leland Yee’s (D-San Francisco) bill, SB 9, allows those that committed crimes as minors to ask courts to reconsider their life sentences after serving 15 years.
If the inmate shows remorse and is taking adequate steps toward rehabilitation, then some of these inmates will be eligible to receive a new minimum sentence of 25 years to life.
California is one of 39 states that allows judges to sentence minors to life in prison without parole.
Currently, there are 300 inmates in California prisons who could potentially benefit from the bill, which will go into effect on Jan. 1.
Senate Bill 1172: Banning “Corrective” Therapy for Homosexuals
Senate Bill 1172, by Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), bars practitioners from performing so-called reparative therapy on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) minors.
The passing of SB 1172 makes California the first state in the nation to ban therapies designed to convert gay minors into heterosexuals.
“These practices have no basis in science or medicine, and they will now be relegated to the dustbin of quackery," Brown said in a statement.
This bill will also become effective on Jan. 1.
Senate Bill 1140 Protects Religious Freedom for Clergyman
Sen. Mark Leno’s (D-San Francisco) Senate Bill 1140 makes clear that religious freedom doesn’t only apply to the people, but also to the clergy.
SB 1140 ensures that the clergy have the freedom to make faith-based decisions regarding which marriages they chose to solemnize.
This bill was created to protect clergymen if same-sex marriages becomes legal in California.
Additionally, this bill clarifies that religious institutions would not lose their tax exempt status in California should they refuse to solemnize any marriage that is contrary to their religious faith.
SB 1140 will also be effective Jan. 1.
Assembly Bill 2189: Giving Immigrants the Ability to Drive Legally
Assembly Bill 2189 will make an estimated 400,000 immigrants eligible for a California driver’s licenses after Jan. 1.
The bill, which was sponsored by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), works in conjunction with the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
This program grants temporary work permits to undocumented immigrants between the ages of 15 and 31 who came to the United States before age 16 and have lived in this country continuously for the past five years.
Participants must be in school, have graduated from high school or obtained an equivalency certificate or have been honorably discharged from the U.S. military. They cannot have committed a felony, significant misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors.
Those who qualify for the Deferred Action program, will now also be able to apply for a California’s driver’s license.
Senate Bill 1052 and Senate Bill 1053: Saves Students Money on College Textbooks
It is estimated that the average college student spends $1,000 each year on textbooks.
With the cost of textbooks, living and tuition rising, the average college student could use a break on school costs, which may come from Senate Bills 1052 and 1053.
The twin bills, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, will create a website on which popular textbooks can be downloaded for free.
SB 1052 will establish a California Open Education Resources Council, a nine-member faculty council, that will be in charge of picking 50 lower-division classes for which digital textbooks should be developed and then will oversee their creation.
The 50-lower division classes will include courses currently being offered at the University of California, California State University and the California Community College systems.
SB 1053 will create the California Digital Open Source Library, a website where students will be able to download free digital open source textbooks and related materials.
In a statement on his website, Steinberg remarked:
“The current cost of traditional textbooks is so high, some college students are forced to struggle through a required class without the textbook, forced to drop classes or sometimes even drop out of college altogether. There’s absolutely no reason a basic biology, statistics or accounting textbook, for example, should cost $200,” said Steinberg. “The Governor has shown great vision in signing this legislation as a way to help tens of thousands of students and families with the increasing expenses of higher education. Any avenue towards reducing those costs opens more doors for our students, and that in turn continues development of the educated workforce we need to fuel California’s economic engine.”
SB 1052 and 1053 will be two of many bills that go into effect on Jan. 1.
Assembly Bill 970 Will Bring Greater Transparency to Tuition Hikes for Public Secondary Institutions
Brown signed another important piece of education legislation last week: Assembly Bill 970.
AB 970, sponsored by Paul Fong (D-Cupertino), will create the Working Families Student Fee Transparency and Accountability Act.
This act requires UCs and CSUs to consult with student associations at least 30 days before notifying the public of a proposed tuition increase.
Additionally, universities can’t approve a tuition increase until at least 45 days after holding a public meeting to discuss the proposal.
Once a tuition hike is approved, the systems will be required to wait at least 90 days before the increase goes into effect, so students and their families have a chance to prepare.
In a statement on his website, Fong said,
"This Act establishes a statewide student fee policy that will improve communication between the UC and CSU, students, the public, and the Legislature to ensure that student fee increases are discussed in an open and public manner."
In light of the costly lawsuits coming out of student protests on campuses across the state, many students and lawmakers are applauding Brown’s decision to approve legislation, which will open communication between students and the school systems.
This bill will go into effect on Jan. 1.
Assembly Bill 340: Reforming California’s Public Pension System.
Brown’s signing of Assembly Bill 340 marks the passing of landmark legislation that will affect most state jobs and every taxpayer in the state.
Under Assemblyman Warren Furutani’s (D-Lakewood) AB 340, state employees, firefighters, teachers, police officers and other public workers hired after Jan. 1, 2013, will have their retirement age raised and a reduction in pensions.
New employees will also be required to pay at least half of their pension costs, and a cap will be placed on all high-end pensions.
Current employees will also have to pay more of their pension costs, but their pay increases will be phased in over time.
Although California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) estimates that Californian taxpayers will save somewhere between $42 to $55 billion within 30 years under the new law, many political experts say the bill doesn’t go far enough because most of the savings are based on new hires only.
Senate Bill 1234 Creates Nation’s First State-administered, Retirement Savings Program
Sen. Kevin De Leon’s Senate Bill 1234 is another historical landmark for California’s workers, but in the private sector.
Currently, there are 6.3 million private sector employees without pension plans in California.
SB 1234 establishes a state-run retirement savings program that is funded by an automatic 3 percent payroll deduction.
According to De Leon’s website, 84 percent of Californians that work for employers with 25 employees or less, do not have access to retirement plans.
In a statement on his website, De Leon remarked:
“This is a major step forward for retirement security in America,” said Senator De León. “I am grateful for Governor Brown’s acumen and with his leadership we are setting the path for middle class hard-working Americas to prepare for retirement so they won’t be forced into poverty.”
SB 1234 will also go into effect on Jan. 1.
Senate Bill 1221 Bans the Use of Dogs to Hunt Bears and Bobcats.
Last, but not least, Sen. Ted Lieu’s Senate Bill 1221 will make using dogs to hunt bobcats and bears illegal in California.
Animal-rights activists, who have been heavily backing the bill since it was introduced early this year, say the use of hounds while hunting isn’t only wildlife harassment, but also abusive to the hounds, who are in pursuit.
In a statement on his website, Lieu said:
“I applaud Gov. Brown for signing this measure that will protect dogs, bears, bobcats and other wildlife. There is nothing sporting in shooting an exhausted bear clinging to a tree limb or a cornered bobcat."
According to the Department of Fish and Game, of the 1,700 bears killed by hunters in California each year, about half are killed by hunters with hounds.
Wile the new law bans the use of hounds during hunting, it will still allow the use of dogs to track an animal that is causing a nuisance for research or if an animal enters a dog owner's property.
Of the 32 American states that currently allow black bear hunting 14—including Pennsylvania, Oregon, Colorado, Montana and Washington—prohibit the use of hounds.
SB 1221 will go into effect on Jan. 1.