- Associated Press - Friday, September 11, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - The latest developments in the California Legislature, which is considering hundreds of bills ahead of a Friday deadline for passage (all times local):

9:15 p.m.

Health care advocates are cheering a bill that prevents California patients from facing surprise out-of-network bills after they go to hospitals or medical facilities in their network.

The state Senate approved AB533 by Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Alameda on a bipartisan 25-10 vote.

The bill was sponsored by Health Access California to prevent consumers from being hit with out-of-network charges out of their control.

Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat and pediatrician who opposed the bill, said the proposal could reduce access to specialists. He said the problem should be best resolved up front, not at the backend.

Democratic Sen. Ed Hernandez of La Puente, who presented Bonta’s bill, said doctors would have a dispute resolution process to challenge low payments.

It returns to the Assembly for final approval.

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8:59 p.m.

California lawmakers are moving forward on a bill that requires public utilities to justify executive bonuses after any federal safety violation that costs ratepayers $5 million or more.

The Senate on Thursday approved AB1266 on a 24-14 vote.

The bill by Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego would require a public review of bonuses before the state Public Utilities Commission.

Supporters say the commission has never reviewed bonuses for utility executives even in light of major safety violations. For instance, ratepayers absorbed the costs when the San Onofre nuclear power plant was closed and following the 2010 San Bruno pipeline explosion in Northern California.

The bill heads back to the Assembly for a final vote.

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6:39 p.m.

A bill to check the powers of the California Public Utilities Commission president in the wake of revelations after a deadly gas pipeline explosion is heading for passage.

The Assembly approved SB660 on Thursday with a 70-0 vote. The bill by Sen. Mark Leno of San Francisco now goes back to the Senate for a final vote.

Leno’s legislation creates stricter rules on communications between utility companies and CPUC regulators and staff.

Emails made public last year in a lawsuit over the 2010 San Bruno explosion described then-CPUC President Michael Peevey holding private discussions with Pacific Gas & Electric officials on issues affecting the company.

The bill also would delegate certain management and oversight duties to committees of two or more commissioners instead of the president.

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6:24 p.m.

Lawmakers are advancing a bill to require a comprehensive audit of the State Bar of California following an internal scandal over the handling of attorney discipline cases.

The Assembly approved SB387 with a 69-0 vote on Thursday. The legislation by Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara also would extend for another year the $315 in annual membership fees active lawyers pay to help fund the organization.

Concerns over the operation of the nation’s largest state bar surfaced earlier this year. Its former executive director, a former state lawmaker, alleged he was fired for reporting that disciplinary files were deliberately removed or altered by the office’s chief prosecutor to disguise a chronic case backlog.

The bill returns for a final vote in the Senate.

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This item has been changed to correct the name of the State Bar of California.

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6:10 p.m.

State lawmakers are acting to rein in repetitive lawsuits that critics say take advantage of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

Democratic Sen. Richard Roth of Riverside says most of the lawsuits are filed by a just a few individuals or lawyers and many lead to cash settlements but no fix of the alleged violation.

AB1521 would help businesses fight the complaints without an attorney.

Those who file the most ADA lawsuits would have to pay a higher filing fee, reveal how often they file such lawsuits and why they were in the business they’re targeting. They also would have to notify state regulators whether the action led to the violation being fixed.

Senators approved the measure Thursday on a 37-0 vote. It returns to the Assembly for final action.

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6:05 p.m.

Lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill adding three misdemeanors to the list of crimes that can result in defendants being barred from possessing weapons for a decade.

SB347 adds bringing ammunition onto school grounds, petty theft of a firearm and receiving a stolen gun.

Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara says her bill will prevent gun violence by keeping firearms from dangerous people.

Republicans say authorities should concentrate on criminals who use the firearms instead of people committing misdemeanors.

Senators approved the bill on a 23-14 vote Thursday.

The measure would add to existing laws barring people from possessing firearms if they are convicted of felonies or some violent misdemeanors, have a conviction for domestic violence or a history of mental illness.

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5:27 p.m.

A bill seeking to prevent abuses of state and federal laws that allow law enforcement to seize property and cash that may have been acquired through illegal drug activity appears to be dead for the year.

The California Assembly voted 24-41 Thursday against SB443, a bill by Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles. It would have required a person to be criminally convicted before state government agencies could share the proceeds of assets seized in federal narcotics actions.

Major law enforcement groups opposed the measure, saying it would deprive them of a valuable tool for fighting gangs and large-scale drug dealers.

Assemblyman David Hadley, a Torrance Republican, asked his colleagues to put the bill to another vote on Friday, but says he is doubtful it will pass.

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4:11 p.m.

Senators are advancing two bills in response to the May oil spill that dumped more than 100,000 gallons of crude on the beach and into the ocean near Santa Barbara.

They sent Gov. Jerry Brown SB295 by Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara.

The bill requires the state fire marshal to annually inspect all in-state pipelines and pipeline operators starting in 2017. Lawmakers cited reports that the pipe in the Santa Barbara spill was severely corroded. The bill was approved Thursday on a 26-8 vote.

Senators also approved AB864 by Democratic Assemblyman Das Williams of Carpinteria on a 31-5 vote.

His bill requires pipeline operators to use the best available technology to control spills. Jackson says that includes remote-controlled valves and automatic leak detection.

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2:47 p.m.

A bill that changes the state’s definition of “racial profiling” and requires local law enforcement agencies to collect demographic data on the people they stop has cleared the California Legislature.

The Assembly on Thursday sent AB953 to the governor’s desk on a 41-24 final vote.

The bill’s author, Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego, says the deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police roiling the nation over the last year show t the measure is needed to give both the public and officers information rather than anecdotes.

Republicans who opposed the measure say it requires onerous and costly reporting that may be unnecessary as police begin using body cameras.

The Senate approved the legislation with a 26-13 vote a day earlier.

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2 p.m.

California lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill that could let so-called beer bikes operate on streets, though it’s up to cities to decide if alcohol can be consumed as passengers peddle away.

The Senate on Thursday unanimously gave final approval to SB530 by Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat.

The safety standards for the bike buses that carry up to 15 people include a 30 mile-per-hour speed limit. Pan says these are still bikes, after all.

Other requirements include annual inspections, liability insurance, and an on-board adult safety monitor if alcohol is allowed. Both the driver and monitor must take an alcohol awareness program if booze is on-board.

The bikes already are used for tours in Sacramento and San Diego, often with stops at bars and restaurants.

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1:55 p.m.

A bill revealing who is paying for government officials’ travel is heading to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The measure by Democratic Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo requires certain nonprofit organizations to disclose the names of donors who pay for travel gifts for elected officials. Those officials would have to report the travel destination on their annual conflict of interest statements.

The requirement is restricted to nonprofits that regularly organize and host travel for elected officials and to donors who send a representative along on the trip.

California lawmakers regularly accept thousands of dollars in travel expenses each year as gifts.

Senators gave final approval Thursday to SB21 on a vote of 36-1, with only Republican Sen. Joel Anderson of Alpine opposed.

Brown vetoed a broader gift ban bill last year.

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1 p.m.

Lawmakers are sending Gov. Jerry Brown a bill suspending the high school exit exam for the next three years.

SB172 also suspends the requirement that students pass the exam to graduate. Students will get their diplomas if they complete all other graduation requirements.

Brown last month signed legislation canceling the exam as a requirement for graduation this year. That gave a reprieve to about 5,000 students left in limbo when the state canceled the test in anticipation that lawmakers would remove the requirement.

Supporters say the tests aren’t needed while the state develops new tests aligned with Common Core.

Republican Sen. Bob Huff of San Dimas says it’s “a dumb move” to suspend tests that demonstrate what pupils have learned.

Senators approved the measure Thursday on a 23-14 vote.

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12:43 p.m.

Legislation barring California public schools from using the Redskins name for sports teams and mascots is on its way to the governor.

AB30 by Assemblyman Luis Alejo, a Democrat from Watsonville, would prevent public schools from using the term that American Indians regard as offensive starting in 2017.

Alejo says the name dates from a period in California history when bounty hunters were rewarded for slaying Native Americans and should not be dignified with school affiliations.

Only four schools in the state still have teams or mascots called the Redskins.

The Assembly gave the California Racial Mascots Act final approval with a 54-8 vote Thursday.

A federal panel ruled last year that the team trademark for NFL’s Washington Redskins should be canceled, but the team is challenging the decision.

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12:34 p.m.

Several lawmakers from both political parties are upset that major law enforcement groups are opposing a bill to protect property owners from abuses when government agencies seize people’s property.

SB443 requires that a person be criminally convicted before California governments can share the proceeds of assets seized in federal actions.

Democratic Sen. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles said Thursday that law enforcement lobbyists are using scare tactics to undermine the bill. The measure faces a crucial Assembly vote before lawmakers adjourn this week.

Law enforcement representatives say if the bill were law in 2014, it could have cost local agencies more than $74 million from their share of federal forfeitures. They say current law already includes enough due process rights.

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