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California leg roundup: beer, erectile dysfunction and the FPPC

As the weather heats up in Sacramento, so does the legislating. This month
dozens of bills are moving from committees to the floor, across the rotunda
and back again. This week Capitol Weekly is taking a look at some of the
less-noticed measures up for consideration. And we start with everyone’s
favorites: sex, drugs and alcohol.

Newly elected Assembly Republican leader George Plescia, R-San Diego, is
pushing a measure to take popular erectile-dysfunction (ED) drugs like
Viagra off the list of medications covered by state’s Medi-Cal laws. The
bill, A.B. 2885, would make it so Medi-Cal can only cover those ED drugs
subsidized by federal payments. But ED medications are not eligible for
federal financial assistance. The bill is sponsored by the Department of
Health Services, which estimates savings of $1 million.

This is the second piece of ED legislation that Plescia has carried in as
many years. Last year, he introduced a measure to prevent registered sex
offenders from access to ED drugs under the Medi-Cal program.

Senator Kevin Murray, D-Los Angeles, is carrying alcohol legislation. In
February, Murray introduced a measure to allow for beer tasting in the
state–with sample servings of up to 12 ounces. The measure is co-sponsored
by Anheuser-Busch, which argues that the current lack of free beer tasting
“makes it difficult for the beer industry to compete in California.”

But the measure met opposition from within the beer community, including
industry heavyweights Coors, Miller and Heineken. At the end of April,
Murray stripped his S.B. 1548 of any legal language, leaving it as a simple
intent bill, though it remains scheduled for a hearing on May 10. Murray’s
office says the senator and Anheuser-Busch intend to continue to push the
legislation this year.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Van Tran, R-Westminster, wants to ensure that any
traditional Asian fare enjoyed by Californians is up to snuff, meeting all
necessary public-health and sanitation standards. His A.B. 2214 requires the
Department of Health Services to study the sale of traditional Asian foods,
ensuring they meet health-code requirements.

But the bill analysis lists several Asian foods, like banh chung and banh
chuoi, that are “potentially hazardous.” Perhaps most worrying is the
inclusion in the analysis of “cooked green beans, eggs and sausage” as
“generally hazardous foods.”

The bill passed out of the health committee and is currently in the Assembly
appropriations committee.

Assemblywoman Nicole Parra, D-Hanford, has gut and amended what was
originally an identity-theft bill to clarify that existing law allows
public-school students to wear hats in school–without prior physician or
parental consent.

A.B. 2645 came about after Parra met with a group of students at John Muir
Middle School in Corcoran who were forbidden by school officials from
wearing hats during physical-education classes. Although a previous bill by
Senator Don Perata, D-Oakland, in 2002 had permitted the use of hats for sun
protection, officials had misinterpreted the measure, inspiring Parra’s
clarification.

“She was impressed by the organization of the students and the presentation
and she felt it was an important issue because skin cancer is a problem,”
said Parra spokesman Ioannis Kazanis.

The bill is set for a hearing on May 10 in the Assembly education committee.

There were some interesting moments in that same Assembly education
committee on Wednesday, when Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy, R-Monrovia,
presented A.B. 2311. Mountjoy’s bill adds the following to the state’s
education code: “The promotion of homosexuality in public education is
prohibited.”

The committee’s chair, Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg, D-Los Angeles, is
openly gay but was not presiding when Mountjoy presented the bill. Goldberg
briefly entered the room while Mountjoy was testifying and promptly left.
The bill failed to get out of committee.

Goldberg has an interesting bill of her own moving through the legislative
process, A.B. 2154, which would allow vehicles in car-share programs to park
in exclusive areas. Car-share vehicles could be assigned a special permit
allowing them park in exclusive zoned areas, as determined by the local
government. The bill was introduced at the request of the city of Los
Angeles.

“It basically is to encourage a shared-use system of automobiles in major
metropolitan areas,” said Goldberg spokeswoman Wendy Notsinneh.

“Collectively, the goal of car sharing is to encourage a reduction in
traffic and parking congestion and an increase in transit ridership.”
Goldberg’s car-share parking measure is scheduled for a hearing in the
Assembly transportation committee on May 8.

If Senator Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica, has her way, new mobile
police-radar units would crack down on speeding cars, but only in the city
of Beverly Hills. Kuehl has authored S.B. 1300, which would create mobile
photo-radar units that would track offending speeders, taking pictures of
the cars and then ticketing them.

But the bill would limit the pilot program to residential, 25-mile-per-hour
zones in the city of Beverly Hills, which is lobbying for the measure. The
legislation would expire in 2011, and the city would report to the state on
the successes and failures of the program.

The bill failed this Tuesday in the Senate transportation committee, but was
granted reconsideration and is on schedule for another hearing next Tuesday.

Another Democratic senator from Los Angeles, Kevin Murray, has introduced a
measure to raise the amount of political giving necessary to qualify as a
major donor in California. Under current law, any individual that donates
$10,000 or more in a calendar year must file as a major donor. Murray’s S.B.
1693 would raise that amount to $30,000 in annual political contributions.

Interestingly the bill, which on its face would create less disclosure, is
sponsored by the state’s campaign-finance watchdog, the Fair Political
Practices Commission (FPPC). The FPPC notes that the major donor limit has
not been updated since 1984.

“By increasing the threshold to $30,000 the commission hopes that the bill
would reduce the number of less-sophisticated contributors who may become
subject to a major donor enforcement action simply because they are unaware
of the requirement,” said FPPC spokesman Jon Matthews.

The cash-strapped department is inundated with misfiled major donor reports
and is hoping to ease its workload through the measure. But, says Matthews,
“This is only in part due to FPPC workload concerns.”

The measure passed through the Senate elections committee in early April and
is headed to the Senate floor.

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