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California Capitol Roundup: Bail System Overhaul, Renewable Energy Requirement, And More

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio
Lawmakers and lobbyists mingle just off the California Senate floor during a lunchtime recess on Wednesday, May 31, 2017.

Assembly Backs Education Incentives For CalWORKS Recipients  

The California Assembly has approved a bill that would offer grant increases to welfare recipients – and it’s authored by a Republican.   Assembly Minority Leader Chad Mayes says his measure would award an extra $100 to CalWORKS recipients who attain a high school diploma or equivalent. It would also provide up to $2,400 more a year to welfare recipients who enroll in a college or career technical education program.  

“What can we do to incentivize people to get an education, to be able to then have the skills that they need to be able to gain self-sufficiency?” Mayes said after his bill passed the Assembly.   Some Democrats have questioned Mayes’ motive for this bill since Republicans have generally opposed welfare grant increases. But Wednesday's debate ended without any “No” votes.  

The measure now moves to the Senate, but its true fate likely lies in state budget talks. The Assembly’s budget proposal includes a similar plan that would cost the state $13 million. But Republicans will not be at the table for negotiations between Governor Jerry Brown and Democratic legislative leaders.

Bail System Overhaul Passes California Senate

The California Senate has voted to overhaul the state’s “cash bail” system. The proposal approved Wednesday would replace it with a pre-trial release system that evaluates a defendant’s flight risk and danger to the community.

The bill’s author, Democratic Senator Bob Hertzberg, says it’s not fair for pre-trial release to be based on the size of someone’s wallet – rather than their public safety risk.

Hertzberg told his colleagues during Senate debate that the bill would “reduce the costs, enhance public safety, and most importantly, treat our people with justice!”

But Republican Senator Jim Nielsen called bail “an incredibly useful tool” and said this proposal would continue a trend of policy changes that lets more dangerous criminals onto California streets.

“This is another piece, if you will, in the destruction of the criminal justice system in this state,” he said, pointing to Gov. Jerry Brown's criminal justice realignment that shifted responsibility for low-level offenders from the state to counties, and voter-approved ballot measures such as Propositions 36, 47 and 57.

The bill passed with several votes to spare. Two Republicans joined most Democrats in voting yes.

An identical bill in the Assembly faces a vote by the end of this week. That sets the stage for negotiations over the next few months – including finding a way to pay for the bill.

California State Senate Approves 100 Percent Renewable Energy Requirement

California would need to produce all of its energy from renewable sources such as wind and solar power by 2045 under a bill passed Wednesday in the state Senate.

Republican Sen. Jeff Stone of Riverside County opposed the measure, saying on the Senate floor it would burden businesses with high energy costs.

“What it’s going to do, it’s going to drive up electricity bills for our businesses that cite that as one of the No. 1 reasons why they’re considering leaving California," Stone said.

Democratic Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara countered by saying ambitious goals are the key to great accomplishments, citing President Kennedy’s call to put a man on the moon.

“This is eminently doable. We’re California. If we put our minds to something we can accomplish anything. That’s the California spirit," Jackson said.

The bill would also speed up by five years the state’s goal of reaching 50 percent renewable energy to 2030.

The measure must still be approved by the State Assembly and governor.

Copyright 2017 Capital Public Radio