The Latest: Desert water pumping bill killed in committee

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — The Latest on the final day of the California Legislature’s legislative session (all times local):

10 p.m.

California lawmakers have killed a last-minute effort to create more state oversight of a project to pump water from under the Mojave Desert.

The measure died in a Senate committee Friday hours ahead of the Legislature’s deadline to pass legislation before lawmakers leave for the rest of the year.

It would have required more environmental review of a project by Cadiz Inc. The Los Angeles-based company wants to pump water from a desert aquifer for Southern California customers.

Lawmakers who supported the bill argued more studies are needed to ensure the project is sustainable and won’t harm the desert’s ecosystem. Opponents say the bill was an attempt to stop a project that would bring thousands of jobs and increase California’s water supply.


8:30 p.m.

A contentious proposal to link oversight of California’s electric grid with other states in the U.S. West is dead for the year.

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins said hours before the end of the legislative session Friday that the bill will not move forward. The San Diego Democrat says discussions will continue next year.

Supporters say regionalizing the grid would make it easier and cheaper to deploy renewable energy across the western United States.

But critics, including some environmentalists and consumer advocates, say California shouldn’t cede state oversight of the grid operator, the California Independent System Operator.

Gov. Jerry Brown says a regional grid is needed “for California to continue its climate leadership” and it’s imperative that it happen as soon as possible.


6:15 p.m.

The California Legislature has approved a measure seeking to eliminate conflicts of interest for county sheriffs who also serve as the coroner.

The measure approved Friday goes to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Democratic Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento introduced it after the chief medical examiner in San Joaquin County resigned alleging the sheriff interfered in death investigators.

Pan’s bill would require that large counties hire independent medical examiners or send cases where the sheriff’s office has a conflict of interest to medical examiners in another county. Potential conflicts include police shootings or the deaths of relatives of law enforcement officers.

California requires autopsies be performed by doctors but allows non-physician coroners to determine whether deaths are suicide, homicide or accident. The sheriff serves as coroner in 49 of California’s 58 counties.


5:30 p.m.

The California Legislature is looking to address a backlog of untested rape kits and ensure they’re tested more quickly in the future.

The Senate on Friday sent Gov. Jerry Brown a measure requiring that all new sexual assault evidence kits be submitted to a lab within 20 days and tested within 120 days. Current law encourages law enforcement to promptly test rape kits but does not require it.

The Legislature voted earlier this week to require a statewide count of all untested rape kits.

Advocates for victims of sexual abuse say the measures will help to ensure perpetrators are brought to justice.


4 p.m.

A bill to ban smoking in picnic areas on state beaches and parks is headed to California Gov. Jerry Brown.

The California Assembly passed the bill 52-14 Friday. The bill would impose fines of up to $25 for people who smoke or leave cigarette butts in designated picnic areas. It would also apply to people smoking e-cigarettes.

It’s the latest effort by California lawmakers to limit smoking on state beaches. Lawmakers earlier this week approved other bills banning smoking on beaches and in parks.

Gov. Jerry Brown has previously vetoed similar bills. The Democrat argued in a veto message on one of those bills last year that it would have been government overreach.

The United States-based Ocean Conservancy lists cigarettes as the most commonly found litter collected on beaches.


10:10 a.m.

A California lawmaker is ending his effort this year to pass a bill declaring gay conversion therapy a fraudulent practice.

Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low of Campbell says he authored the bill because conversion therapy has been proven ineffective and harmful. His measure would have banned selling or advertising sexual orientation therapy as a way to change someone’s sexual orientation.

But he announced Friday, the final day of this year’s legislative session, that he needs more time as he tries to craft a national model.

The bill passed both the Senate and Assembly and was awaiting a final Assembly vote sending it to Gov. Jerry Brown.

But Low says opposition has built to the measure, with some saying lawmakers shouldn’t limit therapy choices and others fighting the proposal on religious grounds.

Categories: California News