Picking up the pieces: Legislation faces spring committee hearings
By Rebecca Burgoyne

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As predicated by the legislative calendar at the Sacramento Capitol, legislators spent much of February introducing new bills and preparing for committee hearings. The activity came as legislators spent the previous month rushing to carry over two-year bills, which faced a sudden-elimination deadline the end of January.

Several key pro-homosexual bills survived the “sudden death” Jan. 31 deadline and are now in the Senate. One of these, AB 1056, Chu, D-Monterey Park, was amended four times in the month of January alone. It began last year as a bill relating to professional development training for school food-service employees, but, when it passed the Assembly in January by a vote of 51-28, it had morphed into a pilot program for “tolerance education” in the public schools. “Tolerance education” may not be what you envision: it is often heavily weighted to support a pro-homosexual agenda, and Christian views about homosexuality are rejected as “intolerant.”

A second two-year bill, AB 606, Levine, D-Van Nuys, passed the Assembly by a vote of 45-32. It would promote homosexual policies in neighborhood schools by requiring local school districts to establish and publicize policies that prohibit “discrimination and harassment based on specified characteristics, including, but not limited to, actual or perceived gender identity and sexual orientation.” Moreover, AB 606 would allow the Superintendent of Public Instruction to hold a “fiscal hammer” to the districts, forcing this agenda on young children.

Bills like AB 1056 and AB 606 promote a one-sided “politically correct” agenda in our schools and are tantamount to indoctrination— not the teaching of true tolerance, where all viewpoints are considered and accepted.

Protecting children from predators
Another key measure, known as Jessica’s Law, failed passage in both houses. The husband-and-wife team of Sen. George and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, Republicans from Lancaster, carried bill language to protect children from sexual predators. Their bill was based on similar Florida legislation, named for 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford, who in 2005 was abducted, raped and murdered.

A comprehensive measure, Jessica’s Law would close loopholes related to sentencing guidelines, require the electronic monitoring of convicted sex offenders for life, prohibit registered sex offenders from living 2,000 feet from schools, and allow the possession of child pornography to be prosecuted as a felony.

Not deterred by the failure of their legislation in Sacramento, the Runners collected signatures, and the initiative version of Jessica’s Law is expected to appear on the November ballot, although the Secretary of State had not officially qualified the measure as of press time. For more information on the initiative, visit jessicaslaw2006.com.

Jumping on the child-protection bandwagon—and fearing the political implications of failing to pass the Runner bills come November—other legislators offered weak substitutions or piecemeal approaches to dealing with the issue of protecting our children from these violent predators. In January, Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, amended Assembly Bill 50, offering a substitute for Jessica’s Law. Spurring a contentious political debate, AB 50 passed the Assembly 49-0, with most Republicans abstaining on the final vote.

California’s children deserve the full protections offered by Jessica’s Law, not a watered-down politically motivated compromise.

Protecting life
AB 651, Patty Berg, D-Santa Rosa, and Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, promotes the dangerous concept of physician-assisted suicide. This bill would allow physicians to prescribe lethal doses of medication to their terminally ill patents. Instead of protecting life in its twilight years, passage of physician-assisted suicide would devalue human life. With end-of-life care far more expensive than the cost of life-ending prescriptions and families struggling to care for elderly relatives, physician-assisted suicide could lead to a “duty to die” and subtle pressures on invalids to legally commit suicide.

Earlier this year, in a press briefing, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger reportedly said the issue should probably be decided by voters—not politicians. Californians voted against this concept in 1992, and a similar bill died in the Assembly in 1999. Berg and Levine’s proposal most likely will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee this spring.

At the other end of the life spectrum, Sen. Elaine Alquist, D-San Jose, introduced a resolution supporting Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that established a woman’s “right” to an abortion in 1973. A recycled concept, this resolution has passed annually the past few years. A resolution does not institute a law, but simply expresses the viewpoint of the Legislature. This year’s version, SJR 19, which would “memorialize” the president and Congress to “protect and uphold the intent and substance” of the decision, demonstrates how “out of step” many California legislators are with their constituents.

Debate begins
Feb. 24 was the deadline for the introduction of all new bills, with March ushering in debate on the issues. The next few months, legislators examine the issues surrounding both the surviving two-year bills and new proposals in committee hearings. Bills will be heard in policy (subject-matter) committees and fiscal committees before they face floor votes in late spring or summer. Stay tuned! The debate on many issues will be lively—especially as many legislators face campaigns this fall.

Rebecca Burgoyne is a research analyst with California Family Council. A former secondary teacher, Burgoyne has worked in California public policy for more than 10 years.

Published, March 2006

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