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Vacation’s over for state lawmakers, who returned from a weeklong spring break Monday to begin the first committee hearings of the 2015-16 session.

San Diego lawmakers avoided any signs of a post-vacation hangover as their measures sailed through policy committees.

Assemblywomen Shirley Weber and Lorena Gonzalez and Sens. Ben Hueso and Marty Block all scored policy committee wins and will see their bills live for another hearing. The bills:

Block also managed to fit in time for a meeting with Robert Kennedy, Jr., who was in town to unsuccessfully oppose legislation that would eliminate the personal belief exemption for vaccinations. The son of former U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy caused a stir at a Tuesday rally, when he compared vaccinations to a “holocaust.”

“They get the shot, that night they have a fever of a hundred and three, they go to sleep, and three months later their brain is gone,” Kennedy said at one anti-vax rally. “This is a holocaust, what this is doing to our country.”

After a marathon session that included public testimony from parents opposed to vaccines, the Senate Health Committee passed the bill on a 6-2 vote.

Atkins introduces “Immigrants Shape California Legislative Bill Package”

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins kept busy during the Legislature’s spring break by working out the finishing touches on a comprehensive bill package to aid undocumented immigrants.

Atkins rolled out the “Immigrants Shape California Legislative Bill Package” at a Tuesday press conference with Senate President pro Tempore Kevin de León and representatives from the American Civil Liberties Union, Council on American-Islamic Relations and National Council of La Raza.

“With these bills California will again show the kind of practical, humane, and forward-thinking leadership that we hope can move the needle on the national discussion,” Atkins said.

Included in the 10-bill package is Assembly Bill 60 by Gonzalez, which aims to protect immigrants from unscrupulous immigration attorneys and consultants from demanding an advanced payment for help with pending immigration claims.

Other bills include:

  • SB 10 by Sen. Ricardo Lara would establish a new “California Office of New Americans” to assist immigrants with various state services.
  • AB 1343 by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond would require the prosecution and defense to consider unintended immigration consequences, such as detention, deportation, and citizenship eligibility, in court.
  • SB 674 by Sen. Kevin de León and Atkins would aid immigrants that are victims of crime in applying for the federal Victim of Crime Visa.
  • SB 600 by Sen. Richard Pan would ban businesses from discriminating on the basis of immigration status, citizenship, or language.

Todd Gloria clears the field for State Assembly

How quickly things can change. Last week, Democrats were gearing up for a 2016 showdown between Sarah Boot and Ed Harris for the 78th Assembly District. The seat is being vacated by Atkins due to term limits. Now, San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria has effectively cleared the field.

This is a different seat than the one Gloria had rumored to be mulling. The former Council president and interim mayor was view as the Democrats’ strongest challenger to Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer. But with Faulconer leading a mostly uncontroversial term in office, Gloria decided to shift course to Sacramento.

Under California’s Top Two system, two Democrats could have made the November run-off for the safe Democratic seat. Yet, in an impressive display of party unity, the party quickly closed ranks behind Gloria. On Monday, Boot dropped out of the race and endorsed Gloria. That was immediately followed up with an endorsement from Atkins, who had previously backed Boot. By Thursday, Harris had thrown in the towel in favor of the heir apparent.

Gonzalez Bill Would Open Lifeguards to Medal of Valor

Gonzalez also is pushing a bill to make California lifeguards eligible for the Medal of Valor, the highest honor for public safety officers.

The bill unanimously passed the Assembly Committee on Public Safety this week.

Currently, lifeguards can’t receive the medal, reserved for “public safety officers” like police officers, firefighters, and corrections or emergency services officers. The bill would add lifeguards to that list.

The bill is in part inspired by the death of Ben Carlson, a 15-year veteran and 32-year-old lifeguard who died last summer making a rescue off of Newport Beach, said Harris, a longtime lifeguard.

Though it sailed through committee, not everyone is crazy about the bill.

Representatives for both the California Professional Firefighters and the Peace Officers Research Association of California spoke against the measure.

Lifeguards should be honored with existing medals for citizens and non-sworn personnel, the peace officers group argues.

San Diego’s police and fire departments, however, both support the legislation.

Chris Brewster, president of the United States Lifesaving Association, warned supporters in an email the bill could fail.

“It is possible legislators will simply not want to vote against PORAC and the firefighters association, which all count tens of thousands of members and are strong political forces,” Brewster wrote.

– Andrew Keatts

Too Much Money: Analysts worried about higher than expected state revenues

California’s state budget problems are back, but not for the reasons you might be thinking. The Legislative Analyst’s Office has expressed concerns that the state may have too much money this year.

How is that possible in chronically-broke California? The state’s independent analyst says that a short-term spike in revenue could trigger ongoing spending commitments under Proposition 98, the complicated initiative that sets minimum funding levels for schools.

“Only in California and Biggie Smalls songs,” Anthony York of the Grizzly Bear Project observed, “can billions of dollars in new money be cause for concern.”

Budget crunchers can track the state’s incoming revenue crisis on a daily basis thanks to a new tracker tool from State Controller Betty Yee. April’s a critical month for the state’s finances due to the influx of personal income tax revenue, which accounts for 65.2 percent of all state day-to-day budget revenues.

State News Hits

San Diego lawmakers received their 2014 report cards from the California Labor Federation, one of the state’s most powerful labor groups which represents 2.1 million workers. Atkins and Gonzalez were the only San Diego lawmakers to earn a perfect score. Assemblyman Brian Maienschein had the highest score for San Diego Republicans, voting with the unions 42 percent of the time.

Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, the chairman of the Assembly Utilities and Commerce Committee, is taking heat for a spring break trip to Singapore that was funded by special interest groups. Weber also went on the trip. (Los Angeles Times)

California may be running out of water, but that hasn’t spurred Californians to conserve. The State Water Resources Control Board announced new water consumption data for February, which showed a 2.8 percent drop in water use compared to the previous year — the worst month yet for water reduction. San Diegans share some of the blame. U-T San Diego’s Deborah Sullivan Brennan found, “some water districts in San Diego County and elsewhere saw their residential water use soar by double digits in February.”

The California Public Utilities Commission, which has been criticized for its cozy relationship with energy companies, hit Pacific Gas & Electric with a record $1.6 billion fine for the 2010 gas pipeline explosion in San Bruno that killed eight people. Utilities chief Michael Picker added that the state’s biggest power utility may need to be broken up. (Associated Press)

Attorney General Kamala Harris’ 2016 coronation continues on schedule. The prohibitive favorite to succeed U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer raised $2.5 million from 6,500 contributors during the first quarter of 2015. Harris cashed $1.6 million in campaign contributions in March alone, or an average of $51,612 per day.

John Hrabe

John Hrabe is a Voice of San Diego contributor. He writes on California politics at CalNewsroom.com

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