Saturday, June 04, 2005

Crunch time in Sacramento

Yesterday I saw Guess Who's Coming to Dinner for the first time. It is, now, a somewhat hokey movie about interracial marriage. The setup is incredible--the couple, a white 23-year-old woman and a 37-year-old black man have just met ten days previously on a trip in Hawaii, and have decided to get married in the next two weeks, but first go to meet her parents--wealthy San Francisco liberals--to ask for their blessing that evening over dinner. The liberal parents are surprised by their shock and concern about the marriage, but eventually decide that how much a couple loves each other matters most, that true love concurs all, etc.

Well, the exact same arguments support allowing gay marriages. Unfortunately, the Calif. Assembly just voted against sending Mark Leno (D-San Francisco)'s gay marriage bill to the Senate. The vote was one of hundreds at the deadline to move bills between the Assembly and the Senate.

From the LA Times:
California lawmakers Thursday voted to require weapons manufacturers to ensure that all bullets and cartridges are branded with distinctive serial numbers.


Lawmakers also approved bills that would allow illegal immigrants to get driver's licenses, restrict inexperienced teenage drivers from carrying passengers, increase the minimum wage, and make cigarettes more "fire-safe." The cigarette bill passed narrowly, in spite of an effort by the tobacco industry to kill it.

The measures were among hundreds that passed — or died — as lawmakers rushed to meet a deadline today for each legislative chamber to move its bills to the other for review. They have until the end of August to decide whether to send the proposals to the governor.

An Assembly measure to legalize same-sex unions, which lacked enough support to pass Wednesday night after an intense debate, came up again Thursday but failed. Lawmakers cast 37 votes in favor but needed 41 for passage. There were 36 no votes and seven abstentions.


One of the proposals, from state Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer and approved in the Senate, 21-14, would require manufacturers, starting in 2007, to stamp bullets sold in California with a identification number that police could trace to the store where the ammunition was sold.

"We can put individualized serial numbers on cartons of yogurt, on almost everything in society, with very little additional cost," said Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana), who sponsored the measure, SB 357.

The second measure, which was approved by the Assembly, 41-37, would mandate that all new semiautomatic handguns, starting in 2007, include technology that would stamp a distinguishing serial number onto a cartridge when it is fired. Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), the sponsor of AB 352, said the markings "won't always lead to the criminal, but it will create leads" for police.

Though Koretz said no law enforcement groups opposed his bill, Republican lawmakers criticized it strongly. Assemblyman Todd Spitzer (R-Orange) argued that criminals could plant spent shell casings to mislead investigators.


Weapons weren't the only subject of clashes on the issue of special markings Thursday. The Senate approved, 22 to 16, the latest incarnation of legislation to allow some illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses.

The proposed licenses would be specially designated so they could not be used as a broader form of identification. Democrats last year rejected the idea of a second tier of licenses, but the governor vetoed the proposal they passed, which would have allowed undocumented residents to have regular driver's licenses.

This year, Congress gave states the option of issuing the distinctive licenses, and Sen. Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), who sponsored the previous measures, reluctantly adopted the approach in SB 60. The Schwarzenegger administration has said that it will not support any legislation until the federal Department of Homeland Security finalizes rules for the alternative licenses.

Another bill that lawmakers passed would require that cigarettes sold in California starting next year be fire-safe by extinguishing in a few minutes if a smoker doesn't draw on it. Such a law took effect in New York in 2004, and Canada is expected to implement a similar law in October.


The marriage bill would "provide that marriage is a personal relation arising out of a civil contract between 2 persons" rather than "between a man and a woman" as written in Prop. 22. 5 Democrats voted against it, and 6 abstained; abstentions equal no votes because the bill needed 41 votes to pass, not just more yays than nays.


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