The current state legislature session ended Friday at midnight and the Senate and Assembly were able to agree on several significant bills that are now awaiting Gov. Jerry Brown’s signature or veto. He has 30 days to sign bills passed during this session.
The next legislative session begins in January 2016.
Senate Bill 168, which will regulate drones flying over wildfires or interfering with firefighting or emergency responders, passed both the Senate and Assembly unanimously Friday. Drones affected the use of air resources on several fires in Southern California this summer.
The bill makes it a misdemeanor to knowingly, intentionally or recklessly operate a drone that prevents or delays firefighting efforts or interferes with the efforts of firefighters to control, contain or extinguish a fire, including their air resources. If guilty, the individual could be jailed as long as six months or fined up to $5,000, or both.
The bill also seeks to grant civil immunity to any emergency responder who damages an unmanned aircraft in the course of firefighting, air ambulance or search-and-rescue operations.
However, another bill, SB 142, which would have established trespass liability for drone users, was vetoed by the governor. Anyone flying a drone below 350 feet without the express permission of the property owner would have been guilty of trespass.
Brown wrote, “Drone technology certainly raises novel issues that merit careful examination. This bill, however, while well-intentioned, could expose the occasional hobbyist and the FAA-approved commercial user alike to burdensome litigation and new cause of action. Before we go down that path, let’s look at this more carefully.”
End of life
A bill (ABX2-15) to allow terminally ill Californians to obtain medication to aid in dying was also approved by both houses and goes to the governor. Brown, a former Jesuit seminarian, has not indicated his feeling about the bill.
The bill’s author, Assemblymember Susan T. Eggman (D-Stockton), said, “It allows for mentally-capable, terminally-ill adults the option to request a doctor’s prescription for aid-in-dying drugs to painlessly and peacefully hasten their death.”
Certain conditions, such as two oral requests, a minimum of 15 days apart, and a written request signed by two witnesses, are necessary before the patient may have the drugs. His or her attending physician must refer the patient to a consulting physician to confirm diagnosis and capacity to make medical decisions. The individual must have the physical and mental ability to self-administer the aid-in-dying drug.
The bill passed the Assembly on Sept. 9 by a 44 to 35 vote with one abstention. Last Friday, the Senate voted 23-15, with two abstentions. Sen. Jeff Stone voted against it.
Three bills to regulate the medical use of marijuana were also passed and sent to Brown. The key was defining medical marijuana as an agricultural product. Consequently, its cultivation must comply with state rules on water use, discharge and pesticides.
A new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation was established, too, as part of the Consumer Affairs Department.
For all involved in the cultivation, distribution and marketing of the product, the legislation requires two licenses, from the state and a local city or county.
California was the first state in the nation to allow for the medical use of marijuana with the passage of Proposition 215 nearly two decades ago, leading the charge ahead of 22 other states and the District of Columbia. However, California still lacks a comprehensive regulatory framework for the medical marijuana industry.
This is the first time in the history of California that a medical marijuana regulatory framework has been agreed to by the Assembly, Senate, and Governor’s Office. AB 266 will fulfill the will of the voters by creating a regulatory framework to ensure patient access, as well as to protect the environment, public safety and public health.
AB 1461 would register every eligible citizen who goes to a Department of Motor Vehicles office to get a driver’s license or renew one, potentially adding millions of new registered voters to California’s voter rolls.
Individuals may opt out of the registration process.
“Unfortunately, more than 6.6 million California citizens are eligible but unregistered to vote. The New Motor Voter Act would make voter registration a more efficient, modern process for millions of California citizens,” said California Secretary of State Alex Padilla in a press release.