The California Capitol in Sacramento. (Mark Boster / Los Angeles…)
SACRAMENTO — State lawmakers Wednesday acted on measures that would ban the open carrying of rifles in public, allow young illegal immigrants to have driver's licenses and require college workers to report suspicions of child abuse to authorities.
With three days left until their session ends, the legislators sent Gov. Jerry Brown dozens of bills, including the gun measure. Assemblyman Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) introduced it in response to gun owners' openly carrying rifles and shotguns in public as a demonstration of their rights to bear firearms.
The proposal would make it a misdemeanor, subject to jail time and fines, to openly carry unloaded long guns in incorporated cities. It was backed by law enforcement officials including Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck.
"The more guns we have on our streets, whether visible or not, the potential for tragedy increases exponentially," Beck said. "I am in full support of repealing the open-carry laws."
Other supporters cited mass shootings at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, a Milwaukee Sikh temple and the attack in Tucson that killed six and seriously injured a congresswoman.
Assemblyman Gilbert Cedillo (D-Los Angeles) said that having shotguns carried in public infringes on the rights to "take our family to a theater, to worship, to see our elected officials."
Assemblyman Charles Calderon (D-Whittier) noted that the bill was introduced months before a gunman opened fire in the Aurora theater, killing 12 and injuring 58. But he added that if Colorado had such a law, "maybe [shooting suspect] James Holmes might have been discovered."
Assemblywoman Linda Halderman (R-Fresno), who opposed the bill, objected to the reference to Aurora. "They died there because of loaded weapons," she said during the heated floor debate.
Another opponent, Assemblyman Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale), said AB 1527 was unnecessary because open-carry activists "are law-abiding citizens."
Legislators also sent the governor two bills introduced after the Penn State scandal, in which former football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of molesting minors. The bills by Sen. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego) and Assemblyman Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) would require coaches and university employees to report to authorities when they suspect children are being abused.
"As we saw at Penn State, there are times when moral obligation alone isn't enough," Feuer said, arguing for his measure, AB 1434. Vargas' bill is SB 1264.
Later in the day, the state Senate passed a plan to allow illegal immigrants in California to obtain drivers' licenses if they are awarded work permits under a new federal program providing a two-year reprieve from deportation. As many as 450,000 people could qualify, state officials say.
The federal program applies to those brought to the United States illegally before they were 16 and who are now 30 or younger.
The state Department of Motor Vehicles has said those given federal work permits appear to be eligible for licenses. The legislation makes eligibility clear, even if federal documentation does not meet state standards.
"The reality is they will be part of our society for two years," said Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres). "They will be driving on our roads, whether we issue them driver's licenses or not."
The measure, AB 2189 by Cedillo, must go back to the Assembly for approval.
The Assembly sent the governor a measure that would allow farm workers to file civil lawsuits against farmers who repeatedly violate state rules requiring sufficient water and shade for those laboring in the fields.
"The evidence shows that Cal/OSHA cannot enforce the law by itself,'' said Assemblywoman Betsy Butler (D-Marina Del Rey), author of the bill.
Assemblyman Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber), who voted no, called AB 2346 "another intrusion by government into agriculture.''
California lawmakers also gave their final stamp of approval to legislation intended to beef up accounting practices in hopes of avoiding the kind of scandal that engulfed the parks department this year.
Officials revealed in July that parks staffers had failed to report a $54-million surplus even though the state was threatening to close parks amid a budget crisis. An audit revealed loose accounting throughout more than 500 state funds.
The legislation by Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) would require officials to compare the two ledgers used to guide state spending, one prepared by the governor's office, the other by the state controller. The measure is AB 1487.