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Brown OKs ban on protests near funerals

The measure is among 26 bills the governor signed Monday, along with tighter accounting procedures in state finances.

September 17, 2012|By Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times
  • Gov. Jerry Brown signed a revised ban on protests at funerals that decreased the buffer from 1,000 feet to 300 feet.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a revised ban on protests at funerals that decreased… (Luis Sinco/ Los Angeles…)

SACRAMENTO — Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday to bar protests near funerals, prevent future accounting scandals and provide some legal amnesty to people seeking medical help for drug overdoses.

The measure protecting funerals says protesters on public property must be at least 300 feet from the burial site. Violators could be fined $1,000 or jailed for six months.

The restrictions are a response to protests by the Kansas-based Westboro Baptist Church, whose members have picketed military funerals to say the death of soldiers is punishment for the country's tolerance of homosexuality. They carry signs with slogans such as, "Thank God for dead soldiers."

"We've all been disgusted by hateful protests at military funerals, and that should now be reduced or stopped," said Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), the bill's author.

Brown vetoed similar legislation last year because the U.S. Supreme Court said protesters were protected by the 1st Amendment. Lieu reintroduced the proposal, SB 661, this year with a buffer zone of 300 feet instead of 1,000, which mirrored limits enacted by President Obama in August.

Among the 26 measures Brown signed Monday was AB 1487, intended to head off the type of accounting scandal that embarrassed his administration this year when officials found $54 million hidden in the state parks department.

The bill, drafted by the Assembly Budget Committee, will tighten bookkeeping procedures to make it easier to spot irregularities in state finances.

"By signing this bill, the governor has put stronger, standardized accounting practices in place," Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield (D-Woodland Hills) said in a statement.

Brown also signed AB 472, which allows people to avoid some drug charges when seeking medical attention for themselves or others after overdosing.

"The young friends of those who overdose shouldn't hesitate to seek help because they fear arrest," said Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), the bill's author. "With the governor's signature, they won't have to."

Advocates said California is the 10th state to enact such a law.

Brown has approved dozens of bills in the last week and vetoed several. On Monday, he rejected AB 1657, which would have added a $1 penalty to traffic tickets to fund research on spinal cord injuries.

"Loading more and more costs on traffic tickets has been too easy a source of new revenue," the governor's veto message said. "Fines should be based on what is reasonable punishment, not on paying for more general-fund activities."

The bill's author, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont), criticized the governor's reaction.

"It is reasonable to require irresponsible drivers to pay $1, because we know the No. 1 cause of spinal cord injuries" is traffic accidents, he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, today's veto is a step backward in finding the cure for paralysis."

chris.megerian@latimes.com

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