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May 30, 2012 | By Michelle Maltais
California is one step closer to banning law enforcement from tapping the data from the tracking device in your palm, pocket or purse without a warrant. The state Senate passed a bill Wednesday that requires a warrant to seek access from wireless carriers to the near-constant data stream coming from our cellphones.  Existing law addresses only the search of places and seizure of property identified in a warrant. There's also a warrant procedure for acquiring stored communications.
June 27, 2013 | By Anthony York
SACRAMENTO -- The state Senate gave final approval to a controversial new tribal casino that divided Democrats and Republicans in Sacramento and could reshape the future of gambling in California. The 22-11 vote, which split members of both parties, will allow the North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians to build a new casino with 2,000 slot machines on a 300-acre parcel just north of Madera in the Central Valley that was once slated to be a NASCAR track. The deal was made possible through a rare federal approval process that allowed the tribe to build on land it has just recently acquired.
May 7, 2013 | By Patrick McGreevy
State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) on Tuesday proposed a plan to significantly increase mental health services in California with the goal of reducing the number of people ending up in prison, jail and emergency rooms. Steinberg said the plan is in response to the Newtown, Conn., school massacre, in which a gunman killed 20 students and six adults, as well as a scandal involving a Nevada hospital dumping patients in other states, and the recent order by a federal court to further cut the number of inmates in California prisons “It's time for action,” he told reporters at the Capitol.
May 20, 2013 | By Patrick McGreevy
Medical marijuana dispensaries that abide by security rules in California would not be subject to local or state prosecution for illegal sales under a measure approved Monday by the state Senate. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) proposed the measure to clarify ambiguous laws on medical marijuana, which was approved for legal use in California by voters in 1996. The current law allowing the sale of medical cannabis has resulted in “needless” arrests and prosecutions, he said.
May 30, 2013 | By Patrick McGreevy
A package of three bills aimed at requiring greater disclosure of political campaign finances in California has been approved by the state Senate. One of the measures passed Wednesday would give the state Fair Political Practices Commission the authority to perform additional audits of campaign funds and would increase fines for violations of disclosure laws. SB 2 also would require television and radio commercials approved by candidates to include a disclosure of that approval. Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance)
February 8, 2013 | By Patrick McGreevy
California may have the toughest gun laws in the country, but lax federal rules make the state vulnerable to people bringing assault rifles and other restricted weapons across the state line, according to a resolution signed  by 21 state senators. The resolution supported by the Senate majority urges President Obama and Congress to adopt a national ban on assault weapons and large ammunition magazines and to require a universal background check for all transfers of firearms. "Because our borders are porous and only a small number of states regulate assault weapons and high-capacity assault magazines, states, like California, that take steps to protect their communities from these weapons are vulnerable to criminals who use those weapons without a comprehensive federal approach to curb gun violence," says the resolution written by state Sen Lois Wolk (D-Davis)
April 10, 2013 | By Patrick McGreevy
A state Senate committee recommended Wednesday that California revoke the tax-exempt status of nonprofit groups including the Boy Scouts of America that do not allow gays and transsexuals to become members. The Senate Governance and Finance Committee voted 5-2 along party lines, with Republicans in opposition, to approve the measure by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), even as one official from the Boy Scouts signaled that a change in policy may be in the works.. "The Boy Scouts provide a critical service for our youth," Lara told the committee.
May 23, 2013 | By Patrick McGreevy
Bills proposing new taxes on oil and soda in California were shelved for the year by a state Senate panel on Thursday, but the measures' authors say they plan to pursue approval of them in January. The Senate Appropriations Committee also kept a hold on a proposed $2-per-pack cigarette tax, but the measure by Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) has an urgency clause so it can still be taken up this summer. “Right now we need to focus on passing the budget," said De León, the panel's chairman.
May 29, 2013 | By Patrick McGreevy
The state Senate approved legislation Wednesday that would strip tax-exempt status from nonprofit groups including the Boy Scouts of America that deny participation of people based on sexual orientation or religion Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said he was glad the Boy Scouts' national council recently decided to allow openly gay minors to serve as Scouts, but said it was unacceptable that the organization did not also lift its ban on adult leaders who are gay. “We've given the Boy Scouts ample time to solve their discrimination problem and they have chosen a path that still leads to discrimination,” Lara told his colleagues.
July 6, 2012 | By Chris Megerian and Ralph Vartabedian, Los Angeles Times
SACRAMENTO - The state Senate authorized initial funding for California's high-speed rail project, handing a victory to Gov. Jerry Brown and the Obama administration, which have been pushing hard for the first-in-the-nation bullet train. It is unclear when construction on the largest infrastructure project in the country can begin; the state still needs a series of regulatory approvals to start the first 130 miles of track in the Central Valley. The plan also faces lawsuits by agriculture interests and potential opposition by major freight railroads.
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