11th hour frenzy as lawmakers tackle hundreds of bills; Study of Yosemite fire damage; Garibaldi reproduction

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todaysnewsbanner2Legislative frenzy. If sheer volume is your measuring stick, then it’s been a productive year for the state Legislature. Governor Jerry Brown has already signed dozens of bills into law and is considering dozens more. Meanwhile, the Legislature will have to vote on nearly 100 bills a day this week to clear its slate of potential new laws.

One of the most closely watched issues involves prison overcrowding. The Governor and Assembly Speaker John Perez are pushing a bill that would spend more than $300 million to shift thousands of inmates to county jails and private prisons. Senate Democrats have drafted an alternative bill that would increase spending on rehabilitation and diversionary programs to reduce the prison population.

Another hotly debated bill by Agoura Hills Democrat Fran Pavley would establish regulations for hydraulic fracturing – or fracking – in which a mix of water and chemicals are injected into the ground to release oil and natural gas.

There’s also a bill that would gradually raise California’s minimum wage by $2 an hour over five years. And there are several pending bills that stemmed from the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. One would require background checks and permits for people buying ammunition – and another would outlaw the sale of rifles with detachable magazines.

Another bill would levy fines on homeowners in Malibu and other coastal areas who fail to provide beach access. And there’s pending legislation to strip the Boy Scouts and other non-profits of their tax-exempt status if they do not allow openly gay members.

The Legislature wraps up its current session Friday. But because the Jewish holiday Yum Kippur begins that evening, lawmakers will end the session Thursday night. L.A. Times

Rim Fire. Scientists are beginning to assess environmental damage caused by the Rim Fire even as the massive blaze continues to scorch portions of Yosemite National Park. Federal officials say they have put together a team of 50 scientists, more than twice as many than are usually deployed to assess wildfire damage. They hope to have a preliminary report ready in two weeks so remediation can begin before the first winter storms. The fire has burned nearly 400 square miles of forest land. It’s 80 percent contained. The cost of fighting the blaze has reached $89 million. It was started by a hunter who lit an illegal campfire. AP

Pension inflation. California’s biggest public pension system saw retirement payouts for new retirees double between 1999 and 2012 as higher pensions established years ago started taking effect. New CalPERS data analyzed by the Sacramento Bee show state and local police officers and firefighters benefited the most. In the 14 years covered by the data, average first-month pensions to police and firefighters went from a little over $1,700 hundred dollars to almost $5,000. CHP officers’ first-month retirement payments doubled to more than $7,400.

Labor convention. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren told labor leaders that they’ll have to fight “powerful interests” to increase union membership in the years ahead. The Democrat spoke yesterday as the AFL-CIO kicked off its convention in downtown L.A. The convention is held every four years and brings together labor groups and their political allies. Warren received strong labor support in her run for the Senate last year. She said unions are at the forefront of the fight to defend Medicare and Social Security and to stand up for working families. She also called the U.S. Supreme Court a right-wing panel that serves the interest of American corporations. The convention runs through Wednesday. PoliticogaribaldiFish tale. Okay, quick – what’s California’s state marine fish? If you said the Garibaldi, you are correct. Most of us will never see a Garibaldi in the ocean, but there’s good news for people who want to see the bright orange fish in tanks. San Pedro’s Cabrillo Marine Aquarium has discovered a way to dramatically boost Garibaldi reproduction in captivity. The process involves mixing some microscopic nutrients into the diets of newborns. Cabrillo officials say they plan to share the bounty with other aquariums and zoos across the country. In the wild, just two of the roughly five million eggs laid by a female Garibaldi in her lifetime will grow into adults. Despite those long odds, California’s Garibaldi population is stable. L.A. Times