State Legislature to tackle immigration, fracking in new session
State lawmakers were sworn in to a reshaped Legislature on Monday, with Democrats holding historic two-thirds supermajorities in both houses and the party's leaders calling for investment in public education and infrastructure after years of fiscal retrenchment.
As detailed in Tuesday's Times, legislative leaders ticked off a list of priorities, saying they would move quickly to implement the federal healthcare law and use their new powers to help restore spending to popular social services and curb tuition at public colleges.
Lawmakers also revived two hot topics that fizzled in the last legislative session: immigration and fracking.On Monday, before he had even been sworn in, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) gathered with a group of Democratic lawmakers, religious leaders and immigrant rights advocates to announce the reintroduction of the Trust Act — a proposal to bar local officials from helping federal authorities deport undocumented immigrants unless they have been convicted of, or charged with, a serious or violent felony.
Brown vetoed a similar proposal earlier this year that did not address serious crimes, including child abuse and drug trafficking. Lawmakers said they were committed to making changes and working with the governor on the bill.
Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) and state Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) each introduced legislation to regulate hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, a controversial method of oil extraction that involves injecting chemical-laced water and sand deep into the ground to tap crude. Past proposals died in the face of industry opposition. State regulators are currently drafting rules for fracking.
"The public has a right to know the type of chemicals that are being pumped underground in case there is a leak or contamination," Wieckowski said in a statement. "Our state has done a poor job of collecting this important information and the public is demanding answers."
--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento