It's a young legislative session in Sacramento, but at least one theme has already emerged: marijuana. Though it's been nearly 20 years since Proposition 215 legalized medical marijuana in California, no framework, like that for regulating alcohol, exists. "Someone said that there's more oversight for lettuce you buy in a grocery store than medical marijuana," said Assemblymember Ken Cooley, an author of a new marijuana bill.
While none introduced so far seek to legalize marijuana for recreational use -- it's widely believed there will be a ballot measure in 2016 to address that -- the bills cover a range of topics, from cultivation to a little-known but surprising medical rule.
Here are brief descriptions of the regulations brewing in Sacramento:
It is morning on the freeway. Rush hour. Your sedan cruises along with the flow of traffic, hitting a whopping top speed of 15 miles per hour.
And then: vroooom!!
A motorcyclist zips by doing 40 mph, inches from your side view mirror.
The rider is partaking of the quasi-legal practice of lane-splitting, riding a motorcycle between cars in adjacent lanes. Though irritating or unnerving to many drivers, lane-splitting is not outlawed in California. While all other states prohibit lane-splitting, the Golden State does not. And though it isn't explicitly permitted, that may change soon.
Riding a bicycle in California is a dangerous prospect. The state holds the dubious distinction of being the most fatal to bicyclists, with 338 deaths between 2010 and 2012. Since most fatal bicycle accidents happen at night, increasing visibility could be the key to increasing safety.
A new bill, AB 28, would mandate that cyclists mount a rear-facing flashing light to their bikes. Rear-facing red reflectors are already required in California, and though a rear light is a good idea embraced by lots of cyclists, many riders don't use them.
"We know that collisions are more frequent at night for cyclists and a lot has to do with riding without lights," said Eric Bruins, policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. On that front, the coalition has tried to encourage riders to use lights. Bruins said educating cyclists was vital.
Los Angeles' voter turnout -- or lack thereof -- has become a defining characteristic of city politics. Apart from what that might say about L.A.'s electorate or its politicians, elections can be a big-money production with little notice: $19 million dollars was spent on the most recent mayoral election, and fewer than 25 percent of L.A.'s 1.8 million eligible voters cast ballots.
Could changing municipal election dates to match state and federal elections, when voter turnout tends to be higher, help Angelenos get out the vote?
That's the idea behind two measures that will appear on the March 3, 2015, ballot. Charter Amendments 1 and 2 would change primary and general election dates from odd-numbered years to even-numbered years, beginning in 2020. If adopted, primary municipal elections would be held in June, and general elections would be held in November of even-numbered years, when those statewide and federal elections are held,
Officials in Lancaster passed a divisive ordinance Tuesday to, in their words, "counteract" the effects of Proposition 47 on their city in northern Los Angeles County.
The city council approved a measure to levy fines for offenses such as shoplifting and receiving stolen property that the November voter initiative reduced from felonies to misdemeanors. The ordinance allows police to issue a $500 ticket for the first offense and a $1,000 ticket for any subsequent offense.
"It is increasingly unlikely that criminal charges will be filed against persons who commit these offenses," said Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris in a statement to the press before the ordinance was passed. "In fact, this new proposition will likely embolden some offenders to repeatedly commit these crimes, putting local residents and businesses particularly at risk."
There is only one more week to register for the March 3 Los Angeles municipal election -- the deadline is Tuesday, Feb. 17. If recent history is any guide, however, many Angelenos will not take part. Fewer than a quarter of L.A.'s 1.8 million eligible voters cast ballots in the most recent election and a paltry 9.5 percent voted in a recent Los Angeles Unified school board special election.
Hence two measures on next month's ballot: both propose changes to city code that proponents say will boost voter turnout.
Measure 1 would change city election dates to even-numbered years, bringing them in line with state and federal elections, when more voters typically turn out. Measure 2 would do the same for Los Angeles Unified School District board elections. The two would go into effect in 2020.