California's Motorcycle Lane-Splitting Proposal Moves Forward

A bill aiming to regulate and clear the gray area surrounding motorcycle lane-splitting could also make California the first state to formally legalize it.

Lane-splitting is when motorcyclists ride between cars during moving or stalled traffic. Although lane-splitting isn't exactly illegal or legal in California, confusion still remains.

AB 51, introduced by assemblymembers Bill Quirk and Tom Lackey, was approved by the Assembly on Thursday and is now expected to head to the Senate, confirmed a spokesperson from the office of assemblymember Lackey.

Assemblymember Lackey told KCET via phone that there is still a lot of ambiguity when it comes to lane-splitting in California, thus causing a greater danger to both motorists and motorcyclists.

Personal Care Products Containing Microbeads Could be Off Shelves by 2020 in California

Everyday products such as toothpaste often contain microbeads, non biodegradable plastic that ends up in oceans, lakes, and rivers.

Plastic microbeads typically found in everyday products such as toothpaste and exfoliating scrubs could soon be swept clean from California shelves by 2020.

Last Friday, the state assembly passed legislation that would ban microbeads -- small pieces of plastic containing the ingredient polyethylene -- from being used in personal care products such as body wash, shampoo, and facial scrubs.

If enacted and passed, AB 888 would be the strongest microbead law in the nation, according to Sue Vang, policy analyst for Californians Against Waste, an environmental advocacy organization that sponsored the California bill.

An individual personal care product can contain as much as 350,000 microbeads, according to Vang. The tiny plastic particles are able to easily escape wastewater treatment facilities and make its way into the stomachs of fish and other animals, while polluting oceans, rivers, lakes, and other ecosystems.

"While we have much more work to do to get AB 888 through the Senate and ultimately signed by Governor Brown, the bill has the potential to become the strongest microbead legislation in the county," a spokesperson for Assemblymember Richard Bloom, the bill's author, wrote in an email. Biodegradable alternatives would include ground apricot shells and cocoa beans -- many of which are already being used by some manufacturers, they added.

'Right to Try Act' Would Make Access to Investigational Drugs Easier

The Right to Try Act would make it easier for patients with terminal illnessness the chance to access investigational drugs.
| Photo: ©iStock.com/K-Kwanchai.

A California bill allowing patients with life-threatening illnesses the chance to try to save their life through the use of unapproved drugs or medical devices has moved forward with bipartisan support on the Assembly floor.

The Right to Try Act, authored by assemblymember Ian Calderon, would permit a manufacturer of an investigational drug to make the option immediately accessible to eligible patients. "The bill removes barriers to accessing potentially life-saving drugs for terminally ill patients and doctors who believe an investigational drug or device could be their last hope for survival," Calderon told KCET via email.

Investigational drugs have not yet been approved by the FDA.

Disability Rights Advocates Call for Budget Increase

Disability rights advocates march to the State Capitol in Sacramento on May 18, 2015, urging lawmakers to increase funding for services and programs for individuals with developmental disabilities.
| Photo: Courtesy The Lanterman Coalition

Disability rights advocates and organizations marched to the State Capitol on Monday to urge California lawmakers to increase the budget for developmental disabilities programs. A 10 percent increase, they said, is a critical need, but only a step in much needed reform after years of cutbacks.

California currently has 21 nonprofit regional centers, serving approximately 280,000 people with developmental disabilities, which includes cerebral palsy, epilepsy, and autism, all which begin before an individual is 18 years old. The regional centers were born out of the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Services Act, which was implemented in 1969, ensuring people with developmental disabilities would be granted the support and equal services they need to live as independently as possible.

Since the 2007 recession, funding for California's Developmental Services System has significantly decreased as caseloads went up.

California's End of Life Option Act Moves Forward

Many patient rights organizations are optimistic that the End of Life Option Act, SB 128, is one step closer to becoming law this legislative session after passing hurdles in the State Senate's Health, Judiciary, and Appropriations committees.

The bill was last placed in a "suspense file" to determine the cost impact the bill would have on the state's general fund. If approved, the bill is expected to reach the Senate floor the first week of June.

Is Public Policy Turning our Cities into Farms, or Letting Them Go Fallow?

This is part of a series of multimedia stories curated through a collaboration between Earthworks Farm and KCETLink. Watch a segment from KCET's "SoCal Connected" and visit the project hub for more information.

In Southern California's endless sprawl of cities, suburbs, and exurbs, it's easy to forget: This was once prime territory for agriculture. Leaving aside water (that would be a separate discussion) the region is ideal -- Mediterranean climate, 12-month growing season, virtually endless space.

It's also easy to forget: plenty of people want to take advantage of those factors to grow herbs, vegetables, and fruit, or keep chickens and goats to sustain their families, and maybe make a profit. Despite that, and despite the region's history as an agricultural powerhouse -- Orange County is not named for colorful sunsets, after all -- piling up a fork with homegrown food is a challenge. Farming doesn't exactly flourish in our cities, certainly not as it did during the days of victory gardens. And it surely doesn't flourish to the extent that urban agriculture advocates and entrepreneurs would like.

And not for lack of interest. Plenty of Southern Californians want to cultivate their backyards and parkway strips, partake in animal husbandry, bake and can in their home kitchens. They would like their children to eat local food in schools and to grow food themselves on campus. California even has an office within the agricultural department called Farm to Fork.

So what stands in the way?

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