Capitol in brief

October 11, 2013 

Brown signs ban on felony question on job applications

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill that bans government employers from asking job applicants about their criminal record until later in the hiring process, effectively extending the state’s policy to some 6,000-plus local and regional government agencies in California.

Assembly Bill 218, by Sacramento Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, requires public employers to assess an applicant’s minimum qualifications before asking about conviction history.

Practically speaking, that means removing the check-box questions that ask, “Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”

Once the law takes effect on July 1, 2014, employers will have to wait to inquire about a job candidate’s criminal past. Applications and initial interviews for jobs that by law require a conviction background check, such as police officers, are exempt.

At least a half-dozen states have similar laws, according to the National Employment Law Project.

Local governments and coalitions, including the California State Association of Counties and the California District Attorneys Association, opposed the measure.

Jon Ortiz, Bee Capitol Bureau

Governor puts bond for veterans housing on ballot

California voters will decide next June whether the state should restructure $600 million in bonds to help build apartments and houses for low-income veterans, under legislation Gov. Jerry Brown signed Thursday.

If approved by voters, Assembly Bill 639, by Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez, D-Los Angeles, will shift $600million in unused bonding authority from Proposition 12, which voters approved in 2008 to provide money for home loans to veterans, to pay for the program.

“After veterans serve our country, it’s our duty to serve them,” Brown said in a prepared statement after signing the legislation in San Diego.

The funding shift would leave the state with about $530million in bonds for its existing home loan program.

The bill was one of 13 veteran-related bills the Democratic governor announced signing Thursday. Assembly Bill 556, by Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, will add “military and veteran status” to the categories protected from discrimination under the Fair Employment and Housing Act.

David Siders, Bee Capitol Bureau

California won’t spend money on national parks

Citing California’s own precarious financial position, officials said Thursday that the state would not spend its own money to reopen national parks closed by the federal government shutdown.

Earlier Thursday, the Department of Interior said states were welcome to pay federal salaries to reopen national parks, such as Yosemite, that have been closed by the federal budget stalemate. But H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the state Department of Finance, said California is in no position to do that.

The state’s budget already has been affected by the federal shutdown, which has cut off numerous revenue sources for government operations and undermined local taxes generated by tourists drawn to the national parks.

“When we passed the budget in June, it was balanced by a very narrow margin,” Palmer said. “There are a number of risks to that budget that could move it in the wrong direction.”

In addition, he said, even if the state spent its own money to reopen national parks, there is no guarantee it would be reimbursed by the federal government.

“It’s just unfortunate, because the communities around the national parks in California ... are feeling an immediate impact in things like canceled reservations,” Palmer said.

Matt Weiser

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