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California Approves Largest-Ever Budget

The California capitol building is shown in this undated photo.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Above: The California capitol building is shown in this undated photo.

UPDATE: 6:40 p.m., June 15

California Moves To Bar Local Government From Immigrant Detention Contracts

The California state budget package approved Thursday includes a measure that seeks to prevent local jurisdictions from contracting out space for immigrant detention.

Several California cities and counties now sign contracts with federal officials to rent out immigrant detention space, typically in local jails. The budget measure would bar that practice. Existing contracts would stand, but officials could not expand the agreements.

The measure would also give state attorney general power to review conditions at detention facilities.

State Senator Ricardo Lara, a Democrat from Bell Gardens, spoke in favor of the measure:

“California continues to have to stand alone, and demonstrate to the rest of the world and this country that we are a civilized society and that we care about human conditions, regardless of where you come from,” says Lara.

In an emailed statement, U.S. Immigration and Customs officials say if they can’t rent detention space from local governments in California, they’ll find other options. They may need to transfer individuals outside of the state.

Leslie Berestein Rojas / KPCC

UPDATE: 6:37 p.m., June 15

California Approves Largest-Ever Budget

The California Legislature has passed a $125 billion spending plan, its largest-ever budget, Thursday.

In a compromise between Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown, the plan funds much of what the governor had proposed cutting.

"This bill is the culmination of months of consideration, deliberation, and negotiation in the Legislature and with the administration," Senate Budget Chair Holly Mitchell said.

It started with Gov. Brown in January predicting sluggish revenue and scaling back legislative priorities. He planned to slow education funding increases, freeze child care provider rates, and phase out a middle-class college scholarship. Through negotiation and a rosier budget outlook, none of those cuts will occur.

As usual, the budget’s support falls largely along party lines. Senate Republican leader Pat Bates argued new gas and tobacco taxes aren’t used as voters intended.

"A full loaf is what was promised, and we’re giving them a half a loaf," Bates said. "And we should be baking a better loaf."

Once signed by the governor, the new budget takes effect July 1.

CapRadio will provide more updates on the state budget deal throughout the day.

Ben Bradford / Capital Public Radio

UPDATE: 5:22 p.m., June 15

Budget Includes Use Of Tobacco Tax Revenue To Fund Higher Payments For Medi-Cal Providers

California’s increased tobacco tax will fund higher payments for Medi-Cal providers, under a budget deal between Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers.

Gov. Brown had proposed using the funding to backfill rising costs of the Medi-Cal program.

"This is going to make a significant difference." Democratic Sen. Richard Pan said. "Now, are we all the way yet? Can we do more? I would say yes. However, this is a substantial step forward."

Physicians and dentists will receive an extra $465 million for Medi-Cal services, about half the projected tobacco tax revenue.

Republican Sen. Jeff Stone argued it's still not enough to incentivize doctors.

"They lose money on the Medi-Cal population," Stone said. "And as a result, many doctors still will not treat new Medi-Cal patients."

Physician groups argue that voters approved the tobacco tax with the understanding it would pay for increased care.

Ben Bradford / Capital Public Radio

UPDATE: 4:55 p.m., June 15

Budget Deal Aligns State Rules Governing Medical, Recreational Marijuana

As part of the state budget package, California lawmakers passed a bill Thursday to align state rules governing medical and recreational marijuana.

Under Proposition 64 the state faces a Jan. 1 deadline to get the legalized system going.

Democratic Senator Mike McGuire, who helped craft the cannabis legislation, said funding from the bill will be used to develop and implement a "track and trace" program.

"Which we desperately need to be able to be able to track all cannabis-related taxes as well as the product itself," McGuire said. "What I will tell you is, we will not hit that deadline of Jan. 1, 2018, to be able to get all cultivators, all taxpayers in the system."

Republican Assemblyman Tom Lackey is a former California Highway Patrol officer. He's pleased to see the interests of law enforcement reflected in the cannabis legislation.

That includes $3 million in funding for law enforcement training. Lackey argues it's needed to shift the mindset focused on detecting alcohol impairment.

"We are always aware of other forms of impairment but it's predominantly alcohol," Lackey said. "That's what we're very good at. And now we need to progress because the new rising threat is drugs. And how they mix with alcohol. And that's where we need to get better."

Lackey expects the cannabis bill will strengthen the hand of law enforcement against illicit marijuana grows by defining who's "playing by the rules" and who's not.

The cannabis bill now advances to Gov. Jerry Brown, who helped craft the measure and is expected to sign it.

Julia Mitric / Capital Public Radio

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