By Fenit Nirappil, The Associated Press
Posted: 04/20/14, 11:32 AM PDT |

SACRAMENTO >> Lawmakers return from their spring recess this week focusing on hundreds of bills that have to pass from one house to the other by the end of May, but the most contentious issues will come later.

Among the bills under consideration are several that try to protect health or the environment by banning cigarette sales online, microbeads in cosmetics, mislabeled seafood and unprotected sex in adult films.

Bills shaping up as potentially divisive include SB 1000 by Sen. Bill Monning, D-Carmel, which would require warning labels on sodas and other sugary drinks, and SB 1132 by Democratic Sens. Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles and Mark Leno of San Francisco, which would place a moratorium on fracking for oil and natural gas.

Some already have been shelved, including the state Senate leader’s call for a carbon tax on consumer fuels and a Leno proposal to accelerate minimum wage increases to $11 an hour in 2015 from the $9 an hour level taking effect in July. Democrats want two-thirds majorities in both houses of the Legislature but face the prospect of lower voter turnout within their party this year. Proposals to raise taxes or increase costs to businesses would give fodder to Republicans in an election year.

Against that backdrop, Democratic Sen. Ed Hernandez of West Covina pulled a proposed constitutional amendment that would have reintroduced affirmative action into the college admissions process. The amendment passed the Senate but was pulled from consideration after a furious backlash by Asian-Americans and a reversal of support from some Asian lawmakers. Even though it is no longer on the table for this year, Republicans are using SCA 5 to try to win favor in the Asian community.

One bill that remains alive and is certain to draw partisan opposition is AB 1552 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, which would require employers to offer up to three days of paid sick leave to their workers. It is among the top “job killer” bills identified by the California Chamber of Commerce, an organization that has influence with both political parties.

But Gonzalez says her bill is about providing “bare minimum” labor protections, which are modest compared to previous proposals that would have allowed up to a week of leave. And she said election-year considerations to policymaking are no reason to abandon an issue that she says has broad public support.

“If anything, this a good election-year issue, to be quite honest, because it is so popular among the Democratic base and the people who don’t normally turn out in elections,” Gonzalez said in an interview.

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