Friday, February 16, 2018

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Newtown, San Bernardino, Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs and now Parkland.

Five of the six deadliest mass shootings of the past six years in the United States were all carried out by a gunman wielding an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle.

Now California is stepping in with revived gun legislation targeting people with mental health illnesses.

Assemblyman Evan Low has sponsored a bill that says a person with a documented mental illness will be banned from owning a firearm for life.

“We know, yes, this might be an inconvenience, but it’s for the general welfare of the public,” he said.

Low’s bill would permanently remove any guns from someone who’s confined to a mental facility twice in one year.

Currently, a state program run by the Department of Justice tracks gun owners and allows law enforcement to take away guns from people with mental illnesses.

But could either the current or proposed California laws, if in place, have prevented the Florida shooting?

Probably not.

The suspected shooter, Nikolas Cruz, legally purchased the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle authorities say he used to kill 17 students.

According to law enforcement, Cruz had a disciplinary record at school, but no criminal or mental health record.

“Criminals and insane people will always be able to get guns,” said Sam Paredes, executive director of the Gun Owners of California.

Paredes says a smarter plan would be to ask police officers to check on people who raise red flags at home or at work.

“None of these things that are being proposed require somebody to go in and physically evaluate if someone has a problem,” he said.

There’s no state law on the books for that.

But there is one that gives police and relatives the right to petition a court to temporarily remove guns from a disturbed person.

“We cannot just simply stay status quo,” said Low.

If passed, Low’s bill would not allow the petitioners to return the guns, and many gun owners think that goes too far.

“Many people recover from those types of things,” said Paredes.

“We are focused on pieces of legislation to address this issue at hand, and we must continue to build on these issues,” said Low.

His bill heads its first public safety committee this spring.

It’s one of several new gun measures making its way through the legislature, this year.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Each day, more than 150 million Americans turn to video games to be entertained, to learn a skill or to spend time with family and friends. Without realizing it, they’re also providing a major boost to California’s economy.

Given our dominant positions in both entertainment and technology, it’s not surprising that California is far ahead of other states when it comes to the entertainment software industry. California is home to 27 percent of the domestic gaming industry, with more than 900 companies and 33,000 jobs – seven times as many as our nearest competitor, Texas.

But we cannot afford to get complacent. According to a new Milken Institute report out Tuesday, California’s leadership is under attack from 21 other states and two Canadian provinces, which are rolling out a red carpet of production tax credits, grants and other incentives to lure away companies. Such deals are very appealing in an industry where most companies employ fewer than 30 people.

If we don’t take action soon, we are at risk of losing our competitive edge to states including New York and Massachusetts, Texas and Washington. The Milken study pinpoints several things that California can do:

▪ Adapt California’s existing sales and use tax exemptions to apply to video games.

▪ Expand or revise the state research and development tax credit to boost start-ups and small businesses.

▪ Consider a production-based tax credit for video games if our share of the industry declines.

▪ Train more computer programmers and game developers by strengthening relationships between the industry and colleges

Education and workforce development are vital to maintaining an abundant talent pipeline. California could set itself apart by making changes in the K-12 curriculum to encourage greater interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

California has long been known as the home of innovation. If we are to maintain our leadership position in this important industry, we must take seriously the recommendations of the Milken report and work to ensure California continues to lead the video game sector.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Should California make Election Day a state holiday? What do you think?

South Bay Assemblyman Evan Low introduced AB 21-65 in Sacramento Monday. It would make the day of general elections in November a state holiday.

"It's important that we get as much civic participation as possible and remove as many barriers to entry so we can get a fully engaged electorate," Low said.

In 2014 California saw historically low turnout -- only 42 percent of registered voters took part in the general election.

The most common reason given by people who sat on the sidelines was work or school conflicts. State law currently allows Californians to take up to two hours off from work without losing any pay. If the bill passes, it would take effect in January -- in time for the 2020 election.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

California lawmakers are opening a new front in their war on opiate abuse.

The state had 1,925 opioid-linked overdose deaths in 2016, and thousands of emergency room visits. As documented by The Sacramento Bee’s Claudia Buck last year, the number of babies born affected by drugs has nearly doubled over seven years to more than 3,630 in 2015, according to data from state public health officials.

On Tuesday, the chairman of the Assembly Business and Professions Committee will hold a hearing to explore ways the state can leverage its status as the cradle of technology to take on the opioid addiction crisis. Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low and his colleagues have offered a slate of proposals to address physician over-prescribing and other culprits.

“The opioid crisis has destroyed lives and devastated families,” Low said ahead of the hearing. “It is our obligation to implement solutions to the opioid crisis and have informed discussions with experts in the field about the challenges and tools at our disposal.”

Planned speakers include Dr. Karen Smith, director of the California Department of Public Health; Dr. Kelly Pfeifer, California Health Care Foundation; Tina Farales of the Attorney General’s office; Brian Clifford from the Department of Consumer Affairs; Virginia Herold, California Board of Pharmacy; and Kimberly Kirchmeyer, Medical Board of California.

The hearing, at 9 a.m. in Room 4202, also will look at the state database that tracks prescriptions for Schedule II, III, and IV controlled substances.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

A state lawmaker wants to mandate a lifetime ban on possessing firearms by some Californians suffering from severe mental health issues, saying it may help reduce the number of suicides.

A bill by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) would apply to some of those judged by the courts to be a risk to themselves and others who are approved for an involuntary 5150 hold for mental health treatment.

Currently, those people have their firearms taken away for five years, but psychiatric facilities often petition afterward for the guns to be returned, Low said.

The assemblyman’s bill would permanently remove the firearms of a person who has been placed on a 5150 hold twice in one year. It would also prohibit psychiatric facilities from filling out petition forms on a former patient’s behalf to have the guns returned.

“People at risk of harming themselves or others should not have easy access to firearms,” Low said in a statement. “Research shows that suicide with a firearm is the most common and by far the most lethal suicide method. Just having a firearm in the home is a strong predictor for gun suicide.”

The legislation is supported by the California District Attorneys Assn., according to Amador County Dist. Atty. Todd Riebe, the group’s president.

“AB 1968 gives prosecutors more time to access and review information that is critical to our ability to thoroughly vet and defend against petitions submitted by individuals who may pose such a risk,” Riebe said.

Monday, January 29, 2018

SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) — A Bay Area legislator says that whoever California’s next governor turns out to be, housing must stay on top of the state’s priority list.

Catherine Heenan is here with more on our exclusive interview with Assemblyman Evan Low.

Click the link below to see Catherine’s full interview.

Friday, January 19, 2018

A forum on gun safety reform will take place at Saratoga's Westhope Presbyterian Church Jan. 20, featuring Assembly members Evan Low and Marc Berman, along with Rev. Erik Swanson and Saratoga Vice Mayor Manny Cappello.

Like most everyone else, the Rev. Erik Swanson watched the grisly scene of a gunman opening fire at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas last October in horror. The murder spree left nearly 60 people dead and more than 500 injured. In the days following what was deemed the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S., Swanson’s horror turned into frustration. How could something like that happen in a developed nation?

Swanson, a pastor at Westhope Presbyterian Church, didn’t have the answers himself, but he knew it was a problem he could no longer ignore and he had to do something about it. His first move was to call Manny Cappello, vice mayor of Saratoga.

“Erik Swanson contacted me and asked if there was something that we could do to address this big problem, and I said that a really good person to contact would be (Assemblyman) Evan Low because I knew he’d been proposing legislation at the state level that could address some of these issues,” Cappello recalled.

Low said he was “pleasantly surprised” to be approached by Swanson and Cappello about this issue. One piece of legislation he and his colleagues in the Assembly are exploring, he said, would create a database allowing law enforcement to track bullets and weapons that have been used in a crime. He cited the legislation as an example of sensible firearm regulation, a position that respects individuals’ freedom to own firearms, while focusing on the impact of gun violence on communities and preventing future tragedies.

“We talk about our commitment to society and the sanctity of life,” said the assemblyman, “(but) places of gathering are no longer sacred anymore. You’re thinking you’ll be safe in an elementary school; you’re thinking you’re safe in a movie theater, in a nightclub, in a house of worship. … There have been mass shootings in nightclubs, in churches, in movie theaters, in elementary schools. … When does it end?

“We need community members to hold their elected officials accountable” Low continued. “My message is I’m only one person; we need to organize our communities to articulate what our desires are.”

Along with Assemblyman Marc Berman, Low, Swanson and Cappello are uniting to host a forum at Westhope on Saturday, Jan. 20 to address these issues. Also taking part will be about two dozen members of the interfaith community.

Low said he plans to bring up regulations that are already in place and to draw comparisons to successful measures other industrialized nations, such as Australia, have taken.

Ultimately, said Swanson, the intended goal of the forum is “to establish a foundation from the grassroots to make changes in sensible firearms safety legislation, some of which are already being worked on and some of which has yet to be worked on.”

Swanson said he hopes that the forum will serve as the first step in an ongoing dialogue about gun safety reform, while Cappello said he’d like to see a continued collaboration between faith communities and the key players in Sacramento.

“The urgency is there to see some real legislation take place that curbs these types of violent acts that lately feel like acts of mass destruction on human life,” Cappello said. “My personal opinion is that this isn’t a restriction on guns for individuals or inhibiting our citizens’ constitutional rights to bear arms; this is more of a putting some pieces of legislation in place that can prevent these very, very violent and destructive acts from occurring.”

For Berman, the forum will be an opportunity not only to discuss his own ideas but to hear solutions others might have about what he considers to be an “all hands on deck problem.” Dialogue and mobilization are important steps toward passing laws on the federal and state levels, he said.

“This has to be an ongoing conversation, and we need to make sure people’s awareness of the problem stays at the forefront of their consciousness,” he said. “We can’t just have spikes of activism every time there’s a large gun-related catastrophe. We need to stay vigilant about this issues at all times.”

The forum is free and open to all. It will take place Saturday, Jan. 20, 3-4:30 p.m. at Westhope Presbyterian Church, 12850 Saratoga Ave.