Gov. Brown signs bills, some still wait

October 6, 2011 11:55:21 PM PDT
Smuggling cellphones into prisons has been a big problem, but Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that he hopes will "breakup the expanding criminal network that uses those devices from jail cells."

After prison guards confiscated more than 10,000 contraband cellphones in state prisons so far this year, including two from notorious killer Charles Manson, Brown gave hints last week he wanted to crackdown on the out-of-control problem.

"We have individuals who are dedicated to their gang membership, who order people to be killed, who order crimes to be committed on the outside," said Brown on Sept. 29.

The governor signed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor to smuggle a cellphone into state prison, whether it'd be an employee or visiting family member. He even issued an executive order to move ahead with technology that blocks incoming and outgoing calls and messages from unauthorized cellphones.

"The message to inmates is it's no longer going to be tolerated. We're going to get the phones out of the system and I think the safety of staff, inmates and the public is going to be increased," said Scott Kernan, from the California Corrections under secretary.

Despite calls from opponents that say fingerprinting helps detect possible fraud, the governor signed another bill making it easier to get food stamps by no longer requiring fingerprinting during the application process.

California had one of the lowest food stamp participation rates in the country at 50 percent and advocates for the poor say fingerprinting was a major hurdle. Current recipients believe relaxing eligibility will feed more people.

"We got to think about the children too. We go to think about feeding the children. We got a lot of hungry people out here and mothers need that help," said Genesis Robinson, a food stamp recipient.

And the governor sided with women, signing legislation forcing health insurance companies to cover maternity care. Nearly three million Californians are enrolled in plans that don't provide it.

"There's a tremendous gap there that provides an inequity for women and I believe it's discriminatory for women not to have this coverage," said Assm. Roger Hernandez, D-San Gabriel Valley.

The deadline is Sunday. Obviously the governor is waiting until the very last minute to act on some controversial bills, including bans on tanning beds for minors and shark fins for soup.


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