2-Minute Preview: Sin taxes, penalties for prostitution and crimes against the elderly

It’s day 45 of the Legislature, and lawmakers are slated to hear bills on sin taxes, penalties for prostitution, crimes against the elderly and more.

Here are the highlights for today:

Sin taxes and safe heroin

After it failed to gain traction during the Republican-controlled 2015 legislative session, Democratic Sen. Tick Segerblom is back with another version of a bill that would raise taxes on liquor, cigarettes and gaming licenses to help fund treatment for people struggling with substance abuse.

The bill increases the taxes on the following products:

  • Malt beverages from 16 cents to 24 cents per gallon
  • Liquor with less than 14 percent alcohol from 70 cents to $1.05 per gallon
  • Liquor with an alcohol content between 14 and 22 percent from $3.60 to $5.40 per gallon
  • Liquor with more than 22 percent alcohol from $3.60 to $5.40 per gallon
  • Cigarette packs from $1.80 to $2.40
  • Increase gaming license fee by one quarter of 1 percent

The measure would also create a state account for substance abuse in the state’s main budget account and require the director of the Department of Corrections to appoint a position overseeing offenders who are drug or alcohol abusers. Additionally, it would create a four-year pilot program for heroin-assisted treatment, a “supervised injectable heroin treatment” designed to wean heavy users off the drug.

Segerblom’s bill would place $65 million toward the substance abuse program and another $10 million toward the heroin pilot program.

Watch the hearing at 3:30 p.m. in Senate Health and Human Services.

Stiffer penalties for prostitution

Republican Assemblywoman Jill Tolles’s prostitution and sex trafficking bill is up for a hearing on Wednesday.

The legislation, AB260, would impose stiffer penalties for those soliciting prostitutes for money depending on whether it is their first, second or third offense. First offenses would be misdemeanors with a fine of not less than $400, with subsequent offenses punishable by an escalating $800 and then $1,300 fine and misdemeanor.

It would also require courts to impose civil penalties on someone who is guilty of solicitation and mandates that the money collected be used to enforce crimes related to prostitution and for programs to treat people who solicit prostitution. The attorney general will also be required to appoint a Committee on Prostitution and Human Trafficking, which would adopt regulations for the evaluation, certification and monitoring of treatment programs for first-time offenders, according to the bill text.

The legislation would also allow justices of the peace or municipal judges to suspend the sentence of someone convicted of misdemeanor solicitation for prostitution on the condition that he/she actively participate in a treatment program and comply with any other conditions ordered by the judge.

The bill will be heard at 8 a.m. in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Payments for crimes against the elderly

Republican Sen. Becky Harris wants to create a restitution account for crimes against the elderly and appropriate $250,000 to it.

Her bill, SB278, would require the court administrator to make an advance payment equal to one-third of the required restitution or $2,500, whichever is less, from the account to an elderly person who is a victim of abuse, neglect, exploitation, isolation, abandonment or other crimes. The elderly individual would pay the amount back into the account if restitution is paid in full and, if not, for the restitution to be deducted by the Department of Corrections or the Division of Parole and Probation from any accounts they maintain on behalf of the convicted person required to pay the restitution.

The legislation makes a number of additional changes regarding restitution to elderly individuals. It will be heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee at 1:30 p.m.

Mandatory schooling for five-year-olds

All five-year-olds may soon be required to enroll in and attend school.

Democratic Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz’s bill, AB186, would lower the age at which kids are required to attend school from seven to five, with kids who are five on or before September 30 of a school year admitted to kindergarten and those four on or before that date to be admitted to prekindergarten.

The legislation also requires that the board of trustees of each school district to establish, equip and maintain a prekindergarten education program in each elementary school or school attendance area in the district.

Watch the hearing in the Assembly Education Committee at 3:15 p.m.