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California news briefs
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SENATE OKS CALIF. ELECTION DAY VOTER SIGN-UP : SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Californians could register to vote any time, including on Election Day, under a bill approved by the state Senate.

Democratic Sen. Ron Calderon of Monterey Park says AB1436 would increase voter participation.

But Sen. Doug La Malfa, a Republican from Willows, says it could encourage voter fraud. He says it will create more work for election officials who have to verify newly registered voters' eligibility in the month following an election.

The bill also increases fines for voter fraud. It would take effect only after the secretary of state begins operating the state's pending VoteCal statewide voter registration database.

The Senate approved the bill Thursday on a 23-13, party-line vote, sending it back to the Assembly for a final vote.

BILL GIVES CALIF. TENANTS MORE FORECLOSURE WARNING: SACRAMENTO  (AP) - More foreclosure warning for tenants has been approved by the state Senate.

Democratic Sen. Loni Hancock of Berkeley says tenants often are unwitting victims when the house they are renting is foreclosed upon. AB2610 would require new owners to give the tenants 90 days' notice, up from the current 60 days.

It has the support of the lending industry as well as consumer groups and passed the Senate 36-0 Thursday.

The bill now goes back to the Assembly for a final vote.

UC, CSU RESEARCH ASSISTANTS WOULD GET UNION RIGHTS: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — A bill approved by the state Senate would give University of California and California State University research assistants the right to collective bargaining.

SB259 by Sen. Loni Hancock, a Berkeley Democrat, was approved 46-27 Thursday.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, a fellow Berkeley Democrat who presented the bill, said it would extend the same rights and benefits enjoyed by teaching assistants to research assistants.

It would affect 14,000 research assistants in the UC system and about 2,000 at CSU schools.

Republicans objected to the bill, which they said would further drive up rapidly rising college costs.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Republican from Twin Peaks, blamed most of the extra cost on benefits and pay for university employees who belong to public employee unions.

BILL LIMITS 'BUY HERE, PAY HERE' VEHICLE SALES: SACRAMENTO  (AP) — California would restrict the operations of "buy here, pay here" auto dealers under a bill approved by the state Senate.

AB1447 would prohibit dealers from forcing buyers to pay installments in person and require them to provide buyers with warranties covering the vehicle for at least 30 days or 1,000 miles.

The bill also would prohibit dealers from installing tracking devices without the buyer's consent.

Those targeted by the legislation deal primarily in used vehicles and offer their own financing. Sen. Ted Lieu says they charge high interest rates and churn vehicles by constantly repossessing and reselling them.

The Senate passed the bill Thursday 22-14, returning it to the Assembly for final action.

BILL WOULD EXPEDITE PIPELINE MAINTENANCE : SACRAMENTO  (AP) — Utility companies will be able to act more quickly to maintain and replace pipelines if a bill approved by the Assembly becomes law.

The legislation, which passed unanimously in the Senate on Thursday, is an attempt to prevent another accident like the pipeline explosion that rocked the San Francisco Bay area community of San Bruno two years ago.

Democratic Assemblywoman Fiona Ma wrote AB2564 after the accident destroyed a neighborhood near her district.

The bill aims to accelerate pipeline maintenance by reducing the amount of environmental review the projects must undergo. It does this by making some short stretches of pipeline exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act.

The bill now moves to the Senate.