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Farmworker overtime bill headed for Brown's desk

SACRAMENTO -- California farmworkers would receive the same overtime pay benefits enjoyed by workers in other industries under a measure approved by the state Senate on Monday and sent to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The bill would accord farm laborers overtime for working more than eight hours in a day or more than 40 hours in a week. Under existing law, they receive overtime only if they work more than 10 hours in a day or 60 hours in a week.

"This measure provides the same protections for farmworkers that other employees have long been entitled to," said Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, who spoke in favor of the bill as senators debated it.

The United Farm Workers union requested the legislation, by Assemblyman Michael Allen, D-Santa Rosa.

Republicans objected to the measure, saying it could hurt workers rather than help them; for example, if farm owners decided to add an extra shift of workers or use mechanical harvesting devices rather than pay more overtime.

"It's a wrong-headed measure. It doesn't really help the agricultural workers who want to get the time in and return to their families," said Sen. Doug La Malfa, R-Richvale, a rice farmer, as lawmakers argued over the bill, AB 1313.

The Senate also passed a measure Monday that would allow minors sentenced to life in prison without parole to have their sentences reduced.

The bill's author, state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, a child psychologist, said many minors lack the judgment to make good decisions and should have a pathway to release once they are rehabilitated.

"What this bill will do is provide youngsters who are in prison for the rest of their lives . . . a second chance at life," Yee said during a heated floor debate.

The bill would apply to about 300 prisoners who committed their crimes when they were younger than 18. After at least 15 years in prison, the offenders would be able to ask the court that originally sentenced them to allow parole after they have served 25 years.

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