It's that time of year again. The season for quickie news stories proclaiming one new law or another. With the legislative deadline coming at the end of the month for bills to get out of the Legislature, we will be seeing plenty more in the next few days. In fact, I'll be on KALW's Your Call on Sept. 2 at 10AM to talk about a few of the noteworthy bills. But before we get there, let's take a look at a few already on the move.
Senate Bill 270 by Senators Padilla, de León and Lara, passed off the California State Assembly Floor yesterday on a 44-29 vote, after falling three votes short of passage earlier this week.
The bill now advances to the State Senate for final confirmation where it is expected to be taken up before the legislature adjourns on August 31.
"The State Assembly spent a great deal of time debating the merits of this issue over the last several months, and especially this week," said Mark Murray, Executive Director of the bill's sponsor, Californians Against Waste. "In the end, it was the reports of overwhelming success of this policy at the local level that overcame the political attacks and misinformation from out-of-state plastic bag makers."
Moving to community colleges, you may have heard a bit about the mess that was CCSF's accreditation process. Earlier this week, the accreditation commission had to acknowledge, after their attorneys failed to properly redact the information, that they did not take the recommendation of their site visit committee. That committee recommended probation, rather than the far more harsh "show cause" status. That set alarm bells off across the City and state, with the SF City Attorney suing the commission and a new law:
A bill that seeks to make the accreditation system for California's 112 community colleges more transparent landed on the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown this week after receiving unanimous support from the state Senate and Assembly.
Brown has until Sept. 30 to veto or sign into law Assembly Bill 1942, which would require an accrediting agency to report accreditation decisions to the Legislature, such as last summer's vote by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges to revoke City College of San Francisco's accreditation.(SF Examiner)
One of the biggest complaints about the SF situation has been the fact that the commission has been so opaque. Few could actually understand the process, partially because they intentionally tried to make it that way. This bill, approved unanimously in both chambers, is a good step forward.
Finally, on the "sharing economy" front, Uber and Lyft dropped their objections to AB 2293, Asm. Bonilla's insurance requirement bill. Bonilla dropped the requirement for drivers without paying customers to $200,000 from $500,000 while keeping the requirement at $1million when passengers are in the car. Without the objections from two sharing companies, the bill should sail through the Governor's office.
The Assembly passed Sen. Kevin de León's SB967 yesterday, requiring two-sided affirmative consent on college campuses.
A bill doing so, SB967, passed the Assembly on a 52-16 vote Monday as states and universities across the U.S. are under pressure to change how they handle rape allegations. It now heads back to the Senate for what is expected to be a final vote on amendments.
The bill by state Sen. Kevin De Leon, D-Los Angeles, changes the definition of consent for campuses investigating sexual assault cases by requiring "an affirmative, unambiguous and conscious decision" by each party to engage in sexual activity. That marks a shift from the popular sexual-assault prevention refrain, "no means no." (CBSLA)
With rising awareness of sexual assaults across the country, this is a positive step forward. While opponents have tried to belittle this as something out of an awkward high school health class video, the truth is far from that. Sure, date rape drugs are already illegal, but in an environment like a college campus, information is key. You can't always get into the head of a college freshman, but this legislation makes that two-way disclosure a greater part of the conversation.
Gov. Brown signed Sen. Leno's SB 962 today addressing the growing epidemic of smartphone theft in California. SB 962 requires all smartphones sold in California to come pre-equipped with theft-deterring technological solutions to render the devices useless if stolen. The bill is the first of its kind in the nation prompting every consumer to enable a kill switch as the default setting during the initial setup of a new smartphone. Sen. Leno then went full Colbert in his assesment of the bill:
"California has just put smartphone thieves on notice," said Senator Leno, D-San Francisco. "Starting next year, all smartphones sold in California, and most likely every other state in the union, will come equipped with theft deterrent technology when they purchase new phones. Our efforts will effectively wipe out the incentive to steal smartphones and curb this crime of convenience, which is fueling street crime and violence within our communities."
On a more serious side, this bill, in some ways, is just legislating what has been happening already. However, many lower end phones may not have seen this feature for several years. It isn't any huge issue to add it at this point, but this makes it the law in the state. And because this is California, phone makers will just end up making all phones comply with this law.
This was quite a controversial bill, but ultimately, Leno and SF DA George Gascón built a coalition that could get this law passed. It is a big step in not only protecting property, but also encouraging public safety in general.
California leaders agree to $3M for legal aid for undocumented children
While three million dollars is really just a drop in the bucket for the the many undocumented children and their legal expenses, it sends a strong statement:
Gov. Jerry Brown, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Legislative leaders announced legislation Thursday that sets aside the money for non-profits that provide legal help to unaccompanied minors currently in California.
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"These young people have legal rights and responsibilities, but they cannot fully participate in complex immigration proceedings without an attorney," Harris said. "It is critical that these children, many of whom are fleeing extreme violence in Central America, have access to due process and adequate legal representation." (SF Chronicle / Melody Gutierrez)
While Rick Perry is sending the national guard to the border, California leaders are doing what they can to help these children. It is a positive step, and shows that America (and California specifically) is still a caring nation.
Measures draw ire of health insurance companies and doctors
by Brian Leubitz
The Field Poll has been doing a study of health care issues with the California Wellness Foundation, and today they released their numbers on the two health care related measures on the ballot. (Poll summary)
As you can see from the numbers to the right, the health insurance companies aren't that popular. As you can see if you look a bit higher to the right, they are starting to spend on advertising. Their basic argument is that Prop 45 has some issues with possibly conflicting with Covered California. You can find lots of reports on both sides, and it is still something of an open question. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says that his office can easily handle the rate review process in the allotted period of time, and if he is right, then there shouldn't be a problem. However, expect to see a lot of TV ads, mostly from the NO side.
On Prop 46, the malpractice limit is one of those issues that has split the Democratic party. Now, I have made my thoughts perfectly clear on MICRA, you can go back nearly five years when I wrote my first post on it, and I have further discussed it since. MICRA is great for malpractice insurance companies, because they get to keep hiking rates on doctors while their costs are controlled. But it is bad public policy.
Prop 46, though, has another element meant to curb substance abuse in doctors, and the terrible ramifications that has. That component has angered doctors and civil liberty groups, but has been popular with voters. All in all, the numbers are pretty healthy for the time being.
That being said, the opponents of Prop 46 have a lot of money, and will be using it this fall.
Prop 47, a sentencing reform measure, is good policy. However, it stands a decent shot of passage. There isn't any big money opposed to this yet, but there is still time, I suppose.
Candidates for Governor will face off on Sep 4 in LA
by Brian Leubitz
Neel Kashkari has been lobbying for a debate with Governor Brown for a while. It's the typical challenger stuff, claiming he was dodging, or chicken, yada, yada. But for a position as large as Governor of California, a debate is a worthwhile use of everybody's time. Once you strip away all the BS, hopefully we can have a productive conversation. And that conversation will happen on September 4 in Los Angeles.
Kashkari had challenged Brown to 10 debates, but until now, Brown had brushed off that proposition. Most polls show Brown leading Kashkari by about 20 points, and last month the governor told reporters he "hadn't made up (his) mind" as to whether or not he'd debate the former U.S. Treasury Department official.
But both Brown and Kashkari campaigns have now agreed to the September debate, which will be produced by KQED, the Los Angeles Times, the California Channel and Telemundo California. KQED's senior California politics and government editor, John Myers, will moderate the one-hour forum. Journalists from the Los Angeles Times and Telemundo will ask the candidates questions as well. (KQED / Scott Detrow)
Yes, Brown is leading, and it would take some sort of monumental change for Kashkari to get close to the Governor in the vote total. But this should be an interesting chance to hear two perspectives on the state. Brown has a strong record these last four years, but maybe Kashkari can at least try to drag his party into something approaching respectability over these last two and a half months.
A City Council veto override on Monday has set the scene for a showdown between local and national business interests vs. a labor-community coalition over San Diego's Earned Sick Day / Minimum Wage ordinance.
Following months of public hearings and invitations (mostly declined) for local businesses to hammer out a compromise, the city council passed an ordinance providing access to five earned sick days and setting a local minimum wage increasing to $11.50 over three years.
This action makes San Diego the largest city in the nation to raise the minimum wage.
Mayor Kevin Faulconer--said to be one of the bright new faces in the GOP-- then turned thumbs down on the bill on Friday, August 8th. Although the council was slated for vacation for the rest of the month, a special session was called by president Todd Gloria. The 6-2 vote upholding the ordinance surprised nobody.
It didn't take but a few hours before a well-financed Chamber of Commerce-led group announced it would be collecting signatures to force a referendum on the ordinance, hoping to suspend (until the June, 2016 elections) an increase in pay for an estimated 172,000 local workers, along with denying access to earned sick days to 279,000 individuals.
They have 30 days to gather at least 33,866 valid signatures; National Petition Management has been reportedly hired to do the dirty work. If they fail to make that threshold, the first stage of the wage hikes will go into effect in January with an increase for local minimum-wage workers from $9 an hour to $9.75.
Decline to Sign Campaign
Funded by national restaurant chains and some of California's biggest donors to Mitt Romney, the Chamber's "Small Business Coalition" (managed by the right-wing Revolvis political consultancy) is facing off against Raise Up San Diego, which has called for a citywide decline to sign campaign, simply called "Don't Sign It," to defeat the referendum against the ordinance.
This attempt at forcing a referendum will be the fourth big dollar effort at overturning council-enacted legislation in the last two years orchestrated by conservative business interests who've long been used to getting their way in local government.
As San Diego has faded from being a solidly Republican town to having a Democratic majority among registered voters, the business as usual crowd has turned to well-financed misinformation campaigns run by right wing spin-doctors.
And until now they've been on a winning streak, enabled by local media either owned by financiers of these campaigns or incapable of reporting on issues outside the framing provided by the Chamber of Commerce and their allies.
Told, Sold and Lied To
Over the past two years San Diegans have been told, sold and lied to about:
**requiring impact statements on big box store construction,
**reinstating a linkage fee (tied to affordable housing funding) suspended for nearly two decades on big construction projects,
**and creating a barrier between residential and industrial projects in the neighborhood with the highest asthma rate in the state
Each campaign has used numbers pulled out of a bodily orifice to create the impression that people's job's would be in danger. The last campaign even went so far as spread stories about the US Navy (a major local employer) pulling out of town.
The local daily newspaper is owned by "Papa" Doug Manchester, known for his financial support of right-wing causes. He was a backer for Dinesh D'Souza's smear-o-mentary, 2016: Obama's America.
The Sunday edition of UT-San Diego featured a "news" story giving opponents of the increase major play.
This time around, the Chamber types, hiding behind the 'money is free speech' notion, are out to claim they are the defenders of democracy. They are saying the referendum is needed since the City Council passed this ordinance without putting it up for a public vote.
It's Orwellian beyond Orwellian; Big Money is trying to play the pity card because the City Council did the job voters elected them to do. And they're claiming the "decline to sign' campaign is a plot by labor bullies to harass business.
The Raise Up San Diego coalition is taking a stand on this issue. Two-thirds of voters - 63%, according to a recent Greenburg Quinlan Rosner Research poll - support the Earned Sick Days and Minimum Wage Ordinance.
When you have a local oligarchy capable of throwing hundreds of thousands of dollars or more on the table everytime they see something they don't like, it becomes harder and harder to persuade people to vote in local elections.
Bond includes additional storage money from Governor's previous $6B proposal
by Brian Leubitz
It is a rare day in California when our Republicans are pushing for additional debt, but that is exactly what happened in the negotiations surrounding the water bond. The Legislature was pushing up against the deadline to replace the old, larger water bond on the ballot, everybody wanted to put a slimmer package on the ballot, and wanted it to pass. So, huzzah, here we are: a 2/3 majority for a bond package.
A slew of last minute changes wrought during a marathon negotiating session were key to winning support from Republican and Central Valley lawmakers who had threatened to block the bond unless it increased funding for reservoirs as the state struggles through a third devastating year of drought. The bill needed their support to muster the two-thirds majority needed to pass.
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More than a third of the bond -- $2.7 billion -- is dedicated to construction of dams, reservoirs and other water storage solutions. Projects to protect and restore rivers, lakes and watersheds will get $1.5 billion, or close to 20 percent of the package.
The bond will also allocate $900 million to groundwater cleanup and sustainability, $810 million to drought preparedness, $725 million for water recycling, $520 million to cleanse some small communities' drinking water supply and $395 million for flood management.(SJ Merc)
This package could certainly be better, and we could do more to encourage conservation, but it has become clear that we need to overhaul our water infrastructure for several years now. And fortunately, this bond is "tunnel neutral" with no mention of the politically charged fight to route water around the Bay Delta.
So, if this passes, expect to see some more dam construction. Hopefully with more modern equipment than in this photo of the construction of Don Pedro Dam in 1924.
Contact Your Assemblymember to let them know you support clean elections
by Brian Leubitz
Disclosure can't cure all that ails our political system. The problems run way deeper than that. But, given the tools we have available under the system the Supreme Court has given us, it is the best we can do for now. SB 52, the California DISCLOSE Act, would make voters aware who is really paying for those ads they are seeing. Specifically, the measure would do the following:
Requires the three largest funders of political ads to be clearly identified for five seconds at the beginning of the ads, so voters know who is actually paying for them.
Applies to all television ads, radio ads, print ads, mass mailers, online ads, billboards, and websites for or against state and local ballot measures, to third party ads for and against state and local candidates, and to issue advocacy advertisements. It applies whether ads are paid for by corporations, unions, or millionaires.
Tells voters where to find the details - Requires ads to list a website that prominently lists the ten largest funders and a link to all funders of $10,000 or more (for state races).
Proposed Follow-the-Money Disclosure will require organizations that spend or transfer politically-available funds to report the actual original corporate, union, or individual contributors - not misleading committee and non-profit names.
Now, with some labor organizations pulling their support, the future of the bill is in question. Today might be a good day to let your Assemblymember know how you feel about disclosure.
As we get closer to the end of the California legislative session, you see a lot more corporate types in fancy suits roaming in and around the Capitol. The goal? Stamp out worker-friendly bills. Near the top of their hit list this year is AB 1522, an effort authored by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez to allow all California workers to earn a few desperately needed paid sick days on the job.
In most other countries, this isn't a controversial notion. 136 countries around the world have national laws that all workers to earn paid sick days. Most modern economies have made paid sick leave a basic workplace right because when workers are forced to go to a workplace when they're sick, everyone from consumers to workers to businesses is put at risk.
State Controller John Chiang today released his monthly cash report covering California's for July. Total revenues for the first month of Fiscal Year 2014-15 totaled $5.4 billion, beating estimates in the Budget Act by $231.9 million, or 4.5 percent.
"Even though July is usually a weak revenue collection month, the new fiscal year is off to a strong start," Chiang said. "While the State plans to borrow operating funds through revenue anticipation notes, the $2.8 billion needed solely for smoothing out the timing of revenues is at the lowest level since the 2006-07 fiscal year. If we can continue to reduce short- and long-term debts, we can continue to improve our fiscal condition."
Something of a trifecta occurred, with sales, corporate and income tax collections beating estimates and coming in higher than the prior year. Income tax collections for the month of July came in $244.9 million, or 6.4 percent, above estimates. Corporate taxes topped estimates by $38.1 million, or 13.5 percent. Sales taxes also beat estimates by $36 million, or 4.1 percent.
The State ended the last fiscal year on June 30 with a positive cash balance for the first time since June 30, 2007. That means the State had funds available to meet all of its payment obligations without needing to borrow from Wall Street or the $23.8 billion available in its more than 700 internal special funds and accounts.
To be clear, there is still a lot of work to be done on our economic recovery. We still have far too many long-term unemployed Californians as well as many of the new job development being in low-paying service sector jobs. And then there is the long-term question of revenue stability and what we do when Prop 30 sunsets in a few years.
All that being said, it is nice to have enough money to pay your bills.
Alameda County finally reported their raw signature count! According to Friday's update from the SoS, they had 51,366 raw signatures (a collection rate of 6.4%, the same as the state average), bringing the total raw signature count up to 1,134,746. We're still waiting for Amador, Inyo, and Trinity to report in, but with only 37,771 registered voters among them, I doubt they'll contribute more than 2500 signatures to the raw count.
Also in today's update are San Francisco's random sample results. They had a validity rate of 73.7%, bringing the overall validity rate back up to 66.8%. That gives a projection (as of today) of 758,010 valid signatures, not enough to qualify for a full count. (Throwing in my estimate of 2500 raw signatures from the remaining three counties only adds another 1670 signatures, still not enough to get a full count.)
In my previous report I discussed the concept of margin of error, so today I calculated it. If a county has a raw count of R, a sample size of S, and a projected validity rate of P (converting the percentage figure to a decimal fraction), then I calculated the margin of error in signatures as R*sqrt(P*(1-P)/S). (Of course, if S is the same as R, as it is for Alpine, Modoc, and Mono counties, the margin of error is zero.) For example, Kings County had 3,187 raw signatures, a sample size of 500, and a projected validity rate of 0.762. That means the margin of error on the projected 2,428 signatures is 61 signatures (about 2.5%).
For better or worse, Jerry Brown's water bond from yesterday is still the leading candidate to replace what is tentatively scheduled to be on the ballot as Prop 43. But a coalition, mainly culled from the environmental community, has another plan:
The coalition has identified priority projects that would improve water security for all Californians, ensure fiscal responsibility in allocating bond funds and eliminate the special interest investments that are driving up costs in the bond proposals put forward to date.
The proposal corrects two major deficiencies in other proposals, including the governor's just-released bond outline. First, it requires accountability and competitiveness for use of taxpayers' funds. In contrast, one-third of the governor's proposal would be handed over to unaccountable political appointees for distribution.
Second, the coalition proposal is truly neutral on the big tunnels that would remove water from the San Francisco Bay Delta. It does not include taxpayer subsidies proposed by the governor to buy water that would be diverted from rivers and streams to special interests.
Friends of the River, the League of Women Voters of California, Planning and Conservation League and Sierra Club California worked together to draft the alternative bond outline. The coalition's plan ensures that residents in all parts of the state would benefit proportionally from the bond. It addresses water quality and water availability in both urban and agricultural communities.
Now, the big stumbling block of any deal would be to get the couple of Republican votes to replace Prop 43. That is easier said than done, with Republicans wanting more money (in the $3B range) spent on storage than even the Governor is requesting ($2B-ish). This plan calls for $1B in storage, with a much heavier emphasis on conservation.
Clearly, we need to do a lot more to conserve though, as we just got news that the odds of a good soak this winter coming from a strong El Niño have been reduced from a previous 80% estimate down to 65%:
The latest long-term forecast shows the chances of a wet El Niño weather pattern bringing drought relief to California starting this fall has decreased to about 65%, and if it does arrive it will probably be weaker than originally expected.
If an El Niño does develop, it should emerge by October and peak during late fall and early winter, according to the Climate Prediction Center and the International Research Institute for Climate and Society. (LA Times)
This latest worrying sign will not do anything to make Republicans support an even lower water storage number, but many of the ideas proposed in this package are worthy of a lot more discussion. Check out the full package over the flip.
Bond is about half as large as current package on November ballot, doesn't include peripheral canals
by Brian Leubitz
Sen. Lois Wolk has been working for a long time on getting a revised water bond package on the ballot to replace the current $11.75bn bond slated for this November. The legislators and the governor are worried, justifiably, that voters will be scared off by that number when considering authorizing additional debt. However, given the current drought, a strong consensus has emerged that we must do something.
But, of course, there are always stumbling blocks. Like, say, the concept of peripheral tunnels to bring water around the Bay Delta. Sen. Wolk outlines how she sees the three pillars of a deal:
"It has to be a reasonable bond. It has to have the support of the governor. It must be tunnel neutral, and he is very clear about that, and I support that strongly," said Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis), who represents the Delta. (Capital Public Radio / Ben Adler)
As you can hear in Ben Adler's clip above, the governor is a lot bit gunshy of adding additional debt. In something of a reversal of roles, the Republican caucus is pushing for a higher funding level, arguing that $2B of storage funds are insufficient, favoring a $3B minimum.
But, if the Governor can gather the votes that he needs before next week's deadline, his plan is likely to be the basis of the bond. While there may be a few changes here and there, one has to suspect that the time pressure will push Republicans toward accepting any deal that can get through the hurdles.
My $6 billion plan provides for water use efficiency and recycling, effective groundwater management and added storage. It invests in safe drinking water, particularly in disadvantaged communities and for watershed restoration and increased flows in some of our most important rivers and streams.
This water bond is tied to our comprehensive Water Action Plan that charts the way for California to become more resilient in the face of droughts and floods. It goes a long way to ensure clean drinking water, protect habitat and free up funding for local water projects.
It's a slow news day on the Six Californias signature verification front. (You can find my previous updates here, here, and here.) According to Tuesday's report from the SoS, a total of eight signatures were collected in Alpine County, of which five were valid (no duplicates), for a validity rate of 62.5%. Also, Yolo County apparently found an additional 27 raw signatures during its sampling process, bringing the total raw count to 1,083,380.
We're still waiting for the raw counts from Alameda, Amador, Inyo, and Trinity, but it may be they won't report until they finish their random sample. (This surprises me, because EC 9030(b) says they're supposed to report their raw totals to the SoS within eight days after receiving the petitions. But I guess there's no penalty for being late.)
In addition to the aforementioned Alpine County, we now have sampling reports from Kings (76.2% valid), Napa (66.0%), Shasta (69.0%), and Yolo (57.2%) counties. The overall validity rate is 66.7%, up very slightly from yesterday's 66.4%.