Good morning, California.

“Sacrifices will have to be made. Otherwise, we face a state takeover and draconian cuts that will hurt both our students and district employees.”—Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Sacramento County Supervisor Phil Serna, offering to mediate  in an effort to avert a Sacramento teachers’ strike. 

Unions look to organize child care workers

Bill would allow home-based child care workers to collectively bargain with the state.

With Gov. Gavin Newsom in charge, Assembly Democrats backed by organized labor are renewing their push for legislation that would allow unions to organize child care workers, CALmatters’ Ben Christopher reports.

Newsom promised to expand early childhood education during his campaign, and the state budget is uncharacteristically flush.

Assemblywoman Monique LimĂłn, a Santa Barbara Democrat, is carrying legislation that would give child care workers who operate out of their homes the right to collectively bargain with the state.

Limón: “This is a new era. We have a new governor who cares a lot about child care.”

  • Child care workers generally are self-employed, not a group that is typically covered by organized labor.
  • The Service Employees International Union is sponsoring LimĂłn’s bill.
  • The union is trying to organize new members after a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that could weaken public employee unions by making it easier for workers to quit the organizations.

In recent years, similar bills have been introduced no fewer than nine times.

Govs. Jerry Brown and Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed some of them. Others stalled in the Legislature.

  • Brown’s veto of a 2011 version said quality and affordability of childcare are important, as are working conditions:

“Balancing these objectives, however, as this bill attempts to do, is not easy or free from dispute. Today California, like the nation itself, is facing huge budget challenges. Given that reality, I am reluctant to embark on a program of this magnitude and potential cost.”


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Expanding right to sue for sex abuse

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego.

Legislation that would expand sexual abuse victims’ right to sue an array of entities  including public schools — but not the state — is heading for a vote in the Assembly in the coming days.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed virtually the same bill last year, writing:

“… [T]here comes a time when an individual or organization should be secure in the reasonable expectation that past acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further lawsuits.”

Under the new bill:

  • People as old as 40 could sue for abuse that occurred when they were kids.
  • Plaintiffs could collect treble if they can show evidence of cover-up.

The expanded right to sue would not apply to abuse at state facilities, such as University of California or state-run juvenile detention facilities.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the San Diego Democrat who authored the new bill: “Should we do more? Yes. But we do one step at a time.”

Opponents include:

  • Private universities, which note the bill would permit victims to sue Stanford University or the University of Southern California but not UC Berkeley or UCLA: “Surely, such disparity in the rights of victims is both legally and morally objectionable.”
  • Public school administrators, school boards and their insurers, which worry it “exposes local public schools and others to claims of abuse going back 40 years ago and longer. It will be impossible for employers to effectively defend against these claims when evidence is likely gone, witnesses have moved or passed away …”

Hopeful her bill will get signed into law this year, Gonzalez noted that as lieutenant governor, Gov. Gavin Newsom endorsed legislation that Brown vetoed.

Mind-bending hemp rules

Here’s a mind-bender: The 2016 initiative that legalized the commercial sale of cannabis and products derived from weed failed to extend the same legal protections to industrial hemp, a plant with no hallucinogenic properties.

  • Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-hallucinogenic product touted for medicinal properties, and is derived from cannabis and hemp.
  • CBD-containing products are available in commercial weed dispensaries, under California law.
  • California Department of Public Health inspectors reportedly have seized products supplemented with CBD if the CBD was extracted from industrial hemp.
  • Congress legalized industrial hemp cultivation last year, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a hemp-producing state.
  • However, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration has not approved CBD as a food additive, or blessed many health-related claims made about it.

California public health department follows the FDA’s lead on dietary supplements, and says:

“Until the FDA rules that industrial hemp-derived … CBD products can be used as a food or California makes a determination that they are safe to use for human and animal consumption, CBD products are not an approved food, food ingredient, food additive, or dietary supplement.”

The U.S. Hemp Roundtable, a trade group of hemp and CBD producers, has retained one of Sacramento’s top lobby firms, Nielsen Merksamer, to help change California’s law.

Assemblywoman Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, a Democrat from Winters, is taking up the cause with a bill to be heard in the Assembly Health Committee on Tuesday that would overrule the state health department, and legalize the hemp-derived CBD.

Aguiar-Curry: “It is already being sold here. It is being grown here. I am very protective of small business and farmers.”


School layoffs spread

Oakland school officials are planning layoffs to pay for teachers' raise following strike.

California’s school funding crisis continues to spread as districts grapple with rising retirement costs, declining enrollment and teachers’ demands for better pay, even as state payments to schools will exceed $80 billion in the coming fiscal year.

  • The Coachella Valley Unified School District Board of Education earlier this month approved 81 layoffs of teachers and administrators to ease a $6.8 million deficit, the Desert Sun reported.
  • Oakland school officials were sending layoff notices for 257 full-time equivalent positions, including college counselors, security officers and kindergarten reading tutors, as they seek to pay for teachers’ raises after settling the seven-day teachers strike this month, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
  • In the wake of teachers strikes in Oakland and Los Angeles, Sacramento City Unified School District’s 2,500 teachers authorized a strike.

The Sacramento Bee: The move adds to the challenges faced by the district, which is under the threat of state takeover as it wrestles with a $35 million budget gap. The Legislature, meanwhile, approved an audit of Sacramento Unified that will go back five years.

Death penalty work continues

How will California manage death row inmates?

At least on a panel of the California Judicial Council, death penalty work continues, despite Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pronouncement last week that there would be no executions on his watch.

The panel met Friday to implement new rules for how superior courts and state courts of appeal should handle death row inmates’ various collateral attacks on death penalty judgments and their conditions of confinement.

The rules, spelled out over 405 pages, are intended to implement aspects of Proposition 66, the initiative approved by voters in 2016 that promised to speed up executions in California.

Council members lauded the hard work put in by the many judges who had been working on the rules since January 2018. Approved unanimously, the rules will take effect April 25.

Elephant? What elephant? Panel members made no mention that Newsom last week granted reprieves to all 737 inmates condemned to death.

Commentary at CALmatters

Californians have a right to know how their government works.

Tom Dresslar, retired journalist and state official: Bureaucracies love secrets. They pay lip service to transparency but have a powerful instinct to dummy up. This predilection for secrecy clashes on a daily basis with Californians’ fundamental right to information about how their government is working — a right granted by statute and enshrined in the state Constitution.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s blanket reprieve for those on death row is another headline-grabbing gesture—and it could backfire.

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