Good morning, California.

“He’s a smart guy and he knows how difficult the pension situation is going to be in the years ahead.”—Claremont McKenna College professor Jack Pitney on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s campaign assertion that California needn’t rely on the courts to control its personnel costs. The California Supreme Court today will issue a much-anticipated decision in a case that tests the ability of government to curtail public employee benefits. 

Stephon Clark case moves to the state

Clark's death has fueled a push to raise the legal standard for police shootings.

All eyes shifted to the Legislature and Attorney General in the push to reduce police shootings, after Sacramento authorities announced Saturday that no criminal charges would be filed against the two officers who killed Stephon Clark.

  • The unarmed black man was shot to death in his grandmother’s backyard last year, igniting nationwide protests after video of the incident was made public.
  • Prosecutors couldn’t make a criminal case because officers feared for their lives and thus “acted lawfully under the circumstances,” Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert said, releasing a 61-page report.

Schubert:  “Clearly we all know he didn’t have a gun. But the officers didn’t know that.”

Legal experts had predicted the determination, but that doesn’t mean the matter has ended:

Gov. Gavin Newsom called for “systemic reforms” Saturday, and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, a former legislative leader, endorsed legislation by Assembly Democrats Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty to raise the legal standards governing police shootings.

  • Steinberg told Rosenhall he hopes for a compromise between police and Weber.
  • Clark’s family has filed a wrongful death claim, seeking between $15 million and $35 million, plus a $20 million federal civil rights lawsuit.

Making gun seizures work

A state program takes guns from people not legally entitled to own them.

California needs to revamp its one-of-a-kind gun seizure program, starting with higher pay for 50 Department of Justice agents who confiscate firearms from criminals and people with severe mental illness, Attorney General Xavier Becerra says.

  • Entry level pay, $52,000 a year, is 38-44 percent below what officers in state and local police agencies earn.
  • The Armed and Prohibited Person System lets agents match registered gun owners against people who have been convicted of felonies or certain violent misdemeanors, or held against their will because of mental illness.

Becerra’s latest report shows:

  • Some 2.5 million Californians have registered guns, up from 927,700 in 2008. A tiny fraction are prohibited from owning guns.
  • The prohibited person list includes 23,222 individuals, though that number may be inflated.
  • Agents cleared 10,681 cases in 2018, but 11,333 people were added.
  • Agents have 9,404 active cases in which registered gun owners are prohibited from possessing firearms, a drop of 820 from the prior year.
  • Agents seized 2,290 weapons in 2018.

Becerra: “We are using every gear to move this program. We don’t have enough gears to keep pace with the number of people that are added to the list.”

History: Then-Sen. Jim Brulte, a Republican, carried the bill creating the system in 2001. The National Rifle Association supported it. The NRA later sued to block its funding.

  • Your tax dollars at work: I spent a night riding with agents in 2013, watching as they knocked, went inside and emerged with individuals’ arsenals. Amazingly, no one has been hurt since the program started in 2007. Here is my report.

Not your mother's lite gov

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis gets expanded responsibility.

Taking advantage of the diplomatic chops of his elected stand-in, Gov. Gavin Newsom has appointed Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis as “international affairs and trade development” representative for the world’s fifth-largest economy.

  • Kounalakis was ambassador to Hungary during the Obama administration, and probably would have received a State Department position if Hillary Clinton had been elected president in 2016.

Kounalakis: “Trade is the most important aspect because so many jobs in California are dependent on exports.”

Among her goals:

  • A Mexico trade office, and perhaps others elsewhere.
  • More coordination among various state agencies, such as the Department of Food & Agriculture, Transportation, Natural Resources, Visit California, and California Environmental Protection Agency.

More than a fifth of the state’s gross product is attributable to international trade, and nearly 40 percent of the nation’s total containerized import traffic and 25 percent of its total exports come through the Ports of Long Beach and San Pedro, about $2 billion worth of cargo each day.

  • TBD: The budget for the new office. Whatever it is, it will be more than past lieutenant governors have received, Newsom included. Previous governors have given lieutenant governors no responsibility and less respect, cutting their budgets if they got uppity, and taking away their parking privileges.

A Hollister Ranch plan

State agencies are joining forces on public access.

In 1982,  a public access plan was created by California officials for 8.5 miles of relatively untouched beaches on the Gaviota Coast below the exclusive Santa Barbara County community of Hollister Ranch.

  • Thirty-seven years later, the beaches remain untouched by the general public, except by boat.

Now, four state departments have a new thought about gaining public access: cooperation. The California Coastal Commission, the Coastal Conservancy, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and State Lands Commission on Friday finalized an agreement in which they pledge to hold regular conference calls, convene public hearings and develop a new plan to ensure access.

  • Gov. Jerry Brown suggested as much last year when he vetoed legislation that sought to force access, urging state agencies to “work together to craft a sensible and fiscally responsible plan.”

Don’t get your suntan lotion out quite yet. The term of the agreement is one year, or when the Coastal Commission adopts the plan, “whichever comes first.”

Environmental justice heads to the beach

Martins Beach in San Mateo County.

A detailed new environmental justice policy that includes a call for more affordable housing on the coast will come up for a vote at the California Coastal Commission on Friday.

The policy: “Coastal development should be inclusive for all who work, live, and recreate on California’s coast and provide equitable benefits for communities that have historically been excluded, marginalized, or harmed by coastal development.”

History lesson: The proposal cites language in deeds for 1920s-era development of Palos Verdes Estates in Los Angeles County “protecting against ‘encroachment by any possible developments of an adverse sort,’ and prohibiting rent or sale to African- or Asian-American families.”

“By the late 1970s, neighborhoods that had benefited from decades of discrimination against racial minorities translated that benefit into higher property values, despite the end of widespread public and official housing discrimination.”

The Coastal Act, which took effect in 1976, originally stated “housing opportunities for persons of low and moderate income shall be protected, encouraged, and, where feasible, provided.”

  • That requirement was abolished by legislation pushed through by then-Sen. Henry Mello, a Democrat from the Monterey area, in 1981. Developers and cities sought the bill.

The commission’s policy pledges to push for legislation to repeal the Mello law.

  • Short of that, the commission will work “with local government to adopt local coastal program policies that protect affordable housing and promote a range of affordable new residential development types.”
  • That includes affordable housing, accessory dwelling units, “transitional and supportive housing, homeless shelters, farmworker housing, and workforce/employee housing, in a manner that protects coastal resources.”

Sheltering the homeless' best friends

A bill would reward homeless shelters that accept pets.

One obstacle to ending homelessness has four legs: Many homeless people won’t accept shelter if it means leaving their pets behind.

Now a bill by Sen. Bob Hertzberg a Los Angeles Democrat, would earmark $5 million to help shelter homeless people with their pets, reports CALmatters’ Elizabeth Castillo.

Hertzberg: “If you want to get people off the street—and I see it as an emergency—we’ve just got to change how we treat people.

And their critters.

Commentary at CALmatters

E-cigarettes could hook the next generation on nicotine.

Dr. John Maa, San Francisco surgeon: Smoking remains the leading cause of preventable death and disability in America and worldwide. Public health experts understand that it’s a short step from vaping to smoking. That’s why we must act before e-cigarettes hook the next generation to nicotine.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: The state’s Fair Political Practices Commission wants the authority to prosecute local government officials who misuse public funds for campaigns.

Please email or call with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected]org, 916.201.6281. Shawn Hubler, [email protected]edits WhatMatters. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

 See you tomorrow.