Good morning, California. It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, or 4.
“Nightlife is crucial to our culture and our economy.”—Sen. Scott Wiener, San Francisco Democrat, after the Assembly approved his bill authorizing nine cities including San Francisco, LA, Sacramento and Palm Springs to let bars stay open until 4 a.m.
Obstacles to mental health legislation
Homeless in San Francisco. (Photo by Euan Slorach via Creative Commons)
Seeking to confront the homelessness crisis, legislators introduced several bills this year to expand the power of authorities to treat mentally ill people who resist care. One survives, in pared back form.
CALmatters contributor Jocelyn Wiener explains why it’s so tough to pass such measures in California.
Remind me: A 1967 state law signed by Gov. Ronald Reagan was intended to empty state hospitals, cut state costs and expand civil liberties of people in those institutions. That law also sought to have them treated in their communities and set a high bar for requiring that severely mentally ill people get treatment.
Jen Flory, Western Center on Law & Poverty, points out the lack of placements for severely mentally ill people: “Until we solve that problem about where someone will actually live, we are concerned about taking their rights away.”
Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who authored the surviving bill: “We do have a very large conservatorship program in California—it’s called jail.”
That bill would establish a pilot program in Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco counties where authorities could seek court-ordered conservatorships on individuals who have been detained because of their mental illness eight times in a 12-month period. Conservators could compel their charges to accept treatment.
Strategic. Persuasive. Effective. Working at the intersection of business, politics and policy.
No change in police use-of-force law this year
Shirley Weber, author of a shelved police force bill.
The California Senate on Wednesday night shelved a nationally watched bill to restrict the use of lethal force by law enforcement.
Remind me: Assembly Democrats Shirley Weber of San Diego and Kevin McCarty of Sacramento introduced legislation after the Sacramento police shooting of Stephon Clark. It would have required police to only use deadly force when “necessary” to prevent injury or death. Law enforcement unions opposed it, strenuously. CALmatters’ Byrhonda Lyons explored the issue in this video.
Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins: “We have a critical problem that remains unaddressed. We need to end preventable deaths and to do so without jeopardizing the safety of law enforcement officers.”
Bigger picture: The shooting of Clark, an unarmed black man, inspired several bills on policing. Only one—to make police disciplinary records public in deadly force and other serious cases—appears to have a chance of becoming law this year.
It's time to make behavioral health solutions a top priority in California.
Bondsmen detain new bail law
Assemblyman Rob Bonta, left, and Sen. Bob Hertzberg
A day after Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill ending the money bail system—and thus the businesses that provide it—the bail bond industry served notice Wednesday that it will take its case to voters.
Remind me: The new law, watched nationally, seeks to end the practice of jailing defendants before trial based on whether they can pay thousands of dollars as bail. Instead, judges and risk assessment experts would decide. The law was supposed to take effect in October 2019.
By the book: Bail bonds companies soon will be gathering 365,880 signatures of registered voters to qualify a referendum that would overturn the law for the ballot in November 2020. If the referendum qualifies, the law would be on hold until after the election.
Sacramento campaign consultant Jeff Flint, representing the bail industry: “We don’t think this law will ever take effect.”
Sen. Robert Hertzberg, the LA Democrat who co-authored the bill: “Have at it. I can’t imagine they win.”
What else? Flint also is consulting on an initiative on the November 2020 ballot to increase penalties for shoplifting, authorize DNA collection from people convicted of certain lower-level offenses and expand the definition of violent crimes.
Lead paint fight goes on. And on
Legislative talks failed to resolve a decade-old fight that threatens to cost paint companies hundreds of millions to clean up toxic lead in old homes.
In June, paint companies abandoned an initiative to shift clean-up costs to taxpayers after legislators promised to try to broker a deal. Negotiations broke down late Tuesday among counties, attorneys who represent them in suits against the paint companies, and the companies.
One hang-up: Paint companies insisted that leaded paint, long since pulled from the market, not be deemed a public nuisance.
Bottom line: Paint companies have appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. That could resolve the matter, but only if justices agree to hear it. Otherwise, the litigation will go on, and old homes and other buildings, mostly in urban areas, that have lead paint won’t get remediated.
No tax break for aerospace
California’s practice of granting tax credits to stimulate business often is counterproductive and harms competing businesses, the Legislative Analyst’s Office reported Wednesday.
The Brown Administration created the California Competes program in 2013, at a cost to the state of $780 million over 15 years.
The Legislative Analyst: “Nearly all economic growth that might be directly attributed to the tax credit was either already going to occur or came at the expense of other California businesses.”
As if on cue, the Legislature killed a late-hour attempt by Lockheed Martin to win a $438 million, 15-year tax break tied to it winning a contract to build the next generation of military aircraft and hiring more workers. Lobbyists representing public employees pushed legislators to nix the tax break.
An alternative: Adopt policy applicable to all businesses, such as cutting the corporate tax rate or “other policy changes to improve the state’s business climate generally,” the analyst said.
Fire prevention: It’s complicated
Damaged and dying trees, a fire hazard
Among the wildfire measures lawmakers are voting on this week is a $200 million proposal to thin overgrown forests and clear deadwood. CALmatters’ Julie Cart writes that there’s more to that chore than meets the eye.
Cart: “Forests cover a third of California, but the state owns only 2 percent of that land. The biggest landlord, by far, is the federal government. There are also private property owners, and county and tribal lands.”
On the governor's desk: a big clean energy bill
Only two days left in the Legislative session. What to watch for today:
- A California-only version of net neutrality with national implications, to prevent internet service providers from giving a faster ride to preferred internet traffic. Like a rainbow wheel on a slow computer, it has been waiting in the Assembly all week.
- Should California join a Western regional electricity grid?
- A push for further state scrutiny of the Cadiz Water Project in the Mojave Desert, which backers say will create jobs and opponents say will cause environmental wreckage. The Assembly approved such review Wednesday; the Senate sees it next.
- A $16.6 million late-breaking budget bill for the DMV to alleviate wait times.
- An ambitious plan to phase out fossil fuels in electricity generation by 2045, passed Wednesday and now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. If he signs it, this state will tie with Hawaii for the nation’s toughest clean energy laws.
Commentary at CALmatters
Views on California's gas tax
Dan Walters: CALmatters commentator Dan Walters cautions against legislating to avoid paying higher taxes under President Donald Trump’s tax overhaul.
Proposition 6: A former San Diego councilman and a former California Highway Patrol deputy commissioner offer pro-con views on Proposition 6, a November initiative that would repeal a 12-cent per gallon tax to fund road repairs.
See you tomorrow.