Good morning, California.

“I’m so very happy for these patients.” — attorney Mark Merin to the Sacramento Bee, after a Las Vegas jury awarded hundreds of psychiatric  patients $250,000 each

As detailed by the Bee in 2013, Rawson-Neal state psychiatric hospital in Vegas dealt with 1,500 patients by placing them on Greyhound buses, giving them crackers and Ensure and sending them to California and other states.

Rich schools use bonds to get richer. Poor schools don’t

A story of rich and poor schools, part of the civil-rights issue of our time.

Wealthy communities have been reaping far more local bond money than poorer districts, amplifying existing inequities for the state’s public-school students, CALmatters education reporter Ricardo Cano reports.

He tells a story of two schools:

  • At Hilmar Unified, in a Merced County, 60 percent of the district’s 2,400 students last year were on free or reduced-cost lunch. Hilmar voters have passed one local bond in 20 years, worth $2 million, or $838 per pupil.
  • Voters in Beverly Hills Unified, attended by 400 students, have approved more than $1 billion in local bonds during that time, or $271,803 per pupil.

During the past two decades, voters across 660 California school districts have passed $113 billion in local bonds, mostly for maintenance and construction.

But more than 350 districts with a combined 430,000 students have not passed a single local school bond. One is Hesperia Unified in San Bernardino County, where bathrooms, roofs and classrooms built in the 1960s are in disrepair.

Hesperia Superintendent David Olney: “Our job is to prepare our students for the future. And if you’re going into a classroom that is designed for students 50 years ago, that’s really not preparing students for their tomorrow.”

Bottom line: This rich school-poor school story gets at one of the fundamental civil-rights issues of our time. It will continue Tuesday when voters decide 100 local bond measures totaling $12 billion.

Cities, state collide on weed deliveries

Cities and state clash over weed delivery services.

California cities and California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control are battling over the meaning of local control.

The bureau, part of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration, proposes to permit commercial couriers to make residential weed deliveries in any city or county, including those that bar commercial marijuana sales.

Weed remains a cash business, raising public-safety and insurance issues. Police chiefs and 96 cities oppose the proposed rule including San Jose, Stockton, Riverside, Santa Barbara, Beverly Hills and Petaluma.

The League of California Cities says the proposal “disallows local governments from regulating deliveries in any manner that exceeds the provisions of these regulations.”

How we got here: Voters legalized commercial marijuana sales by approving Proposition 64 in 2016. Backers argued in the ballot pamphlet sent to all voters that “64 preserves local control.” Campaign rhetoric gave way to Capitol politics:

  • Marijuana entrepreneurs lobbied the Legislature to approve delivery services.
  • Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens carried legislation this year to require all cities to permit delivery services. It failed.
  • As part of this year’s budget, lawmakers approved language saying cities “shall not prevent delivery of cannabis or cannabis products on public roads by a licensee acting in compliance with this division and local laws.”

The league’s Charles W.R. Harvey agrees couriers can use local roads but shouldn’t be able to deliver to residences in cities where commercial sales are banned. Expect a court fight if the state persists.

The final date to comment on the proposal is Monday.


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Abuse, mistreatment of mentally ill prisoners alleged

For 28 years, attorneys representing prison inmates have been suing the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation over mental health care.

Now, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller, overseeing the ongoing suit, has released an internal report by the prison system’s chief psychiatrist excoriating the system for substandard care.

As detailed in the Sacramento Bee, Dr. Michael Golding writes, “CDCR has a broken system of care because information is not accurately reported upon, and reliable commonsensical action has not been taken.”

The corrections department issued a statement saying it “strongly disagrees with this individual’s allegations and looks forward to a fair and thorough review and hearing of all the facts.”

Among the accusations: A psychotic inmate at the California Institute for Women in Chino was being cared for by a nurse, not a psychiatrist who could have prescribed medication. When correctional officers approached the inmate, she pulled her eye out of its socket and ate it.

An on-call psychiatrist then ordered she be medicated.

California prisons house 37,475 inmates who have mental illness diagnoses and receive mental health care. That’s 29 percent of the 128,000 inmates. California spends billions on health and mental health care for prisons, by far more than any other state.

San Francisco attorney Michael Bien, who has been litigating the case from the beginning on behalf of inmates, is calling for an independent investigator. Mueller has scheduled a hearing for Monday.

Democrats shun oil money, except those who don't

The California Democratic Party rejects oil industry money, viewing it as anathema to its environmentalist principles. But oil companies are helping several California Democratic politicians the industry views as moderate, CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports.

Bottom line: Oil interests have spent $19.2 million in the 2017-18 election cycle. Oil is the single largest donor to the California Republican Party. But oil also has given $853,000 in direct contributions to 47 Democrats seeking legislative seats and another $3.6 million in independent campaigns to help elect Democrats. As the saying goes, money finds a way, like water. Or maybe like oil.

Commentary at CALmatters

Lande Ajose, California Competes: Higher Education for a Strong Economy, and Monica Lozano, College Futures Foundation: No system is more connected to economic opportunity and mobility than higher education. That’s why the next lieutenant governor can be so important to our state’s 2 million students, their families and the millions of Californians for whom college is only a dream.

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Hiram Johnson

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