Seeking to help people in need

Good Monday morning, California.

“Just 63 nutria have been killed so far. The largest was a pregnant female weighing 24 pounds.” — San Francisco Chronicle, detailing California Department of Fish & Wildlife efforts to eradicate the giant rodents native to South America before they occupy and damage the Delta.

Can California finally house mentally ill?


Gov. Jerry Brown, acknowledging that homelessness increased on his watch, will ask voters this November to authorize $2 billion in spending to build housing for mentally ill people.

Remind me: In 2016, Brown, Sen. Kevin de Leon and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, won legislative approval to spend $2 billion on housing from the billions that have been generated for care of the severely mentally ill by Proposition 63, a 2004 initiative that raised taxes on wealthy Californians..

Not so fast: Rose King, a former legislative staffer and political consultant, helped write the initiative. She sued claiming the 2016 deal would not benefit the most severely mentally ill people, as the initiative promised. That suit is set for trial in July.

Rather than risk losing, Brown announced on Friday that he wants to place the question on the fall ballot: “We wanted to get the money out.” Steinberg, de Leon and others lauded the proposal.

But not King: The $2 billion is “going to come from mental health clinics, crisis treatment centers and from staff cuts.”

The question: The 2004 initiative promised help for  homeless mentally ill. Nearly 14 years later, even more mentally ill people live on the streets. Now you, the voters, will be asked to help again.

Why politicians no longer can ignore mentally ill

Care for the severely mentally ill, or lack of it, was scarcely mentioned in past campaigns for governor. Not this year.

Candidates for governor are calling for an overhaul of the mental health system. CALmatters asked each candidate for their views and compiled them in this video.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the front-running Democrat, issued a detailed position paper urging “intensive services’’ for young people facing mental illness and construction of more local psychiatric facilities.

Antonio Villaraigosa, the Democratic former Los Angeles mayor, called for more facilities to house mentally ill people. “We’re going to have to look at how you can commit some people who obviously need the help.”

Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen called for a return to using state psychiatric hospitals. Republican John Cox urged enforcement of vagrancy laws.

Then: In the late 1950s and early 1960s, California state psychiatric hospitals housed more than 36,000 people. In 1967, Gov. Ronald Ronald signed the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, which helped empty state hospitals and made it harder to compel mentally ill people to get treatment.

Now: More than 36,000 men and 2,500 women in state prison are diagnosed with mental illness. Another 17,000 county jail inmates have a mental illness and 95 percent of the people in state hospitals have committed crimes. Thousands more are on the streets.

Why now: There are no quick fixes, which is why politicians have ignored the issue. Now they feel compelled to act because voters face mentally ill people on the streets of any city and suburb in California.

California's next tax debate

Legislation to tax business services — think legal advice and accountancy — while lowering sales taxes on cars, appliances and other goods is heading for its first committee vote this week.

Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Los Angeles Democrat, has been working on the concept for years with the Think Long Committee, a think tank funded by billionaire Nicolas Berggruen.

A wash: Hertzberg’s bill would impose a 3 percent tax on business-to-business services, generating $14 billion annually, and lower the sales tax rate by 2 percent, saving taxpayers $14 billion a year.

Hertzberg sees benefits: 20 percent of the new service tax would be paid by out-of-state companies. Companies could deduct the service tax from what they pay Uncle Sam. Sales taxes, which fall heaviest on poorer people, would be reduced. Wealthier people spend more on services.

CALmatters’ Judy Lin offered a backgrounder on California’s taxes. Hertzberg called it a “fantastic explainer.”

What’s ahead: Business groups led by the California Chamber of Commerce will oppose it. Gov. Jerry Brown says there’s probably not enough support to pass the bill in 2018, but told his staff to work on a “framework.” Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic front-runner to replace Brown, has embraced the notion.

What to do with $9 billion?

CALmatters’ Antoinette Siu was there on Friday when Gov. Jerry Brown offered a revised budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year showing the state has a surplus of nearly $9 billion in a budget of almost $200 billion. Budget negotiations now turn serious ahead of Brown’s July 1 deadline for having a final spending plan in place. Democrats want more spending on education and health care. A Republican legislator wants refunds for taxpayers. Brown wants to squirrel away most of the surplus for the next recession. He has the final say.

Dan Walters on Duke

CALmatters’ Dan Walters offers a personal touch to the tributes to Gov. George Deukmejian, who died last week: “Unlike most high-level politicians, he was somebody you’d like to have as a next-door neighbor – honest and friendly, with a quiet sense of self-deprecating humor.” A nice guy finished first.


Please email or call with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected], 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, and tell a friend. See you tomorrow.

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