Newsom’s fire plan, lack of mental health leadership, a transgender barrier to fall

“Yes, we need to advance tax reform. Yes, it is long overdue.  … No more task forces. No more studies. It is all about political will. … I’m not naive entering into this space, but we’re going to dive into this space.”—Gov. Gavin Newsom, answering a question from the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial page editor, John Diaz, on the Chronicle’s podcast, “It’s all political.”

First on Newsom’s list: Taxes on services.

Focusing on wildfires

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants a wildfire crisis package by July 12.

Months of meetings and hearings, sophisticated economic and environmental analysis, and arguing have culminated in proposals from Gov. Gavin Newsom to respond to California’s wildfire crisis, CALmatters’ Julie Cart reports.

The administration framed the issue as a crisis in the utility industry and thus for the state. California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, is in bankruptcy, with up to $30 billion in fire-related liability. Rating agencies have downgraded Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric.

  • Ratepayers would contribute $2.50 per month to the compensation fund, the Sacramento Bee reports.
  • That’s the amount utility customers spend now to pay off energy bonds sold during the 2000-01 energy crisis to stabilize the deregulated electricity market.

Newsom says he wants legislators to decide on the package by July 12, the last day before they leave for their summer recess.

It won’t be easy:

  • Utilities, their workers, solar and wind producers, environmentalists, large industrial and commercial ratepayers, and consumer advocates all will lobby to protect their positions in any deal.
  • Wall Street interests hold the utilities’ debt and own large blocks of their stock, and have been lobbying, as well.

Whatever the deal, lawmakers won’t want to be seen as bailing out utilities, or punishing victims or ratepayers.

Mental health leadership lacking

California's counties have 58 different public mental health programs.

Geography creates significant barriers to people getting early psychosis treatment in California, CALmatters contributor Jocelyn Wiener reports as part of her series on mental health care in California.

California’s 58 counties have 58 different public mental health programs, each with their own set of covered services.

Dr. Tom Insel, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s mental health adviser:

“There’s no central leadership, really. If you ask, ‘What are the counties trying to accomplish? What are their goals? What is their North Star?’ I can’t tell you that. There’s a North Star in L.A. County, in San Mateo, in Alameda. They’re not the same.”

  • It’s by design. In the early 1990s, then-Gov. Pete Wilson and the Legislature helped solve a budget crisis by shifting greater responsibility for mental health delivery to counties. They also established a funding formula. Over time, that money has not kept pace with needs.
  • Former Gov. Jerry Brown further decentralized the system to solve the budget crisis of 2011 and 2012 by abolishing the state mental health department and the position of state mental health director.

For Wiener’s full series, please click here.

A transgender barrier

A bill would require school districts to update records for transgender alumni.

Public school districts would be required to update records and reissue diplomas to their alumni to reflect changes to graduates’ gender identity and legal name under legislation making its way through the Legislature.

  • Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco introduced the bill to close what he sees as a loophole in the law. Schools must update their records for current students but not former students.

The Transgender Law Center and Equality California, the bill’s co-sponsors, contend some schools are reluctant to amend their records for past students. That could effectively out the person to anyone who sees the old record or diploma, subjecting the individual to discrimination or other harm.

  • The bill has no registered opposition.
  • The Assembly approved it 61-19, with all 19 Republicans abstaining.
  • The Senate Education Committee approved it 6-0, with support from two Republicans, Sens. Ling Ling Chang of Diamond Bar and Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita.

By the numbers:

  • California is one of 21 states with fully enumerated anti-bullying laws designed to protect transgender students.
  • It’s one of 14 states with nondiscrimination laws that protect students on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, according to GLSEN, an advocacy group for LGBTQ students.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation in 2013 allowing transgender students to participate in sex-segregated school activities and use restrooms consistent with their gender identity.

Criminal justice and recidivism

California began a series of criminal justice reforms in 2011.

Updated; corrected:

Inmates released from California prisons and jails are winding up back behind bars at lower rates in the aftermath of a series of statewide criminal justice reforms, the Public Policy Institute of California has found.

  • Remind me: In 2011, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that California’s prisons were so crowded—there were 175,000 inmates at the height—that the state was violating their constitutional rights. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown set about overhauling the system and reducing the population to 125,000.

Changes in the law did not unleash a wave of crime, CALmatters’ Ben Christopher reports.

  • Between 2011 and 2015, the felony reconviction rate fell by 27%.
  • The decline was sharpest for drug-related offenses, 44%.

Christopher: “The overall drop could mean that formerly incarcerated Californians began committing fewer crimes in the years after reform. Or it could mean that police, prosecutors and the court system are just taking a laxer approach, resulting in fewer arrests and convictions.” 

Correction: An earlier version misidentified the source then quote. It was from Ben Christopher, paraphrasing PPIC.

Who's coming, who's going

Global migration to California

California has always been a magnet for migrants. In the 1920s, the second most common birthplace for Californians was Illinois. By the ’30s, it was Missouri, and by the ’60s, Texas. Now, it’s Mexico, followed by China and Taiwan.

  • As part of the California Dream collaboration, journalists from CALmatters and public radio stations are reporting a series of stories on immigrant communities throughout the state.

CALmatters data journalist Matt Levin whipped up some fancy maps and charts to visualize who’s coming to and leaving California.

Among the findings:

  • More than 7 million people born in California call other states home.
  • The top destination state is Texas, with 726,750, while 472,000 Texans call California home.
  • An estimated 3 million immigrants call Los Angeles County home, making it the favored destination for foreign-born residents.

To see it all, please click here.

‘Small is getting big’ with $40.8 million

The new state Office of Digital Innovation will focus on technology upgrades.

Years before becoming governor, Gavin Newsom wrote a slender book called “Citizenville: How to Take the Town Square Digital and Reinvent Government.”

Now, he is spending $40.8 million to create an Office of Digital Innovation, CALmatters’ Elizabeth Castillo reports.

  • The new office will be expected to bring innovative approaches to technology, to state offices that are stuck in legacy mode and unable to figure out how to update, said Amy Tong, California Department of Technology director and state chief information officer.
  • Perhaps they can start by getting the Department of Motor Vehicles to accept credit cards.

No mention of Citizenville would be complete without remembering the time in 2013 when Newsom went on the Colbert Report to discuss “Citizenville.”

Newsom: “Right now, we have a broadcast model of governing that you vote and I decide. You’ve seen the contours of this change with the media, you’ve seen it certainly with the music industry. Big is getting small, and small is getting big. Technology has the ability to level the playing field.”

To which Colbert replied: “The big is getting small, and the small is getting big? What are you talking about? Is there a glossary?”

Now, there will be $40.8 million and a staff of 50 to show us what the governor means.

Take a number: 209,747

Gov. Gavin Newsom is getting a raise.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s annual pay will rise to $209,747 on Dec. 2, and legislators’ pay will increase to $114,877, or 4%, the Citizens Compensation Commission, created by voter-approved initiative, has ruled. Statewide elected officials also will get 4% raises.

California soon will lose its status as having the highest-paid governor and legislators to New York, the L.A. Times’ Patrick McGre evy reports.

  • L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti’s pay: $248,000.
  • L.A. City Council members’ pay: $190,878.

Commentary at CALmatters

Geoffrey Fettus, Natural Resources Defense Council: We need a solution for the waste stuck at San Onofre and the other California reactors. But in their desperation to move the threat away from the Golden State, some California lawmakers are making two grave errors.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: California’s ongoing debate over K-12 education usually centers on money, but data indicate that spending more doesn’t necessarily translate into better academic achievement.

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

See you tomorrow.

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