The California Capitol is busy with advocates, lobbyists and lawmakers as a key bill deadline approaches on Friday.
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The California State Capitol is abuzz with hearings as lawmakers rush to act on high-profile crime and homelessness bills ahead of a key Friday legislative deadline — but when it comes to rebates for skyrocketing gas prices, all’s quiet on the Western front.
Here’s what went down in Sacramento on Tuesday:
— Crime: Music boomed across the Capitol lawn as hundreds of crime victims rallied to urge Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislators to invest billions of dollars in crime prevention programs in the revised state budget lawmakers must pass by June 15.
- One of their legislative priorities: a bill from Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, which passed a key committee Tuesday and would eliminate some hurdles for survivors to receive money from the state’s Victim Compensation Board, such as requiring them to cooperate with law enforcement.
- Tinisch Hollins, executive director of Californians for Safety and Justice, told me: “For most victims, no matter what community they come from, we’ve heard time and time again that the process of cooperation is traumatic for them and often they don’t feel heard.”
Another bill that cleared a key committee: Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco’s proposal to ban law enforcement agencies from using sexual assault survivors’ DNA for any purpose other than identifying the perpetrator.
- Co-sponsoring the bill is San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, whose February announcement that San Francisco police used a survivor’s DNA to arrest her in an unrelated crime sent shock waves across the nation and sparked a USA Today investigation that revealed the department had been cross-checking victims’ DNA for more than seven years.
- Boudin told me that his appearance at the Sacramento press conference alongside state lawmakers had nothing to do with the recall election he faces on June 7: “I’m focused every single day on doing the right thing, on making San Francisco safer and finding ways to ensure that we’re putting the justice back in the criminal justice system.”
Meanwhile, a pair of Democratic and Republican-led bills to, respectively, toughen and repeal Proposition 47, a 2014 ballot measure that reduced penalties for certain theft and drug offenses, failed to advance. And a proposal to protect workers from employer spying was tabled before its hearing today.
— Homelessness and mental health: Newsom’s controversial proposal to create a framework for courts to compel people with serious mental illnesses and substance use disorders into treatment cleared its first legislative hurdle — but will face another today.
- One big concern: Housing. “The bill explicitly says you can order housing, so if a court can order housing, how are we going to ensure that the housing is prioritized?” asked Andy Imperato, executive director of Disability Rights California.
- The quality of housing matters, too: A stunning yearlong San Francisco Chronicle investigation found that despite the city spending millions of dollars to house its most vulnerable residents in dilapidated hotels, 25% of 515 tracked tenants died, 21% returned to homelessness, 27% left for an unknown destination and 25% found stable homes.
— Gas rebates. Newsom’s proposals to pause the diesel sales tax and gas excise tax, both of which face end-of-week deadlines to take effect by July, appear to be dead, as the Legislature has yet to introduce any bills on the matter.
- Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon of Lakewood told me in a statement that Newsom’s proposal would amount to just $15 per driver — including millionaires — and reduce critical infrastructure funding. “We are working through our budget process and keeping an eye on revenues, so that we can offer a workable plan for easing the inflationary pinch that Californians are feeling. We stand ready to act as soon as the governor joins us in supporting a plan that provides stronger relief for California families.”
Republican lawmakers slammed Democrats for running out the clock on gas relief, while Democrats’ vaccine working group called on the GOP to denounce the “far-right extremists” who protested outside of two legislators’ homes over the weekend.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 8,587,792 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 89,391 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data now updated just twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
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Other stories you should know
1. Law enforcement under scrutiny
Local law enforcement departments and state prisons aren’t doing enough to identify and punish officers’ biased conduct, and the California Department of Justice should more regularly investigate how agencies handle such alleged incidents and ensure they implement anti-bias policies, Acting California State Auditor Michael Tilden wrote in a scathing Tuesday report. Among the audit’s key findings, which CalMatters’ Nigel Duara breaks down in this comprehensive piece: Police departments focused only on blatant instances of bias, relied heavily on officers’ denials, prematurely dismissed complaints and failed to consider how officers’ conduct could appear “to a reasonable person.” And although the audit didn’t find evidence that any of the 753 officers it reviewed were affiliated with hate groups, it noted “some officers made statements indicating that they support problematic groups.”
Other law enforcement news you should know:
- California’s powerful prison guards union won a big victory Monday, when a federal appeals court sided with it and the Newsom administration by overturning a prior order requiring prison workers to get vaccinated against COVID. Lawyers for inmates told CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons they don’t plan to appeal.
- Today, Oakland will make the case in court that its police department is ready to end two decades of federal oversight and enter a one-year transition period during which it will be monitored for compliance on its final incomplete task: addressing racial disparities in officer discipline, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
- And, in what the Los Angeles Times is calling a “brazen attack” on the press, Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced Tuesday that Times journalist Alene Tchekmedyian is among the people he’s targeting in a criminal leak investigation following her report on the department’s cover-up of an incident in which a deputy kneeled on the head of a handcuffed inmate for three minutes. A newly filed legal claim from sheriff’s commander Allen Castellano alleges that Villanueva directed the cover-up because “we do not need bad media at this time”; Villanueva denies the allegations. The Times, meanwhile, is protesting Villanueva’s investigation into Tchekmedyian.
2. Californians brace for more water restrictions
Unprecedented water restrictions are in store for about 6 million Southern Californians after the giant Metropolitan Water District — which serves a whopping 19 million people — announced Tuesday that is imposing limits on outdoor water use for the first time in history as devastating drought continues to grip the state. Affected providers must now choose between one of two options, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports: limit residents to outdoor watering once a week or reduce total water use below a certain target. Not only must the water providers have plans to police their customers, but they should also be prepared to enforce stricter rules in the near future, Metropolitan officials warned.
- Peter Kraut, a Calabasas city councilmember: “I’m appalled that a change this drastic is happening in such a short period of time.”
Also Tuesday, the East Bay Municipal Utility District voted to declare a drought emergency and crack down on 1.4 million residents’ water use for the first time since 2016, the Mercury News reports. Among the approved restrictions: a penalty for excessive water use and rules that direct the agency to make public the names of the largest residential water users later this summer.
3. Catch up on California election news
An audit a day keeps the bad fiscal policy away. That could very well serve as a campaign slogan for Republican controller candidate Lanhee Chen, whose vow to serve as a fierce financial watchdog for Californians and increase transparency about and accountability for how their tax dollars are spent earned him the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times editorial board. But who is Chen, and what does the state controller do, anyway? In a 70-minute interview with CalMatters, Chen shares his views on everything from overhauling California’s tax structure to sending taxpayer rebates to addressing climate change. For more, check out these five key interview takeaways compiled by CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal.
And because there’s simply never enough election news: Four sports betting initiatives are competing to land on California’s November ballot — and critics are raising concerns that one of them could effectively block smaller gaming companies and startups from operating in the state, CalMatters’ Grace Gedye reports. Among the requirements embedded in the proposed measure funded by online sports betting giants FanDuel, DraftKings and MGM: Gaming companies must pay a $100 million licensing fee to do business in California — and already be licensed in 10 other states.
- Campaign spokesperson Nathan Click: “California is best served by creating a safe and tightly regulated sports betting market, one where customers can know they are working with experienced platforms with a proven track record of safe and responsible operation in other markets.”
- Marc Edelman, a Baruch College law professor: “To presume that a company that could spend a lot of money is ethical and a company that could spend a small amount of money is not ethical is very dubious logic.”
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Declining public school enrollment poses a financial dilemma for local school systems and a big political problem for Newsom and the Legislature.
To reduce gun violence, start locally: Rather than look to state lawmakers, we should turn to residents in the most affected communities for gun violence solutions, argue Judy Belk, president and CEO of The California Wellness Foundation, and Brian Malte, executive director of the Hope and Heal Fund.
Other things worth your time
L.A. adds days to next school year for pandemic recovery despite complaints it’s a waste of money. // Los Angeles Times
Sonoma State says student tuition will help pay for $600,000 settlement over harassment reports. // Santa Rosa Press Democrat
UC student workers block Berkeley intersection, protesting over wages and working conditions. // San Francisco Chronicle
Thousands of nurses continue strike as bargaining continues between Stanford, Packard and nurses’ union. // Mercury News
Oakland Unified urges families to keep kids home Friday due to teacher strike as school closure fight escalates. // San Francisco Chronicle
Letter grades on way out? Why some UC departments may use alternatives. // EdSource
UC will offer free tuition to Native American students. But not all are included. // San Francisco Chronicle
South L.A. residents can get $150 a month in transit funds. // Los Angeles Times
At an Oakland food distribution site, inflation adds up to 28,000 more meals a day. // San Francisco Chronicle
Foster Farms, temp agencies fined by state over COVID-19 sick leave. // Fresno Bee
UC Berkeley student facing felony charges for threatening to shoot staff, prompting lockdown, D.A. says // San Francisco Chronicle
Jail reform bill prompted by conditions in San Diego passes Assembly committee. // San Diego Union-Tribune
California inmate overdoses plummet under drug program. // Associated Press
S.F. seeks to hold drug industry responsible for opioid crisis. Here are 3 ways that trial is unique. // San Francisco Chronicle
San Diego bans flavored tobacco, including menthol cigarettes, in 7-2 vote. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Kamala Harris is prescribed antiviral drug after testing positive for coronavirus. // Los Angeles Times
California wildlife officials bust white sturgeon poaching ring. // Los Angeles Times
California felons turned firefighters find new lives on the front lines. // CNN
Lemon Grove councilmember arrested, barred from home after partner alleges violent behavior. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Antisemitism has surged in California, new audit shows. // San Francisco Chronicle
Which East Coast state is most similar to S.F.? // San Francisco Chronicle
See you tomorrow.
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