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Your guide to California policy and politics
Emily Hoeven BY Emily Hoeven December 14, 2022
Presented by Child Care Providers United, Golden State Water Company, Move LA and First 5 LA

Will California subsidize rural police departments?

California has a police problem.

In some parts of the state, particularly rural areas, there aren’t enough of them. Tehama County, population 65,000, made national headlines last month when the sheriff announced he would be ending daytime patrols due to the agency’s “catastrophic staffing shortage.”

But the two main challenges facing Tehama County are also plaguing law enforcement agencies across California and the country, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports: First, there aren’t enough qualified new recruits to fill open positions. Second, small, rural sheriff departments often can’t afford to pay their deputies enough to keep them on the job for long.

The conundrum could result in some counterintuitive bills coming out of the state Legislature, whose Democratic supermajority has in recent years strengthened oversight of police and policing — a move that some argue has contributed to the decline in prospective law enforcement applicants.

  • Democratic Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles, a key player behind the tougher regulations, told Nigel: “It’s almost like, if you’re saying the regulations are too stringent, you’re saying we can’t get people who are not racist, who do not want to brutalize people of color. We’re not the ones making police officers look bad. It’s the bad police officers who are discouraging the good ones from applying.”
  • Nevertheless, Jones-Sawyer said the state may have to consider chipping in to help rural law enforcement agencies: “We probably do need to look at subsidizing smaller police departments so they can level the playing field.”

In the meantime, the California Highway Patrol will respond to 911 calls from Tehama County residents — but it has just 14 officers for a 15-county region that includes Tehama, leaving many locals to protect themselves.

  • Tehama County Supervisor Bill Moule: “I moved to this county in 1978, and the first question I asked (the sheriff) was, ‘What kind of service do you have in the rural areas?’ … He looked at me and said, ‘Son, get yourself a shotgun and a dog.’ It’s no different today than it was in 1978.”

In other criminal justice news: The FBI on Monday released its 2021 annual report on hate crimes — but some experts have questioned whether it should have been published, given that just 63% of the country’s law enforcement agencies voluntarily reported their data. In California, only 15 of 740 law enforcement agencies submitted their data for a total of 73 hate crimes.

Yet in its own hate crime report, California tallied 1,763 bias incidents in 2021, a nearly 33% increase from the year before. Federal officials attributed the discrepancy to the FBI’s new crime data reporting system, to which all law enforcement agencies have not yet transitioned. Indeed, California released its 2021 crime report late this year as departments upgraded their record management systems.

  • Orlando Martinez, the Los Angeles Police Department’s hate crimes coordinator, told the Los Angeles Times that the agency reported hate crime data to the state but not to the FBI because it hasn’t yet fully transitioned to the new system. “Even though we’re not in the computer database that everybody’s looking at, they have our stats. It is just not in that format.”
  • Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, told the Times: “The (FBI) data need not be perfect. But when it is this incomplete, it becomes an obstacle, because the average American will look at it and say, ‘Oh, OK, hate crimes are down'” when the opposite is likely true.

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1 Prop. 22 case could have national impact

Tammie Jean Lane, 61, joins a protest by Uber and Lyft rideshare drivers against California Proposition 22 that would classify app-based drivers as independent contractors and not employees or agents, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Los Angeles, California, U.S., Oct. 14, 2020. Photo by Lucy Nicholson, REUTERS
Tammie Jean Lane, 61, joins a protest by Uber and Lyft drivers against California’s Proposition 22 in Los Angeles on Oct. 14, 2020. Photo by Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

Well, that was confusing: On Tuesday, the same day Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office was defending before a California appeals court the constitutionality of Proposition 22 — a voter-approved measure exempting Uber, Lyft and other gig-economy companies from a state labor law requiring them to classify their workers as employees instead of independent contractors — Bonta joined 17 attorneys general in urging the federal government to advance a rule requiring companies to classify more of their workers as employees instead of independent contractors. The reason for the apparent contradiction: Bonta’s office was tasked with defending Prop. 22 after voters approved it in 2020, even though Bonta himself personally opposes the law.

  • Bonta said in a statement about the proposed federal rule: “It’s unacceptable for big businesses that reap massive profits to turn around and push costs onto workers through misclassification. When workers are misclassified (as independent contractors), they lose out on critical supports like overtime, paid sick leave and unemployment insurance.”
  • The three state appeals court justices, who are expected to issue a ruling within 90 days, appeared uncertain as to the constitutionality of Prop. 22 following Tuesday’s oral arguments, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
  • But their decision could have national implications: Not only is the case expected to wind up before the California Supreme Court, but the ultimate outcome could also determine whether gig-economy companies seek to legalize their business model through similar ballot measures in other states, according to the Los Angeles Times. It could also affect the proposed federal rule to make it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors. And the ruling could impact the balance of power between voters and legislators to make laws in California.

2 State should overhaul adult education, report says

Image via iStock

California’s system for funding adult education is “fundamentally flawed and at odds with the state’s program goals” and should be completely redesigned, according to a pack-no-punches Tuesday report from the Legislature’s nonpartisan fiscal advisor. And, the Legislative Analyst’s Office argues, there’s no time like the present to overhaul the California Adult Education Program, which receives annual funding of nearly $600 million: Not only are Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers currently crafting their budget proposals for the next fiscal year, but education programs are also swimming in surplus pandemic cash even as enrollment has dropped — making it “an opportune time to implement the new model, as the impact likely will be less disruptive” than it might have been otherwise.

Among the “drawbacks” the Legislative Analyst’s Office identified in the state’s current funding system for adult education, which helps adult Californians learn to speak English, pass U.S. citizenship exams, receive job training, earn high school diplomas and prepare to enter college, among other things:

  • Adult schools charge fees, even though most students are low-income and community colleges serving similar groups either don’t charge fees or waive them. The fees “could be an impediment for some students and contribute further to both unequal access and considerable variation in program quality” across adult schools.
  • Adult school funding isn’t linked to student attendance or to provider performance. Changing that could help improve declining student outcomes: The share of adult students earning a high school diploma or its equivalent increased by just 1.1 percentage point between 2016-17 and 2018-19, before dropping by more than 4 percentage points over the next two years.
  • Addressing these issues by implementing the legislative analyst’s proposed model wouldn’t cost California more money than it’s currently spending, and could actually cost less.

3 Could easing inflation impact oil penalty proposal?

A gas nozzle in a van at a central Fresno gas station on Sept. 29, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
A van is filled with gas at a central Fresno gas station on Sept. 29, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

In a positive sign for Californians struggling with high costs of living, it looks as though inflationary pressures are easing: Consumer prices increased by 7.1% in November compared to the same point last year, according to a Tuesday report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. That number may not seem very promising, but it marks the fifth straight month of decline and the smallest 12-month increase since the yearlong period ending December 2021. And, although the Federal Reserve is expected to once again hike interest rates today — a move that could cool California’s already slowing housing market — the increase will likely be smaller than anticipated, according to the Associated Press.

You’ve also undoubtedly noticed lower prices at the gas pump. California’s average cost of a gallon of regular was $4.51 on Tuesday, down from $5.44 last month and $4.68 at the same time last year, according to AAA. And California’s gas prices could fall below $4 per gallon by the end of the month and hit $3.50 early next year, Patrick De Haan, GasBuddy’s head of petroleum analysis, told the Sacramento Bee.

If gas prices continue to rapidly decline, Newsom’s proposal to enact a price gouging penalty on oil companies — which state lawmakers have been hesitant to embrace — could face even tougher political odds.


CalMatters Commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: A new online tool allows California parents and voters to gauge whether their local school districts are prepared to improve academic achievement.

California is embracing the wrong carbon sequestration strategy: As the California Air Resources Board finalizes its scoping plan, it’s turning to flawed carbon capture technology favored by the fossil fuel industry instead of more effective and sustainable forms of sequestration, such as algae, argues Eyal Harel, CEO of BlueGreen Water Technologies.


Other things worth your time

Some stories may require a subscription to read

‘Let’s atone for the wrongs.’ Proposed reparations for Black Californians to begin taking shape at meeting today. // Sacramento Bee

Riverside accuses towing company of predatory practices targeting Latinos. // San Bernardino Sun

California could receive more than $500 million from Walgreens opioid settlement. // Los Angeles Times

California, states to appeal denied bid to stop $4 billion payout to Albertsons shareholders. // Reuters

How ‘historic’ UC strikes could ignite a new labor movement in California. // San Francisco Chronicle

Sacramento Mayor Steinberg will mediate UC union talks as some researchers return to work. // Sacramento Bee

Embattled Chico State professor’s colleague said he talked of mass shooting last year and buying a weapon. // EdSource

Fresno Unified school trustee allegedly hid $1.3k in booze purchases on superintendent’s dime. // San Joaquin Valley Sun

After firestorm, commission backtracks on plan to replace SF elections chief. // San Francisco Chronicle

San Mateo elects new mayor, fifth councilmember after week-long political power struggle. // Mercury News

Democrats achieve 9-0 majority for first time on San Diego City Council. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Mayor Bass’ emergency homelessness declaration approved amid heated City Council meeting. // Los Angeles Times

LA struggles to ramp up unarmed mental health crisis response. // LAist

Amid homelessness crisis, why is LA’s 600-room Cecil Hotel mostly empty? // Los Angeles Times

For LA’s Section 8 lottery winners, housing vouchers could still be 10 years away. // LAist

San Diego OKs rules for shifting infrastructure funding from wealthy areas to low-income neighborhoods. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Southern California coastal towns are losing valuable sand, putting beaches, homes and infrastructure at risk. // Daily News

Californians represent their struggles with wage theft claims in CalMatters, CatchLight project. // CalMatters

See you tomorrow


Tips, insight or feedback? Email emily@calmatters.org.

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