Low-income housing advocates aren’t thrilled with how affordable housing bills performed this session.

Several bills that would help low-income housing developers were signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, including two bills that were part of Speaker Toni Atkins’ four-bill housing package. Another was vetoed and the last is still in limbo, waiting for January to be picked up again. At the annual San Diego Housing Federation Conference last week, affordable housing advocates said they were disappointed that some of the bills that would have had broader impacts on the production of low-income housing didn’t make it through.

One of the bills that was signed into law will create a framework for how California will spend funds received from the National Housing Trust Fund (a permanent federal fund meant to help states provide low-income rental housing), which are expected to flow to states in 2016. The second Atkins bill directed funds generated from Prop. 47 to prioritizing mental-health treatment and housing assistance.

The governor vetoed another bill, introduced by Atkins and Assemblyman David Chiu, which would have would expanded the state’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit by $100 million annually for five years. It was vetoed along with a Senate bill that would’ve increased the value of state housing tax credits.

Brown’s veto message was direct: “Despite strong revenue performance over the past few years, the state’s budget has remained precariously balanced due to unexpected costs and the provision of new services. Given these financial uncertainties, I cannot support providing additional tax credits that will make balancing the state’s budget even more difficult.”

Marina Wiant, policy director of the California Housing Consortium, and Matt Schwartz, CEO of the California Housing Partnership Corporation, said their plan for next year is to try and get more affordable housing initiatives accounted for in the budget, so they won’t be asking for additional tax credits or state funds in later legislation – something the governor made clear he won’t endorse.

One of Atkins’ housing bills remains. It would create a permanent funding source for low-income housing projects by adding an extra $75 on real estate recording fees. But the bill stalled before it even got a vote in the Assembly. Still, it has widespread support – even from the California Assn. of Realtors and San Diego’s Business Industry Association.

Maya Srikrishnan

• Atkins took a bit of a victory lap this week for the bills that did pass this session – she wrote up this list of legislative accomplishments for the Huffington Post and zeroed in on environmental justice issues her bills help address for the Union-Tribune.

Referendum Hijinks

A Mercury News report this week drives home what we already know: Referendums are now the most powerful tool for interest groups to get their way. The latest anecdote is an effort by out-of-state plastic bag-makers to trick voters out of affirming the plastic bag ban:

Bag makers are promoting the Environmental Fee Protection Act in this business-versus-business fight to make Californians’ heads spin and perhaps entice grocers to spend money fighting the measure rather than opposing the referendum — not to help the environment, experts say.

When voters are faced with multiple measures on the same issue, the thinking goes, they tend to just say “no” to everything.

We’ve seen similar referendum shenanigans play out in San Diego. There was that weird meaningless Chargers petition that developer Kilroy funded in order to siphon signature-gatherers away from a competing measure opposing their development, One Paseo. And last year, a competing minimum wage measure emerged that would’ve exempted a large number of businesses from an increase, but it was quickly dropped.

And on Friday, news dropped that the state is proposing a new lethal injection drug that could clear the way to resuming executions, which have been on hold since 2006. Within that story, via the L.A. Times:

Death penalty opponents have proposed an initiative for the November 2016 ballot that would replace capital punishment with life without the possibility of parole. Legislative analysts this week said it would save California some $150 million a year, by reducing the costs of murder trials and death penalty appeals.

A competing measure, sponsored by law enforcement and victim groups, also will be circulated for signatures. That measure would propose changes to speed up executions.

‘Cats Can Eat a Lame Duck Alive’

The L.A. Times’ George Skelton wrote a column on incoming Assembly speaker Anthony Rendon this week, marveling at how a kid with a modest upbringing and bad grades tapped into his intellectual curiosity and kept working his way up.

But within the piece is a rather damning assessment of outgoing Speaker Toni Atkins:

How much his views on issues will matter once he becomes speaker — in February or March — is an open question. It depends on whether he chooses to lead, or can. Legendary Speaker Willie Brown famously said the job was like trying to herd cats. …

First elected in 2012, he ran for speaker last year and lost to Assemblywoman Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). But she’s termed out next year and has been preparing to run against Democratic Sen. Marty Block of San Diego. That raised eyebrows. Legislators want leaders who can help them get reelected, not be focused on their own race.

If not herded, cats can eat a lame duck alive. Just before the legislative session ended, Democrats began tossing Atkins aside and anointed Rendon.

Anatomy of a Failed Workers’ Comp Bill

RH Reality Check has a critical look at how the workers’ compensation system can discriminate against women, and uses a San Diego sheriff’s deputy who testified before the state Assembly earlier this year as its main example. The woman was denied workers’ comp benefits after a breast cancer diagnosis.

AB 305 by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez sought to address certain gender disparities within the system but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. The story is critical of the reasoning in Brown’s veto message, which said the bill uses “an ill-defined and unscientific standard”:

It’s a curious position, given that doctors in California and many other states make these evaluations based on the AMA guidelines … Individual body parts receive greater “worth” and compensation, with required surgeries and “hardware” earning more. …

“That system is not really all that scientific to begin with,” said Julius Young, partner at Boxer & Gerson, LLP in Oakland, explaining that the guidelines are built around a conception of ‘whole person impairment” and ability to perform daily life activities with a certain injury, and this is given an arbitrary percentage.

Serious DiFi News …

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein makes a strong plea in a New York Times op-ed this week to finally close Guantanamo. She says doing so makes sense financially (“It’s hard to justify spending $2.5 million per detainee when it costs just $86,374 in the so-called Supermax federal penitentiary in Colorado”) and also morally (“Our policies have allowed terrorists to cloud who holds the moral high ground”).

… And Non-Serious DiFi News

I just love this nugget from this engrossing excerpt from Jay Newton-Small’s new book on women in Congress: “California Democrat Dianne Feinstein, the oldest, has a prim dress code for women on her staff: stockings and skirts of a certain length.”

Campaign Money Watch

Campaign reporters across the state are eager to find out which lawmakers are going to a fancy conference in Hawaii paid for by business and other interests who lobby the Capitol.

The L.A. Times says Sen. Marty Block isn’t going, but is cashing in in a different way: “Meanwhile, in a new twist on the annual event, state Sen. Marty Block (D-San Diego) is holding a political fundraiser at a Sacramento café on Wednesday billed as a ‘pre-Maui luncheon,’ where attendees will get a gift certificate to the Sunglass Hut.”

A Mercury News reporter noticed an interesting line in the financial disclosures of Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, who’s challenging Block for a Senate seat:

Still combing through reports, but here’s a nugget to start your day. Amid #SB350 debate, @toniatkins took $3,500 from oil company Tesoro.

— Jessica Calefati (@Calefati) November 3, 2015

• Whoa: “Independent expenditures now make up one-fourth of all the money in legislative races in California – up from 7 percent in 2002.” (CalMatters)

The 2016 Megaballot, Now Mega-er

 GET IT, A POT OF MONEY??? (San Francisco Chronicle)

 Two measures are in the works to extend the Prop. 30 tax hikes. (Sacramento Bee)

 A measure requiring porn actors to wear condoms qualified for the ballot. (Reuters)

 In case you’re already thinking about the selfie you’re gonna take as you emphatically weigh in on porn and pot, don’t worry, Assemblyman Marc Levine has your back.

Golden State News

 An in-depth AP investigation into cops who rape or commit sexual assault includes disturbing instances from San Diego and Sacramento.

 Meet the billionaire California couple whose water-sucking business ventures are booming in the drought. (Forbes)

 Attorney General Kamala Harris is investigating the online charter school industry. (Buzzfeed)

• “Gov. Jerry Brown last year directed state oil and gas regulators to research, map and report back on any mining and oil drilling potential and history at the Brown family’s private land in Northern California.” (Associated Press)

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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