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San Diego got a call-out on the first day of the new legislative session this week when Senate president pro tem Kevin de Leon announced a $2 billion plan to pay for housing for mentally-ill homeless people.

At press conferences in L.A. and Sacramento, Project 25 – funded by the United Way of San Diego and led by St. Vincent de Paul – was highlighted as the kind of “housing first” model the new funds would go toward, using money raised by Prop. 63, the 2004 act that put a 1 percent tax on state millionaires to fund mental health services.

The Project 25 pilot program started with 36 chronically homeless who were costing San Diego about $120,000 each annually through emergency medical care and hospitalizations, according to KPBS. By getting them into housing and then providing “wrap-around” psychiatric and social services, many have been stabilized and remained off the streets and out of emergency rooms. Assemblyman Brian Maienschein helped start the program.

It’s “paying dividends for the taxpayers,” notes the release. “In two years the annual public costs related to participants of Project 25 were reduced nearly 63 percent, to $1.6 million from $4.3 million.”

Sen. Marty Block, who backs the legislation and was at the press event, said he expected programs like that one to receive additional funding if the proposal passes and pointed out that San Diego has one of the highest populations of homeless veterans – many with service-related mental issues – that need help and could benefit if the funding materializes. “People have mixed feelings about the homeless,” he said. But “feelings are much more sympathetic towards veterans.”

The Legislature’s focus on the housing first model mirrors federal agencies’ embrace of that strategy, which aims to house people right away, as opposed to other models that focus on first providing services like counseling and job training. San Diego nonprofits have been making a slow pivot toward housing-first approaches.

Weber Will Likely Try Again on Teacher Evals

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber is likely going to come back swinging with another attempt at teacher evaluations this year, said her communications director, Joe Kocurek.

Many will remember her fight to find a ratings method for educators last year, which led to an impassioned speech when her AB 1495, opposed by the powerful California Teachers Association, went before the Assembly Committee on Education – only to be knocked out.

“I ask you not to park my bill but to keep it in the conversation,” she told committee members before the vote, to no avail. “I know that’s controversial, but I think at some point our children deserve, deserve those of us to stand up for them and to fight to make sure this happens.”

That speech went as viral as a legislative committee hearing can on YouTube with more than 1,300 views, and was one reason we named her as a Voice of the Year in 2015.

Not much has changed politically on the evaluation front. It’s still a hot potato topic and Weber will face the same union opponents and the same dissent. Still, Kocurek says she’s not close to giving up on a cause she feels is personal – but no details yet on what the revised bill may look like.

• Weber also plans to re-introduce legislation that would create uniform policies for police body cameras, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Gonzalez 1, OC Register 0

The new session started off somewhat routinely for Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who found herself talking diapers and pompoms just like last year. Monday morning, the Orange County Register attacked her AB 202, which became law Jan. 1, turning cheerleaders into employees – with minimum wage and sick days – instead of being relegated to independent contractor status (Chargers Girls were paid $75 a game until now).

In an editorial, the paper accused her of promoting “excessive government” and contended that cheerleaders didn’t need the boost since, “Being a cheerleader for a pro team obviously has fringe benefits lacking at other jobs, such as working closely with players making an average of $1.9 million a year in the NFL and $5 million in the NBA.”

Gonzalez says she was “enraged” when she read it. “In doing this bill, I saw and heard sexist comments but that was so blatant … I was a little shell shocked,” she says. She shot back via Twitter:

Seriously? The @ocregister ed board thinks pro-cheerleaders shouldn’t make minimum wage bc they work with rich men. pic.twitter.com/OJmghsCNLu

— Lorena Gonzalez (@LorenaSGonzalez) January 1, 2016

Before long, she received lots of retweets and a call from OC editorial page editor Brian Calle, offering Gonzalez an explanation that he’d been on vacation when the piece was published and also found it offensive – and had redacted the line.

That surprised Gonzalez. “I kinds thought they might double down on it,” Gonzalez said. “I thought, ‘Well it’s the O.C. Register and this guy is really conservative.’ So when he apologized and explained how he didn’t see it, I just thought that was pretty classy and unusual, so I’m letting this one go.”

But one she’s not letting go is AB 492 – another attempt to give a break to low-income parents struggling to pay for diapers. That bill – her third dealing with nappies – will be heard in the human services committee next week, and has until the end of the month to clear the Assembly. So far, she hasn’t had any luck convincing enough of her colleagues on this issue, so she’s scaled back. AB 492 offers a $50 a month voucher to CalWORKS moms with kids under age 2 in childcare. But Gonzalez says she’ll get diaper relief eventually. “Diapers cost too much for families,” she says. “We have to do something.”

SD Republicans Lean Toward Rubio

The Sacramento Bee talked to three San Diego-area Republican lawmakers on their preferred presidential candidates, and only one has picked a horse, or elephant, if you will.

State Sen. Pat Bates, whose district includes parts of Orange County and parts of northern San Diego, is pulling for Sen. Marco Rubio. Assemblywoman Marie Waldron is waiting to see how things shake out, as is Sen. Joel Anderson, who initially supported Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and is being more cautious now that he’s out of the race:

“I’m the kiss of death,” he joked. “A lot of my colleagues are probably hoping I’ll endorse Trump.”

That’d pit him against Republican Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, who’s been outspoken in his criticisms of Trump.

As for other local Republican leaders, Rep. Darrell Issa is backing Rubio. So is Mayor Kevin Faulconer.

A Field Poll this week found that Sen. Ted Cruz and Trump are the preferred candidates for California voters likely to vote in the Republican primary. The poll also found Chavez is leading among Republican candidates in the U.S. Senate race.

Golden State News

Chart enthusiast Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled his new budget proposal Thursday. Check out good analyses of the plan here, here and here. (Sac Bee, Mercury News, KQED)

 No one wants Salton Sea license plates. (KPBS)

 So far, the state Legislature’s move to rein in crisis pregnancy centers is passing muster in court. (Slate)

 The state Fair Political Practices Commission is trying to bring more transparency to lobbyist spending. (CalMatters)

 More than 70 (!) measures are gathering signatures trying to make it onto the November ballot. (KPCC)

Anita Chabria

Anita Chabria is a freelance writer in Sacramento covering politics and culture. Follow her at @chabriaa or reach...

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