The San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce is open to new taxes and fees for transportation and is supportive of state Sen. Toni Atkins’ plan to create a permanent source of money for affordable housing.
The Chamber took a delegation of about 80 San Diego business leaders and politicians, including seven of the nine San Diego City Council members, to Sacramento this week to lobby and learn.
Part of the message the Chamber hoped to convey is that the picture other Californians may have of San Diego as a sunny, gorgeous beach community masks problems that Sacramento needs to help solve.
Some of the Chamber’s positions seem relatively unusual for a business group, like its openness to new taxes for transit. But the support of affordable housing and transportation comes because of high housing prices, which hurts area businesses when they go to recruit employees; and deteriorating road conditions, as well as congestion, which also hurts recruitment and makes it harder to move goods.
“It’s time to make sure that our businesses are in a state that has the basic infrastructure for them to carry out their business functions and for their employees to enjoy a moderately nice quality of life,” said Stefanie Benvenuto, the Chamber’s public policy manager.
The Chamber also doesn’t want to see the Affordable Care Act go away unless there’s a plan to replace it with something else. That’s largely a federal issue, but California politicians are the forefront of fighting the Trump administration’s plans to roll back the law, which has provided more money to help insure low-income Californians.
“We don’t want to see a bunch of negative impacts for the sake of political gain in the health care world,” Benvenuto said.
But the Chamber is also worried about ending up between state leaders and the Trump administration, if there’s federal backlash against California.
“We don’t want our businesses to get caught in the cross-fire,” Benvenuto said.
For instance, the Chamber supports modernized and expanded border crossings, something that might normally receive federal funding but that it’s hard to imagine the Trump administration is going to help pay for.
The Chamber is also monitoring state rulemaking around the legalization of recreational marijuana. It has several concerns, including the lack of certainty for businesses that might want to sell marijuana and the lack of certainty for every employer who drug-tests employees.
– Ry Rivard
San Diego Leader Backs New Community College Bachelor’s Degree Bill
A new bill before the California Legislature would double the number of community college programs that allow students to earn a bachelor’s degree.
The original pilot program approved in 2104, was created by former San Diego Sen. Marty Block. With Block out of office, Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo has taken up the cause.
The pilot program created by Block lets community college students earn bachelor’s degrees in 15 programs in highly specialized fields like mortuary science and equine industry. That’s because the California State University system is wary of competition – to address those concerns, the pilot only created programs that don’t exist at CSU schools.
Hill’s bill would expand the number of programs offered to 30, and it would axe the program’s current 2023 sunset date.
San Diego Community College District Chancellor Constance Carroll, who is lobbying for the bill, said getting rid of the sunset date is crucial.
“Why would someone want to make an investment in a program that’s going to go away in just a few years?” she said. “We need to present stable program opportunities for students so that they will have the confidence that when they enroll in a program, that it’s going to be there.”
Since the bill doubles the program, I asked Carroll whether the ultimate goal was for community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in more traditional studies like history or English. I was surprised by how emphatically she shot me down.
“No, absolutely not. The goal is not to turn community colleges into four-year institutions. That would make no sense whatsoever,” she said. “What does make sense is for community colleges to be able to fulfill their top mission, which is workforce education. What is happening in America is, in some fields an associate’s degree has become absolute.
Nursing and dental hygiene are two examples of fields in which employers used to hire people with associate’s degrees, but now almost exclusively insist on bachelor’s degrees.
Another piece of Hill’s bill might rile the CSU system once more. It would allow community colleges to offer bachelor’s degrees in programs already offered by CSU schools – so long as the program is at least 100 miles away.
Carroll said she’s frustrated by the whole idea of community colleges being seen as competition by four-year institutions.
“Community colleges are not in the business of offering four-year degrees in English or mathematics or history. This is workforce, workforce, workforce only. … Issues of turf and theoretical considerations to me are not material. This is a very, very practical issue.”
Cal Supremes: Public Records Are Public Records
That sound you heard on Thursday morning was journalists across the state jumping out of their desks to do this:
That’s because the California Supreme Court took the side of transparency in a matter that’s long caused tension between government officials and those trying to access public records through the California Public Records Act.
Here’s how the court described the question at hand, and its answer:
“Are writings concerning the conduct of public business beyond (the California Public Records Act’s) reach merely because they were sent or received using a nongovernmental account? Considering the statute’s language and the important policy interests it serves, the answer is no.”
That means that if a government official or employee sent texts or emails about public business on their own private cell phone, they still must disclose those communications to the public.
The issue of whether journalists and other members of the public can legally access public records that exist within private email accounts or on private devices has popped up in San Diego many times. Former City Attorney Jan Goldsmith at one point argued that the law applied only to “’local agencies,’ a ‘city,’ or a ‘municipal corporation’ to turn over documents, not individuals, officials, or employees,” the Reader noted in 2014.
Goldsmith also argued that public business conducted on private devices should not be disclosed to the public.
Assemblyman Todd Gloria, during his stint as interim mayor, tried to shorten the window that the city holds on to emails – a move that Mayor Kevin Faulconer put on hold when he took over.
During Faulconer’s mayoral run, he told Liam Dillon that he believed city business conducted on private devices or from private email accounts should be disclosed to the public. Here’s what else he said on the matter:
If a message is created using a personal device or software, you would use the following test: personal messages that are unrelated to city business would remain private and messages related to public business covered under the Public Records Act would be subject to public records requests. To enforce this, my administration would encourage employees to use official email and devices for all city business. When public requests are received on private email accounts, city employees would be instructed to reply with, “Please email me at (JohnDoe@sandiego.gov) and I will respond.”
Golden State News
• Los Angeles County says in a new lawsuit that the state’s redistricting law is unfair to the county and to independent voters. (L.A. Times)
• Here’s a breakdown over the fight to fund improvements to transportation and roads. (Sacramento Bee)
• If Republicans in Congress successfully defund Planned Parenthood, the repercussions could hit California hard. (CalMatters)
• Assembly Republican leader Chad Mayes has made a big push to show that his party cares about poverty. It’s paying off, with write-ups like this one that wonder if the GOP has become the party of the poor in California. (San Francisco Chronicle)