Most of the bills that pass through the California Legislature have an impact up and down the state – those dealing with things like water, health care, public education and infrastructure will at some point touch the lives of most Californians.
Other bills, though, are narrowly targeted to help the people or address an issue right in a lawmaker’s backyard.
Here’s a snapshot of the bills that directly address San Diego.
AB 801: Remaking San Diego’s Citizens Redistricting Commission
This bill from Assemblywoman Shirley Weber is aimed at making San Diego’s redistricting commission more reflective of the county’s diverse population.
It would expand the commission from five members to 14, require that at least one member reside in each supervisorial district and set a number of other requirements for how commission members are selected.
AB 805: Reforming the SANDAG Board
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s bill to overhaul the SANDAG board of directors was inspired by Voice of San Diego’s explosive series revealing SANDAG knowingly misled voters about a 2016 ballot measure seeking approval of a multibillion-dollar bond.
The bill would overhaul SANDAG’s voting structure, giving each of the cities on the board a vote proportional to their population. That would make the county’s most populous cities – San Diego and Chula Vista — far more influential in regional decision-making. It would also create an audit committee and hire an independent auditor at SANDAG, in hopes of preventing another budgeting scandal.
AB 901: Changing Countywide Elections
In November, city of San Diego voters changed the way elections for city offices are decided – candidates can no longer win outright in a June primary. Instead, the top-two primary vote-getters face off in a November general election, when more voters are weighing in. Assemblyman Todd Gloria’s bill would institute a similar change for countywide elections, including the Board of Supervisors, sheriff, DA, tax collector and County Board of Education.
Even if Gloria’s bill becomes law, county voters will still have to approve the change.
AB 932: Declaring a Shelter Crisis
This bill allows San Francisco and San Diego to declare a shelter crisis, suspending certain rules that could allow both cities to expedite the construction of homeless shelters and long-term housing.
Written by Assemblyman Phil Ting, the bill originally applied only to San Francisco, but Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher joined in and tacked San Diego on to the program, at the urging of San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward.
SB 214: Expanding the San Diego River Conservancy Board and Its Powers
The San Diego River Conservancy became a state conservancy in 2015. This bill from Sen. Toni Atkins would expand its board from 11 members to 15, and codify certain powers, like the ability to award grants to special districts.
SB 480: Coronado Bridge Safety Upgrades
This bill to set aside State Highway Account money to “direct funding to feasibility, environmental and engineering studies concerning bridge safety” for the Coronado Bridge. The bill was written by Sen. Ben Hueso in the wake of last year’s deadly accident in which a driver lost control, drove off the bridge and crashed onto a festival below.
SCR 56: Highway 67 Makin’ History
This bill from Sen. Joel Anderson would designate Highway 67 a historic highway route.
Foster Care Advocates Holding Their Breath on State Budget
Virtually every child in the state’s foster care system got there through a nightmare scenario. They’ve been abused, neglected, tortured or abandoned by their own parents.
For these kids, the one person appointed to represent their interests is an attorney. Yet, the exceedingly high caseloads those attorneys shoulder can mean their work is reduced to a constant cycle of triage. While the American Bar Association recommends these attorneys represent no more than 100 children each, dependency attorneys in San Diego represent, on average, 210 children per attorney.
Two years ago, the ACLU of Southern California looked at attorneys’ workloads and concluded: “The crushing caseloads have put dependency counsel in an impossible situation, forcing them to cut services, forgo necessary investigation and tasks, and choose between competing clients’ needs.”
That’s been the story for the past nine years as attorneys, judges and advocates have unsuccessfully lobbied the state for funds that would allow them to bring caseloads down to recommended levels.
State government, in a way, is paying more attention to the foster care system than ever by signing mandates and protections for foster kids into law. But it’s ignored the other side of the equation: funding to make it all happen.
Advocates and the attorneys themselves are holding their breath for the final state budget, which must be approved June 15. They’re asking for a $22 million statewide funding increase they say is crucial to bringing high caseloads down.
Of course, increased funding for dependency attorneys isn’t the only fix advocates say is needed.
A story this week by CALmatters points out the stipend foster parents receive when they take children into their homes often doesn’t cover the costs of childcare. Advocates worry that disincentivizes foster parents from taking in more children.
A bill proposed by Assemblyman Tony Thurmond could provide some relief in the form of emergency funding that would provide vouchers foster families could use to pay for childcare or preschool when they take in additional children.
– Mario Koran
San Diego Odds and Ends
• Assemblyman Brian Maienschein has been fighting for years to improve access to the state’s Denti-Cal system. His latest idea is to use Prop. 56 funds “to double Medi-Cal reimbursement to dental providers for the 15 most common prevention, treatment and oral evaluation services,” writes the Center for Health Reporting.
• Sen. Toni Atkins talks immigration, health care and affordable housing in a Times of San Diego Q-and-A.
• Curbed LA has a writeup of Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s bill aimed at making coastal lodging more affordable.
• EdSource has the latest on Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill to reform the teacher tenure process.
First Came the Ballot Confusion, Now Comes the Law Confusion
The insane number of statewide ballot measures before voters in 2016 caused a lot of confusion. Now, some of the ballot measures that became law are still causing confusion. At least three are raising questions about how they should be implemented, and in the case of one, whether its mandates are even constitutional.
Prop. 54 aimed to make the workings of the state Legislature more transparent by requiring that all bills must be published and available for three days before being voted on. The problem: Bills get voted on several times before they reach a final vote. Does the rule apply to every vote, or just the very last one?
Backers of the measure say the Assembly violated it when it passed 90 bills this week. The Assembly’s take: Bills must be passed by both houses, therefore the measure would only apply when those bills are up for a second vote in the state Senate.
In an editorial, the Union-Tribune wrote that “Assembly Democrats should err on the side of transparency — instead of trying to see what they can get away with.”
Voters also passed in November a big cigarette tax hike, and the money was intended to go toward health care services.
Now that the cash is beginning to roll in, there are questions swirling about what kind of health care services, exactly, the funds should go to, and whether the language in the measure limited the spending to certain things.
“The governor believes there is flexibility, and wants to broadly use the money to help fund Medi-Cal, California’s healthcare program for the poor. Democratic lawmakers, advocacy groups and healthcare industry groups that funded the Proposition 56 campaign believe instead that the initiative mandates the money be spent to guarantee — and even expand — access to Medi-Cal.”
The legality of Prop. 66, the measure that seeks to speed up death penalty executions, is being tested in court. In oral arguments before the state Supreme Court this week, “several of the justices said that there was no way for the California Supreme Court to meet the deadlines imposed by Proposition 66 without giving up almost all of its other work,” Erwin Chemerinsky wrote in an analysis for the Sacramento Bee.
Golden State News
• Sen. Kevin De León is right: California does have nearly 10 times more clean energy jobs than the rest of the nation has coal mining jobs. (Politifact)
• California is ground zero for a big shift taking place: Democrats are starting to embrace universal health care. (New York Times)
• Gov. Jerry Brown went to China this week, where he sidestepped President Donald Trump on climate change by signing his own agreement to reduce emission. (ABC News)
• A study of Oakland Police Department body camera footage shows officers show more respect toward white drivers and are ruder to black motorists. (PBS)