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State lawmakers get back to work on Monday, and they’ve got a lot of ground to cover.
They left for August recess without taking major action on the housing crisis, and they’ll also weigh in on perhaps the most high-profile bill of the session, the so-called sanctuary state bill.
Many attention-grabbing bills have already died or been shelved so far this session. But there are still plenty of high-profile measures alive in the Legislature, including these ones written by San Diego lawmakers.
AB 90: Reforming the CalGang Database
The CalGang database, which law enforcement agencies use to collect information on documented gang members, is beset with problems. We know this because an explosive state audit, undertaken at the request of Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, told us so.
In the wake of the audit, Weber proposed a bill that would overhaul CalGang and attempt to make the processes that land people in the database more transparent. The bill would give oversight of the database to the California Department of Justice, create an advisory panel of law enforcement officers, community members and other stakeholders, require periodic audits of the database and would not allow information to be shared with federal agencies.
A competing reform bill preferred by law enforcement groups is also still alive.
AB 386: Legal Aid for Deported Vets
The plight of those who serve in the U.S. Armed Forces but who are later deported from the country has gotten a lot of attention over the past year.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s bill would require the California Department of Social Services to contract out legal services to deported veterans. It would also set up a fund that could accept private donations to expand the pool of those who can receive legal services.
An earlier version of the bill would have appropriated money from the general fund. The amended version says funding will be dependent on the availability of money in the state budget – which lowers the bar to pass the measure from a two-thirds vote to a simple majority.
Rep. Juan Vargas, whose congressional district overlaps with Gonzalez Fletcher’s Assembly district, has similarly proposed federal legislation aimed at helping deported vets.
These two bills, introduced by Weber and Assemblyman Todd Gloria, attempt to alter county elections.
AB 801 would overhaul the redistricting process for the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. Right now, a panel of retired judges is supposed to redraw districts, but Weber is concerned those judges will not take proper account of the county’s diversity. (Right now, all county supervisors are white.)
AB 901 attempts to ensure every candidate for county office faces voters in the fall. Right now, county candidates can take office without facing voters in a fall general election if they win a majority of the votes during the June primary. Gloria’s office tentatively expects the Senate to take up the bill before the end of the month and is talking with the governor’s office about what it makes of the bill.
AB 805: Reforming SANDAG
SANDAG, the countywide agency that collects sales taxes to plan and build regional transportation projects like highways and transit lines, has been mired in scandal for a year, since Voice of San Diego began reporting on errors in its long-term forecasts before last November’s election. Gonzalez Fletcher introduced a bill that would reform the scandal-plagued agency while also winning long sought after power on it for local progressives
The bill would introduce an audit committee and performance auditor for the agency and allow the region’s two transit operators to levy their own taxes. It would also change the voting structure of the agency so that board members who represent a majority of the county’s population – for instance, the cities of San Diego, Chula Vista and Lemon Grove, combined – could overrule the rest of the board. It would in effect shift power to the larger, urban cities and away from smaller, rural ones.
AB 805 would also require major SANDAG projects to use laborers who graduated from a state-approved apprenticeship program, unless it signs a union-friendly contract called a project labor agreement.
Those last two items have drawn opposition from leaders of small cities and conservatives who reject the boost to organized labor.
San Diego’s City Council supported the bill on a 5-4, party-line vote. Mayor Kevin Faulconer, though, did not veto the bill, even though the Democrats didn’t have the votes to overrule him. That decision could suggest his tacit support.
AB 1321: Making Spending on Vulnerable Students More Transparent
About four years after California switched up how it funds K-12 education, with an eye toward lifting up low-income and vulnerable students, it’s nearly impossible to tell whether the funds are going where they’re supposed to.
AB 1321 by Weber would require local groups to track and report how they’re spending money doled out via the Local Control Funding Formula.
SB 2: Funding Affordable Housing
Ever since the end of the state’s tax-funded redevelopment program in 2011, which helped cities rebuild rundown areas, the affordable housing industry has been without a permanent funding source.
Sen. Toni Atkins’ bill would impose a $75 fee on certain real estate documents to create a new source of money to fund subsidized housing in the state. In addition to providing funds for housing subsidies, the bill would also allow the money to be used toward community plan updates or other fiscal incentives for local governments to approve new low-income housing.
Atkins’ bill is one of more than 100 housing bills introduced in the Legislature this session, but is considered one of the most crucial by housing advocates because it provides funding for new construction.
Because the bill would impose a new fee, it must clear the two-thirds vote threshold in both chambers. It passed the Senate in July, and now faces the same hurdle in the Assembly, which could weigh in as soon as next week.
SB 179: Gender Recognition Act
This bill by Atkins and Sen. Scott Wiener would let residents change their names and gender markers on state-issued documents, including birth certificates and driver’s licenses.
It would allow for people to select a “nonbinary” gender option on state forms. The DMV could not review someone’s chosen gender or institute requirements to substantiate a person’s choice.
SB 384: Keeping Bars Open Longer
SB 384, co-written by Wiener and Sen. Joel Anderson, would allow bars to stay open until 4 a.m.
In order to take advantage of the law, local governments would need to create a plan identifying the area eligible for extended hours and assess the impact on public safety. Objections to the plan can be filed with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, which would trigger a public hearing.
The bill has the support of several chambers of commerce, restaurant and taxi groups and Uber. It’s opposed by several anti-drug and anti-alcohol groups, churches and a handful of law enforcement groups.
Not on the List: Good News and Bad News on Denti-Cal Reimbursements
I’d originally slated AB 15, Assemblyman Brian Maienschein’s latest attempt to increase reimbursements to dentists who accept Denti-Cal, the state’s version of Medi-Cal for low-income dental patients, to run in this roundup. Helping more low-income residents access dental care has been a big priority for Republicans seeking to show Californians that they care about the poor.
It turns out AB 15 was put on hold earlier this year. That said, the state budget signed by Gov. Jerry Brown does include $34.7 million in the next year, and $72.9 million annually from the general fund after that, to restore full dental services to Medi-Cal beneficiaries. SB 105, one of the budget trailer bills, includes a provision allocating funds to supplement reimbursements to physicians and dentists.
From Charlottesville to California
California might be a world away from Charlottesville, Va., but it – like every other state in the nation – faces the same problems and questions following a Nazi rally last Saturday.
Locally, Gonzalez Fletcher led the charge to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary. But pushes at the state level have been less effective.
In 2015, Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would have prohibited naming public buildings and roads after Confederate leaders.
Brown said in a veto message that the issue is “quintessentially for local decision makers,” according to the Sacramento Bee.
“Local governments are laboratories of democracy which, under most circumstances, are quite capable of deciding for themselves which of their buildings and parks should be named, and after whom,” he said.
In 2014, however, Brown did sign a law prohibiting the state from selling or displaying the Confederate flag, unless it appeared in a museum or book.
• One of the organizers of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville used UC Berkeley as a test run. (KQED)
• The San Diego, Northern California and Southern California chapters of the ACLU sent out a joint statement breaking ranks with the national ACLU over the Charlottesville rally. A representative for the national ACLU, though, released a statement saying it agreed with every word written by the California chapters. (KPCC)
Golden State News
• Lawmakers could ask for billions in new spending on the 2018 ballot, including proposals for $450 million on voting system upgrades from Gonzalez Fletcher and $500 million on Salton Sea improvements from Sen. Ben Hueso. (L.A. Times)
• The effort to recall Santa Clara Judge Aaron Persky, who gave Stanford sexual assailant Brock Turner an incredibly lenient sentence, has hit a major setback. (San Francisco Chronicle)
Andrew Keatts, Ry Rivard and Maya Srikrishnan contributed to this report.