The California Capitol building / Image via Shutterstock

State lawmakers in Sacramento continue to wrestle with how to fix policies addressing sexual harassment at the Capitol.

California Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates, who represents portions of Orange County and North County in San Diego, this week called for victims to be released from any nondisclosure agreements that prevent them from discussing settlements they agreed to and other details about their experiences. Additionally, Bates is seeking a more unified process among both the state Assembly and Senate to address harassment claims.

The suggestions were outlined in a letter signed by Bates on behalf of the Senate Republican Caucus to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leόn and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, both Democrats.

“These NDAs conceal public business and all wrongdoing, but are funded by taxpayer dollars,” the letter said.

On Thursday, de Leόn announced the hiring of two law firms to handle sexual harassment investigations into Sens. Tony Mendoza and Bob Hertzberg, “and all future probes of harassment and abuse involving Senate employees,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

Two California assemblymen, Matt Dababneh, and Raul Bocanegra, have resigned in recent weeks due to sexual misconduct allegations.

Meanwhile, another tool that has long been floated to fight harassment in the Capitol is a bill to protect legislative employees who call out and report bad behavior.

The bill, written by Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, has stalled in the state Senate several years in a row. She’s hoping the harsh spotlight on sexual harassment issues in the Capitol will help it succeed next year, and announced that San Diego Assemblyman Brian Maienschein has signed on as a sponsor.

San Diego Republicans Urge Congress to Renew Children’s Health Insurance Program

All four of San Diego County’s Republican Assembly members, including Randy Voepel, Rocky Chavez, Marie Waldron and Brian Maienschein, signed a letter urging their Republican colleagues in Congress to renew the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The letter is addressed to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and California’s Republican congressional delegation.

The program, which covers medical care for vulnerable children and pregnant women, expires on Dec. 22. Congress passed a short-term extension for the program earlier this month, but as year-end federal budget talks continue in Washington, the program’s future remains uncertain.

“I believe that we should do what we can to provide basic health care services for our country’s most vulnerable children. This is a program that has justifiably received consistent bipartisan support for more than 20 years, and I believe Congress should do the right thing and reauthorize the program on a long-term basis,” Voepel said in a statement.

Also in health care news, Waldron said she listened to information about what other states are doing toward universal health care during a meeting this week of the Assembly’s Select Committee on Health Care Delivery Systems and Universal Coverage, but she does not support a single-payer system.

“I like competition in the market, but I want to make sure what we do is efficient and helpful to the patients,” Waldron said.

Senate Bill 562, co-written by San Diego Sen. Toni Atkins, proposed a single-payer health care system in California. The plan was eventually shelved over its lack of details and a plan to pay for it all.

San Diego Among Cities Driving State’s Homelessness to Largest Increase

San Diego County has the fourth largest homeless population in the nation and it’s growing, according to a federal housing report released earlier this month.

An estimated 9,200 people are homeless in the county — a 6-percent increase from 2016, based on new figures from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Most sleep on streets, in cars or parks, the report found.

Those numbers helped spur California to a 14-percent increase in homelessness between 2016 and 2017, the report found. Nearly half of all unsheltered homeless people in the nation live in California.

San Diego County ranked behind New York, Los Angeles County and King County, Wash., home to Seattle.

Reasons driving California’s rising homelessness include the escalating cost of living, lack of affordable housing and stagnant wages, experts say.

Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein serve on the Assembly’s Select Committee on Homelessness.

“HUD’s latest homeless report is horrifying but hardly surprising to anyone who lives in California,” Gonzalez Fletcher said in a statement. “Going forward, it’s critical that we take action at every level of government to alleviate what is now a humanitarian crisis.”

Gonzalez Fletcher and San Diego City Councilman Chris Ward worked to include San Diego among the cities that are eligible to expedite construction of emergency housing for the homeless through Assembly Bill 932. The bill was signed earlier this year and takes effect in January.

Golden State News

Marisa Agha is a journalist based in Southern California.

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