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The end of one busy political year gave way to another this week when California lawmakers reconvened at the Capitol. Members of San Diego’s delegation assumed new posts, introduced bills and talked more about how to improve the way officials handle sexual harassment claims.
State Sen. Joel Anderson said victims of sexual harassment need to be heard and have more input in the process. He outlined his concern in a letter to Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leόn.
It is critical “there is transparency in the process and that justice is served,” Anderson, a Republican, said by phone Thursday. The move comes as harassment claims continued to dominate the conversation and news cycle in Sacramento.
State Sen. Tony Mendoza, a Democrat, agreed Wednesday to take a month of paid leave from his job amid sexual misconduct allegations. Two California assemblymen, Matt Dababneh and Raul Bocanegra, both Los Angeles-area Democrats, have resigned in recent weeks due to sexual misconduct allegations. In December, de Leόn announced the hiring of two law firms to investigate allegations against Mendoza and state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Democrat.
In the letter to de Leόn, Anderson asked whether the senate will now insist that all senators under investigation for sexual misconduct take a leave from office.
Anderson said he soon plans to introduce a bill that would require officials to make public all taxpayer dollars used in settlements paid to victims who have made claims against state lawmakers.
“I want to know if somebody is using their office to abuse others,” Anderson said. “Every Californian has a right to know if their legislator is preying on others.”
He’s in his final year due to term limits. “I’m laser-focused on finishing strong,” Anderson said. “If you finish strong, there’s always opportunities.”
Anderson is raising money for a seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors in 2020, but he noted, that’s a long time from now.
Gonzalez Fletcher Wants to Ban Schools from Referring Parents to Debt Collection Agencies
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher is mulling a bill this year that would bar school districts from sending parents to collections for unpaid bus bills, library charges and school lunches.
Gonzalez Fletcher said she was shocked recently to learn from a Voice of San Diego story that San Diego Unified forwards payment information to a collections agency when parents don’t pay bus fees on time. It could have implications on their credit scores.
On a similar note, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber said she is motivated to continue working on social justice issues, such as female incarceration and rising food insecurity among college students.
And California Senate Republican Leader Patricia Bates, who represents portions of Orange County and North County in San Diego, said in a statement that addressing sexual harassment remains among her priorities this year. She also plans on “addressing the opioid epidemic, improving oversight over the drug rehab industry, and stopping the early release of dangerous criminals due to the state’s problematic definition of ‘non-violent’ crimes.”
Chávez Seeks More Money for Vocational Training
Assemblyman Rocky Chávez, an Oceanside Republican, has co-authored a bill introduced Wednesday that would provide additional funding for career and vocational training for jobs like electrician, plumber, carpenter and welder.
Chávez, vice chair of the Assembly Education Committee, said the proposed legislation will help those who do not want to pursue a four-year college degree. Assemblywoman Marie Waldron of Escondido is also a co-author.
The proposal calls for extending $500 million a year in state grants for career technical education programs in high schools. The extension would be for three years and requires that local districts provide matching dollars.
“It’s a priority to me because it’s jobs,” Chávez said. “They can make a good living for their families.”
Gloria Rises to Assembly Majority Whip
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon has promoted Assemblyman Todd Gloria to the body’s majority whip, a powerful leadership post.
Gloria, a Democrat, is starting his second year in the Assembly and had been serving as assistant majority whip. In his new role, Gloria will help lead legislative efforts by the Democratic Caucus.
“I’m extremely grateful to Speaker Rendon for the opportunity,” Gloria said by phone on Thursday.
He added that he’s learned that the San Diego region can be overlooked by state lawmakers. In his new role, Gloria sees the value of strong relationships and advocating for San Diego on issues like clean energy and water.
“We’re far from Sacramento,” Gloria said. “A San Diegan is in the room and at the table.”
Gloria, 39, served on the San Diego City Council from 2008 to 2016, with stints as interim mayor and council president. Since joining the Assembly, Gloria has served as chairman of the Assembly Select Committee on Housing Affordability for the Middle and Working Class.
He joins state Sen. Toni Atkins, also a San Diego Democrat, in assuming a new leadership role this year. Atkins is expected to replace de Leόn as Senate President Pro Tem later this year while he campaigns to unseat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
State to Collect Detailed Racial Profiling Data
A report released last Friday by the state attorney general’s office suggests that few people who feel they’ve been racially profiled by law enforcement actually file a complaint.
Published by the advisory board overseeing implementation of 2015’s Racial and Identity Profiling Act — which, among other things, requires police departments to collect data on pedestrian and vehicle stops — the report surveyed 452 California law enforcement agencies about civilian complaints. Of those that responded, only 110 said they’d received complaints alleging profiling based on race or identity. From a total 514 complaints, only 10 were found to have merit.
In San Diego, five of the county’s 16 law enforcement agencies — the sheriff’s department and San Diego, Chula Vista, El Cajon and Escondido police departments — reported receiving complaints alleging race- or identity-based profiling. None of the complaints were sustained, though four complaints submitted to the San Diego Police Department were pending investigation.
Pastor Cornelius Bowser, a community activist, said the low number of complaints could be due to frustration.
“There are people out there who don’t file complaints because they don’t think it’s worthwhile,” he said. “And there’s also a trust issue — people don’t complain because of the relationship they have with law enforcement.”
The report is the board’s first — California law enforcement agencies only started reporting complaint data to the state Attorney General’s office in 2016.
Starting in July, law enforcement agencies will be required to collect detailed information any time an officer stops a pedestrian or driver.
Last May, the San Diego Police and San Diego County Sheriff’s departments participated in a pilot program ahead of the requirements. Data from the pilot that found significant differences in the way minorities and white drivers are treated. Police officials, however, argued that the pilot’s sample size was too small and the information officers were asked to collect too time consuming.
— Kelly Davis
Golden State News
• Celebrate the New Year with a primer on topics that will shape California races this year. (CalMatters)
• Will the series of sexual harassment allegations in the Legislature affect de Leόn’s bid to unseat Feinstein? (Sacramento Bee)
• California Senate and Assembly lawmakers to work together to address sexual harassment in Capitol. (Los Angeles Times)
• The challenge of legalized marijuana: Scientists do not agree on what constitutes impairment behind the wheel. (San Francisco Chronicle)
• Los Angeles County will decide California’s gubernatorial race. (Los Angeles Times)
• Legalized marijuana isn’t the only new state law taking effect this year. (Sacramento Bee)
• About 300 producers, directors, writers, actors and agents in Hollywood launched an initiative to combat sexual harassment and gender inequality. (New York Times)