Councilman Todd Gloria, an outspoken champion of the minimum wage increase, said he and other supporters are operating on the assumption that they’ll have a well-funded opposition over the next three months. / Photo by Sam Hodgson

Those seeking a concealed-carry permit may soon need to meet more rigorous training standards to prove they know how to safely handle a gun.

Assemblyman Todd Gloria, a San Diego Democrat, has introduced a bill requiring that all permit applicants receive a minimum of eight hours of training on firearm safety, handling and technique. AB 2103 also would mandate live-fire shooting exercises on a firing range where applicants must show they can safely shoot and handle the firearm.

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California law requires that applicants receive some basic training, but does not provide a minimum number of hours. Historically, that decision has been made by local sheriff’s departments.

“This jeopardizes public safety and has to be addressed,” Gloria said in a statement, adding: “Ultimately, this will help ensure these deadly weapons do not end up in the wrong hands.”

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, a San Diego Democrat, is a co-author on the bill, one of several gun control measures that state lawmakers have introduced this year. The issue has also received renewed attention in Washington, D.C., since the deadly Feb. 14 school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other congressional members met with President Donald Trump this week to discuss possible measures. Students nationwide are planning school walkouts and a march in the nation’s capital later this month.

AB 2103 has been referred to the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Less Than Half Approve of Legislature

Many Californians say their state lawmakers can do better.

About 47 percent of likely voters in Orange and San Diego counties approve of how state lawmakers are handling their jobs, according to a January poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. That’s slightly lower than the 50 percent of likely voters polled statewide who approve of the Legislature’s job.

Since Democrats control both chambers, the results of the poll tended to fall along partisan lines. Democrats statewide overwhelmingly approve of the Legislature by 69 percent while 24 percent of Republicans and 37 percent of independents like what they’re seeing in Sacramento.

The findings are fairly consistent with the institute’s past polls, but a new factor this year is voters’ views about how state lawmakers have addressed sexual harassment and misconduct at the Capitol, where three lawmakers resigned in recent months amid allegations. Nearly half of Californians are closely following news on the topic while 59 percent of likely voters are tracking the Legislature’s handling of the issue, the poll found. Likely voters so far are evenly split on how lawmakers are addressing harassment, with 38 percent each approving and disapproving of the Legislature’s job performance.

Twenty percent of Californians say the top issue they want the governor and state lawmakers to address is immigration. Among voters polled in Orange and San Diego counties, those most concerned about immigration rose slightly to 24 percent.

Far fewer voters — 30 percent — are as engaged in the gubernatorial race so far. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa are nearly tied as the two front-runners.

Millions of Mental Health Dollars Are Unspent

Counties across the state are hanging onto lots of tax money meant serve Californians with mental illnesses and state officials, including Gloria, are increasingly scrutinizing that unspent cash.

This week, the state auditor’s office issued a blistering report that concluded the state agency overseeing mental health spending on cash collected via a voter-approved millionaires’ tax wasn’t doing enough to oversee that spending.

As of last November, San Diego County had nearly $166 million of that money in banks, including a $42 million reserve meant to shield the county from annual fluctuations in tax collections.

County bureaucrats have said they’re working to reduce their large unspent balance and to figure out just how much should be kept for rainy days. They’re not alone. The state auditor estimated that counties held $157 million to $274 million in excess reserves alone as of 2016.

Last month, Gloria — partly inspired by Voice of San Diego’s coverage — introduced AB 2843 to add teeth to requirements that the money be spent.

“There is a lack of direction from state agencies and I think this is where the legislature should provide clarity and do it soon because this is happening in the context of a mental-health crisis that needs addressing,” Gloria said.

One point of confusion, highlighted by the state audit, is whether counties can spend the interest they’ve collected in Proposition 63 bank accounts. San Diego County had amassed $11 million in interest as of 2016, according to the auditors.

Proposition 63 funds aren’t the only state mental health dollars that haven’t been fully deployed. The Los Angeles Times reports a $2 billion bond that lawmakers approved two years ago in hopes of housing thousands of homeless people with mental illnesses is tied up in court.

— Lisa Halverstadt

Money for the Wrongfully Convicted

State Sen. Joel Anderson, an Alpine Republican, wants to improve the state’s compensation process for the wrongfully convicted.

SB 1094, which Anderson recently introduced along with Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner, seeks automatic compensation for those whose convictions are reversed. While state law has streamlined the process to reverse a conviction, compensation is often slow to arrive, Anderson says.

In a statement, Anderson called the imprisonment of the innocent “an affront to the concept of a fair system of justice for the accused and the families of victims. An exoneree is already entitled to compensation for time spent incarcerated for a crime they did not commit, yet current law forces exonerees to essentially reprove their innocence over and over in order to receive that compensation.”

“This bill,” he added, “will provide exonerees with automatic access to those funds so they can get back on their feet more quickly.”

Anderson recently worked with the California Innocence Project on the passage of SB 336, which ensures that those found to be wrongfully convicted are eligible for transitional services from the state’s Department of Corrections.

The bill has been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Public Safety.

Golden State News

 A proposed ballot initiative that would expand the state Legislature to 12,000 members — funded by Republican gubernatorial candidate and Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox — failed to win enough signatures. He vows to continue the effort. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Trump will visit California for the first time as president, including a stop in San Diego to review border wall prototypes. While the president’s base is thrilled, Democrats are preparing to greet him with protests and rebuke. (San Diego Union-Tribune, Politico)

Dan Walters on what state party conventions, including last week’s Democratic one in San Diego, really tell us. (CALmatters)

California is among seven states whose election systems U.S. Intelligence officials believe were compromised by Russian-backed covert operatives during the 2016 election. (NBC News)

California now allows driverless cars on state roads. (San Francisco Chronicle)

U.S. Supreme Court extends relief for Dreamers, rejects immediate ruling on President Trump’s plan. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Republican Doug Ose drops out of governor’s race. (Los Angeles Times)

Marisa Agha is a journalist based in Southern California.

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