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Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, who’s running for Congress, says he has no hard feelings for his Democratic colleagues despite a Democratic-funded attack ad blanketing local TV this week knocking him for his votes on bipartisan efforts like the state budget and last year’s cap-and-trade bill.
The ads, funded by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, knock Chavez for “broken promises” and “wasteful spending.”
“They’re clearly Democratic, D.C.-driven ads. Whoever did them doesn’t even know how to say my name. I wear them as a badge of honor,” Chavez said.
He said a number of his colleagues in the state Legislature have reached out to him and apologized for the attacks on his votes in favor of Democratic-led bills.
“We’re talking over 10. They want to be clear that they have nothing to do with it,” Chavez said.
Several political watchers in Sacramento have questioned the reasoning behind the ads, wondering if they might actually be sacrificing the efforts of California Dems in order to boost Dems in Congress.
The Sacramento Bee’s editorial page wrote that the ads are “no way to thank a guy who went out on a limb for the good of the planet.”
But Chavez told me that the attacks haven’t dissuaded him from working with Democrats in the future if he believes in the cause at hand.
With “the cap and trade vote, I didn’t just vote for it I helped negotiate it. And I didn’t do it to help out Jerry Brown, I did it for the industries,” he said. “Same with the budget, I did it because I thought it was right.”
Speaking of bipartisan efforts, Chavez said he expects some Democrats to sign on to a bill involving a toll road extension near San Clemente. Under the bill, “the Transportation Corridor Agencies would be barred from issuing new debt or forming a new entity to build additional toll roads,” the Orange County Register reported.
Chavez also said a bill extending funding for the Career Technical Education Incentive Grant and an effort to get more money for early childhood education into the state budget are big on his priority list for the end of the legislative session.
Rafael Madrigal is still waiting for his money. He sat behind bars for nearly a decade until a federal judge reversed his conviction. For the last nine years, Madrigal has tangled with the state for compensation for his wrongful conviction.
Madrigal is crossing his fingers for the passage of a bill pending before the Legislature. If SB 1094, written by Sen. Joel Anderson, becomes law, Madrigal could be awarded approximately $471,000, and payouts would also flow to scores of other previously incarcerated people. The bill would allow the wrongfully convicted to bypass a series of bureaucratic hurdles that stand in the way of that compensation.
“State law already provides compensation to someone who is wrongfully convicted, it is the least that we can do,” Anderson said in a statement. “SB 1094 simply provides automatic access to that compensation so the exoneree can get back on their feet as quickly as possible and be free finally from having to prove their innocence over and over again after our court system has already released them.”
Madrigal, now 43, was arrested in July 2000 for attempted murder in a gang-related shooting in East Los Angeles, despite the fact that an alibi testified that Madrigal was working more than 30 miles away that day.
During the initial hearing, Madrigal’s defense attorney failed to introduce key pieces of evidence, including a recorded phone call in which the driver in the drive-by shooting confessed to the crime and claimed Madrigal’s innocence.
Under state law, wrongfully convicted individuals are owed $140 for each day of wrongful imprisonment. Madrigal, who lives in Riverside and works as supervisor for a beauty products manufacturer, says he needs his state compensation to send his sons through college.
“It’s a struggle not having the resources,” he said. “It’s time to stop the injustice already.”
Since his release, Madrigal has tangled with the Victim Compensation Board, a three-member panel that reviews claims and recommends payouts to exonerated individuals. The process of hearings and appeals can take years.
Despite the fact that a judge reversed Madrigal’s conviction, the compensation board has denied his payout twice, based largely on a belief of guilt by a deputy attorney general. Madrigal’s most recent appeal is pending before the Los Angeles Superior Court.
Anderson’s bill would require the Victim Compensation Board to automatically approve payouts to exonerated individuals when courts use new evidence to rule that the original conviction was a mistake.
“This bill is trying to get rid of this weird process that we’ve injected into what should be a simple claim of wrongful compensation. Then you get your check,” said Alex Simpson, associate director of the California Innocence Project, which sponsored the bill. Simpson is also Madrigal’s attorney.
The bill is not opposed by any outside groups, including those in law enforcement. It has sailed through two policy committees.
It may encounter one hiccup, however, based on the amount of money the state would need to pay if it became law. That sum could be in the millions, according to a fiscal analysis of the bill.
If the cost derails the bill, the California Innocence Project plans to re-introduce it as a component of the state budget. Simpson says the bill would actually save money due to the years of costly hearings paid by the state.
If SB 1094 does become law, Madrigal would still need the Los Angeles Superior Court to reverse the compensation board’s ruling in order to receive his $471,000.
– Allen Young
Sacramento Getting Mixed Messages From San Diego on Housing
California officials are going through the regular cycle of determining how many homes each part of the state needs to build over an eight-year period, in this case, from 2021 through 2029.
Last week, the board of the San Diego Association of Governments voted to ask the state to lighten San Diego’s load. Specifically, it said the region should be asked to build 116,000 new homes during that time, not the 171,000 the state has in mind.
But now, individual elected officials are telling the state to ignore SANDAG’s request.
Assemblyman Todd Gloria sent a letter this week to Ben Metcalf, director of the California Department of Housing & Community Development, saying SANDAG’s request flies in the face of the state’s attempts to address the housing shortage.
“A reduction in the (Regional Housing Needs Assessment) allocation for San Diego directly undermines the Legislature’s attempt to address the housing needs of our residents,” it says.
La Mesa Councilman Colin Parent did the same. He questioned SANDAG’s logic, arguing those in favor of lowering the number did so because they don’t believe the county can build that many units, ignoring that the process is intended to force governments to remove barriers that keep them from meeting the housing need.
“It is antithetical to the purpose of housing elements to first determine which artificial regulations jurisdictions wish to preserve, and then to seek a needs figure that would facilitate those restrictions,” he wrote.
The state’s housing element process does not force regions or jurisdictions to build a certain number of units; in fact, few regions in the state ever do.
But the endeavor has higher stakes during this cycle because of a law passed last year. Now, any jurisdiction that has not met its state-allotted needs must approve certain developments administratively, without the typical public input process. To qualify, though, projects need to set aside homes for low-income residents and pay union wage standards.
There’s another bill in play this session, SB 828, that would go even further. If passed, jurisdictions that aren’t meeting their housing needs could be forced to increase zoning restrictions to accommodate more home building.
– Andrew Keatts
San Diego Grab Bag
- Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins told a gathering in Sacramento this week that her top priority is emergency preparedness. (CALMatters)
- A bill by Gloria that would incentivize smaller, denser units near transit passed the Assembly this week.
- So did a bill by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein that would add psychiatric trainees who have committed to working in county mental health plans to the list of health care providers eligible to participate in a student loan repayment program.
- The state agreed to take up an audit examining San Diego’s response to the hepatitis A crisis. (Union-Tribune)
Golden State News
- In this stunning piece, Nick Kristof argues California leaders are helping keep an innocent man on death row. Sen. Kamala Harris responded to the story by announcing she supports efforts to further test DNA in the case. (New York Times)
- A Riverside judge overturned California’s assisted suicide law; the attorney general’s office says it will appeal the decision. (Orange County Register)
- An investigation has found Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia made inappropriate comments and asked staffers to run personal errands, but did not substantiate accusations that she groped a staffer. (San Francisco Chronicle)
- California’s birth rate is at a record low. (Sacramento Bee)
- There could be five housing-related measures on the statewide November ballot. (Los Angeles Times)