The California state Capitol / Image via Shutterstock

Advocates for human trafficking survivors are not happy about the newly signed state budget, which scrapped a $10 million request to fund services for survivors, to be doled out through the Office of Emergency Services.

One of those advocates who’s unhappy with the outcome: San Diego District Attorney Summer Stephan.

Stephan lobbied each member of the budget committee to keep the funding. Pulling the money would mean defunding 21 service providers who serve 6,000 victims across the state, she said.

DA spokesman Steve Walker shared an excerpt of Stephan’s letter to budget committee members:

“Here in San Diego we are particularly mindful of the harm done to survivors of human trafficking and the services necessary to effectively treat them. In San Diego County, human trafficking is the second largest underground economy after drug trafficking.  Our city was recently identified by the FBI as one of the top 13 high intensity child prostitution areas in the nation.  … Without the funds specifically designated for specialized services for human trafficking victims, the survivors will not get the services needed to overcome the harm inflicted upon them.”

Of the 21 service providers funded by that money, only one is in San Diego – North County Lifeline – and its leader said he’s troubled by the impact the cut could have on his group’s ability to serve victims.

North County Lifeline Executive Director Don Stump had been hoping that instead of onetime funding, the state would provide a source of continued money for organizations that offer specialized services to human trafficking victims. Instead, it provided neither.

“It is a mystery to me,” he said.

Survivors of human trafficking “have a very different mental health need than a domestic violence victim,” he said. “They have been enslaved. They’ve been forced into labor and sex trafficking against their will and often have no ownings or belongings or anything of their own. … they have very unique needs.”

Through its program Project LIFE, North County Lifeline provides 24-hour services to human trafficking victims, including emergency housing and critical medical and dental care. Those services are very expensive, Stump said.

Not all hope is lost, though.

After the money was left out of the budget, Assemblymen Miguel Santiago and Jim Cooper amended an existing bill to include $5 million from the general fund for human trafficking victim services.

… Others Are Happy They Got Something

The San Diego city attorney’s office got a boost in the budget in the form of $50,000 to put toward trainings for law enforcement officials on gun violence restraining orders.

California law allows law enforcement and family members to seek court orders to temporarily seize guns from people who are an immediate danger to themselves or others.

In May, City Attorney Mara Elliott led a training for law enforcement on how to obtain one.

Assemblyman Phil Ting helped the office secure the money in order for the city attorney’s office conduct more trainings across the state. Ting is author of a bill that would expand who can seek such an order, to include classmates, coworkers and others.

“To date, our office has obtained 39 Gun Violence Restraining Orders against gun owners who are a threat to themselves or others,” said Hilary Nemchick, a spokeswoman for Elliott. “The cases often involve underlying issues, including addiction, dementia, and other mental health problems, coupled with specific threats of violence or threatening behavior. Six of the GVROs were against individuals (one adult and five minors) who posed threats to students, teachers, or other school employees.”


The budget also includes these goodies for local schools:

SEC. 151.

For the 2018–19 fiscal year, the sum of two million dollars ($2,000,000) is hereby appropriated from the General Fund to the Superintendent of Public Instruction to allocate to the Sweetwater Union High School District. The Sweetwater Union High School District shall use these moneys to support a facility project at Mar Vista High School.

SEC. 152.

(a) For the 2018–19 fiscal year, the sum of two hundred fifty thousand dollars ($250,000) is hereby appropriated from the General Fund to the State Department of Education to allocate to the San Diego Unified School District. The San Diego Unified School District shall use these moneys to support the education of homeless youth consistent with the requirements of Sections 721 to 726, inclusive, of the federal McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (42 U.S.C. Sec. 11301 et seq.).

Also in the Budget: Fix to San Diego County Election Reform Measure, Help for Unions

For months, California labor leaders were gearing up for this week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that prohibits unions from forcing public employees to pay union fees, even if the employees aren’t members of the union.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill on Wednesday to create a new system for unions to cope with the court ruling. The law immediately took effect, within hours of the ruling.

Senate Bill 866 seems to do two main things.

Before the ruling, even public employees who didn’t want to join a union had to pay some union fees – because they were still benefiting from salary increases and benefits that unions negotiated for all public employees. Now, unions fear that many employees will stop paying dues if they don’t have to. The bill creates a way for unions to collect fees from nonmembers who want to pay.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a former labor leader, said the measure “allows otherwise happy represented employees to pay for services received without being members of the union.”

The bill puts unions right in the middle of this process. Mastagni Holstedt, a labor law firm, noted in a blog post that if a union says it has permission to begin deducting these fees, “it is not required to provide the employer a copy of the individual authorization unless a dispute arises about the existence or terms of the authorization.”

The new law also prevents government agencies from communicating with public employees about their new rights not to pay union fees, unless unions help craft the message or also get a chance to respond.

“This will allow unions to have a shot at clarifying intentions and the union advantage prior to unenrolling,” Gonzalez said in an email, citing efforts by conservative groups to let people know they can stop contributing to unions. “Just creates a level playing field and ensures workers are not simply being pressured or lied to by corporate interests/outside forces.”

SB 866 is the same budget trailer bill that attempts to change how elections in San Diego County are conducted.

The fix retroactively clarifies that proponents of the measure to force countywide elections to go to a November runoff only need to get enough signatures equivalent to 10 percent of voters in the last gubernatorial election – not 10 percent of all voters in the county – in order to qualify it for the ballot.

Ry Rivard

Cap-and-Trade Program Doles $30M to San Diego Projects

San Diego this week pulled in $30 million in state cap-and-trade dollars for two affordable housing projects and transportation plans surrounding them.

The state Strategic Growth Council on Thursday announced awards in the last round of funding via a program aimed at housing projects near transit or other environmentally friendly transportation options.

A $20 million award will help bankroll a 400-unit housing project operated by Father Joe’s Villages next to the 12th and Imperial transit station in East Village, as well as more than two miles of protected bike lanes on both 6th Avenue and J Street.

Another $10 million will support Community HousingWorks’ 70-unit affordable housing project in southeastern San Diego, more than a mile of pedestrian upgrades and a new bikeway connected to downtown.

San Diego pulled in about 12 percent of funding statewide in the latest $257 million funding round. The region has punched below its weight in previous rounds.

“This is a very good sign that we’re starting to get better,” said Colin Parent, who leads advocacy group Circulate San Diego. Circulate is set to host workshops and conduct training on safety and transit options.

Parent noted that SANDAG, the regional transportation agency, took a more active role in helping applicants this year, hosting workshops and fostering more collaboration.

Lisa Halverstadt

Lawmakers Agree to Pay Soda Companies’ Ransom Demand

Thanks to a fast-moving compromise finalized this week, local governments can’t tax soda for 12 years, and in exchange, soda companies agreed to yank from the ballot a measure that would have required any local government tax to win two-thirds approval to pass.

Much of the reaction to the deal had nothing to do with the merits of taxing soda, but focused on the soda companies’ ability to use the threat of a ballot measure to get what they wanted.

Many have long known that the tools of direct democracy have been hijacked by special interests. This week has made that fact obvious to all. The result of this mess must be reforms that take the initiative away from wealthy corporations and gives it back to citizens. #caleg

— Todd Gloria (@ToddGloria) June 28, 2018

The deal is good news for Chula Vista, which passed a tax increase in June that would have been wiped out if the ballot measure had passed.

A good point by the New York Times on soda companies’ strategy:

“The move reflects a broader shift by industry away from city-by-city fights about taxes in favor of state laws that pre-empt any local action — a tactic that the tobacco industry used successfully in the 1990s to block antismoking ordinances.”

— The soda tax development was one of several developments this week as the November ballot takes shape. There are now 12 measures qualified for the ballot, including the effort to repeal the gas tax, which is being led by San Diego’s Carl DeMaio.

San Diego Unified Says It’s Hampered by ‘State Budget Cuts’ – Huh?

When Gov. Jerry Brown approved next year’s state budget, one of the first things he touted was that it “sends record funding to California’s classrooms.”

Between that and the new Local Control Funding Formula, which has resulted in more money to San Diego Unified, the state has been increasing the amount of money it sends to local schools.

So when San Diego Unified unveiled a pitch for a new multibillion-dollar bond measure, one of the reasons the district cited seemed pretty strange: “State budget cuts in education forced the District to defer repairs.”


Ashly McGlone asked the district what cuts it was talking about, and it turns out, they’re referring to budget cuts made a decade ago – during the Great Recession.

In the time since those cuts, the state budget has rebounded and the district has passed two multibillion-dollar bonds, and the state passed a new school facilities bond as well.

Golden State News

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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