California Attorney General Xavier Becerra / Photo by Steve Yeater, CALmatters

We wrapped up our annual public affairs summit on Saturday, but if you want to catch up on the discussions, we’ll be posting them online (in time). For now, the free sessions are located in a handy YouTube playlist

Stay tuned for the rest of those sessions, including the police reform discussion between Alain Stephens of The Trace and Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Saturday. They covered a lot of ground. 

One thing that caught our ear: Becerra repeatedly made the point that as the state’s top law enforcement officer, he’s tasked with enforcing the laws. Of course, he has plenty of discretion on what to pursue and not pursue. But the Legislature sets the parameters. 

In 2019, Becerra sent a letter to a pair of Berkeley-based journalists saying he might take legal action if they didn’t destroy a secret list of convicted police officers. They refused and gave it to us and others. 

“I did what I needed to do under the law,” Becerra told Stephens, defending the move. “I may not like that I have to do that.”

At the same time, though, Becerra said he didn’t blame press or police reform advocates who accused him of attempting to withhold public information. 

“I have to respect the laws,” he said. “You have a right and responsibility to hound me for an explanation.”

Becerra said he shares many of critics’ concerns around the state of policing, including biased officers and the militarization of local police forces, but he said he ultimately believes most officers are good. 

“I wanna, I want to tell you right now, because I know that there are a lot of folks who are very down on police,” he said. “And you’ve heard it said before, but it’s really true. There are men and women who go above and beyond and, you know, just as I won’t paint every person in the media as bad, or every politician, let’s not do the same for police.”

Shoutout to our friends at KPBS, the U-T, KOGO and many others for their help with Politifest. Over coming days, we’ll write and post more about the newsmaking moments from the week. 

MTS Changes Disabled Fare Form After VOSD Reporting

About a month ago, VOSD’s Lisa Halverstadt revealed that the Metropolitan Transit System had in recent years rejected hundreds of doctors’ recommendations that their patients with disabilities receive reduced fares. Advocates and health care providers told Halverstadt that the form doctors were required to complete was confusing, helping fuel denials and leading some doctors to repeatedly fill out the form to try to help their patients secure the discount.

Now MTS has updated that form in response to VOSD’s reporting. Last week, MTS posted a new form for people with disabilities who must complete a more detailed application to receive the benefit.

The new form axes a requirement that doctors explain how and why their patients meet a Federal Transit Administration standard of having a disability that leads them to require “special facilities or special planning or design to utilize mass transportation facilities and services as effectively as persons who are not so affected.”

The updated application suggests doctors at least initially only need to attest that their patient has a condition that meets that standard, though it notes that if the patient’s diagnosis does not clearly meet the standard, the doctor will be asked to provide a “narrative description identifying the specific features of MTS fixed route services that the applicant cannot use without special training or assistance.”

The Weird, Wild Legislative Year in Review

This year’s Legislative session in Sacramento ended in a way no one anticipated at the start, because of the pandemic. San Diego lawmakers were forced to drop some of their signature priorities while the state’s massive budget surplus evaporated. 

In the end, Sara Libby writes, it was one of the weirdest, wildest on record, but it worked out nicely for Gov. Gavin Newsom, who gained an extraordinary amount of power through emergency orders. 

Many police reform efforts fell short and Newsom vetoed some of those that did make it to his desk, including a bill meant to prevent officers who commit misconduct from being able to resign and take jobs with other departments. Newsom said “this bill will slow momentum broader decertification measures in future legislative sessions.” 

Newsom also vetoed a bill that would have required an ethnic studies course as a high school graduation requirement, although several school districts in San Diego County are moving forward with a similar requirement anyhow. 

In Other News

The Morning Report was written by Jesse Marx, and edited by Sara Libby.

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