California on the verge of ‘sanctuary state’ status after legislative deal

Protesters chant during a May Day demonstration outside a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in San Francisco on Monday. Thousands are expected to take to the streets across the United States to participate in May Day demonstrations.

Gov. Jerry Brown and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, reached a compromise on the state’s “sanctuary state” bill this week, in a deal that amends the legislation to expand the ability of law enforcement to cooperate with federal authorities.

The amended Senate Bill 54 “prevents our state and local law enforcement resources from being diverted to tear families apart. California will protect our communities from the Trump administration’s radical and hateful immigration policy agenda,” de León said in a statement.

As part of the compromise, under the revised SB54, police can share information with federal authorities about inmates convicted of hundreds of crimes that were not part of the original language. These crimes include serious or violent felonies, felony drunk driving, unlawful possession of a deadly weapon and felony drug crimes.

But the bill still prohibits law enforcement from inquiring as to a person’s immigration status, detaining suspected illegal immigrants for ICE, and from acting as federal immigration agents.

“This bill protects public safety and people who come to California to work hard and make this state a better place,” Gov. Brown’s statement read.

Under the amendment, federal agents will be permitted to interview suspected illegal aliens in jails and to access state databases – actions that were previously prohibited.

The California Sheriffs Association still opposes the bill, despite the changes, believing it puts too great of a barrier between local enforcement and federal authorities.

Activists on the left largely praised the agreement. Pablo Alvarado, executive director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, called the deal a “victory for migrants,” according to the Sacramento Bee.

The bill must still be passed by the state Assembly.

SB54 comes amid a larger national debate about “sanctuary” policies, with conservatives and many law enforcement groups maintaining that they provide a safe haven for violate criminal aliens, while liberals and immigration activists argue the so-called “sanctuaries” encourage undocumented aliens to cooperate with police without fear of deportation.

The bill could also be a model for other states eager to push back against the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

For California, it’s just the latest act of defiance against the Trump agenda in Washington, as Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday sued the administration over its decision to rescind the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, arguing that doing away with the order violates the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause, citing fears that the administration may use “Dreamer” data to find and deport them.

However, President Trump has said there will be “no action” to that effect for six months as Congress attempts to craft a legislative fix.

“I think everyone recognizes the scope and breadth of the Trump decision to terminate DACA hits hardest here,” Becerra said.

About one quarter of the 800,000 recipients of DACA live in the Golden State.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California’s poverty rate remains nation’s highest

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

One in five Californians lives in poverty, the highest rate in the country, according to new data from the U.S. Census Bureau.

The “Supplemental Poverty Measure,” factors in cost of living and shows a stubbornly high share of Golden State residents in poverty even as the national rate has dropped slightly.

Under the methodology, an estimated 20.4 percent of Californians lived below the poverty line in a three-year average of 2014, 2015 and 2016. That is virtually unchanged from the 20.6 percent average for 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to Tuesday’s release.

Nationwide, 14.7 percent of people lived in poverty under the supplemental measure during the latest three-year average. That is down slightly from 15.1 percent for the previous three years.

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Vote on Turkish investment will have a detrimental impact on Californian jobs and growth

TurkeyIt is a proud part of California’s identity that if it were an independent nation, it would be the sixth largest economy in the world.

California is a driving force behind American progress and an international powerhouse in its own right. The people of California rightly understand their place and responsibility in the world. That is why a bill currently before the California state Senate is so disappointing and needlessly damaging – and why it should not go forward. Assembly Bill 1597, which is designed to cut off investment into Turkey, will dent and undermine California’s business credentials on the world stage and have a direct, detrimental impact on Californian jobs and growth.

For many Californians, the country of Turkey is not on the top of their radar. However, while 10,000 miles apart, we are increasingly bound together.

Most of the California-based multi-national corporations have regional offices as well as production or co-production facilities in Turkey. There are also over 200 small-to-medium sized Californian companies that operate in Turkey. Furthermore, there are around 100 companies here in California that are owned by Turkish Americans and approximately 2,500 jobs have been created in California by Turkish companies.

It is one of the reasons Turkey is one of the top 10 fastest growing homes to American foreign investment. AB1597 focuses on tragic events that took place 100 years ago, the importance of which cannot be understated. Yet it fails to recognize the world today. As business owners, we need to operate in the present. We have a duty to our employees and consumers in both countries. And we also have ambition – ambition to help Turkey grow and develop, and to play a part in California’s and America’s success.

With a population of 80 million people, Turkey is currently one of the fastest growing economies in the world. And the committed partnership between our two nations has meant that the U.S. is now the second largest investor in Turkey, and in turn, the level of exports from American businesses to Turkish consumers has increased from $3 billion to $12 billion over the past decade.

There are currently 1,400 American firms doing business in Turkey, with 60 firms using Turkey as their regional headquarters. The Turkish market has served as a great partner for America. And we see it as only just having gotten started. Turkey’s economy has seen steady growth for 15 successive years, at an average of 5.6 percent, and is now the largest recipient of foreign direct investment in the region. There is no sign of it slowing down. Turkey is expected to be one of the fastest growing economies among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development members through 2025.

This success provides remarkable opportunities – our market is ripe for investors and partnerships from California. Unless this bill passes. That said, we do not wish for our speaking out to cause any further grief or to add fuel to this controversy, but it is our responsibility to point out that penalizing Turkey’s modern-day private sector is not a reasonable course of action in an attempt to bring solace to those who mourn the events of the past. Rather than looking to the past, let’s look to the future – and see what we can achieve together.

Ayşecan Özyeğin Oktay sits on the board of Stanford Graduate School of Business Management and is an Executive Board Member of Fiba Group, a family-owned conglomerate active in 12 countries. She is also the California Chair of the Turkey-U.S. Business Council.

Democrats choose union over Tesla in California cap-and-trade deal

As reported by the Fresno Bee:

Democratic lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown are siding with organized labor in its battle with automaker Tesla, inserting a provision in last-minute legislation to spend $1.5 billion in cap-and-trade money.

The negotiated package largely spends funds on a variety of anti-pollution programs, such as those to retrofit and replace smog-belching big rigs and buses.

But the legislation, amended late Monday to be ready for votes before lawmakers adjourn for the year on Friday, also would inject the state into an increasingly acrimonious union organizing campaign at automaker Tesla’s Fremont plant. Beginning in July 2018, manufacturers that want to be eligible for state zero-emission vehicle rebates – a major driver of Tesla sales – would need to be certified by the state labor secretary “as fair and responsible in the treatment of their workers.”

Clean vehicle rebates have helped put more than 100,000 vehicles on the road. Tesla buyers are eligible for rebates of up to $2,500, but that perk could be imperiled by the legislation’s worker-treatment language. …

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California attorney general failing to create fair and objective initiative titles and summaries

xavier-becerraThe attorney general of California has the responsibility of preparing the “title and summary” for ballot measures to be submitted to the voters. Pursuant to that authority, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra issued the title and summary for one of the most anticipated ballot initiatives for the 2018 election. Here is his description: “Eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes.”

Confused? Try this excerpt from the ballot summary: “Eliminates Independent Office of Audits and Investigations, which is responsible for ensuring accountability in the use of revenue for transportation projects.”

If you have no clue that this is actually the initiative to repeal the gas tax you wouldn’t be alone. As drafted, the title and summary make every effort to hide the fact that the measure is targeting one of the most unpopular laws in recent California history. Though the words “gas” and “tax” are not in the ballot title, they do at least appear in the ballot summary. But they are followed by the suggestion that the initiative also acts to eliminate the Independent Office of Audits and Investigations — an office that does not yet exist.

This obvious effort at obfuscation, and ultimately voter confusion, flies in the face of a promise Becerra made during his confirmation hearing. Asked last January what he would do to ensure the objectivity of ballot titles and summaries, which is the constitutional responsibility of the attorney general to produce, Becerra testified that “the words I get to issue on behalf of the people of this state, will be the words that are operative to everyone.”

Becerra’s readiness, just months later, to depart from this approach in order to protect the gas tax — which was championed by his own party — is just the latest example of how attorneys general use their influence over the ballot to manipulate voters and advance the interests of their allies. To put an end to this damaging practice, Assembly Constitutional Amendment 3, by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, was introduced earlier this year, a measure that would strip the attorney general of the power to write ballot titles and summaries, and transfer that authority over to the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

Unlike the attorney general, the Legislative Analyst is not a politician. A trusted source of impartial information since its creation in 1941, the LAO’s primary mission is to provide the state Legislature with reports on fiscal and policy issues. The office is also tasked with preparing the fiscal analysis for ballot initiatives, making it well suited for the responsibility of writing titles and summaries, too.

Since the introduction of ACA3, the Sacramento Bee, Los Angeles Times and Orange County Register have all endorsed the measure, arguing that, no matter the party in power, the temptation to manipulate a ballot initiative’s language is too great for an attorney general to resist.

Their concerns are supported by a long history of abuse that stretches back to at least 1966, when Attorney General Tom Lynch, tasked with describing the initiative to create a full-time Legislature, at first misleadingly framed it as a measure to raise legislative salaries. More recently, in 2013, Attorney General Kamala Harris drew criticism for describing public pension reform as the “elimination” of state constitutional protections for pensioners, using language that had been poll-tested by opponents of the initiative. Other examples abound, from both sides of the aisle.

The high stakes of the initiative process make any attempt at reform difficult, particularly when the party controlling the Legislature also holds the Attorney General’s Office. When ACA3 was brought before the Assembly Elections Committee earlier this year, the bill had the support of every major good government group in the state, including the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, California Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of California. The only opposition was a representative from the Attorney General’s Office. Nevertheless, the bill failed 2-4 on a party-line vote, with one Democrat abstaining.

Initiatives are powerful tools of direct democracy, allowing the people of California to take direct control over the state’s political destiny when the Legislature has failed. But this is only possible when voters have an accurate description of what they are voting for. ACA3 would assure just that, and when it returns for consideration next year, we urge legislators on both sides to support this measure to redeem direct democracy in California.

Jon Coupal is the president of Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association. Kevin Kiley represents California’s 6th Assembly District, which includes parts of El Dorado, Placer and Sacramento counties. You can follow both on Twitter @joncoupal and @KevinKileyCA.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register. 

California sues Trump over DACA

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday formally challenged the Trump administration’s directive to rescind a program protecting unauthorized young immigrants from deportation.

Becerra, joining the states of Minnesota, Maryland and Maine, announced the lawsuit flanked by two “dreamers,” young women who were brought to United States illegally but were allowed to stay here, study and hold jobs after applying for the now-imperiled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.

“They should not be punished for things that were done by others,” Becerra said of the DACA recipients. “We don’t bait and switch in this country.”

Becerra said his lawsuit, which he previewed last week and planned to file Monday in the Northern District of California, was meant to “immediately address the president’s unlawful and mean spirited actions” by alleging his administration violated the due process protections of DACA applicants by putting their personal information at risk. …

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University of California Sues Trump Administration over DACA Decision

Janet NapolitanoThe University of California has sued the Trump administration for its decision to rescind the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.

UC lawyers allege that the rights of the nation’s largest college system were violated when President Donald Trump, on “nothing more than unreasoned executive whim,” dumped DACA.

Many conservatives complain that President Barack Obama issued DACA in violation of the Constitution, after failing to win congressional approval for a “pathway to citizenship” for 11.5 million illegal aliens.

UC President Janet Napolitano is especially knowledgeable regarding DACA, because as Obama’s Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security between 2009 to 2013, she issued the memorandum, “Exercising Prosecutorial Discretion with Respect to Individuals Who Came to the United States as Children,” to stop up to 2 million deportations of those brought illegally to the U.S. as children.

Although the title of Napolitano’s DACA memo talked about U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) using their professional discretion to decide deportation issues, the document’s language specifically mandated that for any individual meeting Napolitano’s criteria, ICE and CBP would “prevent low priority individuals from being placed into removal proceedings or removed from the United States.”

Breitbart News reported that of the 790,000 eligible aliens that enrolled in DACA, California has 223,000 California, or 28 percent of DACA enrollees. That is more than the combined totals of the next four states, including Texas, Illinois, Arizona and New York; and also more than in the lowest 28 states combined.

Despite the constant emphasis by DACA supporters about vulnerable children being victimized by their parents’ actions, DACA only covers aliens between the ages of 15 to 30 years old. The median age of a DACA enrollee is 25 years old.

One of the reasons that California is such a magnet to so-called “Dreamers” is the spectacular array of college educational benefits made available through the 2003 passage of AB 540, a waiver of out-of-state tuition for illegal aliens; and the 2011 passage of the California DREAM Act, which made all “undocumented” immigrants eligible for financial aid if they attended high school in the state or received a GED.

Financial aid programs available to “Dreamers” include Cal Grants for tuition; a Board of Governor’s fee waiver; and institution-specific grants and scholarships for UC and California State University campuses. Illegal aliens can also receive the UC’s California DREAM Loan Program and resources through campus Undocumented Student Centers.

Napolitano told NPR, “Neither I, nor the University of California, take the step of suing the federal government lightly, especially not the very agency that I led.”

She added: “It is imperative, however, that we stand up for these vital members of the UC community. They represent the best of who we are — hard working, resilient and motivated high achievers.”

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Bill would bring California redevelopment agencies back to life

Housing apartmentSACRAMENTO – California’s redevelopment agencies were a fixture on the local political landscape for six decades, as they guided development policies and grabbed “tax increment financing” that localities used to pay for infrastructure improvements, downtown renovations and affordable-housing projects. They had some notable successes but generated enormous controversy before Gov. Jerry Brown shuttered them in 2011.

They were designed in the 1940s to fight urban blight. But the agencies were criticized for their use of eminent domain on behalf of private companies; for running up debt without a vote; for the subsidies they ladled out to developers; and for financing big-box stores and auto malls rather than helping inner cities spruce up. The governor ultimately killed them because these agencies had become a drain on the state’s general-fund budget, consuming 12 percent of the budget.

It was a shock to see such a powerful sector dry up, as local agencies morphed into “successor agencies” that had nothing left to do other than pay off existing debt. But the redevelopment industry – the developers, lobbyists, city officials and low-income housing advocates – never really went away. Each year since 2011, lawmakers have proposed and sometimes passed measures that incrementally bring back the redevelopment process.

The way that complex process worked in the past involved city councils essentially creating agencies that target “project areas” for subsidy. The agencies would float debt to fund infrastructure and pay subsidies to developers who build things within those areas. Cities often would subsidize retail projects because of the sales taxes they provided. The gain in the property taxes from the new development was designed to pay off the debt.

But those taxes often come out of the hide of other public services, such as schools and public safety. The state budget had to backfill the losses and the result was the budgetary drain that the governor plugged. But with the state’s fiscal situation having improved markedly since 2011, legislators have been less concerned about any financial impact of revived agencies.

In 2015, the governor signed Assembly Bill 2, which created Enhanced Infrastructure Finance Districts (EIFD) that have many similarities to the old redevelopment project areas. Under the old law, redevelopment officials would simply declare an area blighted before gaining new powers of subsidy and debt funding within that area. Under what some called Redevelopment 2.0, those borrowing and spending powers were limited to infrastructure projects.

To prevent some of the old fiscal abuses, the new EIFD process bans the newly created agencies from unilaterally creating project areas that would steal tax revenue from counties, fire authorities or school districts. Instead, they would have to gain the approval of the other districts, thus providing incentive for a less controversial project. These projects also lacked the affordable-housing requirement that was found in the old redevelopment law.

This year, affordable housing is the Legislature’s pet issue in its final week of session. The governor and Democratic leaders have promised a legislative package to deal with the state’s housing crisis. Lawmakers also are considering Assembly Bill 1568 by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, which would add a housing component to those infrastructure districts. Critics say it’s creeping redevelopment, combined with an expanded ability for local governments to raise taxes.

“Local governments have been without a reliable financing mechanism to invest in economically depressed, transit-rich areas since the demise of redevelopment agencies in 2011,” Bloom said in a Senate Rules Committee analysis. This proposal “provides local jurisdictions with the authority to finance infrastructure and affordable housing using new sales and use taxes in addition to property tax increment within qualifying districts.”

Lawmakers are expected to make technical amendments Friday and then send it to the Senate floor for a vote Monday. The bill requires that the Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts use the new taxes to fund affordable housing on infill sites. The measure has passed its committees on a largely party-line vote, with most Democrats favoring it and most Republicans opposing. It’s backed by several planning and local-government organizations, and has a high likelihood of making it to the governor’s desk by the Sept. 15 deadline.

If that’s so, then it will be interesting to see whether Gov. Brown, who fought so hard to eliminate redevelopment agencies, is willing to let them return incrementally, albeit with a different name and somewhat different rules.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

More opioid prescriptions than people in some California counties

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Trinity County is the state’s fourth-smallest, and ended last year with an estimated population of 13,628 people.

Its residents also filled prescriptions for oxycodone, hydrocodone and other opioids 18,439 times, the highest per capita rate in California.

Places like West Virginia, Ohio and rural New England have become synonymous with prescription painkiller abuse, a scourge blamed for more than 183,000 deaths from 1999 through 2015.

California, though, is far from a bystander to the crisis. There were 1,925 opioid-linked overdose deaths in California last year, according to recently updated state data, and thousands of emergency room visits. …

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This is where California legislation goes to die

Bills and legislationShortly after last year’s presidential election, Democrats in the California Legislature drew headlines by introducing a flurry of bills attacking “fake news.” They called for more resources to teach media literacy, so public school students could better discern facts from the kind of bogus stories that proliferated online during the campaign.

Yet in the months since, all three of those bills have quietly met their demise, victims of the Legislature’s appropriations committees. Officially, the committees—one in each house—are supposed to pull the Legislature’s purse strings, weighing how much a proposal is expected to cost, and comparing bills against one another to establish priorities for spending state tax dollars. Unofficially, the appropriations committee is where bills go to die—especially the ones the ruling party wants to bury with little trace.

This month the appropriations committees quietly killed the last of the fake news bills, a pile of marijuana measures, a proposal to create a “pro-choice” license plate and another to allow cities to keep bars open until 4 a.m.—an issue few lawmakers outside of San Francisco seem to regard as a burning problem.

As befits a good murder plot, lawmakers target potential victims by placing the bills on what they call the “suspense file.” Then, twice a year, the appropriations committees cull through all these bills, allowing some to proceed to a floor vote but stopping many in their tracks. In other committees, lawmakers publicly vote when they kill a bill, attaching their names and reputations to the decision. But there is no public vote when the appropriations committees snuff out bills on the suspense file.

“It’s the closest thing that the Legislature has to a veto power,” said former Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Los Angeles Democrat who chaired the appropriations committee from 2012 to 2014.

Sure, decisions are based on weighing the costs and benefits of the proposed policies, Gatto said. “But it’s also a cost-benefit analysis politically: How much does the house want to put a bill like this on the floor?”

Euthanizing a bill in this way shields lawmakers from having to cast a difficult floor vote—often choosing between a popular idea and one that aggravates powerful interests in the state Capitol.

A look at some of the dozens of bills that appropriations committees recently axed:

Making school spending more transparent: AB 1321 would have required every school to publish reports on how much money they spend per student. Civil rights groups said it would ensure that funds intended to help needy children are spent in their classrooms. But teachers unions and school administrators—influential forces in the Capitol—spent most of the year opposing the bill by Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego.

Water under the Mojave desert: Environmentalists backed AB 1000 as an attempt to block a controversial project that would pump groundwater out of the Mojave desert and direct it to more populous communities near the coast. The bill also had the unusual support of Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. But labor and business groups opposed it, and the project developer, a company called Cadiz, is a big political donor. After killing the bill, Senate appropriations chairman Ricardo Lara released a statement saying the project had gone through extensive environmental review and the Legislature shouldn’t interfere. Cadiz stock then shot up 31 percent.

Protecting whistleblowers in their midst: State employees who report government wrongdoing are protected from being fired under the Whistleblower Protection Act—but not if they work for the Legislature. So for four years, Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez of Lake Elsinore has introduced a bill to extend whistleblower protection to legislative employees. And for four years, the bill has been buried by the Senate appropriations committee.

Blocking coastal oil drilling: After President Donald Trump signed an executive order that could expand oil and gas drilling into federal waters off the California coast, Democratic Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara introduced a bill intended to block it. Her SB 188 would have prohibited the state from approving new leases on pipelines or other infrastructure needed to support new oil and gas development. The bill would have cost the state millions of dollars in lost leases. Its demise in the Assembly appropriations committee marked a loss for environmentalists and a win for oil companies—and the Trump Administration.

Watchdogging the police: Prompted by a string of high-profile police shootings, Democrats introduced a handful of bills intended to create more public trust in police. AB 748 would have made public more footage from police body cameras. AB 284 would have required a public report on two years of police shootings in California. Law enforcement groups opposed both bills, but supported another that also was killed: AB 1428, which would have provided the public with more information about the status of complaints against police officers.

In a Legislature that processes thousands of bills each year, the two appropriations committees play a critical role in culling ideas—but many could have been rejected earlier if lawmakers were more willing to say no.

“There are pressures from lobbyists, pressures from leadership, pressures from constituents. And the path of least resistance is for members to rely on this end-game that plays out very quickly on a Friday,” said Steve Boilard, executive director of the Center for California Studies at California State University, Sacramento.

“It allows a critical mass of legislators to get the outcome they want without having to put their name on that hard choice of saying no.”

That might explain why the Assembly appropriations committee quashed a bill that would have reduced the fine for rolling through a red light on a right turn from $100 to $35. Who would possibly want to vote against that?

This article was originally published by CalMatters