Democrats’ Fate Lies In The Nation’s Political Battlefield: Orange County

Orange County is at the center of the political universe again, the battleground where upward of $35 million — or about 10 times what’s typically spent on Bay Area House campaigns — will shower each of two key races that will help determine whether Democrats keep control of Congress.

But a lot has changed since 2020, when Republican Reps. Michelle Steel and Young Kim made history by being the first GOP Korean American women to ever serve in Congress. Or 2018, when Democrats flipped four GOP seats here to help take the House. Now, Steel’s race is rated a “toss-up,” while Kim is seen as having a slightly better chance of holding her seat.

For starters, both must introduce themselves to a new crop of voters after California’s redistricting commission redrew the state’s political boundaries. Plus, a number of outside factors could reshape their races, from abortion to Donald Trump to COVID to a battle to win over Asian voters that is among the most intense — and complex — in the country.

In Steel’s race, much of that struggle will be fought in Little Saigon, a hub of more than 200,000 Vietnamese residents that stretches over parts of Orange County, about 10 miles southwest of Anaheim. It’s one of the largest such enclaves in the country.

Instead of running in the more conservative, coastal district where she won in 2020, Steel is now running in the 45th Congressional District, where Democrats have a 5-point registration advantage.

But Steel’s campaign is confident, largely because Little Saigon boosts her district’s Asian American slice of the electorate to 35%. Vietnamese voters were an integral part of the coalition that helped carry Steel to victory in 2020 over incumbent Democrat Harley Rouda, who is white, said Fred Whitaker, chair of the Orange County Republican Party.

“That’s why Michelle Steel moved over (to run in that district), because that was one of her strongest bases,” Whitaker told me. “The party registration may be a little more Democratic, but the way that they vote is Republican.”

The Republican National Committee took notice and last June opened an office in a strip mall in the heart of the community to try to strengthen its ties there. Since then, the GOP has knocked on 75,000 doors and made 200,000 calls in the Steel’s new turf, according to GOP officials.

Steel visited the storefront recently during a training for volunteers to make calls in Vietnamese. Strung across one wall is a 12-foot-long banner featuring a quote attributed to her: “I live in the best country on Earth and I want future generations to achieve their own American Dreams.”

“We’re going to win,” Steel told the dozen volunteers at the training. “No matter what.”

Long Bui, a professor of global and international studies at UC Irvine, said Vietnamese American businesses and voters “will be key to determining who wins this race.”

Their voting patterns, however, aren’t predictable.

Bui, the author of “Returns of War: South Vietnam and the Price of Refugee Memory,” said there’s “a tendency” to think that older Vietnamese — particularly those who fled the Communist takeover of their homeland after the war ended — vote more conservatively than the younger generation.

Instead, Bui said, “the community often considers personalities and who runs the most savvy, impactful campaign. Issues and charisma matter as much or sometimes more than party affiliation.”

Diedre Tu-La Nguyen, the mayor pro-tem of Garden Grove, which is part of Little Saigon, said the Vietnamese community is still small enough that personal relationships often trump party affiliation. The Vietnam-born Democrat, who fled a refugee camp as a child after the war and is now a cancer researcher, is running for Assembly.

“Vietnamese don’t vote for a party, they vote for people,” Nguyen told me over dinner of sea snails, garlic noodles and grilled shrimp at a Little Saigon restaurant. She said that until she ran for office, many didn’t know she was a Democrat. “You just know who people are in the community by their reputation, by what they’ve done.”

In a sign of how unpredictable voters are here, even Nguyen’s household is split. Nguyen’s husband is a Republican.

Democrat Jay Chen is running for Congress in California's 45th Congressional District.
Democrat Jay Chen is running for Congress in California’s 45th Congressional District.Allison Zaucha/Special to The Chronicle

Steel’s main opponent is Jay Chen, a child of Taiwanese immigrants, U.S. Naval Reserve officer, school board member and owner of a real estate firm.

Chen is a better fit for the new district, which “is more working class,” said Ajay Mohan, executive director of the Orange County Democratic Party. Democrats intend to pound Steel for not supporting the federal Paycheck Protection Plan that provided funding to the small businesses that drive the community.

They say Steel — a fervent Trump supporter who received a 77% rating by the Conservative Political Action Committee scorecard (slightly higher than House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield) — is too conservative for the newly drawn district.

Perhaps even more damaging, Chen said, is that she voted against establishing the commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection and against the bipartisan $1.9 trillion American Recovery Plan last year.

Steel said the plan was too pricey and sprawling.

Click here to read the full article at the San Francisco Chronicle

San Diego County Democratic Party Chair Steps Aside Amid Assault Allegations

Will Rodriguez-Kennedy, chair of the San Diego County Democratic Party, announced Friday that he is taking a leave of absence as the San Diego County District Attorney and Democratic party officials review potential criminal allegations against him.

“The allegations against me are completely false and I will work vigorously to clear my name and prove my innocence, but that takes time and in the meantime our Party has critical work that must continue on,” he stated. 

Rodriguez-Kennedy didn’t state the nature of the accusations against him, but his announcement came after Democratic activist Tasha Williamson posted a Facebook message Thursday suggesting that he had been accused of assault.

“The Chair of the San Diego Democratic Party needs to tell the Party about the allegations against him!” she stated on Facebook. “

Officials did not say whether the reports were related, but did confirm a potential criminal case. Tanya Sierra, public affairs officer for the District Attorney, said the office is reviewing police reports on Rodriguez-Kennedy.

“We are reviewing the police investigation for potential criminal charges,” she said. “There is no timeframe for how long that will take.”

Sierra did not say what the possible criminal charges are or confirm which police department submitted the investigation. San Diego Police officials would not confirm whether they investigated the complaint, and said they are unable to comment on any case after it is submitted to the district attorney.

Democratic Party official Lauren Bier confirmed that the party’s ethics committee has been informed of the allegations and is reviewing them.

“It will be going to the committee’s formal process and will be investigated per our procedures,” she said. “The Chair will not be involved outside of the testimony he provides. Our Chair Pro Tem will step in to observe the process and take the tiebreaker slot, should we need one.”

The limited information available about the allegations Friday shrouded the situation with confusion, as social media and political commentators weighed in on the matter. 

Williamson said in a phone interview that she believes the Democratic Party is dismissive of members’ safety and protective of top officials’ privacy and status, comparing it to police departments defending officers against misconduct allegations.

On his Linkedin profile, Rodriguez-Kennedy describes himself as a Marine veteran and Democratic organizer, with experience leading the Democratic Party’s millennial and LGBT community organizing efforts.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune

Berkeley Pledges to Refund the Police While Also Embracing Law Enforcement Alternatives and Violence Prevention

Berkeley leaders are jumping back into the debate about crime and policing nearly two years after councilmembers called for defunding law enforcement, but this time the political landscape is different.

City councilmembers want to divert more nonviolent 911 calls from police and fund more violence prevention programs, but they’re also pledging to add more police officers, citing pressure from constituents worried about violent crime. A similar debate is playing out in Oakland and San Francisco.

On Thursday, the City Council approved Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s $5.3 million plan to fund more efforts to reimagine public safety and reform the police. The city will now expand violence prevention programs and kick off a process to create more police alternatives to respond to mental health calls. At the same time, the council also agreed to restore 30 of the police department’s frozen positions — a move pushed by several councilmembers.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín called the vote an “important milestone” and said that Berkeley can be a model for other cities.

“A lot of the conversation nationally has been focused on ‘defunding’ or abolishing or cutting the police department,” said Arreguín, who was a big proponent of cutting the department’s budget two years ago. “We refunded and we also expressed support for other approaches. We found a balance.”

The votes come nearly two years after Berkeley made headlines when leaders pledged to slash the police department’s budget in half.

In fact, the city ended up cutting about 12% of its police budget by freezing 30 positions. At the time, all city departments were required to find cost-saving measures because of pandemic deficits. The department accounts for nearly 40% of the city’s general fund with a nearly $73 million budget that will grow to about $80 million in the next fiscal year. The department currently has about 150 filled positions.

City leaders in Berkeley and Oakland say that police should focus more on violent crime and that most of their time is taken up with low-level calls. One way to free up officers — and potentially cut down on racial disparities in policing — is to move traffic enforcement away from cops. More than a year ago, Berkeley approved a plan for sweeping law enforcement reforms, including changes to traffic stops, but some of the plan has been stymied by limitations in state law.

While councilmembers said they feel pressure from constituents worried about violent crime, there isn’t a clear increase in homicides. Berkeley has recorded two homicides this year compared to none last year and five in 2020. Still, council members said Thursday they received nearly 900 emails from constituents urging them to hire more cops.

Dan Lindheim, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and a member of the city’s reimagine task force, said Thursday’s debate focused too much on police staffing.

“If this is the net result of a reimagining process in which Berkeley seems to be interested in reducing the footprint of policing, to fully fund the police seems like a bizarre result,” he said.

In parts of the East Bay, violent crime has disproportionately impacted Black and brown neighborhoods. Councilmembers in Oakland and Berkeley who represent those areas have called for more police. Council Member Terry Taplin, who represents part of South Berkeley, said a homicide occurred in his district earlier this week and that he’s tired of being lectured by “more privileged communities” that aren’t facing the same safety concerns.

Taplin told The Chronicle gun violence has impacted him personally. He said he’s had friends, cousins and loved ones murdered and so he’s “really eyeing these proposals with a lot of scrutiny.”

“How does keeping our police positions frozen improve my ability to protect my residents?” Taplin said.

Taplin ended up voting for the mayor’s proposal after Arreguín added several amendments that committed to restaffing the police department and allocated more funding to a new department of Office of Race, Equity and Diversity to study disparities in all city departments. The city manager will bring a proposal to the council to restore the positions over the next few weeks.

Berkeley is already working to launch a team of social workers and civilians — run by a nonprofit — to respond to some mental health and homelessness calls, part of a Bay Area trend to launch alternative policing teams of unarmed civilians. But the mayor’s plan approved Thursday would create a new office of community safety to eventually house the city’s different police alternatives.

Arreguín said the city’s efforts to rethink policing has been slow and methodical on purpose.

“Some cities have rushed into making decisions, some have backed away from reimagining,” he said. “We’ve taken our time and really given this serious thought.”

Arreguín said his plan lays out a framework for how “reimagining public safety” priorities can be implemented.

The city will also begin transitioning two aspects of traffic enforcement — collision analysis and crossing guards — from the police department to public works.

Arreguín’s proposal also commits funds to violence prevention and youth services among other programs and directs city staff to explore creating a team of unarmed community mediators.

The City Council will have to vote next month on how to fund Arreguín’s proposal, which will take several years to fully implement.

Still, not all councilmembers were on board. Council Members Lori Droste and Rashi Kesarwani voted against the mayor’s proposal.

Click here to read the full article at SF Chronicle

Newsom: Gas Rebate Would Be Delayed Until October Under Legislature Plan

Governor touts DMV as quickest alternative to getting money back

After a flurry of proposals from Sacramento in March to send money back to Californians, a rebate check could still be nearly five months away under plans promoted by legislative leaders, Gov. Gavin Newsom warned, as he argued that his contentious plan linking financial relief to car ownership is the quickest alternative to landing money back in wallets.

In a recent interview with the Bay Area News Group editorial board, Newsom criticized California’s Democratic leadership for outlining a plan that would funnel $8 billion through the Franchise Tax Board, which he said could add months to the refund timeline. Under that proposal, taxpayers making up to $125,000 would see $200 checks with an additional $200 for each child or other dependent.

“FTB can’t get the money out quickly, because they’re in the middle of tax refund season,” Newsom said, adding that refunds would start in late September and could span all the way into next spring. “My sense was, people may get a little cranky about that. They may want a little quicker relief.”

The wrangling between Democrats — who hold a supermajority in the legislature — over how to give Californians relief at the gas pump has dragged on for weeks as gas prices have remained well over $5 a gallon for the past two months. Democratic leadership and the governor remain at loggerheads over whether the money should be going to all residents at all income levels, as Newsom has proposed, or be targeted toward people in greater need.

Newsom has proposed $400 for each vehicle Californians own, capped at $800 for two vehicles, totaling $11 billion in rebates. Under Newsom’s plan, the Department of Motor Vehicles — not the Franchise Tax Board — would be responsible for distributing debit cards that could start hitting mailboxes “earlier in the summer,” the governor said.

Newsom said the two-vehicle rebate cap would prevent “people with 23 Teslas” from exploiting the state’s generosity. But Newsom said that this rebate should include higher-income earners who were left out of the previous stimulus check that was limited to people earning $75,000 or less.

“We want to acknowledge that the middle class felt a little left out of the last one,” said Newsom.

The governor has also called for public transit grants as part of his proposal to allow transit agencies to provide free rides for three months.

Negotiations between key legislators and the governor are taking place ahead of a highly-anticipated May budget revision out next week. The revision will provide an updated picture of how much money the state has and how Newsom wants to spend it before all parties need to finalize a budget in June.

According to the latest figures, the Golden State is now estimated to have a booming $68 billion surplus. A 1979 spending cap requires Sacramento to send some of this money back to taxpayers or spend it on select categories, including education and infrastructure.

A Valero gas station in Sacramento on March 10, 2022. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters)
A Valero gas station in Sacramento on March 10, 2022. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters) 

In a short statement to the Bay Area News Group, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said they are working to provide taxpayers with speedy financial relief, although they did not directly address Newsom’s criticism.

“We have been clear from the first conversations on this issue that the Legislature wants to help as many people as we can, as quickly as possible,” the Democratic leaders said.

Scott Graves, research director at the California Budget & Policy Center, an organization advocating for low-income residents, said Newsom should not look to the DMV’s cumbersome bureaucracy when the state already relied on the Franchise Tax Board to target billions of dollars in relief payments to families.

“Let’s not reinvent the wheel,” said Graves. “Let’s use a proven pathway that we already used last year to efficiently get money out the door to Californians who really need it.”

The average price for a gallon of regular in California topped $5.76 on Thursday and was even higher in the Bay Area. Regardless of gas relief checks, drivers should expect to pay around 3 cents more per gallon come July 1 due to an inflationary increase to the gas tax that is currently pegged at 51 cents a gallon. Newsom had sought to pause the increase, but the legislature failed to meet a deadline last week to do so.

Click here to read the full article at the Mercury News

California Democrats Lean Into Abortion Rights As ‘Defining Issue’

When a draft Supreme Court ruling that would overturn the constitutional right to abortion leaked Monday night, Democratic leaders in California reacted swiftly with shock, grief and fury.

It didn’t take long for the personal devastation to turn political.

By Wednesday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for re-election this year, had already cut a new campaign ad about “reproductive freedom under attack.” In a tweet unveiling the ad, he framed defeating “anti-choice Republicans” as the “defining issue of the 2022 election.”

As the stark reality has sunk in that the landmark Roe v. Wade decision is unlikely to make it to its 50th birthday, many Democrats are leaning forcefully into abortion rights as a key election issue. With decades of public polling indicating that a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, it could be the party’s most potent counterweight in a campaign cycle in which Republicans seem poised to capitalize on voter frustration over inflation and crime.

“Don’t think for a second this is where they stop,” Newsom said Wednesday outside Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, where he raised the alarm that conservatives would also seek to roll back other rights such as same-sex marriage. “Pay attention, America. They’re coming after you next.”

In his remarks, Newsom called for a stronger Democratic counteroffensive on protecting abortion. He slammed Republicans for claiming to be pro-life while opposing policies to provide more support to women and families after a baby is born, previewing a political attack that could soon be coming to swing districts across the country.

“That’s how extreme the Republican Party is in the United States of America. You want extremism? Rape and incest, they don’t even make an exception,” Newsom said. “Wake up, America. Wake up to who you’re electing.”

Democrats, weighed down by sagging approval ratings for President Joe Biden and in danger of losing control of Congress in the November midterm election, have been struggling to find a message that might motivate liberal voters to show up to the polls and persuade moderates to stick with their governance.

Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, said the reality of a Supreme Court ruling against abortion rights could provide a significant boost. Though warnings about that potential outcome have not historically driven turnout for Democrats while the Roe decision withstood decades of attacks, Pitney said voters are much more alert to loss.

“The issue has moved from the realm of the hypothetical to the realm of the real,” he said.

And it could remain near the top of the news through the rest of the year, with the official opinion expected this summer and then potentially dozens of states passing new abortion restrictions after that.

“It’s kind of like a wildfire, and the burning embers and debris will spread over the electorate for months to come,” Pitney said.

Still, it is uncertain how much of a difference abortion can make for Democrats, who are facing significant political headwinds nationally from pocketbook issues such as spiraling inflation and high gas prices.

While probably not potent enough to shift the balance of power, Pitney said abortion could move the margins in close races with national implications, such as the contests for U.S. Senate in Georgia and Wisconsin. Some Republicans are already planning to push for a nationwide abortion ban should the GOP win complete control of the federal government in the next few years. The ruling, Pitney added, might also help Democrats regain some ground with young voters, who have particularly soured on Biden.

There is probably less of a potential impact in California, where Democrats have nearly maximized their power at every level of government.

Beth Miller, a Republican political consultant, said Californians who are motivated by abortion rights are already quite engaged politically. She is skeptical that it will bring new or infrequent voters the the polls, especially when abortion access is not under immediate threat here.

“The overriding issue in California is the cost of living,” Miller said.

But California Democrats are quickly elevating abortion to the forefront of their messaging anyway, with some even fundraising off the news that Roe v. Wade may be overturned. More than 70% of Californians oppose repealing the ruling, according to a poll this year by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

DA Gascón Won’t Bargain Because of Recall Support, Prosecutors Union Says

‘His authoritarian approach demeans the oath he took and the office he holds. It’s bullying, not leadership,’ claims the union leadership

A union representing about 700 prosecutors has filed a complaint with the Los Angeles County Employee Relations Commission alleging District Attorney George Gascón is refusing to engage in collective bargaining because its members overwhelmingly support efforts to recall him.

An unfair labor practice charge filed April 27 by the Association of Deputy District Attorneys claims the Gascon administration “has simply ignored the ADDA’s request for mid-term bargaining and has failed to provide the bargaining related material requested by the Union.”

“It is of note that there has been absolutely no response from the Gascón administration, not a phone call, not a letter, not an email; neither has the Gascón administration taken issue with the legitimacy of the union’s request for mid-term bargaining; nor has the administration voiced any objections to the material requested by the union,” the filing stated.

The ADDA contends Gascón, in violation of city law and city ordinances, is retaliating against the union because 98% of its members voted in February to endorse efforts to recall him.

Organizers of the recall effort have collected 400,000 of the needed 566,000 signatures required by July 6 to put the measure on the ballot  Additionally, more than 30 Los Angeles County cities have take votes of “no confidence” in Gascón.

The union is requesting that the Employee Relations Commission order Gascón’s administration to participate in bargaining and provide materials needed for those negotiations.

According to the ADDA, bargaining is necessary to resolve:

  • Increasing the number of Grade IV deputy district attorneys.
  • Compensatory time.
  • Special pay adjustment for selected Grade IV deputy district attorneys.
  • Issues involving environmental protocols and metal detectors.

“George Gascón broke the law within the first five minutes of his administration,” ADDA Vice President Eric Siddall said Wednesday, May 4. “His contempt for the judiciary and the rule of law continues to this day. Now he is engaged in anti-labor activity. His authoritarian approach demeans the oath he took and the office he holds. It’s bullying, not leadership … plain and simple.”

The District Attorney’s Office referred questions about the filing to the Los Angeles County Chief Executive Office, which responded that it “does not generally comment on ongoing labor negotiations.”

The ADDA has been at odds with Gascón since his election in late 2020 amid promises of sweeping social justice reforms, which prompted several lawsuits. The union sued Gascón in December 2020 to block some of his directives it considers illegal.

Specifically, the suit focuses on the elimination of some sentencing enhancements, including the “three strikes” law — enacted by California voters in 1994 to add prison time to the terms of previously convicted felons.

“While an elected district attorney has wide discretion in determining what charges to pursue in an individual case, that discretion does not authorize him or her to violate the law or to direct attorneys representing the district attorney’s office to violate the law,” ADDA President Michele Hanisee said in a statement.

More than a half-dozen prosecutors have filed lawsuits alleging they were retaliated against and demoted for refusing to carry out Gascón’s  policies.

In December 2021, former Head Deputy Richard Doyle received an $800,000 settlement from Los Angeles County after claiming retribution from Gascón’ for refusing to drop charges against three anti-police protesters accused of attempting to wreck a train in Compton.

In the latest lawsuit, filed April 25 in Los Angeles County Superior Court, Deputy District Attorneys Peter Cagney, Richard Todd Hicks, Mindy Paige and Karen Thorp allege Gascón retaliated against them for refusing to carry out his resentencing directives.

“Each plaintiff either opposed or disclosed to their supervisors that laws were being violated if they followed Gascon’s hastily conceived new resentencing guidelines, and that prison inmates that posed a serious and dangerous risk to society would be or were released from prison,” the suit says.

“Gascon’s policies effectively required prosecutors to unlawfully hide the truth from the courts by mischaracterizing many violent offenses and hiding the inmate’s propensity for violence, and danger to the community if given an early release from prison, from the courts and resentencing judges.”

Click here to read the full article at the LA Daily News

If Supreme Court Overturns Roe, Southern California Could Be Haven For Choice And Outrage

More abortions and more people casting votes in November.

Also, more outrage and frustration.

All of those disparate trends and emotions could come to Southern California if the Supreme Court overturns or severely limits Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that guaranteed a federal constitutional right to an abortion.

On the abortion front, the upturn is already underway.

Since September, when Texas enacted a controversial law that outlaws abortion after a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat (typically around six weeks), the number of out-of-state women seeking to terminate their pregnancies at Planned Parenthood clinics in Southern California has roughly quadrupled, according to officials from local chapters of that organization.

But that trend could kick into overdrive if Roe is struck down as a leaked Supreme Court draft decision suggested. At least 26 states are poised to ban or severely restrict abortion if and when the Supreme Court takes action, states that include about 58% of American women of child-bearing age.

In a post-Roe world, many of those women will turn to California, where abortion rules are arguably the most lenient in the country.

“It could be a deluge,” said Nichole Ramirez, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood’s nine-office region in Orange and San Bernardino counties.

“The dismantling (of Roe) would impact about 36 million Americans, most of whom are women of color and women without money,” Ramirez added.

A spark?

On the political front, consultants of all political stripes believe the question isn’t if but how much a move to strike down Roe will animate voters. And many predict the biggest upturn will come from voters who previously weren’t expected to turn out in big numbers – younger women.

“This year’s mid-term was going to be one of the most boring, low-turnout elections we’ve had in a long time,” said Adam Probolsky, an Irvine-based political researcher and pollster.

“But now, with that draft by (Supreme Court Justice Samuel) Alito out there, you have every 18- to 25-year-old woman, every younger voter in general, with a keen interest in the outcome of this election, from federal offices on down,” Probolsky said.

“Nobody can say right now exactly how much this will change things, but every political consultant in this country is recalibrating what they expect for turnout in November.”

And on the outrage front, local pro-life advocates were thrilled that the Supreme Court might be poised to give their cause the win they’ve sought for two generations – but they saw an anti-Roe ruling as a starting point.

“We are cautiously optimistic. … The ruling would help make it clear to everyone who is paying attention that there is no right to abortion in this nation,” said Susan S. Arnall, vice president of legal affairs for the Right to Life League, a Pasadena-based group that pushes for tougher abortion laws.

And while Arnall said an anti-Roe ruling would “absolutely buoy pro-life forces,” she expressed frustration with several proposals in Sacramento to make abortion easier and more affordable in California.

Her group’s fight against California’s abortion stance, Arnall suggested Tuesday, would only intensify if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe.

“I’m flying to Sacramento tomorrow.”

Divide widens

If California has the most lenient abortion laws in the country, it might be because public opinion backs that.

While national polls show roughly two-thirds of Americans don’t want to see Roe overturned by the court, California voters are particularly supportive of a woman’s right to choose.  A June 2021 poll from the California Public Policy Institute found 77% of state voters – including 59% of Republicans – don’t want to see Roe erased.

That context was clear in Sacramento late Monday and into Tuesday.

Minutes after news broke about the Supreme Court draft ruling, Gov. Gavin Newsom took to Twitter to say, “California will not sit back. We are going to fight like hell.” By Tuesday, lawmakers were pushing to codify the right to an abortion into the state Constitution.

But over the past year, in anticipation of an anti-Roe ruling by the Supreme Court, state lawmakers, health providers and others have been pushing for new legislation to widen abortion access statewide.

At least 10 bills are being discussed in Sacramento that would do everything from cover out-of-pocket expenses for women, protect health providers from civil suits filed against them in other states and expand the world of medical experts who can legally provide an abortion procedure or prescribe a medical abortion.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday encourage passage of a State Senate bill that would make L.A. County a safe haven for women seeking abortions and other reproductive care.

One proposal, from Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie Norris, D-Laguna Beach, would train health care workers to provide abortions in underserved parts of the state. Another would create a reproductive health pilot program in Los Angeles County.

Still, news that Roe might go away also sparked an instant response among activists – and from people who say they don’t consider themselves activists but said they’ll speak out against the government having control over a woman’s decision to have a child.

Late Tuesday, groups throughout Southern California were planning to demonstrate in support of women’s rights.

“It is part of a national response,” Riverside resident Chani Beeman, who for many years has been an advocate for women’s rights, said about plans Tuesday by several groups in Southern California to demonstrate in support of women’s rights.

“It will be a wave across the country.”

Connie Ransom, who helped lead the 2017 Riverside Women’s March, planned to attend a rally in Riverside.

“This is just astonishing that this has come to pass,” Ransom said

“It’s just going backwards. It’s like (the current national debate on) voting rights — it’s taking away the individual freedom of women.”

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

California Law Allows Victims of Childhood Sex Assault to Sue Decades Later

When news breaks of a decades-old child sexual assault case coming to light, odds are it’s because of California’s Child Victims Act, which was signed into law in 2019 following the passage of Assembly Bill 218.

The law gave victims of childhood abuse until Dec. 31 of this year to file lawsuits, regardless of how old their claims might be, and leaves open a window after that for some suits.

“You need this law because there should never be a limitation on justice for a survivor of childhood assault,” said attorney Mike Reck of the Los Angeles law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, which helped write the law. “The courthouse door should never be closed to a person who was victimized as a child.”

Reck says his firm has represented hundreds of survivors of abuse by Catholic Church clerics or others associated with the church since passage of the law, and that there are an untold number of survivors filing claims statewide.

“We don’t even know how many child victims have been helped by this law and will be helped while the window is still open,” he said. “It’s probably impossible to track how many survivors have brought cases in California.”

Reck and Costa Mesa attorney Brian Williams of Greenberg Gross LLP together brought one of the latest such cases in Sacramento Superior Court, where they are suing Capital Christian Center and a former teacher at its school on behalf of five former students who say they were abused in the early 1980s.

Williams said his firm handles cases involving private schools, daycare facilities and other entities and that the law allows for lawsuits where “if the institution knew or should have known of the abuse you can sue the institution that exposed you to the perpetrator.”

The law says victims under age 40 can sue over childhood abuse, and that older individuals also can sue if they find later in life they suffered harm.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

Killings In L.A. Are On Pace To Top Last Year’s High

People are being killed in Los Angeles so far this year at a slightly faster pace than 2021, when homicides hit a 15-year high, according to the latest data from Los Angeles police.

While the newly released figures indicate the dramatic escalation in violence that the city experienced in 2020 and 2021 may be leveling off, they show violent deaths are still occurring far more frequently than a few years ago, experts said.

“We certainly see instances of street violence that we tie into gangs, with a lot of ready and easy access to handguns and rifles,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said in an interview with The Times. “It’s resulting in this loss of life and this high frequency of shootings.”

Through April 30, there had been 122 homicides in L.A., six more than were recorded during the same time period in 2021, according to the data. Last year ended with 397 killings in the city, the largest annual total since 2006.

The bloodshed remains far below that of the early 1990s, when the city had more than 1,000 homicides per year. But it nonetheless marked another uptick, however slight, in the troubling surge of gun violence that erupted in 2020 and has become a top concern among residents as well as a key issue in the race for the city’s next mayor.

While up only marginally compared to 2021, this year’s homicide count represents about a 40% increase in killings over the same period in 2020, which included the final months before COVID-19 emerged in the U.S., protests over the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd erupted and the crime landscape radically changed in cities across the nation.

While the rest of the year could see a significant decrease in the rate of killings, the numbers so far likely scuttle any hope that the city would find a way to return to pre-pandemic levels of gun violence, experts said.

Jeff Asher, a New Orleans-based crime analyst whose firm AH Datalytics maintains an online database of homicide totals in 71 U.S. cities, said homicides nationally were down slightly less than 1% overall through March — which was similar to where L.A. stood at the time. 

While some cities have seen big increases in killings this year and others big drops, Asher said the data so far suggest the rapid increases in killings across the country in the latter half of 2020 and in 2021 have peaked.

“It’s plausible that things sort of leveled out at this new, elevated level of murders,” Asher said. “What we’re looking for: Is this a plateau, or are things going to come down? Or are they going to keep rising?” Asher said.

In L.A., the level of killing has fluctuated. A drop in homicides at the start of the year, which was cause for cautious optimism, was offset by a spike in killings in recent weeks. Homicides were down 25% through January, compared to 2021, but that decline had narrowed to 13% by the end of March. Then, there were 36 homicides in April, a month which saw only 21 killings last year, Moore said.

Moore said the violence was driven in part by a cluster of shootings in the city’s 77th Division, where disputes among gangs appeared to be escalating into gun violence. Of the 36 homicides in the city in April, 11 were in the 77th, Moore said.

Moore said killings were also occurring within the city’s large homeless population, with more than a fifth of all 2022 killings involving a homeless victim. Moore said he didn’t have information on how many suspects in this year’s killings were unhoused since many killings remain unsolved.

Moore said the “overarching effort” among police now is “to try to quell further acts of violence” by working with gang intervention workers and other community leaders to quell disputes and perceived insults that may spur gang shootings, as well as by adding investigative resources to identify and arrest suspects. 

Click here to read the full article at LA Times

Chief Justice Roberts Orders Probe Into ‘Egregious’ Leak of Abortion Draft

Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday ordered an investigation into the unprecedented leak of a draft opinion suggesting the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case that legalized abortion nationwide.

Roberts slammed the leak as an “egregious breach of trust” in the high court’s first public comment since the draft opinion was published by Politico late Monday.

“Although the document described in yesterday’s reports is authentic, it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case,” Roberts said in a statement.

“To the extent this betrayal of the confidences of the Court was intended to undermine the integrity of our operations, it will not succeed. The work of the Court will not be affected in any way.”

He added: “I have directed the Marshal of the Court to launch an investigation into the source of the leak.”

The majority opinion was written by Justice Samuel Alito and leaked in an extraordinary breach of Supreme Court procedure that immediately sparked political outrage and protests outside the court.

“We at the Court are blessed to have a workforce — permanent employees and law clerks alike — intensely loyal to the institution and dedicated to the rule of law,” Roberts said. “Court employees have an exemplary and important tradition of respecting the confidentiality of the judicial process and upholding the trust of the Court.”

Roberts added: “This was a singular and egregious breach of that trust that is an affront to the Court and the community of public servants who work here.”

The opinion, drafted in February, says that a majority of the Supreme Court is prepared to overrule the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. It isn’t yet clear if the majority draft opinion represents the high court’s final word on the matter.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Alito wrote in the 98-page first draft labeled as the “Opinion of the Court.”

If the court does what the draft suggests, it would give states the power to decide whether to ban or heavily regulate abortions going forward.

The right to have an abortion up until around 23 or 24 weeks, has been federally protected under the Constitution since the Roe v. Wade decision was handed down nearly 50 years ago.

Click here to read the full article at the NY Post