Bill to Stop ICE Arrests at State Courts Awaits Governor’s Signature

ICE 2A bill with the potential to worsen California’s already-frosty relationship with the Trump administration passed the Legislature on a near-party-line vote in late August and was presented to Gov. Jerry Brown for his signature last week.

Senate Bill 349, by state Sen. Ricardo Lara (pictured), D-Bell Gardens, is a direct response to the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s embrace of the tactic of detaining unauthorized immigrants when they come to state courthouses to deal with matters in the California criminal justice system.

Exact statistics are not provided by ICE on its detentions. But there have been regular reports of ICE raids at state courts and their parking lots in California – especially in the Fresno area – as well as in Arizona, Texas and Colorado within the last year.

ICE officials issued a formal notice in January of their intent to go after targeted individuals when they have scheduled appearances in state courts. Some have said they moved to adopt new policies after the California Legislature adopted and Gov. Brown signed “sanctuary state” legislation last year limiting state cooperation with federal immigration officials.

Lara’s bill would specify that state court officials have the authority to block activities that interfere with the proceedings and operations at state courts. It would require federal immigration agents to have a warrant before they can enter schools, courthouses and state buildings to arrest or question people. It would ban civil arrests in courthouses and authorize the state Attorney General’s Office to pursue civil claims against individuals who violated SB349’s provisions.

The legislative aides who wrote the analysis of the bill cited historical evidence that the practice of not picking up people at courthouses for offenses unrelated to their visits – known as “the common law privilege for civil arrests” – goes back hundreds of years and far predates any controversy over illegal immigration.

Brown and state Attorney General Xavier Becerra have been joined in their sharp criticism of ICE’s tactics by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. In a statement issued last month, she blasted arrests at state courts as “disruptive, shortsighted, and counterproductive … . It is damaging to community safety and disrespects the state court system.”

Some sheriffs want more cooperation with feds

Nonetheless, conservative sheriffs in some counties who oppose “sanctuary” policies are supportive of ICE’s aggressive tactics, according to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times. Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims is openly looking for ways to increase her department’s cooperation with ICE in spite of the state law.

That suggests that even if Lara’s bill is signed by Brown, some police agencies may be far less enthusiastic about enforcing it than others. Court battles over what exactly “sanctuary”-style laws compel these agencies to do seem likely.

At issue is the scope of the generally accepted doctrine that the federal government cannot compel state law enforcement agents to enforce federal regulations and that state laws prevail unless they directly conflict with federal laws.

Historically, conservatives in the post-Reagan era and Southern Democrats in the 1950s and 1960s have had more of a “states’ rights” approach to interpreting this doctrine, while liberals have leaned more toward the idea that the federal government deserves deference in gray areas open to different interpretations.

In the Golden State, these political roles have been swapped in the Trump era.

While sharply critical of the Trump White House on many immigration issues, Brown has not commented specifically on Lara’s bill. He has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto it and the hundreds of other passed bills he has not yet made a decision on.

Lara is the Democratic candidate for state insurance commissioner on the November ballot. He is running against Steve Poizner, who is now an independent after serving as insurance commissioner from 2007-2011 as a Republican.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Bill to Provide Free Healthcare for Adult Illegal Aliens Dies in CA Legislature

MedizinCalifornia Senate Bill 974, which would provide for “full-scope” Medi-Cal health benefits to all illegal aliens, died in the State Assembly after concerns about up to $3 billion in new costs.

“SB-974 Medi-Cal: Immigration Status: Adults” failed quietly in the Assembly’s Appropriation Committee on August 18, despite an effort to save part of the bill by reducing the cost of taxpayer coverage to $200 million by only covering adult illegal aliens 65 years and older.

After the Democrat-controlled California legislature passed “Health for All Kids” (SB 75) in 2016, which extended full Medi-Cal benefits to 200,000 illegal alien children under the age of 19, Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) promised that he would fight to expand coverage to all adults who would be eligible, regardless of their immigration status.

When Lara introduced SB 974 on April 2, he told Politico that despite President Donald Trump’s crackdown on immigration, California Democrats continue to believe that health care is a civil right for all residents. “California has never waited for the federal government, or for a political climate, to be able to take leadership on a whole host of issues,” he said.

Lara and other California Democrats had been claiming that there would be no added taxpayer burden from SB 974, because California is already paying for poor undocumented adult illegal aliens through emergency rooms across the state.

But the non-partisan California Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) examination in May of the financial impacts of SB 974 revealed the cost for extending the coverage to full-scope Medi-Cal coverage for all eligible adult illegal aliens would be $4.74 billion — a $3 billion increase in the taxpayer burden above what is currently provided to illegal aliens through emergency rooms alone. …

Click here to read the full article from Breitbart.com/California

CA Democrats Pushing to Give Illegal Adults Full Health Care Benefits

MedizinCalifornia Democrats are reportedly pushing to give full healthcare benefits to illegal immigrant adults, which would mean that the Golden State not only may have to raise taxes but will also be a magnet for even more illegal immigrants.

According to a Monday Politico report, state Senator Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) is leading the charge by reportedly arguing that “California needs to be a laboratory for social change by taking the lead on progressive causes.”

“We are trying to address the fact that, whether you like it or not, our undocumented community needs the care, and we are paying for it anyway,” he reportedly said.

Politico points out that California Democrats are trying to extend the state’s Medi-Cal program this legislative session to nearly 1.2 million illegal immigrant adults who would qualify for it, and “companion bills in the state Assembly and Senate” have already “passed their respective health committees with party-line votes.”

The cost to expand Medicaid coverage to adult illegal immigrants in California is reportedly projected to cost $3 billion annually.

California Governor Jerry Brown, who extended Medi-Cal coverage to illegal immigrant children in 2015, has not commented on the pending measures but “is required by law to sign or veto bills passed this session by Sept. 30, just five weeks before the midterm elections.”

Political and health analysts are reportedly astounded that Democrats are trying to extend healthcare benefits to illegal immigrants before this year’s important midterm elections, reportedly saying that the measure would give Republicans in California relevance “they would never have before” in an election cycle in which House races in California could decide which party controls Congress.

Paul Ginsburg, director of the USC-Brookings Schaeffer Initiative for Health Policy, told Politico that the proposal would be “fiscally very dangerous” and  Jay Bhattacharya, a Stanford physician and health economist, suggested to the outlet that such a plan would have to be paid for with tax increases.

Bhattacharya also pointed out the obvious—giving full healthcare coverage to illegal immigrant adults will make California, which is already an official “sanctuary” state, even a greater magnet for illegal immigrants.

The illegal immigrant who murdered Kate Steinle, for instance, told authorities that he came to San Francisco after being previously deported five times because he knew San Francisco was proudly a “sanctuary city.”

“If you make a program like this available, undocumented workers in other states might be attracted to California because of this,” Bhattacharya, the Stanford physician, reportedly said.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Single-payer health care could cost Californians $400 billion a year

Healthcare costsSACRAMENTO – During the California Democratic Party convention in Sacramento last weekend, the spiciest news was outgoing chairman John Burton dropping an f-bomb on a group of activists demanding that the party embrace a single-payer health system. It’s not really news when the notoriously foul-mouthed Burton says such things, but the fracas highlighted the pressure party leadership faces to embrace government-run medical care.

Yet the foulest rebuke to advocates for single payer this week did not take place at the convention. It took place nearby at the state Capitol, in the form of an appropriations committee report that found that a single-payer bill working its way through the state Senate would cost more than double the state’s total budget.

Senate Bill 562, which had previously passed the Senate health committee, was placed in the “suspense file” by the appropriations committee on Monday as legislators analyze the huge price tag. They have until the end of the week to move it out of the file, or it will die this year.

The committee made clear the size of the undertaking: “The fiscal estimates below are subject to enormous uncertainty,” it explained. “Completely rebuilding the California health care system from a multi-payer system into a single payer, fee-for-service system would be an unprecedented change in a large health care market.”

The appropriations analysts estimate an annual cost of $400 billion a year, which soars above the projected $180 billion state budget. Of that cost, the committee explained, about half of it would be covered by existing federal, state and local health care funding. That leaves a $200-billion hole, which the committee says could be covered by a 15 percent payroll tax. Even if the calculation includes reduced health care spending by employers and employees, the committee still estimates a $50-billion to $100-billion shortfall.

And, quite significantly, these costs could be understated given the kind of demand that would be created by this system. Its main advocates, Sens. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, view health care as a “human right,” so the system the bill would create would provide nearly unlimited access to medical care. In fact, the Senate health committee report opined that “SB562 will change health care in California from commodity to a right.”

“Under the bill, enrollee access to services would be largely unconstrained by utilization management tools commonly used by health care payers, including Medi-Cal,” according to the committee report. “The ability for enrollees to see any willing provider, to receive any service deemed medically appropriate by a licensed provider, and the lack of cost sharing, in combination, would make it difficult for the program to make use of utilization management tools … . Therefore, it is very likely that there would be increased utilization of health care services under this bill.”

And the committee only is talking about predicted costs. It’s not its job to engage other policy debates, such as those touching on subjects including rationing, waiting lists for services if the demand overwhelms supply and the quality of care. The bill would apply to illegal immigrants, which raise critics’ concerns about the state becoming a worldwide magnet for “free” health care.

The bill is fairly short given the complexity of the subject. But the Mercury News captured the gist of the single-payer approach in a March news article: “Instead of buying health insurance and paying for premiums, residents pay higher taxes. And those taxes are then used to fund the insurance plan — in the same way Medicare taxes are used to provide insurance for Americans 65 and over.”

This bill would put control of health care in the state under the authority of a nine-member panel and essentially eliminate the role of insurance companies – thus replacing them with a government bureaucracy. But the size of the tax bill and state costs even have Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown expressing what the newspaper calls “deep skepticism.”

The analysis makes some other important points. For instance, it’s not clear that the federal government would go along with this, and it is totally discretionary whether the feds would grant the necessary waivers involving Medicare and Medicaid services. The bill’s funding is based heavily on the ability to divert federal funds from those programs.

The analysis also notes, “There are several provisions of the state constitution that would prevent the Legislature from creating the single-payer system envisioned in the bill without voter approval.” In Colorado this past November, voters defeated a single-payer initiative, Amendment 69, with an overwhelming 79 percent to 21 percent “no” vote.

Supporters of the measure claim that it will reduce “waste” by putting all health plans under a single umbrella, thus ending the duplication of multi-plan systems. But critics note that competition is the best way to keep costs low – not putting a system under one giant governmental entity. Advocates see it as a way to ensure proper health care for everyone, but the appropriations report confirms critics’ concerns that such a system could obliterate the state budget and kill job-creating private enterprise because of the high tax bite.

As the Democratic Party protests illustrated, we can expect the debate to become even more acrimonious and obscenity laden as the days go on.

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

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

New Laws Would Soften Penalties for California Juvenile Criminals

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan via Flickr

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan via Flickr

In a fresh bid to reform California’s criminal justice system, Sacramento lawmakers have begun to advance several bills, many aimed at softening juvenile punishment. “Democratic state senators Holly Mitchell of Los Angeles and Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens are proposing four bills intended to keep more youthful offenders out of the criminal justice system,” as the Associated Press noted.

“State senators in California on Monday introduced an eight-bill justice reform package focused on juveniles that would create a minimum age incarceration standard, a ban on sentencing minors to life without parole and Miranda rights protections,” according to Courthouse News. “Senate Bill 190 would extend financial relief to families with children in the justice system by nixing court administrative fees, and Senate Bill 395 would require minors to consult with an attorney before waiving their rights during interrogations.” Senate Bill 439, another piece of legislation, would tweak jurisdictional rules to ensure minors under the age of 12 do not wind up in juvenile court.

String of changes

At a recent hearing around the bills, lines of support and opposition took familiar shape. “Witnesses urged lawmakers to support legislation they said would ensure the fair treatment of children under the law,” the Los Angeles Times recalled. “But law enforcement groups and prosecutors said it could keep authorities from holding offenders accountable and hinder officers from carrying out investigations.”

At a recent appearance at a Sacramento elementary school, the bills’ two sponsors worked to portray their changes in rational and moral terms. “Mitchell, who chairs the Senate Budget Committee, acknowledged some minors are involved in serious crime,” Capital Public Radio reported. “But she spoke out against incarcerating children under 12 years old as if they were ‘pint-sized’ adults.”

Activists pushing to further liberalize California’s incarceration laws have seen statewide success focusing on the fraught relationship between crime and child punishment. “In recent years, state legislation and propositions have attempted to create greater court protections for young offenders and to lower the population of incarcerated youth, as research on brain development has found that children learn differently from adults and should be afforded a criminal justice approach centered on rehabilitation,” the Times noted separately. “The latest victory for criminal justice advocates was Proposition 57, which will now require a judge’s approval before most juvenile defendants can be tried in an adult court.”

Curbing prison culture

But adult justice also received some attention, with proposed amendments “weakening drug enhancement sentencing procedures, nixing public defender reimbursement fees for individuals found innocent by the court and sealing arrest records of those not convicted of a crime,” according to Courthouse News. “The lawmakers hope the reforms will reduce county costs related to minor drug sentences and remove employment barriers for people accused but not convicted of a felony or misdemeanor.”

Other recent criminal justice reforms have advanced quickly in Sacramento. One, targeting abuses in prison snitch rewards, passed its first legislative test with flying colors. “Assembly Bill 359 on Tuesday sailed unanimously through the state Assembly Public Safety Committee,” as the Orange County Register noted. “Under the bill, snitches like Mexican Mafia members Raymond “Puppet” Cuevas and Jose “Bouncer” Paredes would no longer be able to live like kings behind bars, raking in as much as $3,000 a case as well as cartons of Marlboro cigarettes, fast food, Xbox machines and other perks.”

“The bill caps all monetary and nonmonetary payments to informants at $100 per case, including any investigatory work. Currently, the cap is $50 per case for testimony and no limit in compensation for investigation,” the paper observed. “Additionally, the bill requires prosecutors to keep databases that track informant work and locations, and to turn detailed informant histories over to defense attorneys no later than 30 days before the preliminary hearing.”

This piece was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Outrage over Private Prisons Neglects the Real Problem

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan via Flickr

Photo credit: Michael Coghlan via Flickr

In mid-August, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would start phasing out its contracts with companies that run private prisons in light of disturbing reports of poor medical care, overcrowding and other abuses in their facilities. Although the issue has taken center stage in the debate over mass incarceration, it overshadows and distracts from the actual problem: the prison-industrial complex, which affects government-run prisons in a much more troubling way, and for many more inmates.

This has been clear in California, where the private prison debate has been particularly intense after the state decided to continue to contract with prison companies despite the DOJ announcement. With approximately 9,000 inmates currently serving time in private facilities, this decision has enraged the opposition, but, in the process, also inflated the role of private prisons in mass incarceration.

There have been several examples of this misplaced outrage. Senate Bill 1289, legislation currently on its way to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk, condemns private prisons and would prohibit immigrant detainees from being held in private facilities. Even the University of California faced enough pressure from Black Student Unions and the Afrikan Black Coalition (ABC) to sell off its investments in private prisons. Yoel Haile, the political director for the ABC, expressed the group’s opinion in an email, stating that, “It is morally corrupt for corporations to exist whose sole source of profit is the caging of human beings en masse.”

Haile’s comment demonstrates just how profoundly this overblown outrage over private prisons misses the point. Government-run, public prisons operate off the same perverse and monetary incentives to lock up human beings, but do so for more inmates and with much more at stake.

We don’t even have to leave California to get a glimpse of the perverse incentives at work in filling government prisons. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association (CCPOA) represents approximately 30,000 California prison guards and parole officers. The union wields tremendous power over criminal justice policy, much more than private prison companies, and for nearly 20 times the inmates. While we are worried about private companies’ profit incentive to increase prison populations, shouldn’t we be infuriated about an organization that has job security, salaries and political influence hanging in the balance?

First, the CCPOA is interested in preserving jobs, generous benefits and salaries for the men and women working “the toughest beat in California.” The latest union agreement reached between the state and the CCPOA secured a 9 percent salary increase over three years. This might sound modest, but when you take into account that union members can earn more than $100,000 a year with overtime, it is a lot of money. Next year, union members will also count on the state to contribute $19 million to their vision and dental benefits, as well as pay them a fitness and clothing allowance.

Not only does CCPOA have 30,000 generous paychecks on the line, it also exercises tremendous political influence. This is shown by the vital role the union has played in passing the state’s toughest criminal justice laws, therefore exhibiting their shared incentive with private prisons to cage “humans beings en masse.”

Over the last 20 years, the CCPOA has contributed over $24 million to lobbying efforts and candidates. For comparison, GEO Group, a leading private prison company criticized for their role in increasing prison populations, spent only $5 million over the same time period.

And, the activities of the CCPOA are aimed squarely on tougher sentencing laws, therefore preserving the prison-industrial complex that allows them to exist. The union, for example, spent over $100,000 to implement the original Three Strikes Law. More recently, it spent $1 million to defeat Proposition 5, which would have reduced sentences for nonviolent crimes, shifting the focus to rehabilitation for nonviolent drug offenders.

While the case of private prisons gives public officials a contained and clean narrative to sell the general public about mass incarceration, it isn’t the whole story. Ricardo Lara, who introduced SB1289 to combat private prisons, pocketed contributions from CCPOA. If our goal is sensible criminal justice reform, we must look at the whole picture, which includes the state’s role in causing and perpetuating mass incarceration.

Katie Modesitt is the Development Manager at the Independent Institute where she works to promote individual freedoms and free-market solutions. She is based in San Francisco.

How Democrats Plan to Take Over Local Elected Offices Through Redistricting

Democrat DonkeyA new law setting up a redistricting commission in Los Angeles County is the first move by Democrats hoping to take as tight a grip on local elected offices as they have under the capitol dome.

Dan Walters’ Monday column in the Sacramento Bee did an excellent job of dissecting the flaws in Senate Bill 958 authored by Sen. Ricardo Lara and signed into law by Gov. Brown. The statute sets up a 14-member redistricting commission for Los Angeles County with the commission membership reflecting partisan makeup of county voters. As Walters rightly notes, “It’s a recipe for officially bringing party politics into what officially has been, for many decades, nonpartisan local government.” 

Why the move? Because Republicans who have a terrible track record of electing statewide officers, have fewer and fewer representatives in the Legislature and whose percentage of total voters has dropped to an all time low, do pretty well on the local level. Just under half of locally elected officials in county and city government and other local agencies are Republicans.

Local races don’t designate which party a candidate represents. The Republican brand has taken a hit in California. However, when local officials deal with issues, local voters often embrace solutions offered by Republicans and they are elected to office.

How to undercut this trend of Republicans showing strength at the local level? Change the rules of the game and create a system that favors Democrats. That’s what SB958 does. Expect more of the same as Democratic political strategists attempt to choke off the building of a Republican bench, the goal of Republican party state chairman Jim Brulte, who is attempting to rebuild the party from the bottom up.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily