Legislation would make it easier to clear pot convictions from criminal record in California

Buds are removed from a container at the "Oregon's Finest" medical marijuana dispensary in Portland, Oregon April 8, 2014. Over 20 Oregon cities and counties are moving to temporarily ban medical marijuana dispensaries ahead of a May deadline, reflecting a divide between liberal Portland and more conservative rural areas wary about allowing medical weed. Portland, Oregon's largest city, already has a number of medical marijuana clinics and has not moved to ban them. Picture taken April 8, 2014.  REUTERS/Steve Dipaola (UNITED STATES - Tags: DRUGS SOCIETY POLITICS HEALTH) - RTR3KMHE

Recently proposed legislation would make it easier for Californians to have their pot convictions wiped away, in just the latest drug policy development following marijuana legalization on a state level earlier this year.

Under Proposition 64, California residents can petition to have certain drug convictions overturned – but Assembly Bill 1793, introduced by Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, in January, would make it even easier, by automatically clearing the records of those convicted of crimes that are now legal under the new law.

“Let’s be honest, navigating the legal system bureaucracy can be costly and time-consuming,” Bonta told reporters last month in Sacramento. “[It] will give people the fresh start to which they are legally entitled and allow them to move on with their lives.”

Offenses that can now be wiped away include past convictions for possessing up to an ounce of weed and growing between 1-6 plants for personal use, which are both now legal.

However, Bonta has not specified what the cost of such a move would be, as it would require courts to identity who’s eligible and then notify those persons of the changes.

But the proposal is in line with the positions of district attorneys in San Francisco and San Diego, who have said their offices will go through case files themselves so that residents don’t have to go through the petition process.

For example, in San Francisco, pot-related felony and misdemeanors dating back to 1975 will be cleared or re-classified based on the new state law. The city so far has identified 8,000 such cases and San Diego has identified around 5,000.

“Long ago we lost our ability to distinguish the dangerous from the nuisance, and it has broken our pocket books, the fabric of our communities, and we are no safer for it,” San Francisco D.A. George Gascon reportedly said late last month. “A criminal conviction can be a barrier to employment, housing and other benefits, so instead of waiting for the community to take action, we’re taking action for the community.”

Proponents of the move argue that it’s a necessary part of a legalization framework, as past convictions can be a hurdle to finding a job or obtaining certain professional licenses.

“This isn’t just an urgent issue of social justice here in California, it’s a model for the rest of the nation,” Lt Gov. and gubernatorial frontrunner Gavin Newsom added.

However, not all cities are taking this approach, as Los Angeles District Attorney Jackie Lacey says the city will instead have residents follow the petition process already in place.

“The process also allows people most affected by these convictions to pro-actively petition the court for relief and move to the head of the line – rather than wait for my office to go through tens of thousands of case files,” Lacey said in a statement.

As of September 2017, around 5,000 Californians have petitioned to have marijuana convictions expunged or reclassified.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Youth tackle football targeted for ban in California

Two California lawmakers want to outlaw tackle football leagues until teenagers reach high school, saying delaying the start of high-contact elements of football would protect young people from long-term brain damage.

Children can learn the skills they need to succeed at the sport from non-contact flag football, Democratic Assembly members Kevin McCarty of Sacramento and Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher of San Diego said in announcing their legislation on Thursday.

Their bill follows similar legislation under consideration in Illinois and New York. Legislation has been introduced several times since 2013 in New York but has not gained traction.

In Illinois, the Dave Duerson Act to Prevent CTE is named for the Chicago Bears defensive back who was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy after he killed himself at 50. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

This Supreme Court ruling imperils every California taxpayer

TaxesEarlier this week the California Supreme Court issued a stunning decision which imperils every California taxpayer. At issue is whether taxes proposed by special interests using the local initiative process have to comply with taxpayer protections set forth in Proposition 218, the Right to Vote on Taxes Act, a Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association sponsored statewide measure approved by California voters in 1996.

The case, California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, at first glance seems limited to a narrow technical question: When a local initiative seeks to impose a new tax, does the issue need to be put to the voters at the next general election or can the proponents, relying on other laws, force a special election? The lower court had ruled that taxes proposed by initiative are exempt from the taxpayer protections contained in the state constitution, such as the provision dictating the timing of the election.

When the lower court in San Diego issued its decision, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association was alarmed because the constitution’s taxpayer protections include the right to vote on taxes. For that reason HJTA provided legal representation to the city of Upland. Of major concern was that, if local initiatives are exempt from taxpayer protections, then public agencies could easily deny taxpayers their right to vote on taxes by colluding with outside interests to propose taxes in the form of an initiative, then submitting a tax under a lower vote threshold than that currently required. The worst case scenario would be if a local government were to rely on this case as legal authority to impose a tax without any election at all.

The import of the case was not lost on those who dislike Proposition 218’s requirement that local special taxes — those imposed for specific purposes — receive a two-thirds vote of the local electorate. For example, backers of a tax to subsidize a new sports arena in San Diego were hoping that the lower court ruling would allow them to impose a special tax with only a simple majority vote. Now that the lower court decision has received the imprimatur from the state’s highest court, these kinds of schemes are already being hatched.

The court in Upland based its decision on the view that local voters were different from the governing body when it comes to enacting legislation. But for decades courts have said that, when voters use the initiative power they are simply “stepping into the shoes” of the governing body and have the same powers and same limitations. For example, a local city council cannot seize someone’s real property without paying “just compensation,” but if local housing advocates propose an initiative to seize someone’s property, the reasoning of the court suggests that there’s no requirement to pay for it. That is surely an absurd result.

While there’s little dispute that the logic behind the majority opinion could substantially weaken the two-thirds vote requirement in Proposition 218, taxpayers are not wholly without hope.

First, the court barely mentioned the parallel two-thirds vote requirement in Proposition 13. Its vitality will surely be the subject of more litigation.

Second, while taxpayers are concerned about collusion between local governments and special interests, not all local governments are applauding the decision. In fact, some local governments filed a “friend of the court” brief in support of HJTA’s position. That’s because many local governments are concerned that special interests could usurp the governing body’s ability to tax.

Finally, the actual ruling dealt with the timing of local elections for tax increases proposed by initiative. While the dicta in the decision (verbiage in a decision not necessary for disposition of the case) is a huge threat to Propositions 13 and 218, the scope of the ruling will require years of additional litigation.

In the meantime, the decision has provided tax-and-spend interests with a roadmap of how to avoid taxpayer protections set forth in the California Constitution. When taxpayers see how they are being burned by collusion between those seeking additional tax revenue, like government employee unions and complicit local officials, it may be necessary to go back to the initiative process to close yet another court created loophole.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

This article was originally published by the Orange County Register

NFL Owners Approve Oakland Raiders’ Move To Las Vegas

As reported by KPBS:

Any hopes that the Raiders would turn their eyes to San Diego in wake of the Chargers’ departure all but evaporated Monday when National Football League owners conditionally approved the Oakland franchise’s move to Las Vegas.

The Raiders will play in Oakland for two more seasons before heading to Nevada, the team announced. It is the third franchise relocation green-lighted by the NFL in a little more than a year, including the Chargers and Rams to Los Angeles.

“The Raiders were born in Oakland and Oakland will always be part of our DNA,” owner Mark Davis said. “We know that some fans will be disappointed and even angry, but we hope that they do not direct that frustration to the players, coaches and staff.”

Very slim hopes were raised that San Diego could provide an alternative destination for the Raiders when development of his Las Vegas plans hit some snags. Such a result would have been ironic given local fans’ antipathy toward their Northern California rival. …

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Democrats Want to Exempt California Teachers from State Income Tax

Ashs-teacher-and-studentsIn a surreal political moment, California State Senators Henry Stern (D-Los Angeles) and Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) have introduced the “Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act of 2017” which offers a novel incentive for teachers to remain in the profession. Senate Bill 807 would exempt California educators from paying the state income tax after five years on the job, in addition to allowing a tax deduction for the cost of attaining their teaching credential. If passed, the bill is estimated to cost the already burdened California taxpayers an additional $600 million a year. All this is transpiring because of an alleged teacher shortage.

So, let’s see – if we indeed have a shortage, why exactly are districts laying off teachers? In Santa Ana, 287 teachers were just pink-slipped, essentially because the school district couldn’t afford to keep them. Seems that the Santa Ana Educators Association had pushed for and received an across-the-board 10 percent pay raise in 2015. The money had to come from somewhere, and it’s going to come from what would have been used to pay 287 of the newest hired, now soon to be laid off teachers. San Diego, facing a major deficit – much of it due to spiraling pension costs – is about to lay off about 900 recently hired teachers.

In fact, these types of fiscal issues are burdening more and more school districts across the state. So I suppose one could argue that we have a teacher shortage because we are laying them off. But however you identify the problem, the way to solve it is to rejigger teacher union orchestrated state laws and teacher work rules that are mandated in a typical union contract, thereby attracting and maintaining the most talented teachers, rather than giving older, more senior ones – competent or not – more money.

On the state level, defined benefit pensions for teachers, a union must, are causing school districts to go deep into the red and now the Golden (State) Goose is beginning to dry up. A great way to keep young teachers in the field – and ultimately save school districts and the state billions of dollars – would be to offer them a higher salary rather than way-down-the-road retirement benefits that many will never see.

Also, a state issue, the union’s hideous seniority or  “last in, first out” law, one of the statutes that Vergara judge Rolf Treu said “shocks the conscience,” is clearly a deterrent to promising young teachers. Why should a bright, enthusiastic, skilled 20-something enter a field where her worth isn’t appreciated? She knows that no matter how good she is, come tough fiscal times, her job may very well disappear. So she would rather go into a field where her abilities are truly appreciated, and the quality of her work matters more than the number of years she has been employed.

Locally, the unions keep talented teachers from entering and staying in the profession by insisting on a quality-blind way of paying them. In just about every district in the state, public school teachers are part of an industrial style “step and column” salary regimen, which treats them as interchangeable widgets. They get salary increases for the number of years they work, and for taking (usually meaningless) professional development classes. Great teachers are worth more – a lot more – and should receive higher pay than their less capable colleagues. But they don’t. Also, if a district is short on science teachers, it’s only logical to pay them more than other teachers whose fields are over-populated. But, of course, stifling union contracts don’t allow for this kind of flexibility.

Another local way to promote and pay great teachers is to get beyond the smaller-classes-are-always-better myth. To be sure small class-size does help some kids, but for most it matters not a whit. In fact, some kids – like me – did better in bigger classes. But, thanks to union lobbying for more dues-paying members, class sizes are kept small. In fact, as Mike Antonucci writes, “Since 1921 (nationally) we have almost quintupled the number of teachers, more than quintupled the average teacher salary in inflation-adjusted dollars, and also cut the student-teacher ratio in half.” In California, the student-teacher ratio is currently under 20:1. Yet on the 2015 NAEP test, California’s 4th graders ranked 49th in the country in reading and 48th in math. So school districts should be able to give great teachers a stipend and add a few kids to their classes. That would net more quality teachers and higher achieving students at a lower cost to the taxpayers, but the unions won’t allow it.

To achieve badly needed education reforms in California, state legislators and local school board members must stand up to the powerful teachers unions. Until then, all we are doing – SB 807 being the latest example – is putting a heavy coat of lipstick on a bloated tax-sucking pig.

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

This piece was originally published by UnionWatch.org

San Diego spends millions on retired workers who get paycheck on top of pensions

Reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune:

Over the past seven years, the City of San Diego has paid more than $14.7 million to bring retirees back to work part-time while they still collect a pension.

According to data from the city Comptroller’s Office, 331 pensioners worked more than 436,600 hours between December 2009 and December 2016.

Three out of every four retirees were brought back more than once, data show, with more than a dozen serving continuously in rolls such as deputy city attorney, investigator, lifeguard chief or program manager over the past seven years.

Rehiring pensioners as provisional employees is a decades-old practice, but the use of them spiked in 2009. They continued to take up more than 100 city positions per year since then. …

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Border Patrol union welcomes Trump’s wall as ‘vital tool’

As reported by the San Diego Union Tribune:

The National Border Patrol Council has high hopes for President-elect Trump’s border security policies.

The union’s president, Brandon Judd, has been advising the Trump transition team. The union has encouraged the building of a border wall and changing enforcement policies put in place in the past four years.

San Diego-based Shawn Moran, vice president of the union, said a wall on the border would be a “vital tool,” and it’s difficult to say exactly where along the border a wall is needed.

“The problem arises when you secure one area, you push traffic to another,” Moran said, citing a Border Patrol program called Operation Gatekeeper that blocked entry to much of the San Diego area. …

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Black Lives Matter Protest Turns Violent in San Diego

black-lives-matterA Black Lives Matter protest turned violent on Thursday night in El Cajon, near San Diego, as demonstrators attacked cars and at least one motorcycle while protesting the death of 38-year-old Ugandan refugee Alfred Olango earlier this week.

It was the second straight night of violence at the protest, after a mob chased and beat a man who came to a community vigil on Wednesday evening wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat supporting Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Olango was killed in a confrontation with police when he pointed an object at officers that looked like a gun but which later turned out to be a vape smoking device. Police had arrived on the scene after being called by Olango’s sister, who said that he had been acting strangely. A widely-circulated image of the confrontation, which looks like an armed standoff, suggests that one police officer was black and the other was white. One officer reportedly fired a Taser but the other fired live ammunition.

On Thursday evening, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports, “about 50 to 75 people — a smaller crowd than previous nights — took over the intersection of Broadway and Mollison Avenue” and “stopped passing vehicles and broke several of their windows” at about 8 p.m., according to police. There was also a confrontation with a motorcyclist who lost control of his vehicle, and police made two arrests, firing pepper balls to disperse the crowd after people began throwing glass bottles.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Olango was supposed to have been deported from the United States twice, after separate federal convictions, first on drug charges in 2002 and second on weapons charges in 2009. He could not be deported because the Ugandan government failed to provide travel documents, and he was released under supervision by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Friends told the Times that Olango had been dealing with a personal crisis when he was shot.

This piece was originally published by Breitbart California

Gov. Brown signs bill banning SeaWorld orca shows

As reported by the Fresno Bee:

California Gov. Jerry Brown is approving legislation requiring SeaWorld to follow through on its plan to end killer whale breeding and entertainment shows.

The Democratic governor said Tuesday he’s signed a budget bill codifying SeaWorld’s plans in state law.

A provision if SB839 makes it a crime for an individual or corporation to breed orcas in captivity, punishable by a fine of up to $100,000.

SeaWorld announced in March that it was no longer breeding orcas and would stop making whales do tricks at its amusement parks. The company plans to focus instead on the educational opportunities with its existing whales. …

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Lawsuit challenges California’s new vaccine requirements

As reported by the Associated Press:

A lawsuit has been filed seeking to overturn California’s strict new law requiring mandatory vaccines for school children.

The suit filed by a group of parents and the nonprofit Education 4 All was filed in San Diego federal court on Friday, the same day the new law took effect.

It says that the law violates the children’s right to an education as guaranteed under California’s constitution, and asks for a judge to suspend the law while the suit plays out.

The law “has made second class citizens out of children who for very compelling reasons are not vaccinated” according to federal regulations, plaintiff’s attorney Robert T. Moxley said in a statement. “We are hoping the court will grant us an injunction while the judicial process takes place to see if this law is constitutional, which it most certainly does not seem to be.”

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the vaccine measure, SB277, into law last year amid fierce opposition from …

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