School Choice Rejected by California Legislature

Across the country, states are embracing the concept of education savings accounts as a means of empowering parents to decide where to send their children to school.  In the California Legislature, though, the idea is a nonstarter.

Last week, the California Senate’s education committee rejected Senate Bill 292 by a vote of two in favor and five opposed.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, proposed offering parents who wish to opt their children out of the government school system the equivalent of what the state spends per student. Parents would then be able to use that money to educate their children as they see fit. Such funds could be used to pay for a private school education or other related education purposes.

According to reporting by Elissa Miolene from the Bay Area News Group, under the plan parents would be able to receive around $17,000 per K-12 student, based on per pupil state funding in the current school year.

“California’s government-run schools are failing too many students,” said Sen. Grove. “Any company that failed 84% of its customers would be run out of business, but in California the legislature rewards failing schools with even more funding. The government focuses more on funding institutions than students, and most parents have no other options.”

Indeed, as this editorial board has long written, California’s K-12 educational system consistently underperforms the rest of the country on standardized national tests.

Most students in recent years have failed to meet the state’s own standards in mathematics, English or science.

Troubling racial and economic disparities have long persisted in educational outcomes in California, despite continuously rising education spending.

In recent years, the state has curtailed alternatives to traditional government schools, namely charter schools, and has seen greater and greater spending on teacher pensions and other post-employment benefits.

Despite this, as this editorial board has noted before, the concept of providing funds directly to parents has widespread support across California. In 2017, the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California found that 60% of Californians supported the idea of “providing [vouchers] to parents for use at any public, private, or parochial school.” Support was even higher among Black Californians (73%), Latinos (69%) and public school parents (66%) of all backgrounds.

You would not know that though based on the behavior of state politicians, many of whom are ideologically aligned with and/or financially tied to the state’s teachers unions.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Why Bills to Crack Down on Fentanyl Dealers Have Been Doomed in the State Legislature

‘It’s either fill the prisons again with people of color or fill the mortuaries,’ says one parent in response to fears that stiffer penalties would hurt minorities

The message from Sacramento has been clear: powerful state lawmakers have no appetite for a return to the War on Drugs, even as a way to combat the deadly fentanyl epidemic.

For years now, law enforcement, prosecutors and families of fentanyl victims have pleaded for harsher penalties for dealers of the synthetic opioid, which is 100 times stronger than morphine and 50 times stronger than heroin. In 2021, fentanyl killed 5,722 people in California, many of whom thought they were taking prescription medications or other drugs.

The graveyard for such legislation has been the Senate and Assembly public safety committees, which have repeatedly rejected bills that would result in more incarceration of fentanyl dealers.

On Tuesday, April 25, the Senate Public Safety Committee blinked slightly by approving SB 226, which would make it a felony to possess fentanyl with a loaded, operable firearm. Basically, the bill by state Sen. Marie Alvarado-Gill, D-Jackson, would expand an existing law, adding fentanyl to a list of less harmful drugs that cannot be possessed while having a firearm.

Victim families disappointed again

That distinction — that the committee was not creating a new law or new penalties — was stressed by committee member Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, in rejecting another bill, SB 44, the latest iteration of Alexandra’s Law. The committee vote Tuesday came despite the impassioned pleas of families carrying pictures of children killed by fentanyl poisoning.

Under Alexandra’s Law, proposed this time by Sen. Tom Umberg, D-Santa Ana, dealers convicted of selling fentanyl would be given a warning — much like the warning given by judges to first-time drunken drivers — that they could be charged with homicide if they again sell fentanyl resulting in death.

It was the second time this year that the committee torpedoed Umberg’s bill, despite modifications meant to appease committee members.

“I’m stunned,” Umberg said. “It’s very difficult to comprehend the committee’s view on this simple admonishment. … It’s discouraging that my colleagues don’t see the reality of the epidemic and the benefit of stopping repeat fentanyl dealers.”

‘Unintended consequences’

During the hearing, Wiener said Umberg’s bill was overly broad and would not provide the solution that proponents are seeking.

“The bill, if it passes, would have a lot of unintended consequences and would sweep up a lot of people who didn’t know” they were selling drugs laced with fentanyl, Wiener said.

Bills to increase penalties for possessing or selling fentanyl have hit a brick wall of liberal Democratic lawmakers, who say sending more people to prison is not a deterrent but a return to failed strategies that in the past mostly penalized people of color.

Steven Bradford, D-Gardena, a member of the Senate committee, said legislators should be focusing on manufacturers instead of further punishing street dealers who may not know their product is mixed with fentanyl.

“The focus should be on causation, prevention and treatment,” Bradford said during a recent hearing. “We’ve seen this movie before. In the ’80s and ’90s, with mass incarceration … thousands of Black and Brown people doing life in prison for selling an ounce of cocaine where no one lost their lives.”

Lawmaker: Race shouldn’t matter

The race argument falls flat with state Sen. Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, who saw two of her bills seeking harsher sentences for possessing and selling fentanyl rejected earlier by the Senate committee. Grove and others pushing to tighten drug laws say fentanyl is colorblind and deadlier than any drug ever peddled from a street corner.

“I don’t care what color your skin is, if you’re trying to kill our children … then you should go to prison for a very, very long time,” Grove said during a committee hearing.

With one side digging its heels against “Draconian,” anti-drug strategies and the other side insisting fentanyl dealers need to be held accountable, the debate will again be front and center in a special hearing Thursday, April 27, before the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Six Assembly bills previously held up by committee Chair Reginald Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles, will now be heard.

“As chair of Public Safety, I felt that the number of bills heard in my committee this year did not provide enough time to properly discuss this crisis in a manner that is consistent with its importance,” Jones-Sawyer said in a written statement.

Assembly bills

Proposals going before the committee Thursday include:

  • AB 33 from Assemblymember Jasmeet Bains, D-Bakersfield, to create a Fentanyl Addiction and Overdose Prevention Task Force.
  • AB 675 from Assemblymember Esmeralda Soria, D-Merced, to prohibit the possession of fentanyl while armed with a loaded firearm.
  • And AB 955 from Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Irvine, to increase penalties for trafficking fentanyl through social media by making it punishable with up to nine years in the county jail.

Some remain dubious that the Assembly Public Safety Committee will budge.

“The do-nothing bills, (Jones-Sawyer) will let them through, but nothing that adds any penalties,” said Melissa Melendez, a retired Republican state senator from Lake Elsinore. “That would be a 180 for him.”

Melendez, now president of the Golden State Policy Council think tank, has twice unsuccessfully carried Alexandra’s Law to make it easier to sustain murder charges against dealers who sell fentanyl resulting in death. The proposal was resurrected this session by Umberg.

Alexandra’s Law would have allowed prosecutors to argue that dealers not heeding the warning had “an abandoned and malignant heart” and exhibited “a wanton disregard for life,” setting the stage for a homicide charge.

Umberg: ‘Can’t let it go’

“I can’t let this issue go,” Umberg said after the admonition bill was rejected. “I can’t face any more parents grieving their lost daughters and sons without doing everything I can to stop this fentanyl poisoning. I will continue to return with other measures.”

The bill was named after Alexandra Capelouto, who overdosed on fentanyl in Temecula a few days before Christmas in 2019 after taking what she thought was Percocet.

Umberg’s proposal was co-authored by Sen. Rosilicie Ocho Bogh, R-Yucaipa, who also is vice chair of the Public Safety Committee. During a recent hearing on another fentanyl bill, Bogh said her colleagues have been overly compassionate to dealers.

“I’m begging this committee to start sending a message to people who are taking advantage of that compassion,” she said.

But lawmakers and activists who say longer prison sentences don’t work are unmoved.

Wrongly focused on punishment

Cristine Soto DeBerry, executive director of the progressive Prosecutors Alliance of California, said most of the fentanyl-related bills have wrongly focused on punishment.

“We tried that when crack cocaine was a big problem, we tried it when heroin was a big problem … it’s painful that we’re watching these solutions be proposed in 2023 when they didn’t work in 1983,” DeBerry said, referring to the so-called War on Drugs.

DeBerry said such bills would fuel racial disparity without any benefit to public safety.

“I’m not advocating there should not be any consequence,” she said. “(But) a punishment-focused strategy does not give us reduced drug use. … We don’t do anyone any favors by continuing to pound our chest and say it’s going to get us there when it doesn’t.”

DeBerry said she is not advocating against punishing drug dealers, but insists there already are enough laws on the books to do that.

‘War on murderers’

Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer says current laws don’t go far enough to combat the ferocity of fentanyl.

“Those legislators (blocking fentanyl bills) are complete cowards and I’m sick and tired of the BS excuse that they don’t want to repeat the ‘War on Drugs,’ ” Spitzer said in an interview. “I do believe if you lock up drug dealers we can reduce fentanyl deaths. … This is not a war on drugs, this is a war on murderers.”

In Orange County — under Spitzer’s guidance — some police and prosecutors already are warning first-time drug dealers that further sales could result in murder charges if someone dies. But many judges won’t accept the admonishment because it is not sanctioned by state law.

“I’m sick and tired of screwing around with the ineffectiveness of the Legislature,” Spitzer said.

Prosecutors in Riverside County and San Francisco also have begun issuing the warning on their own.

Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, said state lawmakers have to find a way to put aside their philosophical differences.

“I would hope somebody sees the politics of this is endangering lives,” Boudreaux said. “There will be deaths.”

Hybrid bill needed

Boudreaux said the answer would be to offer a hybrid of sorts, combining stronger penalties with more social services in jail and a chance at the end to wipe the crime from a dealer’s record for low-level fentanyl possession and street dealing.

“If all you’re doing is putting them in jail, I agree, you’re not going to arrest your way out of this,” he said.

Perla Mendoza is among the parents of children killed by fentanyl who have repeatedly made the trip to Sacramento to plead with legislators. And every time, she returns home to Seal Beach frustrated and heartbroken.

Her 20-year-old son, Elijah Figueroa, was an addict who bought what he thought were 15 prescription-grade Xanax pills for $300 from a street dealer. He died at his grandmother’s house in Long Beach in 2020 after taking only one pill that contained fentanyl.

Mendoza, a former drug and alcohol counselor, has heard all the arguments against harsher fentanyl penalties. None, she says, hold water.

Dealers ‘are playing society’

“Allowing them to continue business as usual, you’re setting up serial killers,” she said. “It’s so disheartening. (Dealers) know exactly what they can get away with. They are playing society.”

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Gov. Newsom’s Expanding ‘Racial Equity Commission’ Disdains Equality

‘The premise behind this controversial idea is Marxist in origin and un-American in practice’

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) Monday announced he has appointed Angélica Salas and John Kim to the Racial Equity Commission.

The Racial Equity Commission? There was no information about the Racial Equity Commission in Rendon’s email, other than short biographical sentences of the two lucky appointees. The Globe wanted to know why.

In 2021, then-Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) authored SB 17 to form the California Racial Equity Commission. “The Commission will recommend tools, methodologies and opportunities to advance racial equity, and will be available to provide direct assistance to state agencies in reviewing and updating policies and practices upon request.”

Notice the word “equity” rather than “equality.”

SB 17 “Establishes the Racial Equity Commission (REC) within the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) to evaluate and recommend strategies for advancing racial equity across state agencies and departments,” the bill analysis stated. “The REC shall develop a statewide Racial Equity Framework for the state, offer technical assistance to departments and local governments, engage in community outreach via quarterly stakeholder meetings, and publish annual reports on racial disparities in the state and recommendations to reduce such disparities.”

Why is this commission necessary?

Because “the bill acknowledges institutional and systemic racism and states that California must approach laws and regulations with an eye toward dismantling racist systems,” the bill analysis once again states.

In 2022, Governor Newsom signed an executive order “directing state agencies and departments to take additional actions to embed equity analysis and considerations in their mission, policies and practices.”

Notably, Gov. Newsom’s executive order states:

  • California is the largest and most diverse state in the nation, shaped by the contributions of all its residents;
  • California has a strong history of fighting for freedom and civil rights for all people;
  • California leads the nation in confronting the climate crisis and building community resilience through equity and opportunity, including supporting communities that experience the greatest social and health inequities from climate change; and
  • California continues to march towards equality and to address our nation’s and our State’s historical wrongs, including through recognition of gay marriage in San Francisco; placing a moratorium on the death penalty in California; advancing immigrant equity and inclusion; protecting access to reproductive health care; compensating survivors of state-sponsored sterilization; ending sub-minimum wage employment; and recently forming the Truth and Healing Council and the Reparations Task Force; and…

Given all of the groundbreaking social justice, climate justice, gender justice, civil justice, reproductive justice, employment justice, and criminal justice reforms California has made and is named in the executive order, why is this Racial Equity Commission needed?

According to the author Sen. Pan, “In the United States, black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) have experienced centuries of inequality and systemic, institutionalized racism, beginning when European colonizers stripped tens of millions of indigenous and native people of their identity, culture, language, lifestyle, families, work, history, and traditions. Even as it represents one of the most successful projects of modern democracy, the United States embedded racial inequality, violence, and trauma into its founding document.”

This statement about “centuries of inequality and systemic, institutionalized racism” came from the son of immigrant parents from Taiwan. Dr. Pan went to college, became a doctor, was elected an Assemblyman and State Senator, but says, “Institutional and systemic racism continues to permeate our society in insidious ways and extensive research has identified racism as a public health crisis leading to significant health disparities, including infant and maternal mortality, chronic diseases prevalence, life expectancy and now COVID mortality.”

Another perspective is from Dr. Wenyuan Wu, Executive Director of Californians for Equal Rights Foundation. She previously served in the same capacity for the historic “No on 16” Campaign. She holds a Ph.D. in International Studies from the University of Miami and authored Chinese Oil Enterprises in Latin America: Corporate Social Responsibility. Dr. Wu told the Globe Monday:

Both the legislative intent and executive decree behind the establishment of the Racial Equity Commission are deeply rooted in a far-left ideology that treats any observed disparities as results of “systemic racism” and calls for equalizing results/outcomes through public policies.

First, the idea of a racial equity commission was first proposed by Senator Richard Pan in his 2021 Senate Bill 17 which re-defines racism as “a public health crisis.” Introduced after the disastrous summer of racial reckoning when American cities were vandalized, looted and even burned down in the name of “racial equity,” SB 17 was a virtue-signaling partisan manifesto, rather than a sensible policy proposal.

Second, the creation of a racial equity commission was institutionalized through Governor Newsom’s Executive Order N-16-22. Again, politics and ideology take the front-row seat, with “being a member of or representing an equity-focused organization that works with an impacted community whose lived experience will inform the work of the commission” being a criterion for racial equity commissioners.

Being one of America’s most diverse and politically progressive states, California does not need more government edicts or state bureaucracy to sing the tune of racial equity. The premise behind this controversial idea is Marxist in origin and un-American in practice. Those tasked to develop a statewide racial equity framework, whether state-level public office holders or political appointees to the commission, are ultimately running a fool’s errand and wasting public resources on a false narrative.

A little further down in Gov. Newsom’s executive order we find the root problem:

“…despite this progress, continued work remains to attain our shared goals of providing equal opportunity for all and addressing persistent disparities in outcomes.”

 “Equality in outcomes” is the real goal. While Dr. Wu warned us about calling for “equalizing results/outcomes through public policies,” an African American History professor wrote a telling op ed in 2020 with this title: “Equal opportunity is not enough. Equality is in outcomes,” which clarified the primary goal.

The marrow of Newsom’s executive order is expanding state government “by designing and delivering state services and programs, to address unequal starting points and drive equal outcomes so all Californians may reach their full potential and lead healthy and rewarding lives.”

Furthering those goals, Speaker Rendon’s latest appointments to the Racial Equity Commission are from CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, and Catalyst California.

CHIRLA, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, “demands equity and justice” for immigrant families by “organizing immigrants to fight harmful policies and demand equity and justice from out government. (…that would be demanding justice from the government which allowed them to migrate to the US.)

Catalyst California’s mission is: “We strategize with community partners to identify funding, services and opportunities in our public systems that can be redistributed for more just outcomes for all.”

We did find a stakeholder group called “State of Equity” which says “our partnership with government”  transforms public institutions to advance racial equity and health through capacity building, government accountability, and community partnerships. Ah. More of that.

State of Equity explains the more recent back story:

On February 22, 2023, California state government executives participated in a special convening to build a shared vision for a racially just California, discuss updates on racial equity team progress in the Capitol Collaborative on Race & Equity (CCORE) 1, and cultivate relationships in support of racial equity.   

The event was hosted by the Public Health Institute’s State of Equity and included representatives from the Office of Governor Gavin Newsom, California’s Strategic Growth Council (SGC), Governor’s Office of Planning & Research (OPR), California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), Business Consumer Services & Hosing Agency (BCSH), Health and Human Services Agency, Conservation Corps, and the Departments of Social Services, Finance, Health Care Access & Information, Parks & Recreation, and Motor Vehicles. 

In addition to Gov. Newsom’s 2022 executive order expanding the Racial Equity Commission purpose, President Biden issued Federal Executive Order on Further Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through The Federal Government on February 16, 2023,  which includes requirements to establish equity-focused leadership and teams across the Federal Government, among many other actions.

For a clearer picture of this “transformation of public institutions to advance racial equity and health,” State of Equity explains:

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Jon Coupal: Big problems for California’s Income-Based Utility Rates

In a recent column I referred to SBX1-2, a dangerous legislative proposal to define “excessive profits,” as setting a new speed record in California’s headlong rush toward Soviet-style central planning. Well, let’s add one more bad bill to the state’s perpetual march toward a collectivist state. Fortunately, this one may not be legal for long.

Like SBX1-2, Assembly Bill No. 205 from last year, bypassed many of the normal procedures for enacting legislation. It did this because it was a so-called “budget trailer bill.” While the “budget bill” is constitutionally mandated to be enacted by June 15, it only passes by that date for one reason—so the legislators can continue to receive their paychecks. Moreover, after the enactment of the budget, there are so-called “junior budget bills” amending the fake June 15th budget as well as last-minute “budget trailer bills” directing the spending of billions in ways that the budget bill itself did not direct.

AB 205, the “energy trailer bill,” received scant public attention and no meaningful public hearings were held. But its impacts are profound, and not in a good way.

Following the new law’s mandates, California’s big utility companies have announced a radical change in the way they will charge customers for service. Soon, residential electricity charges will depend in part on the ratepayer’s income. Specifically, electricity bills will have two components: a fixed infrastructure charge that varies with income, and an electricity use charge, which would vary based on consumption. Next year, the CPUC will determine what charges are imposed, and on whom.

Not surprisingly, the announcement from Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric and Pacific Gas & Electric has resulted in a huge negative reaction from taxpayers and the media – for good reason. Trying to shoehorn an income component into utility rates converts “ratepayers” into “taxpayers,” and Californians have had their fill of high taxes.

The difference between a tax and a fee is more than semantics. Taxes are imposed for generalized government services like education, public safety, transportation, and even for a reasonable safety net for the less fortunate. But a “fee” or “charge” has always correlated to the receipt of a specific service. Californians readily understand the difference and have wholly embraced “cost of service” principles by approving several amendments to the California Constitution.

For example, immediately after Proposition 13 passed in 1978, voters approved the Gann Spending Limit (1979) to limit the growth of government spending to increases in population and inflation. The Gann definition of “proceeds of taxes,” subject to the spending cap, includes user fees except when those fees “exceed the costs reasonably borne by that entity in providing the regulation, product, or service.”

Likewise, in 2010 California voters specifically approved language to clarify the difference between taxes and legitimate user fees. Proposition 26 provides that a tax does not include certain fees as long as the charge “does not exceed the reasonable costs to the State of conferring the benefit or granting the privilege to the payor.”

The income-based utility rates are not scheduled to be in effect until 2025, so ratepayers, taxpayers and voters will have an opportunity to correct this mistake though political means.

But even if politicians do nothing to stop this tax increase, backers of income-based utility rates have another problem. A coalition of taxpayer and business organizations have already qualified the Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act (TPA) for the 2024 ballot. Among its many provisions is not only further clarification of what a “tax” is but also a provision that requires any tax to be approved by a legislative body rather than some administrative agency or other authority not directly accountable to voters. That includes the PUC. If the income-based utility rates are deemed to be taxes – an incontrovertible fact – then the tax would have to be approved by the California legislature. Moreover, since the TPA requires any statewide tax increase (this one authorized by AB 205) to be approved by the statewide electorate as well as a two-thirds vote of both houses, voters, one way or another, will have the final say.

Click here to read the full article in the OC Register

Here’s What You Can Do About Fentanyl, Gavin Newsom

Housing without behavioral conditions creates unquenchable demand, whereas housing with behavioral conditions reduces demand

On April 19, during his excursion into one of California’s countless drug infested neighborhoods, a man on the street asked our governor a very explicit question.

Question: “Gavin, tell me what you’re going to do about the fentanyl epidemic?”

Newsom’s answer: “What should I do, JJ? What do you want me to do? You tell me what we need to do.”

There are plenty of answers that could have been offered, since what has been allowed to happen in San Francisco and almost everywhere else in California is one of the most appalling cases of political malpractice in the history of the world.

Two days later, on April 21, the governor announced that he “is directing California Highway Patrol and California National Guard to identify personnel and resources to assist the city in combatting fentanyl trafficking.”

That’s a start, but absent a more comprehensive strategy that involves every afflicted region and affects the consumers along with the distributors, it isn’t going to solve the related problems of addiction and homelessness. 

So if you’re serious about handing California back to law abiding citizens, here’s what you can do next, Governor Newsom:

You should now announce that you will extend this “public safety partnership” throughout the state, and send the California National Guard into every remote county and overwhelmed rural municipality in California and root out the drug cartels. Flood the zone. Smoke them out. Lock them up.

Next, you can clean up the neighborhoods throughout California’s cities that are overrun with the “unhoused.” It is in these lawless enclaves where drugs like fentanyl find their way to retail distributors and end users. To do this, begin by instructing your attorney general to identify and aggressively challenge every court ruling and misguided statute that prevents law enforcement from getting vagrants, addicts, drug dealers, thieves and violent thugs off the streets. Wage lawfare. Don’t quit.

Meanwhile, and remaining in compliance with existing law, construct low cost, minimum security detention facilities, and classify them as “permanent supportive housing.” Locate them on state owned land in rural areas with mild winters, and set up at least three types. One for criminals, one for drug addicts and alcoholics, and one for the mentally ill. The remaining small fraction of homeless individuals who are none of the above will be easily accommodated in already built shelters and already built supportive housing in urban areas.

By taking this approach, you will create a deterrent. A sizable percentage of the entire homeless population in California will melt away once this program is implemented. Once they aren’t permitted to sell drugs and consume drugs while having access to free social services including needles and “safe injection” sites, they’ll find family or friends to stay with. Once they can’t steal without facing certain incarceration, they’ll stop stealing.

There will be plenty of money to pay for these facilities, as well as to pay for supervision and counseling personnel. As it is, California’s taxpayers spend, on average, well over $500,000 for every unit of “permanent supportive housing.” This money, with the full complicity of politicians, goes into the hands of politically connected real estate developers, often to build on some of the most valuable coastal real estate on earth. The magnitude of this corruption defies description. End it. End it now.

Why, governor, does a methamphetamine addict from Tulsa have a “human right” to a free apartment in an expensive neighborhood on the California coast? Instead, give them free housing in a tent. Since a spacious, durable tent will cost under $1,000, that leaves $499,000 to pay for other amenities including supervision and counseling. If you did this, governor, even in a state as corrupt as California, most of that money could be given back to the taxpayers.

Consult with the UN Commission on Refugees to learn how to construct tent cities at minimal expense. The work they’ve done in Syria, for example, shows that semi-permanent encampments, providing all of life’s essentials, can be built and managed at a reasonable cost.

There is a fundamental moral imperative here that eludes almost every progressive politician and analyst. It is not compassionate to let people die on the street. If you accept this, there is only one solution: build low cost tent cities on inexpensive real estate and move the homeless off the streets and into these encampments. Force them to withdraw from drug and alcohol addiction. Compel them to take their anti-psychotic medication. Hold criminals accountable by making them pay their debt to society.

There is no way around this. Everything else costs too much, takes too long, and won’t work anyway.

The reason you don’t solve the problem of homelessness in California, Governor Newsom, is because you’re afraid to stand up to the Homeless Industrial Complex. And until you do, they are going to take all the money, corrupt all the laws, and California will remain a magnet for every junkie in America.

Housing without behavioral conditions creates unquenchable demand, whereas housing with behavioral conditions reduces demand. And to build publicly funded housing at a cost of $500,000 per unit, when that amount of money would pay for 500 tents (or more), is a scam. You don’t just give drug addicts housing units that are better than the housing units that working people scrap their lives away to pay for and can barely afford. When you do this, you turn society upside down. You reward indolence, and disrespect diligence.

The reason the fentanyl problem just keeps getting worse, governor, is because you haven’t been willing to prosecute and convict the people who manufacture, traffic, and sell hard drugs. Harsh penalties are a deterrent. You don’t have to lock everyone up. Once a few thousand of the hard core culprits are locked up and doing hard time, the rest will decide the risk outweighs the benefits.

Click here to read the full article at California Globe

Supreme Court Upholds Approval of Abortion Pill — What It Means for Californians

Medication abortion is still legal in California and across the U.S.

A preliminary U.S. Supreme Court order today preserves the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s two-decade-old approval of the abortion pill mifepristone until the full merits of the case are heard by the high court.

“The U.S. Supreme Court is right to take this action to protect access to medication abortion,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. “For now, the Court has followed science, data, and the law rather than an extreme and out of touch political agenda.”

Ahead of the Supreme Court’s highly anticipated decision, California Democratic lawmakers and members of the state’s Future of Abortion Council gathered Tuesday to reaffirm the state’s commitment to protecting abortion rights. 

“We want folks to know that we’re here, and we remain steadfast in our determination to respond appropriately,” Newsom said during the press conference.

Backed by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Senate pro Tempore Toni Atkins, Attorney General Rob Bonta, Legislative Women’s Caucus Chair Sen. Nancy Skinner and other top Democrats, Newsom announced his intention to introduce legislation that would blunt any future legal action in California. Newsom intends to introduce legislation protecting pharmacists who dispense abortion pills and shoring up the state’s supply chain of the drugs but was unable to offer specifics Tuesday.

In a joint statement, Legislative Women’s Caucus leaders Skinner and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry commended the Supreme Court’s stay. 

“(Mifepristone) should remain legal and accessible, and we will continue to fight any court action that seeks to cut off access to this proven and safe medication,” the statement said. 

The Supreme Court’s one-paragraph order is a positive signal for the FDA and mifepristone manufacturers, Stanford University law professor Henry Greely said. In considering a stay, the court must weigh four different criteria: the likelihood defendants will win an appeal, the likelihood defendants will be irreparably harmed if the stay is denied, the balance of harm caused to others, and the public’s interest.

“To grant a stay you are supposed to find all of the elements,” Greely said.

Greely was one of 20 FDA legal scholars to sign an amicus brief asking the Supreme Court to grant a broad stay of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decision last week to reinstate significant restrictions on the use of mifepristone pending a full court hearing. The order, however, falls far short of indicating what the high court thinks of the case merits, Greely said.

“We know the Supreme Court is not enamored of abortion. This is not a pro-abortion court. That would count in favor of the plaintiffs here, but the conservatives of the court are also concerned about broad overreaching district court opinions,” he said. “But predicting what the Supreme Court will do is about as useful as betting on horses.”

Today’s preliminary order halts a lightning round of conflicting rulings that has played out in the lower courts over the past two weeks, allowing mifepristone to stay on the market unrestricted. The Fifth Court has already scheduled a first hearing for the case on May 17.

In a statement, Attorney General Bonta underscored the state’s commitment to fighting legal challenges to abortion and offered words of encouragement. 

“I am hopeful that this decision is an indication that better days are ahead for our country,” Bonta said.

California lawmakers, however, will be hard pressed to prevent the original Texas federal court decision from impacting abortion access and providers in the state if it eventually stands. The Texas court case that precipitated the Supreme Court’s order challenges the authority of the FDA to approve pharmaceutical drugs for market: It’s a challenge that reaches across state lines regardless of party politics.

“The reality is we’re not immune,” Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California President Jodi Hicks said.

The recent court decisions have clearly disrupted California’s carefully laid plans to protect abortion rights, with officials scrambling behind the scenes to prepare and react. The state did not join a separate lawsuit out of the Eastern District of Washington state in which a federal judge ruled mifepristone availability must remain untouched in the 17 Democrat-led states and District of Columbia that were part of  the case.

Bonta said Tuesday the state’s decision was “intentional” and “deliberate” to stay in the good graces of the FDA rather than “suing the federal government.”

“We believe there need to be states that collaborate with the federal government,” Bonta said. 

Representatives from the Washington state and Oregon attorneys general offices, who are leading the case, declined to confirm whether California was asked to join the lawsuit. Several FDA legal scholars, however, questioned why California did not join the litigation, which seeks to permanently remove “excessively burdensome regulation” that includes additional documentation and certification requirements for doctors and pharmacies to prescribe the drug.

“Much to my chagrin, California and New York are not in that lawsuit. I’m dying to know why,” said Jennifer Olivia, co-director of the UC College of Law, San Francisco consortium of law, science and health policy. “Sometimes a state decides not to join the lawsuit because the risk could be the ruling could make the current situation worse, but there really wasn’t a risk of that happening here.”

“Thank god it’s preserving access while this moves through the courts.”


Today’s Supreme Court order also avoids creating a conflict with the Washington state ruling, which for one week ordered the FDA to do the opposite of what the Texas ruling ordered. 

Bonta, who has signed briefs defending the FDA in the Texas case, said he believes the “best pathway to defend the FDA’s” authority is through the Texas case.

Olivia, who also signed the FDA legal scholars amicus brief, said the result of the Supreme Court order is the “best-case scenario” for abortion advocates.

Dr. Jennifer Kerns, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive sciences at UC San Francisco, said the Supreme Court’s decision to maintain broad access to mifepristone was “a huge relief.”

“I’m shocked, really shocked. All of the different messaging threads that I’m on with people at work, people are speechless,” Kerns said. “Thank god it’s preserving access while this moves through the courts.” 

Hours before the decision, patients visiting the clinic for abortion medication expressed worry about what might have happened if they had come in a couple days later, Kerns said. The order gives abortion providers a glimmer of hope, Kerns said, but everyone is still acutely aware of how tenuous abortion access remains.

“We all still think if this makes it up to the Supreme Court, that this is not going to go in our favor, but at least there is enough thought that for now maybe there wasn’t enough legal grounding to support this latest attack on abortion,” Kerns said.

In anticipation of a ruling restricting mifepristone distribution and use, a number of states have also stockpiled the drug to circumvent a law that prevents interstate shipping. But the ruling leaves a gray area about whether pharmacists can dispense pills already on hand. Newsom previously announced a state stockpile of as many as 2 million misoprostol pills with 250,000 doses currently on hand.

Mifepristone, the drug locked in court battles, blocks the pregnancy hormone progesterone, while misoprostol causes the uterus to empty. Misoprostol can be used safely alone to end a pregnancy, but the medical standard of care for the past two decades has been to use both drugs together for both abortions and miscarriages.

The state Legislature is considering more than two dozen abortion bills this session, most of which strengthen privacy protections.

Julia Spiegel, deputy legal affairs secretary for Newsom, said the state intentionally stockpiled misoprostol instead of mifepristone because its legality is not in question. Lawmakers wanted to ensure medication abortion remained accessible “no matter what is happening in the courts” in the event that a rush by other states to purchase misoprostol causes shortages, Spiegel said.

On Tuesday, Newsom told reporters California also has an “ample supply” of mifepristone. A spokesperson later clarified pharmacies across the state have enough mifepristone on hand to meet demand but there is no stockpile. 

The state Legislature is considering more than two dozen abortion bills this session, most of which strengthen privacy protections for medical records and abortion providers and prohibit state law enforcement from sharing information with states opposed to abortion. The Future of Abortion Council, a political powerhouse of reproductive rights advocates and lawmakers, is supporting 17 of this session’s bills.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

California Bills to Expand State Tax Credits Could Send $1 Billion to Low-Income Families

When Reyna Bonilla lost her job cleaning hotel rooms in 2020 at the start of the pandemic, she used tax credits and other pandemic relief to chip away at past-due rent so she and her two children could stay in their Koreatown apartment in Los Angeles.  

This year things are different. Bonilla cleans homes a few days a week but only makes about $10,000 a year. Most of her pandemic aid has phased out, so she struggles to keep up with expenses.

Add to that, her youngest child turned 6 in November, making Bonilla ineligible for California’s Young Child Tax Credit. Her tax refund will be $1,083 less this year, squeezing her already tight budget.

“Sometimes I say I’m going to save money and I start saving,” she said, “but the prices go up and I can’t do it anymore.”  

Advocates say California’s tax credits are more crucial now, as low-income families like Bonilla’s struggle to financially recover from the pandemic as other government relief programs end.

For instance, the federal government in 2020 expanded its tax credits to send advanced monthly payments to low-income families with children and, for the first time, included very low-income earners. It helped cut child poverty, but the federal credit expansion ended in December 2021. 

Democratic Assemblymembers Mike Gipson of Gardena and Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles recently authored two bills that would expand California’s Earned Income Tax Credit and its Young Child Tax Credit

Combined the bills would cost about $1.1 billion annually, in a year the state is predicting a $22.5 billion to $25 billion deficit.

Who gets earned income, young child tax credits?

“The need for lower-income tax credits is as dramatic as ever,” said Teri Olle, California campaign director of the Economic Security Project, a national nonprofit based in New York. 

“Gas prices, food prices — none of that is better than it was before the pandemic. Now a lot of these supports that have been in place are expiring and people are left with higher prices, a higher cost of living and nothing to support them. “

Currently the California Earned Income Tax Credit gives credits of $1 to about $3,400 to tax filers who earn as much as $30,000 in annual income.  

In 2022, 3.6 million Californians received the state’s earned income tax credit, according to the Franchise Tax Board. It had a modest impact; about 83% of those filers got less than $300 in state tax credits.

That’s partly by design. The state earned income tax credit is structured to provide an incentive for people to work, so it phases in more cash as earned income increases to $30,000. 

For instance, someone who earned only $200 in 2022 and has three children would receive $67 in earned income credit, while someone who made about $9,000 with three children would receive $3,417.

Those who make $30,000 receive $1, regardless of how many children they have. Those who earn more don’t qualify. 

It targets working individuals with dependents who are most in need. But it leaves out many people who can’t work because they are caring for loved ones and single filers who don’t have dependents but struggle to get by, advocates said. 

“It doesn’t go far enough, especially in the economy we find ourselves in,” Gipson said. 

Raising minimum child credits

His Assembly Bill 1498 would raise the minimum credit to $300 from $1, regardless of number of dependents, as long as a recipient makes less than $30,000 a year. 

On the other hand, California’s Young Child Tax Credit currently gives $1,083 to filers with a dependent under the age of 6. Once a family’s youngest child turns 6, the family no longer qualifies for the credit.

Santiago’s AB 1128 would enable tax filers with dependents who also qualify for the state Earned Income Tax Credit to continue qualifying for the young child tax credit after the youngest child ages past 6. Those families would keep the child tax credit until the child reaches 18, or as old as 23 if they are a student. 

Families with a dependent with disabilities also would qualify for the young child tax credit regardless of their dependent’s age. 

Santiago said the proposal is a “modest” ask that would greatly benefit  families that suffered the biggest financial losses during the pandemic. 

“This program is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs we have,” he said. “We can expand the current program and help more people than have ever been helped.”

The young child tax credit bill would benefit 700,000 to 1 million more children each year, said Monica Lazo, a senior policy manager of Golden State Opportunity, an anti-poverty organization. 

Lazo believes there is ample support for stretching California’s tax credits. 

“The will is there,” she said. “We are in a recession, but there’s a lot of folks that always come out unscathed — because they have certain tax credits those of us in the working class don’t have access to.”

‘Essential workers’ could benefit 

Many very low-income workers were forced to go to work during the pandemic, she said, while higher earners often could work from home. 

“These are people who are helping our local economy; we declared them essential,” she said. “So this is a way we can help them and really prove to them they are essential.”  

Research shows that people spend tax credits almost immediately on basic needs, such as school supplies for their children, which means the money immediately goes back into the economy. For every $1 of  tax credit, $1.70 is invested in a local economy, said Anna Hasselblad, director of public policy for United Ways of California. 

“Where you’re going to see the greatest economic stimulation and impact is if you invest it in folks with lower incomes,” Hasselblad said. “They’re going to put that money to work immediately.” 

Bonilla said she has spent her tax credits on electricity bills, clothing and shoes for her children. If she were to get an extra $1,083 in child tax credits each year, Bonilla said, she would save it for future expenses for when her daughter starts college. 

“There wouldn’t be so much worry. I would have extra money,” she said.

Expanding California’s earned income tax credit would benefit people of color the most because they make up three-quarters of eligible workers in the state, said Alissa Anderson, policy researcher at the California Budget & Policy Center, a research nonprofit.

It also would simplify the process of claiming tax credits; the Franchise Tax Board would more easily identify qualifying workers and automatically send funds, Anderson said.

Seeking bipartisan support

Tax credits traditionally receive bipartisan support, but the two bills may face a challenge in the projected state budget deficit. If passed, the proposed earned income tax expansion would cost about $460 million annually and the proposed expanded youth tax credit would cost about $700 million annually. 

Both bills are new versions of a proposal last year which would have provided a one-time payment of $2,000 per child to families who received California’s earned income tax credit. 

That proposal, also sponsored by Santiago and anti-poverty organizations, included a permanent increase of the earned income credit’s $1 minimum payment to $255.

“When you recognize the contribution people are making and allow them to reinvest that money themselves, instead of allowing government to take that discretion, it’s a better pathway.”ASSEMBLYMEMBER TOM LACKEY, REPUBLICAN FROM PALMDALE

Last year, the state had a projected surplus of $31 billion. But as inflation rose, other state priorities arose, such as the “middle class tax refund” that gave households $9.5 billion in financial relief. 

Santiago pulled the bill from the Senate Governance and Finance Committee because it did not have enough votes to pass, a spokesperson for Santiago said. 

Assemblymember Tom Lackey, a Republican from Palmdale, said the long-term benefits of tax credits outweigh the short-term financial challenges. Lackey co-authored the earned income credit bill and supports the young child tax credit expansion bill. 

“The Republican Party believes in fiscal responsibility,” he said. “When you recognize the contribution people are making and allow them to reinvest that money themselves, instead of allowing government to take that discretion, it’s a better pathway. It’s the people’s money.”

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Senators Whiff on Challenging Julie Su

Su Blames Feds for EDD Fraud…Again

On February 28th – the day President Biden nominated Julie Su to become the next Secretary of Labor – the state of California owed $18,868,506,716.36 to the federal government to repay the money it borrowed to cover unemployment benefits during the pandemic.

Today – the day of Su’s confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee – California owes $19,258,996,070.59.

That is an increase – in principal and interest – of about $390 million…or $7,467,000 million in new debt every day, which translates into about $318,620 dollars an hour.

That means that California racked up about $637,000 in additional debt during the two hours it took today for Su’s hearing and another $1.9 million will be added before the committee votes next Wednesday.

Despite it being mathematically impossible, during the hearing Su – who oversaw the state’s unemployment program during the pandemic –  continued to blame the Trump administration for the $40 billion loss, a loss twice the size of the debt, a loss that could have been largely prevented.

The hearing itself was surprisingly low-key, with Democrats praising Su’s experience, her “story” as the child of immigrants, and her focus on expanding apprenticeship programs and worker training.  They also pointed out that every state had an unemployment fraud issue and at least two senators claimed California – under Su’s stewardship – had one of the lowest fraud rates in the nation.

That claim is false and Su did not move to correct the statement.

Su claimed today that “95%” of the fraud involved the pandemic-related “PUA” emergency program.  As California spent about $25 billion in PUA and lost overall about $40 billion to fraud that would mean the PUA experienced a fraud rate of about 160% – that, obviously, did not happen.

It was also claimed by committee chair Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) that under Su California was the first state to install safeguards against fraud.  Su herself said “once we saw what was happening, I shut the front door” on fraud.

Both claims are false.

A state auditor’s report noted ““despite repeated warnings, [Su’s] EDD did not bolster its fraud detection efforts until months into the pandemic.”

It was also noted that California had 20% of all unemployment claims in the nation, making Su’s job more difficult.  What Republicans– amazingly – did not point out is that the number is closer to 22% and, more importantly, California has about 12% of the nation’s population.  If California had not been such an easy mark and quickly became known to international fraud gangs as such, the population and number of claims made should have been about the same.

While Su shifted blame to the federal government for not providing proper “guidelines,” Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) said Su waived basic security guidelines that could have been in place anyway.  He said “the buck stops at the top” and that he could not support her nomination.

Su repeatedly said “95%” of the fraud was PUA-related, failing to note (and Republicans failed to note, either) that it was the EDD itself that sent out the money.  In other words, ALL funds – state and federal – flowed through the EDD system; the feds cut the checks and the individual states spent – and entirely controlled – the distribution of funds, which means it does not matter where it came from as they were indistinguishable from one another.

The committee touched on a number of other subjects including Su’s implementation of California’s anti-freelance/gig worker AB-5.  Su said she was just doing what the law called for, though when reminded she said those types of jobs are “not the economy we want in California,” she did seem to blanch a bit.  Su said she does not plan to bring AB-5-type regulations to the Department of Labor as that would be Congress’ job to pass such a law, though many organizations remain fearful of a regulatory back-door implementation.

Su also twice used the term “bona fide” to describe “independent contractors,” noting they “have a place in the economy.”

She was not challenged on what she deems a “bona fide” contractor, but the term’s qualificative inclusion in her statement should raise alarm bells for independent workers.

“We are concerned that Ms. Su would continue to pursue an ideologically-motivated agenda towards worker classification that ignores the thousands of small-business truckers that depend on the ability to work as an independent contractor” said Todd Spencer, President & CEO of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association after the hearing. “Make no mistake, if Ms. Su were to advance the same policies that she championed in California, it would force hundreds of thousands of truckers to change their business model and put their livelihood in jeopardy … if Ms. Su is confirmed to lead the Department, we fear that we will see a repeat of what’s happened in California.”

Other Republican senators questioned her ability to be a neutral arbiter in critical labor disputes, citing Su’s history of union advocacy and her extremely limited face-to-face negotiating experience.

Throughout the hearing, Su repeatedly “thanked” and “appreciated” whenever she was asked a question – an off-putting, likely false, attempt to appear supplicative.  And it wouldn’t be a California-related government meeting if Newson-esque jargon was not bandied about: New Hampshire’s Sen. Maggie Hassan used the term “those experiencing a disability” to describe disabled workers and Su herself talked of “crowding in” program funding, working “in this space,” and, of course, working to “meet the moment.”

Stand Against Su, a coalition of small businesses, freelancers, tipped workers, and franchisees responded to Su’s confirmation hearing:

“Su stumbled several times during the hearing, at one point unable to explain her position on joint employer policy. Also notable was her exchange with Senator Markwayne Mullin, during which Su admitted that she has never run a business, balanced a budget, or employed individuals, and therefore has zero firsthand understanding of how policies like AB 5 and the FAST Act can impact business owners and employees.”

Click here to read the full article at California Globe

Proposed Ballot Initiative for Stricter Penalties for Fentanyl Drug Dealers

‘We want to let the legislators, who voted against every form of penalty for these drug dealers, know that we are holding them accountable’

A new movement that is pushing for a proposition to give stricter penalties to drug dealers who sell fentanyl, was started in California this week, with the group behind it saying that the strategy is to begin with a public opinion poll about the issue to help determine the best way to craft the proposition proposal.

2024 already has a large number of planned propositions due to many wanting to skip over the 2023 election in November, and focus on 2024, when more voters are expected to come out with the Presidential, Senate, Congressional, and state legislative elections.

So far, ballot initiatives include fast food regulation, new oil and gas well prohibitions, a new pandemic funding tax, labor law lawsuit changes, voter limitations on raising revenue for government services, and a minimum wage raise.

However, groups continue to push for more initiatives to be on the ballot because of the turnout, including one by The Newport Beach-centric group was founded earlier with this year with the expressed determination to combat the fentanyl crisis.

According to their website, Fentanyl Solution is “deeply committed to making a difference and saving lives by addressing the devastating impact this dangerous drug has on communities across the country. With an immediate focus on Orange County, we strive to raise awareness, provide education, and mobilize action to prevent the spread of fentanyl. Our goal is to bring together individuals, families, and organizations to work towards creating a safer future for everyone, especially our children. We believe that by working together and changing laws, we can effectively stop the spread of this drug and make the world a better and healthier place for all.”

To achieve that, they are planning a “Poll-to-Prop initiative.” Started this month with an initial $2.2 million bloc of funding with the purpose of creating stricter penalties for fentanyl dealers, the group plans to conduct an initial poll and gather data on what voters in the state want to see in a potential proposition that would have stricter penalties for drug dealers who sell fentanyl. The results of the poll would then be crafted into a ballot initiative. From there, it would go to the signature gathering phase, with the hope that enough are given in time to qualify for the 2024 ballot.

A potential ballot proposition

“We want to let the legislators, who voted against every form of penalty for these drug dealers, know that we are holding them accountable,” said Janice M. Celeste, President & CEO of “We believe that drug dealers who sell fentanyl and murder their customers must pay the price for their actions. The Poll-to-Prop initiative is a crucial step in our efforts to raise awareness about the need for stricter penalties for these criminals.”

While Californians have been shown to want to get rid of fentanyl and other harmful drugs off the streets, a progressive push for criminal justice reform that includes less jail time for dealers and alternate punishments to prison has been shown to be popular amongst many as well, with the right way to combat the crisis growing cloudy in recent years. With the fentanyl crisis getting worse, and the number of fentanyl overdose deaths rising across the state, many have seen hope for a return of stricter measures. A pushback against progressive policies and elected leaders for them has also brought significant hope of a change as well.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Republicans Balk at Plan to Replace Feinstein on Judiciary

WASHINGTON (AP) — Democrats’ efforts to temporarily replace California Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the Senate Judiciary Committee met quick opposition Monday from Republicans, complicating their plan as some of President Joe Biden’s judicial nominees remain on hold during her extended medical absence.

Feinstein, 89, last week asked to be temporarily replaced on the Senate Judiciary Committee while she recuperates in her home state from a case of the shingles. The statement came shortly after a member of California’s House delegation, Democratic Rep. Ro Khanna, called on her to resign from the Senate, saying it is “unacceptable” for her to miss votes to confirm judges who could be weighing in on abortion rights, a key Democratic priority. Feinstein has been away from the Senate since February.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday that he is moving forward and hopes to put a resolution on the Senate floor this week seeking a temporary substitute on the panel. But it’s unclear if Democrats will have the votes.

Multiple Republicans indicated on Monday that they would object to the rare request, meaning there would have to be a roll call vote — and Democrats would need at least 10 Republicans to vote with them for approval.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican on the Judiciary committee, said on the Senate floor that he hopes to see Feinstein back in the Senate soon, but “until then, President Biden’s most controversial, partisan judicial nominees will have to wait.”

Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst, a member of Republican leadership, said she wouldn’t support a temporary replacement. “We’re not going to help the Democrats with that,” she told reporters.

The uncertainty over Feinstein’s status, and over the fate of some of Biden’s judicial nominees, is the latest tangle for Schumer as he navigates his party’s one-seat majority in the Senate. Feinstein’s absence comes as another Democratic senator, John Fetterman of Pennsylvania, has also been on an extended medical leave. Fetterman, 53, returned to the Senate on Monday after checking himself into the hospital in February for clinical depression.

It also comes as bipartisan votes on federal judgeships — lifetime appointments, in most cases — have been increasingly steeped in partisanship. While the Judiciary committee has moved some of Biden’s judicial nominees with a handful of GOP votes, Republicans are loath to give approval to a plan that will help Biden place more judges on the bench.

“I will not go along with Chuck Schumer’s plan to replace Senator Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee and pack the court with activist judges,” tweeted Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., a member of the Judiciary panel.

Democrats say the are currently 12 federal judge nominees they have been unable to advance because of Feinstein’s absence. It is unclear how many of the nominees would be able to move with some Republican support.

Several Republicans questioned the motivations behind the effort. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis said he was skeptical because Democrats aren’t trying to replace Feinstein on the Intelligence or Appropriations panels.

“Why one and not all three?” asked Tillis, who is also a member of the Judiciary Committee.

Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine and Chuck Grassley of Iowa said they think Democrats are pressuring Feinstein unfairly.

Collins said that she and Feinstein are good friends, and she thinks there has been a “concerted campaign” to push her off the Judiciary committee. “I will have no part of that,” Collins said.

Feinstein has come under increasing pressure to resign or step down from her duties. While she has defended her effectiveness, she has faced questions in recent years about her cognitive health and memory, and has appeared increasingly frail.

In 2020, she said she would not serve as the top Democrat on the Judiciary panel after criticism from liberals about her handling of of Justice Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation. Earlier this year, she said she would not serve as the Senate president pro tempore, or the most senior member of the majority party, even though she was in line to do so. The president pro tempore opens the Senate every day and holds other ceremonial duties.

Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley, a longtime member of the panel who is the same age as Feinstein, chastised Democrats for denying Feinstein the opportunity to become chairman of the committee and trying to force her out of office “because she’s old.”

“I don’t intend to give credence to that sort of anti-human treatment,” Grassley said.

If Feinstein were to resign immediately, the process would be much easier for Democrats, since California Gov. Gavin Newsom would appoint a replacement. The Senate regularly approves committee assignments for new senators after their predecessors have resigned or died. But a temporary replacement due to illness is a rare, if not unprecedented, request.

It is unclear how long Feinstein will be away. Her office has not given a timeline for her return, and Democrats have not said for how long they would seek a temporary replacement. She has been away from the Senate since Feb. 27, just two weeks after she announced she would not run for another term next year.

Schumer said he spoke to Feinstein in recent days, and “she believes she will return soon. She is hopeful of that and so am I.”

Asked if Feinstein should resign, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin said Monday that “I’m not going to push her into any other decision.” Durbin had previously expressed frustration about his committee’s stalled nominees.

Click here to read the full article at AP News