Judge: California’s Women on Boards Law Is Unconstitutional

A Los Angeles judge has ruled that California’s landmark law requiring women on corporate boards is unconstitutional.

Superior Court Judge Maureen Duffy-Lewis said the law that would have required boards have up to three female directors by this year violated the right to equal treatment. The ruling was dated Friday.

The conservative legal group Judicial Watch had challenged the law, claiming it was illegal to use taxpayer funds to enforce a law that violates the equal protection clause of the California Constitution by mandating a gender-based quota.

David Levine, a law professor at the University of California Hastings College of the Law, said he was not surprised by the verdict. Under state and federal law “mandating a quota like this was never going to fly,” Levine said.

State Senate leader Toni Atkins, a Democrat from San Diego, said the ruling was disappointing and a reminder “that sometimes our legalities don’t match our realities.”

“More women on corporate boards means better decisions and businesses that outperform the competition,” Atkins said in a statement. “We believe this law remains important, despite the disheartening ruling.”

The decision comes just over a month after another Los Angeles judge found that a California law mandating that corporations diversify their boards with members from certain racial, ethnic or LGBT groups was unconstitutional.

The corporate diversity legislation was a sequel to the law requiring women on corporate boards. The judge in the previous case ruled in favor of Judicial Watch and the same plaintiffs without holding a trial.

The law voided Friday was on shaky ground from the get-go, with a legislative analysis saying it could be difficult to defend. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed it despite the potential for it to be overturned because he wanted to send a message during the #MeToo era.

In the three years, it has been on the books, it’s been credited with improving the standing of women in corporate boardrooms.

The state defended the law as constitutional saying it was necessary to reverse a culture of discrimination that favored men and was put in place only after other measures failed. The state also said the law didn’t create a quota because boards could add seats for female directors without stripping men of their positions.

Although the law carried potential hefty penalties for failing to file an annual report or comply with the law, a chief in the secretary of state’s office acknowledged during the trial that it was toothless.

No fines have ever been levied and there was no intention to do so, Betsy Bogart testified. Further, a letter that surfaced during trial from former Secretary of State Alex Padilla warned Brown weeks before he signed the law that it was probably unenforceable.

“Any attempt by the secretary of state to collect or enforce the fine would likely exceed its authority,” Padilla wrote.

The law required publicly held companies headquartered in California to have one member who identifies as a woman on their boards of directors by the end of 2019. By January 2022, boards with five directors were required to have two women and boards with six or more members were required to have three women.

The Women on Boards law, also known by its bill number, SB826, called for penalties ranging from $100,000 fines for failing to report board compositions to the California secretary of state’s office to $300,000 for multiple failures to have the required number of women board members.

The Secretary of State’s office said 26% of publicly traded companies headquartered in California reported meeting the quota of women board members last year, according to a March report.

Half of the 716 corporations that had been required to comply with the law didn’t file the disclosure statements.

Supporters of the law hailed it for achieving more gains for women. Other states followed California’s lead. Washington state passed a similar measure last year, and lawmakers in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Hawaii proposed similar bills. Illinois requires publicly traded companies to report the makeup of their boards.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

Endangering Democracy for Lawmakers’ Convenience

Gov. Gavin Newsom has proudly proclaimed that “California does democracy like nowhere else in the world.” But as he warned, we cannot take our democracy for granted. The pandemic has changed how we do business: segments of the private world now operate remotely without the need for face-to-face interactions. But in a democracy, the function of government requires greater public transparency and accountability for its very foundation.

Photo courtesy of DB’s travels, Flickr.

This year, a trio of bills in the legislature would take the wrong lesson from the pandemic and undermine these democratic values for the convenience of politicians – allowing public officials to engage in policymaking from private locations that are not identified, or accessible to the public, or even located within the state – without need or justification.

Our open meetings laws have been protecting democracy for decades. But even as early as 1855 California law recognized that “place is an essential ingredient” of lawmaking because the officers of government “ought to be found by the citizen who is in search of them.” Access to government officials is essential for the public as well as media representatives, whether the community is concerned about tax rates or fighting for our civil liberties. Throughout history, a key organizing tool for impacted communities has been to show up to public meetings to confront the public officials and to hold them accountable. Public access also ensures that we know who else is in the room when policy decisions are made.

During the pandemic, government bodies have been forced to strike a balance between legitimate public health concerns and the value of public meetings. We have seen some government bodies suffer as the challenges of remote participation resulted in breakdowns in the ordinary government processes. Public officials were not only secluded in private homes, but many also turned off their video cameras for an entire meeting, leaving their constituents and the media attempting to engage with an empty screen. In one notable example, a Board of Supervisors member routinely teleconferenced in from his estate in Montana, far removed from his constituents. This setup understandably fosters mistrust and suspicion about public servants and the bodies on which they serve. While it may be necessary in an emergency, it is no model for good government.

Click here to read the full article at San Gabriel Valley Tribune

Homeowner Shot During Apparent Break-In At Riverside Residence

A Riverside homeowner was shot but is expected to survive after confronting three possible burglars inside his house early Sunday morning, police said.

The apparent break-in occurred sometime around 4:40 a.m. in the 18000 block of Moss Road, Officer Ryan Railsback, a spokesman for Riverside police, said.

“They did break into the home and then they were confronted by the homeowner,” Railsback said. “That’s when they shot him.”

It wasn’t clear how the trio got into the home. And police did not say how many times they shot the homeowner.

The suspects fled before police arrived. When officers got to the residence, they found the homeowner alive and took him to a hospital, where he was recovering Sunday.

Railsback said he didn’t know if the trio took anything from the home. And he said detectives are trying to determine if Sunday’s break-in was connected to other similar crimes in the same area over the last month.

There have been at least two other home burglaries in the sprawling neighborhoods just to the west of Mission Grove since April.

“It’s obvious that these are all near each other,” Railsback said. “Right now our detectives have been investigating … to determine if these are related or not. But right now at this point we can’t say if they are.”

Click here to read the full article at the Press-Enterprise

Little Inflation Relief in Sight for California Shoppers as Meat, Other Food Costs Rise

Forget about ground chuck at $1.99 a pound for a while. Or $2.99 a pound, for that matter.

Ground beef is currently $3.47 per pound at Albertsons, which has locations and subsidiaries across California, with other options at $5.99 per pound for online shoppers.

There’s little relief in sight.

Increases in the cost of living continue to hit levels unseen in 40 years — the latest reading Wednesday was a 8.3% increase in the last 12 months.

Food prices are going up even faster. They’ve increased 9.4% over the last year.

Nate Rose, senior director of communications for the California Grocers Association, told The Bee that grocery store inflation is expected to continue through the rest of the year. But what prices will look like month to month for different food items at your grocery store is hard to predict.

“Grocery stores are doing everything they can to mitigate this inflation for their shoppers,” Rose said. Considering how competitive the industry is, he said, raising prices will be the last thing they want to do.

He said stores are trying to keep prices down for fresh goods, such as milk, eggs and meat, compared to what they could be with inflation, by analyzing price sensitivity, which is the degree at which prices change a customer’s purchasing decisions.

In combination with food price inflation and food insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, people across California are still seeking resources from food banks, said Becky Silva, government relations director at the California Association of Food Banks.

“A lot of our food banks are still reporting that they’re seeing one and a half to three times the number of people coming to their distribution sites than before the pandemic,” Silva said.

With inflation prices at the supermarket, food banks are having trouble stocking their sites.

“A lot of food banks have told us that they’re paying, sometimes, even double what they used to pay for a dozen eggs,” Silva said, adding that some sites have used a disproportionate share of their annual funding for food purchases in just the first few months of the year.

CAN FOOD PRICES BE LOWERED?

There’s just no easy way to bring down food prices.

“The forces driving overall inflation are having an impact on food,” said Joseph Glauber, senior research fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute, as the rising costs of energy, labor and other items help push food prices higher.

Click here to read the full article in the Modesto Bee

Newsom Announces Plan to Lure Businesses to California From States That Ban Abortion

California Gov. Gavin Newsom previewed a plan to lure businesses to California from states that ban abortion on Wednesday, as well as new proposed spending on abortions.

Newsom said his plan aims to “solidify California’s leadership on abortion rights.”

“California will not stand idly by as extremists roll back our basic constitutional rights,” he wrote in a statement. “We’re going to fight like hell, making sure that all women — not just those in California — know that this state continues to recognize and protect their fundamental rights.”

The governor’s office said Newsom wants to update California’s business incentive programs to give special consideration to companies leaving states with anti-abortion or anti-LGBT laws. California currently offers hundreds of millions of dollars in tax breaks for businesses, including $180 million for a program called California Competes, which aims to attract and retain businesses in the Golden State.

Newsom’s office wouldn’t say which incentive programs would be affected. Spokesman Alex Stack said Newsom would give more details on Friday, when he unveils his full revised budget plan.

Newsom is also proposing to add $40 million to cover abortions for people who don’t have insurance coverage for the procedure and $15 million for reproductive health organizations.

Newsom’s initial plan for the 2022-23 budget, which he announced in January, already proposed $68 million in new spending to expand reproductive care. The issue has taken on new urgency since Politico published a leaked draft opinion that revealed the Supreme Court is poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

California, where Democrats control both houses of the Legislature, will continue to allow abortions even if the Court overturns Roe. But many other states will ban the procedure, meaning California will see an influx of women seeking abortions.

State lawmakers are already considering bills that aim to help people who travel to California for abortions and shield them from prosecution in their home states.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

Woman Finds Box of Mail-in Ballots on East Hollywood Sidewalk; LA County Registrar Investigating

The Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office and the United States Postal Service are investigating after 104 ballots were found unopened on the sidewalk in East Hollywood.

The ballots were found by Christina Repaci, who was walking her dog Saturday evening.

“I turned the corner and I just saw this box of envelopes, and it was a USPS box. I picked some envelopes up and I saw they were ballots,” said Repaci.

Repaci said she took them home for safekeeping while trying to figure out what to do next. She sent videos of the ballots to popular social media accounts to share the content and ask for guidance on next steps. Repaci said she called several politicians and the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

“I actually called the Sheriff’s Department. I couldn’t get through, so I emailed them,” she said. “I got an email back from a deputy basically in so many words saying it wasn’t their problem, and to contact the USPS.”

SUGGESTED: California primary election 2022: What to know

Repaci said after much back and forth, the LA County Registrar’s Office got in contact with her about picking up the ballots. Registrar Dean Logan personally drove to pick up the ballots.

“He (Logan) picked them up. I made sure he was legit. He gave me a card, and took a photo of the box,” she said.

Repaci described the process as “stressful.”

“It was so much stress and for just one person to get back to me. What do I do here? Now if it happens to someone else, they don’t know what to do. They’ll just put them in a dumpster or throw them in the trash. I just don’t think it should have been this hard to figure out what to do with legal ballots. This is a country of freedom and our votes should matter and something like this should never happen,” said Repaci. 

The LA County Registrar’s Office released a statement:

“Our office was notified over the weekend of a mail tray found containing approximately 104 unopened, outbound Vote by Mail ballots and additional mail pieces. Thanks to the cooperation of the person who found the ballots, we were able to quickly respond and coordinate the secure pickup of the ballots. We have reissued new ballots to the impacted voters. Early signs indicate that this was an incident of mail theft and not a directed attempt at disrupting the election. We are cooperating with the United States Postal Service and law enforcement to investigate.

Click here to read the full article at FoxNews

California Democratic Supremacy Tested by Crime, Inflation

Democrats in many parts of the country are facing a potentially grim political year, but in California no one is talking about the liberal stronghold changing direction.

California’s largely irrelevant Republican Party could field only little-known candidates for governor and U.S. Senate, and the GOP appears to have only isolated chances for upsets even under what should be favorable conditions for the party.

Mail ballots are already going out for the June 7 primary election that will set the stage for November runoffs. The election is taking place within a cauldron of dicey political issues: the possible repeal of the Supreme Court’s 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion, widespread frustration with a homelessness crisis and with residents suffering pocketbook stress from galloping inflation and soaring home costs — the state’s median price hit a record $849,080 in March.

President Joe Biden’s popularity has sagged — even among some of his fellow Democrats — and the party in the White House typically loses congressional seats in midterm elections. California Democrats showed up in historic numbers in 2020 to defeat then-President Donald Trump in landslide, but turnout next month is expected to tumble with little drama at the top of the ticket: Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, both Democrats, face only token opposition.

But none of that adds up to a threat to the state’s Democratic supremacy. Republicans haven’t won a statewide election in California since 2006, and Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by nearly 2-to-1 statewide. Democrats are expected to maintain their supermajorities in the Legislature.

The GOP picked up four U.S. House seats in 2020 but Democrats still dominate the congressional delegation, holding all but 10 of the 53 House seats, with one vacancy.

At a state Republican Party convention last month, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield said he’d be holding the chamber’s gavel in January, not Speaker Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco. He predicted more House upsets in California would tip the balance of power in the chamber, but the GOP faces tough races to hold its ground.

Recent history isn’t encouraging for the GOP. Last year, Newsom appeared vulnerable but then easily defeated a recall effort driven by critics of his handling of the pandemic.

“We don’t have a real race for governor. We don’t have a real race for senator,” said Claremont McKenna College political scientist Jack Pitney, who cited the lopsided recall election as evidence of faded GOP prospects, even as Democrats are on the defensive nationally.

“The problem here is the Republican bench is very thin,” Pitney added. “There really aren’t any Republicans in California who have a statewide profile.”

The most closely watched races in the state this year don’t involve Republican challengers. In San Francisco and Los Angeles, local district attorneys are being blamed for reforms that some say fueled rising crime. The recall of San Francisco’s Chesa Boudin is on the ballot next month. Petition signatures needed to qualify a recall are still being gathered in Los Angeles County, where George Gascón could be forced to defend his seat later this year.

Los Angeles also will elect a new mayor from candidates including Democratic Rep. Karen Bass, who was on Biden’s short list of vice presidential picks, and billionaire developer Rick Caruso a longtime Republican who became an independent and then, shortly before entering the race for mayor, registered as a Democrat.

Arguably the most endangered Democrat on the statewide ticket is Attorney General Rob Bonta, a reform-minded Newsom appointee who is facing challenges from two Republicans and an independent candidate — Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert — who fault him for spikes in crime. Schubert recently left the GOP and is gambling that a different identification on the ballot will draw more votes.

A promising new face for Republicans is state controller candidate Lanhee Chen, the son of immigrants from Taiwan, who holds multiple Harvard University degrees, served in President George W. Bush’s administration and won the support of the left-leaning Los Angeles Times editorial board.

Among the top congressional races, Republican Rep. Mike Garcia is defending his seat north of Los Angeles in a Democratic-leaning district. Democratic Rep. Katie Porter, a star of the party’s progressive wing, is looking for another term in a closely divided coastal district in Orange County. And nearby, Republican Rep. Michelle Steel, a Korean immigrant, is looking to win a second term in a district with a slight Democratic edge that includes the nation’s largest Vietnamese American community.

Predictions for a disastrous year for Democrats nationally are undergoing reevaluation after the leak of a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the landmark abortion decision.

Newsom has called it the “defining issue” in the election and is backing a proposal for the November ballot to enshrine abortion rights in the state constitution, a move Democrats hope would lure more voters at the polls. It remains to be seen if abortion could trump economic issues and public safety among voters.

A final ruling in the case is not expected until the end of the court’s term in June. If Roe is overturned, the fallout is likely to be concentrated in conservative-leaning or swing states that could see abortion heavily restricted or banned. California is seeking to expand those rights — Newsom wants the state to be a “refuge” for those seeking abortion and among the bills in the Legislature is one that would pay the costs for pregnant women to come from out of state.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

Pelosi: Is Newsom ‘Unaware’ of Democrats’ Fight for Abortion Rights?

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Sunday appeared miffed Sunday that Gov. Gavin Newsom, her fellow California Democrat, would accuse the Democratic Party of being too passive on abortion rights.

“I have no idea why anybody would make that statement unless they were unaware of the fight that has been going on,” Pelosi said on CBS’ “Face the Nation” after viewing a clip of Newsom criticizing his own party after news last Monday that the Supreme Court appeared on track to toss out the guaranteed right to abortion. Newsom, in public exasperation, complained: “Where is the Democratic Party? Where’s the party?… We need to stand up. Where’s the counteroffensive?”

Speaking from San Francisco, the city both she and Newsom are from, Pelosi said that she personally has been battling for abortion rights in Congress for decades.

“We have been fighting against the Republicans in the Congress constantly,” she said.

In the wake of the leaked draft of a Supreme Court decision that could overturn Roe v. Wade, Newsom has said he hopes to make California an abortion sanctuary for women from other states and to enshrine the right to an abortion in the state Constitution.

Pelosi said the threat to Roe places an additional urgency on the midterm elections, including in the Senate, where a stronger Democratic hold would give the party a chance to make procedural changes.

“Two more — one or two more senators — could sweep back the filibuster rule for this purpose, and then women would have a right to choose,” she said. “This is about something so serious and so personal and so disrespectful of women. Here we are on Mother’s Day, a week where the court has slapped women in the face in terms of disrespect for their judgments about the size and timing of their families.”

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

San Diego County Democratic Party Chair Steps Aside Amid Assault Allegations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Governor touts DMV as quickest alternative to getting money back

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Click here to read the full article at the Mercury News