Janet Nguyen’s removal from state Senate floor stirs free speech debate

As reported by the Los Angeles Times:

Phat Bui seethed with anger when his hometown senator was removed last month from the state Senate floor.

State Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) was pulled out of the chamber by two sergeants-at-arms as she tried to criticize the late state Sen. Tom Hayden over his opposition to the Vietnam War, saying the liberal stalwart had sided with a communist regime responsible for countless deaths.

The action made Nguyen a political hero to people like Bui, a Garden Grove councilman, and many of his constituents in the heavily Republican Vietnamese American community of Orange County.

“Shutting down her voice is shutting down the voice of the Vietnamese Americans that she represents,” Bui told reporters at a rally in Westminster. “The very fact that we are here in the United States is because we value freedom.”

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Google Maps already tracks you; now other people can, too

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

Google Maps users will soon be able to broadcast their movements to friends and family — the latest test of how much privacy people are willing to sacrifice in an era of rampant sharing.

The location-monitoring feature will begin rolling out Wednesday in an update to the Google Maps mobile app, which is already installed on most of the world’s smartphones. It will also be available on personal computers.

Google believes the new tool will be a more convenient way for people to let someone know where they are without having to text or call them. The Mountain View, California, company has set up the controls so individuals can decide with whom they want to share their whereabouts and for how long — anywhere from a few minutes to indefinitely.

But location sharing in one of the world’s most popular apps could cause friction in marriages and other relationships if one partner demands to know where the other is at all times. Similar tensions could arise if parents insist their teenagers turn on the location-sharing option before they go out. …

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California may test all young kids for lead exposure

Three months after a Reuters study of national lead exposure data showed eight communities in California faced worse contamination than Flint, Michigan – the poster city for U.S. lead risks –Assemblyman Bill Quirk is moving to address the potential public health crisis. The Hayward Democrat has introduced a bill that would require all children from 6 months to 6 years old to be tested for lead contamination.

Early exposure to lead has long been associated with cognitive problems. Writing last year in Mother Jones, Irvine journalist Kevin Drum said such exposure has been linked to lower IQs, violent crime and attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder. The gradual increase in IQ across the world has been linked to new laws against lead-based paint and piping.

But in California, state law only requires lead testing for children who live in or frequently visit buildings built before the crackdown on lead-based paint began in the 1970s and for those who get benefits under government welfare programs.

“Given the ages of California’s infrastructure, lead exposure risks are ubiquitous,” Quirk told Kaiser Health News. “The current screening process only tests certain children. Better data can help us better identify clusters and arm the state with a thorough, more comprehensive response.”

In Flint, national media have focused for two years on the problems with water supplies created when Flint city leaders stopped using water piped in from Detroit’s water system to save money by using cheaper water from the polluted Flint River and other local sources. That led to a public health emergency being declared after the supply change apparently sent the number of children with elevated exposure to lead in blood tests soaring to 5 percent, twice the national norm. In December, Congress appropriated $120 million to help Flint deal with the problem. …

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California Environmentalists Now Want to Ban Plastic Straws

As reported by the Orange County Register:

Plastic shopping bags are so 2016.

The new trendy target for those who want to reduce the stream of plastic flowing into our oceans, beaches and parks, is something smaller – plastic straws.

And since November, when California voters agreed to ban plastic bags from supermarkets and other retailers, people who want similar restrictions on straws have a realistic goal.

It’s why a growing number of organizations – some in California, some around the world – are working to reduce or eliminate the number of plastic straws in our daily lives. Some businesses, along with people who oppose government rules on things like plastics, are among those offering opposition to the push, but many other groups are taking steps to reduce straws. …

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Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens asks Trump administration to help her hold undocumented immigrants

As reported by the Orange County Register:

With most California governments and police agencies resisting President Donald Trump’s push to increase immigration enforcement and deportations, Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens is bucking the trend, telling the Trump administration she wants her department to cooperate more closely with federal immigration agents.

Last month, Hutchens met with several high ranking members of Trump’s administration in Washington, D.C., in part to communicate how her department, and possibly law enforcement in other large American counties, would be willing to impose federal immigration laws.

Her message: Neighborhood enforcement is off the table, but an enhanced immigration role in jails would be welcome.

Specifically, Hutchens – who was in D.C. in her role as president of the Major Counties Sheriff’s Association – asked the administration to provide a legal directive for her to detain some immigrants convicted of violent or other serious crimes beyond their set release dates so federal agents could retrieve and deport them. …

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Gavin Newsom to pitch universal health care as California governor’s race grows crowded

As reported by the Sacramento Bee:

Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is drafting a health care plan for California that he plans to unveil as a core component of his gubernatorial run, based in part on the universal health care program he signed into law when he was mayor of San Francisco.

Newsom, seen as a strong contender in the increasingly crowded field of candidates vying to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown in 2018, is staking out an ambitious plan to rein in rising health care costs, expand universal access to people across the state regardless of income or immigration status, and preserve coverage for the estimated 5 million Californians who risk losing their insurance under President Donald Trump’s changes.

“I think we can learn a lot for the state of California from what we did with Healthy San Francisco,” Newsom said in an interview. “We had the resourcefulness, the resources, and the boldness and audacity to try something new. It’s not necessarily something that can be adopted in all 58 counties, but it can be adopted …. where the majority of California’s population is.”

The idea would likely require substantial state and federal funding. …

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CA’s Retired Public Workers Earn More Than Private-Sector Workers Still on the Job

As reported by KFI radio:

California’s retired government workers earn 26% more in retirement than private-sector workers earn while still on the job.

That’s the finding of an in-depth analysis released this week by the California Policy Center.

“This is an absolutely upside-down system,” said California Policy Center CEO Mark Bucher. “In the Golden State, it truly pays not to work.”

The new study found that the average pension for a retired public employee in California was $68,673 in 2015, before benefits. By contrast, active private-sector workers earned on average just $54,326.

That same year, the maximum Social Security benefit for a high-wage earner retiring at age 66 was just $32,244 – less than half the benefit of a retired government worker.

Study author Ed Ring analyzed 23 of the largest pension systems in California, representing 95 percent of all state and local government retirees – over 1 million retirees. …

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Senate bill would eliminate income tax for California teachers

As reported by the Santa Clarita Valley Signal:

In light of the increasing teacher shortage in California, Senators Henry Stern and Cathleen Galgiani announced the Teacher Recruitment and Retention Act.

If passed, Senate Bill 807 would eliminate all state income tax for teachers who stay in the classroom for more than five years, as well as provide tax credits to cover training costs and teaching credentials for new teachers.

“Teachers are the original job creators,” Stern said in a statement. “The teaching profession is critical to California’s economic success and impacts every vocation and profession in the state.”

The senate bill aims to tell teachers they are valued in California by training them and keeping them in classrooms, Stern said. In addition to encouraging people to go into teaching, the bill aims to encourage veteran teachers, former teachers and out-of-state teachers to get into California classrooms. …

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State employee visited 48,000 webpages for online games, videos

As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune:

A library employee at California State University Fresno may have cost taxpayers $22,200 in time he wasted using his work computer to visit 48,000 webpages for online videos and games unrelated to his duties during a 13-month period, according to a state audit released Thursday.

Also, an employee with the California Department of Transportation cost taxpayers an estimated $4,300 by misusing 130 hours of state time for excessive smoke breaks and extended lunches during her workdays over an eight-month period.

And a parole agent for the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation cost the state about $3,800 by misusing her government vehicle for her personal commute during a seven-month period ending in July 2016. She didn’t disclose the personal use of the vehicle, which is taxable income.

These examples are among 10 incidents of fraud, waste and abuse the California State Auditor’s Office summarized in its regular report on “improper governmental activities.” The report included whistleblower tip investigations completed in the last six months of 2016. …

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California’s Bullet Train Could Be a High-Speed Fail Without Federal Funding

As reported by L.A. Weekly:

Two weeks ago, President Donald Trump made what might be considered his first real move to screw over California, by delaying a $637 million grant, long thought to have been a lock, to pay for electrifying a Bay Area train route. That’s bad news for Caltrain, which will have to stick to diesel gas for the time being. But it’s also bad news for California Gov. Jerry Brown’s pet project, the bullet train, which plans to share that section of track. The delay has been interpreted, by some, to be an act of political retribution, to get back at California for, oh, take your pick — not voting for Trump, for having so many “sanctuary cities,” for declaring itself the vanguard of the resistance, and so on.

Lisa Marie Alley, a spokeswoman for the California High Speed Rail Authority, downplayed the significance of the grant delay.

“I would not characterize it as a big blow whatsoever,” she said. “It’s something that is not good. The bigger question is, to the Republican administration, why would you hurt something that is creating jobs, creating a system that’s better for the environment and providing a valuable service for the Bay Area?”

The worrying thing for supporters of the bullet train, which aims to connect San Francisco and Los Angeles by the year 2029 for the not-so-low price of $68 billion (and that estimate is probably low), is if the Trump administration is willing to delay a fairly uncontroversial grant, can the nation’s largest infrastructure project currently under construction expect any help at all …

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