Harris Wants to Legalize Prostitution Nationwide

Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris urges funds for tracking prescription drugsSen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) says that she supports the decriminalization of sex work nationwide, noting that “we can’t criminalize consensual behavior as long as no one is being harmed.”

In an interview with The Root, Harris was asked whether sex work “ought to be decriminalized,” though the interviewer did not specify at which level.

“I do,” Harris responded. “I think we have to understand though that it is not as simple as that. It’s about … there’s an ecosystem around that, that involves crimes that harm people. And for those issues, I do not believe that anyone that hurts another human being or profits off of their exploitation should be … free of criminal prosecution.”

“But when you’re talking about consenting adults? Yes, I think you have to really consider that we can’t criminalize consensual behavior as long as no one is being harmed,” she added. …

Click here to read the full article from The Hill

San Francisco will remove more than 9,300 marijuana-related crimes from people’s records

Marijuana smokingSan Francisco prosecutors announced Monday they would move to expunge 9,300 marijuana-related convictions dating back decades, part of a sweeping effort to rethink “the war on drugs” now that pot is legal in California.

The announcement culminated a year-long review of marijuana convictions in San Francisco, which critics say disproportionately punished minority communities and made it more difficult for those with criminal records to get jobs and other essentials.

Other California counties, including Los Angeles, are considering similar efforts, though none have gone as far as San Francisco. The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office estimates there have been 40,000 felony convictions involving pot-related offenses since 1993, but prosecutors have not said how many of those could be eligible for being expunged. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

California proposes phaseout of single-use plastics by 2030

BEN GARVER — THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE A cashier bags groceries at the Big Y in Pittsfield, Monday, February 4, 2019. Big Y is phasing out single use plastic bags and reusable bags are for sale at every checkout. Pittsfield is close to phasing out the bags in the entire city.

California already has placed curbs on plastic items such as straws and bags — and this week legislation was introduced to phase out single-use plastic food containers and other packaging that isn’t recyclable or compostable.

The proposed measure also would apply to polystyrene foam containers used for takeout meals, as well as plastic detergent bottles. Assembly Bill 1080, introduced Thursday, would phase out the single-use plastics by 2030 and follows concerns about plastic debris going in oceans and on beaches.

If the legislation becomes law, some experts believe it could lead to other states taking similar steps. In 2014 California became the first state with a single-use plastic bag ban, they noted, which led to at least four other states introducing similar measures. …

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Embattled California DMV gets its third director in just 32 days

dmvThe agency struggling to register licenses is also struggling to find a leader.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has gone through two directors in just over a month. The latest leadership shake-up came on Jan. 30, when acting director Kathleen Webb replaced acting director Bill Davidson, who had replaced permanent director Jean Shiomoto on Dec. 31, 2018.

Webb comes to the DMV by way of the California Government Operations Agency. Before that, she worked as the chief risk and compliance officer for CalPERS.

She takes the helm at a difficult time for the department. Though the DMV has been successful in substantially reducing wait times, it was recently hit with 150,000 delayed driver licenses. The department has also struggled to implement the state’s new Motor Voter program, which automatically registers people to vote at DMV offices. …

Click here to read the full story from the Sacramento Bee

California lawmakers seek tax, other limits on sugary drinks

Soda pourSACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — State lawmakers are trying again to discourage the consumption of sugary beverages, proposing a tax, warning labels, and a ban on soda displays near checkout lines among other measures on Wednesday.

The five bills address what the Democratic lawmakers call a public health crisis leading to an increase in obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other ills.

“The soda industry is the new tobacco industry,” said Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco as he promoted his measure that would bar restaurants from selling soda in cups larger than 16 ounces (.5 liters). “This is an industry that has used marketing and sales tactics to victimize low income communities, communities of color throughout our country.”

One of four California adults is now obese, he said, a 40-percent increase over two decades. More than half of Californians are overweight and more than half have either diabetes or pre-diabetes. The average American drinks nearly 50 gallons (190 liters) of sugary beverages a year, he said, consuming 39 pounds (17.5 kilograms) of extra sugar. …

Click here to read the full article from the Associated Press

Trump Administration Demands California Pay Back Over $2 Billion for Bullet Train

High Speed Rail FresnoThe Trump administration announced on Tuesday that it is exploring “every legal option” to reclaim $2.5 billion in federal funds spent by California on its now-defunct high-speed rail project, and also that it intends to cancel $928 million in federal grants not yet paid for the project to link Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area.

The move was a dramatic escalation in the ongoing war of words and policy between California and the White House. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, declared during his State of the State address last week that he was shelving plans for the $77 billion rail project that had been championed by environmental groups, admitting that “as currently planned, [it] would cost too much and take too long.”

In response to the Trump administration’s legal threat Tuesday, Newsom vowed that he would not sit “idly by” as the White House engaged in what he called “political retribution” against California. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

California’s gun seizure program hits hurdles

Gun seizureAuthorities in California are struggling to enforce a state law that permits officials to seize firearms from people with previous criminal convictions or mental health issues – running into staffing and budgetary issues that have contributed to a massive backlog of guns marked for confiscation.

The law, which was passed in 2013 following the shooting at Connecticut’s Sandy Hook elementary school and set aside $24 million for seizure programs, had a goal of confiscating around 20,000 guns over three years. But six years later, according to a San Francisco Chronicle report, there are still roughly 9,000 of those guns out there, with more being added to the list yearly.

While the state’s new governor, Gavin Newsom, has made gun control a priority of his new administration and has proposed a multi-million-dollar increase to hire more agents, the program reportedly has been hit by retention issues and a lack of experience among new agents. …

Click here to read the full article from Fox News

California’s Supreme Court has thrown cities—and citizens—into chaos over local taxes

taxesThe California Supreme Court has some explaining to do.

Late last year, the city of Oakland put a new land parcel tax on the books, after 62 percent of voters turned out to boost funding for public education. Now a local business group is suing the city, arguing that the new tax needed two-thirds of the vote — just over 66 percent — to pass.

San Francisco faces a similar problem, only twice as big. The city recently began collecting two new taxes: a gross receipts levy on commercial landlords to fund childcare services, and a land parcel tax to increase teacher pay. Last June, each received 51 and 61 percent of the vote respectively. The city is being sued twice.

And then there’s Fresno. After 52 percent of voters there opted to increase the city’s sales tax to fund park improvements, city leaders decided to play it safe and do nothing, noting that 52 percent is clearly less than 66. A local nonprofit took them to court for not collecting the new tax.

Sued if you do, sued if you don’t. The reason for all this fiscal confusion: the state’s highest court. …

Click here to read the full article from CalMatters

Will ‘basic income’ become the California norm?

StocktonAfter months of planning, Stockton is sending debit cards loaded with $500 to a select group of residents starting Friday as part of a closely watched experiment in universal basic income, the first led by a U.S. city.

Stockton, once dubbed “America’s foreclosure capital,” was the largest city to seek bankruptcy protection before Detroit’s 2013 filing. During the recession, unemployment soared toward 20 percent, and violent crime rose. Today, one in four residents lives below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Now, as the city slowly recovers from financial disarray, officials and advocates look to the Stockton Economic Empowerment Demonstration, or SEED, to provide insight on whether a long-term basic income program is a viable creative approach to lifting residents out of poverty.  …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee

Trump demands $3.5 billion back from ‘disaster’ high-speed rail project

donald-trump-2President Donald Trump is demanding California return billions of dollars to the federal government following Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to scale down the state’s costly high-speed rail project.

In a tweet on Wednesday, Trump called the project a “’green disaster.’”

California has been forced to cancel the massive bullet train project after having spent and wasted many billions of dollars,” Trump added. “They owe the Federal Government three and a half billion dollars. We want that money back now.”

Newsom at his State of the State Address on Tuesday put the brakes on the $77 billion high speed project, an endeavor that voters authorized at the ballot box in 2008 with a plan to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco. …

Click here to read the full article from the Mercury News