Inflation Triggers California Minimum Wage Increase in 2023

California’s minimum wage will jump to $15.50 per hour next year, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration announced Thursday, an increase triggered by soaring inflation that will benefit about 3 million workers.

The increase is required by a state law passed in 2016. But it comes at a good time for Democrats in the nation’s most populous state as they rush to find ways to boost taxpayers’ bank accounts in an election year marked by rising prices that have diluted the purchasing power of consumers.

Thursday, in a preview of his upcoming budget proposal, Newsom doubled down on his plan to send up to $800 checks to car owners to offset this year’s record-high gas prices despite opposition from Democrats in the Legislature. And he revealed a new proposal to send at least $1,000 checks to 600,000 hospital and nursing home workers in recognition of their dangerous work throughout the pandemic.

It’s part of a new spending proposal to put $18.1 billion into taxpayers’ pockets through a combination of rebates and assistance with rent, health insurance premiums and utility bills.

“We’re still overall having a very strong economic recovery in the state from the COVID-19 recession,” California Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer said. “But it’s clear that we face a lot of headwinds: gas prices remain high, food prices are high because of inflation.”

California lawmakers voted to increase the minimum wage to $15 per hour in 2016, but the increase was phased in over several years. Today, the minimum wage is $15 per hour for companies with 25 or more workers and $14 per hour for companies with 25 or fewer employees.

The law says the minimum wage must increase to $15.50 per hour for everyone if inflation increased by more than 7% between the 2021 and 2022 fiscal years. Thursday, the California Department of Finance said they project inflation for the 2022 fiscal year — which ends June 30 — will be 7.6% higher than the year before, triggering the increase.

Official inflation figures won’t be final until this summer. But the Newsom administration believes the growth will be more than enough to trigger the automatic increase.

California has about 3 million minimum wage workers, according to a conservative estimate from the state Department of Finance. The increase in the minimum wage will be about $3 billion, or less than 0.1% of the $3.3 trillion in personal income Californians are projected to earn.

California Department of Finance Director Keely Martin Bosler said the increase could cause prices to jump for restaurants, which have low-profit margins. But overall, she said the minimum wage increase is “expected to have a very minimal impact on overall inflation in the state’s economy.”

The increase will impact smaller companies the most, which will see the minimum wage jump $1.50 in January. Kerry Jackson, a fellow at the conservative-leaning Pacific Research Institute’s Center for California Reform, said the increase could cause some employees at smaller companies to work fewer hours.

“It may be very painful for them,” he said.

Inflation has been a problem everywhere, as consumer prices jumped 8.3% nationally last month from a year ago. A labor shortage throughout the pandemic has prompted many companies to increase pay sometimes beyond the minimum wage just to attract and retain workers.

In California, average gas prices hit a record high in March of $5.91 per gallon. Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders have pledged to return some of the states’ record-breaking budget surplus to taxpayers. But so far, despite being from the same political party, they haven’t agreed on how to do it.

Newsom’s plan would send up to $800 checks to car owners — $400 per car for a max of two cars per owner — plus another $750 million to give everyone free rides on public transportation for three months.

Democratic leaders in the Legislature have rejected that plan, instead favoring one that would send $200 checks to low-to-moderate-income taxpayers and their dependents.

“Senate Democrats do not believe a rebate tied to car ownership does the job,” Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins said. “That plan leaves out non-car owners, including low income and elderly Californians, who are also impacted by the current high costs of consumer goods and are also deserving of relief.”

Republicans favor temporarily suspending the state’s gas tax, which at 51.1 cents per gallon is the second-highest in the nation. But Newsom and Democratic leaders have rejected that plan, arguing it’s better to send relief directly to taxpayers.

Newsom’s plan to send checks to health care workers would apply to anyone who works inside a hospital or a nursing home — including doctors, nurses and other support staff. Workers would be guaranteed a $1,000 check. But if companies agree to add in another $500, the state will match it for a total of $2,000.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

Court: California’s Under-21 Gun Sales Ban Unconstitutional

A U.S. appeals court ruled Wednesday that California’s ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to adults under 21 is unconstitutional.

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Wednesday the law violates the Second Amendment right to bear arms and a San Diego judge should have blocked what it called “an almost total ban on semiautomatic centerfire rifles” for young adults. “America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army,” Judge Ryan Nelson wrote. “Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms.”

The Firearms Policy Coalition, which brought the case, said the ruling makes it optimistic age-based gun bans will be overturned in other courts.

Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the decision is a clear sign of how courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court which has a major gun case before it, are expanding gun rights.

“Federal judges can read the tea leaves,” Winkler said. “In the coming years, the courts seem certain to strike down numerous gun safety measures in the name of the 2nd Amendment. This 9th Circuit ruling is a harbinger of things to come.”

The ruling, however, was not a total victory for gun rights advocates.

They also sought an injunction blocking the state from requiring a hunting license for adults under 21 — who are not in the military or law enforcement — to purchase rifles or shotguns.

Handgun sales to those under 21 were already prohibited when the hunting license requirement was passed in 2018 after some of the nation’s worst mass shootings were committed by young adults using rifles, including the Valentine’s Day slayings at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The following year, the Legislature acted to address what they saw as a loophole after an April 2019 synagogue shooting in San Diego County.

A 19-year-old armed with a semiautomatic rifle he had just purchased with a hunting license killed a 60-year-old woman and injured three others, including the rabbi and an 8-year-old girl at Chabad of Poway.

The state passed the law banning sales of semiautomatic centerfire rifles to anyone under 21. There were exemptions for police or military troops but not for those with hunting licenses.

Matthew Jones, a 20-year-old at the time from Santee in San Diego County, originally sued saying he wanted a gun to defend himself and other lawful purposes but didn’t want to obtain a hunting license.

His lawsuit, which had been filed before the under-age ban on semiautomatic weapons, was amended to also challenge that law.

The suit said the state had “whittled down (the) already inapplicable and irrelevant hunting license ‘exemption’ — the only exemption that is even possible for an ordinary, law abiding young adult who does not wish to enter into a highly dangerous career in law enforcement or the military — by prohibiting an entire class of firearms.”

The 9th Circuit ruled the hunting license requirement was reasonable for increasing public safety through “sensible firearm control.”

But it said an outright ban on semiautomatic rifles for those under 21 went too far.

“It’s one thing to say that young adults must take a course and purchase a hunting license before obtaining certain firearms,” Nelson wrote. “But to say that they must become police officers or join the military? … It is a blanket ban for everyone except police officers and servicemembers.”

Nelson and Judge Kenneth Lee, who ruled in the majority, were part of Republican President Donald Trump’s wave of conservative-approved nominees that reshaped the famously liberal court.

Two years ago, Lee authored a 2-1 decision that threw out California’s ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines, saying the law violated the U.S. Constitution’s protection of the right to bear firearms. That ruling was later overturned by the court’s 7-4 review of the decision.

A dissent was written by U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein, who was assigned to the panel from the Southern District of New York. Stein was nominated to that court by Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Stein said he would have upheld the lower court’s decision not to block either law.

Stein said the regulation did not place a “severe burden” on gun ownership rights on young adults and noted they could get semiautomatic rifles from family members or borrow them from others.

He also said the majority failed to consider the the disproportionate amount of violent crime committed by those under 21 who have relatively less mature cognitive development.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

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

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

Anti-worker or Pro-Worker? Why Labor Unions are Fighting Over a Housing Hill

More than two dozen men and women clad in hard hats and safety vests filed into a crowded hearing room April 27 to cheer on yet another bill trying to solve California’s housing crisis.

The Affordable Housing and High Road Jobs Act would allow developers to fast-track local approval to build affordable housing where offices, strip malls and parking lots sit right now. But it has quickly become one of the most hotly contested bills in the California Legislature because the labor requirements on those projects satisfy some but not most unions. The bill, introduced by Assembly Housing Chair Buffy Wicks, mirrors multiple bills that died in recent years as a result of squabbling between developers and labor unions.

The men and women in hard hats, however, were carpenters, and so represented something previous bills didn’t have: Support from both developers and some construction unions.

But despite the neon flashes in a sea of suits, the impasse is far from over.

Following the carpenters, a parade of electricians, pipe-fitters, ironworkers and drywallers — wearing union logos but no hard hats — stepped up to the microphone to voice their disapproval. While the state’s Conference of Carpenters, which represents about 82,000 workers, co-sponsored the bill, the Building and Construction Trades Council — an umbrella labor group known colloquially as “the Trades” and spanning almost half a million workers in nearly every other construction industry — remains vehemently opposed. The California Labor Federation, which represents more than 1 million members including the Trades, said they “stand in strong solidarity” with the Trades. 

After several years of gridlock, the rare split within the construction unions presents both an awkward conundrum and a potential for compromise on a proposal that would free up swaths of land for development of affordable housing. It certainly makes it harder to paint bill supporters as anti-labor — a phrase that amounts to slander for politicians in deep blue California.

Longtime Democratic strategist Garry South said lawmakers may have to calculate which facet of organized labor will cause them the most pain during a major election year. And the Trades, which contribute tens of millions of dollars in campaigns and engage in aggressive lobbying, remain a force to be reckoned with. According to a CalMatters analysis of the 2022 races so far, state and local Trades councils have contributed more than $1 million to political candidates while carpenters groups have given more than $800,000.

But as the housing crisis reaches a fever pitch among voters, South said “elected officials will ignore it at their own peril.”

That’s the motivating factor for the bill’s author.

“I don’t want to be the housing chair presiding over inertia and status quo,” said Wicks, a Democrat from Oakland. “Here’s the reality: I and 79 of my other colleagues in the Assembly every weekend go home to constituents who are homeless, constituents who have to live in people’s garages, constituents who are squeezed out of their house, who are living in motels, who are living in their cars, who are being evicted or experiencing foreclosure, or who are barely hanging on. That is simply not okay. And so what that means is building more low-income and middle-income housing. And that’s what this bill does.”

What does the labor language really say?

The bill, which has the support of Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, would allow housing that is 100% affordable to low-income households to be built “by right” on areas now zoned for offices, retail and parking. That means skipping many city council meetings that tack on costly delays as well as the state’s premier environmental law many blame for its housing woes. Livable California, a local control group, has already dubbed it “the worst bill of 2022.”

The bill would also allow mixed-income housing, with a minimum of 15% of units affordable to low-income households for rent or 30% of units affordable to moderate-income households for sale, along commercial corridors such as strip malls.

The Carpenters and the Trades are at loggerheads over how much unionized labor developers would have to use to take advantage of the streamlining. The Trades are pushing for language requiring a certain amount of the workforce be graduates of an apprenticeship program, which effectively means union members. That’s common for public works, but unusual for residential construction. 

A 2019 Trades-commissioned study found less than a fifth of construction workers across California were unionized in 2017, a number likely lower in the residential sector.

Developers argue the standard — that at least 30% or in some cases 60% of the workers in each trade for a given project be graduates of an apprenticeship program, most of which are run by unions — is too hard to meet, particularly in areas of the state lacking in apprenticeship programs. The Carpenters agree.

“If you had a standard that can’t be met when you need to move forward on construction then it’s not a standard, it’s a barrier,” said Daniel Curtin, director of the California Conference of Carpenters.

Click here to read the full article at CALMatters

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

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

California Democrats Lean Into Abortion Rights As ‘Defining Issue’

When a draft Supreme Court ruling that would overturn the constitutional right to abortion leaked Monday night, Democratic leaders in California reacted swiftly with shock, grief and fury.

It didn’t take long for the personal devastation to turn political.

By Wednesday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom, who is running for re-election this year, had already cut a new campaign ad about “reproductive freedom under attack.” In a tweet unveiling the ad, he framed defeating “anti-choice Republicans” as the “defining issue of the 2022 election.”

As the stark reality has sunk in that the landmark Roe v. Wade decision is unlikely to make it to its 50th birthday, many Democrats are leaning forcefully into abortion rights as a key election issue. With decades of public polling indicating that a majority of Americans believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, it could be the party’s most potent counterweight in a campaign cycle in which Republicans seem poised to capitalize on voter frustration over inflation and crime.

“Don’t think for a second this is where they stop,” Newsom said Wednesday outside Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, where he raised the alarm that conservatives would also seek to roll back other rights such as same-sex marriage. “Pay attention, America. They’re coming after you next.”

In his remarks, Newsom called for a stronger Democratic counteroffensive on protecting abortion. He slammed Republicans for claiming to be pro-life while opposing policies to provide more support to women and families after a baby is born, previewing a political attack that could soon be coming to swing districts across the country.

“That’s how extreme the Republican Party is in the United States of America. You want extremism? Rape and incest, they don’t even make an exception,” Newsom said. “Wake up, America. Wake up to who you’re electing.”

Democrats, weighed down by sagging approval ratings for President Joe Biden and in danger of losing control of Congress in the November midterm election, have been struggling to find a message that might motivate liberal voters to show up to the polls and persuade moderates to stick with their governance.

Jack Pitney, a professor of politics at Claremont McKenna College, said the reality of a Supreme Court ruling against abortion rights could provide a significant boost. Though warnings about that potential outcome have not historically driven turnout for Democrats while the Roe decision withstood decades of attacks, Pitney said voters are much more alert to loss.

“The issue has moved from the realm of the hypothetical to the realm of the real,” he said.

And it could remain near the top of the news through the rest of the year, with the official opinion expected this summer and then potentially dozens of states passing new abortion restrictions after that.

“It’s kind of like a wildfire, and the burning embers and debris will spread over the electorate for months to come,” Pitney said.

Still, it is uncertain how much of a difference abortion can make for Democrats, who are facing significant political headwinds nationally from pocketbook issues such as spiraling inflation and high gas prices.

While probably not potent enough to shift the balance of power, Pitney said abortion could move the margins in close races with national implications, such as the contests for U.S. Senate in Georgia and Wisconsin. Some Republicans are already planning to push for a nationwide abortion ban should the GOP win complete control of the federal government in the next few years. The ruling, Pitney added, might also help Democrats regain some ground with young voters, who have particularly soured on Biden.

There is probably less of a potential impact in California, where Democrats have nearly maximized their power at every level of government.

Beth Miller, a Republican political consultant, said Californians who are motivated by abortion rights are already quite engaged politically. She is skeptical that it will bring new or infrequent voters the the polls, especially when abortion access is not under immediate threat here.

“The overriding issue in California is the cost of living,” Miller said.

But California Democrats are quickly elevating abortion to the forefront of their messaging anyway, with some even fundraising off the news that Roe v. Wade may be overturned. More than 70% of Californians oppose repealing the ruling, according to a poll this year by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

California Law Allows Victims of Childhood Sex Assault to Sue Decades Later

When news breaks of a decades-old child sexual assault case coming to light, odds are it’s because of California’s Child Victims Act, which was signed into law in 2019 following the passage of Assembly Bill 218.

The law gave victims of childhood abuse until Dec. 31 of this year to file lawsuits, regardless of how old their claims might be, and leaves open a window after that for some suits.

“You need this law because there should never be a limitation on justice for a survivor of childhood assault,” said attorney Mike Reck of the Los Angeles law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates, which helped write the law. “The courthouse door should never be closed to a person who was victimized as a child.”

Reck says his firm has represented hundreds of survivors of abuse by Catholic Church clerics or others associated with the church since passage of the law, and that there are an untold number of survivors filing claims statewide.

“We don’t even know how many child victims have been helped by this law and will be helped while the window is still open,” he said. “It’s probably impossible to track how many survivors have brought cases in California.”

Reck and Costa Mesa attorney Brian Williams of Greenberg Gross LLP together brought one of the latest such cases in Sacramento Superior Court, where they are suing Capital Christian Center and a former teacher at its school on behalf of five former students who say they were abused in the early 1980s.

Williams said his firm handles cases involving private schools, daycare facilities and other entities and that the law allows for lawsuits where “if the institution knew or should have known of the abuse you can sue the institution that exposed you to the perpetrator.”

The law says victims under age 40 can sue over childhood abuse, and that older individuals also can sue if they find later in life they suffered harm.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee

World of Witchcraft: California’s Anti-Business Campaign Clear in the War Against Activision

California’s state Department of Fair Employment and Housing (DFEH) says it’s committed to creating safe, harassment-free workplaces. Now it’s the department itself that’s doing the harassing.

DFEH was built to mediate disagreements between workers and business owners. These days, the agency goes direct to warfare – hiring private law firms to sue California companies and funding its operations from the resulting million-dollar settlements. That strategy often deprives plaintiffs of the money you might suppose they’re entitled to.

All of this is clear in the department’s high-profile, ongoing case against Santa Monica-based Activision, the company behind such global games as “World of Warcraft,” “Call of Duty,” and “Overwatch.”

Following a lengthy investigation, DFEH sued the video game maker in July for a “pervasive ‘frat boy’ workplace culture” that DFEH says drove female employees to quit. Two months later, Activision settled a separate lawsuit with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) by agreeing to establish an $18 million fund for alleged victims.

That’s when things got weird – California weird.

Alleging that Gov. Gavin Newsom was interfering with her lawsuit, Janette Wipper, the Chief Counsel for the DFEH, resigned from the case against Activision. Newsom fired her. Then Wipper’s deputy resigned, claiming interference by the governor.

But a deeper read of the roster changes at DFEH suggests a department that has gone rogue and a governor trying to rein it in.

Under Wipper, DFEH tried to block the EEOC’s settlement with Activision in order to pursue its own case, which could take years to conclude. That move delays victims’ access to the $18-million fund created by the EEOC settlement and prompted the EEOC to admonish DFEH for its questionable tactics.

Why would a state agency do this? For starters, DFEH, unlike EEOC, does not pay out all settlement money to victims of harassment or discrimination. Instead, it relies on massive settlements to help cover the agency’s operations costs, including outsourcing work to private law firms.

That money motivation explains DFEH’s tendency to overreach. In a case against Riot Games, the state stepped in to block a settlement in a case brought by the company’s employees. Outraged, the plaintiffs complained that the California agency was trying to hijack a case they had already settled – delaying by three years the payments they had won.

Activision isn’t alone in fighting the state juggernaut. Consider the case of Tesla. In February, DFEH sued the California automaker alleging systematic racial discrimination and harassment. Focusing on Tesla’s Fremont plant’s workforce, the lawsuit quotes dozens of media stories and administrative complaints. But DFEH never independently investigated the claims. Without investigating, the state’s suit refers to the factory as “racially segregated” and a “slave ship.”

While DFEH staff didn’t visit Tesla to check out the claims, thousands of members of the public and even senior government officials have visited the factory. In a blog post, Tesla points out that there is no real evidence in the filing. “Over the past five years, the DFEH has been asked on almost 50 occasions by individuals who believe they were discriminated against or harassed to investigate Tesla. On every single occasion, when the DFEH closed an investigation, it did not find misconduct by Tesla.”

Before filing its lawsuit, the DFEH declined several requests to provide Tesla with the specific allegations or the factual bases.

Watching a self-declared civil rights agency block or delay payments to victims would strike most people as extraordinary. But it’s a pattern of abuse at DFEH, and one that runs through the Activision case. That abuse is certainly obvious to the federal EEOC. Early in the investigation, the feds and state regulators signed onto a workshare agreement: While the EEOC reviewed allegations of harassment, the DFEH was supposed to review pay equity and related issues. DFEH specifically agreed that it would not investigate sexual harassment claims.

But the DFEH broke its agreement with the EEOC, violated its own procedures, and filed a surprise 11th-hour lawsuit against Activision when it learned the company was on the verge of settling with the EEOC. DFEH did not complete the independent investigation it started in order to determine the accuracy of the allegations in its lawsuit. Nor did that lawsuit focus on pay equity, but instead leveled sexual harassment allegations outside the stated scope of its investigation.

DFEH’s intervention here is unprecedented, but even more extraordinary is the EEOC’s response: It has accused state attorneys of ethical misconduct because they worked on the Activision case at the EEOC and then continued that work at DFEH without disclosing their prior work – a violation of California legal ethics rules.

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