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

Berkeley Pledges to Refund the Police While Also Embracing Law Enforcement Alternatives and Violence Prevention

Berkeley leaders are jumping back into the debate about crime and policing nearly two years after councilmembers called for defunding law enforcement, but this time the political landscape is different.

City councilmembers want to divert more nonviolent 911 calls from police and fund more violence prevention programs, but they’re also pledging to add more police officers, citing pressure from constituents worried about violent crime. A similar debate is playing out in Oakland and San Francisco.

On Thursday, the City Council approved Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s $5.3 million plan to fund more efforts to reimagine public safety and reform the police. The city will now expand violence prevention programs and kick off a process to create more police alternatives to respond to mental health calls. At the same time, the council also agreed to restore 30 of the police department’s frozen positions — a move pushed by several councilmembers.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín called the vote an “important milestone” and said that Berkeley can be a model for other cities.

“A lot of the conversation nationally has been focused on ‘defunding’ or abolishing or cutting the police department,” said Arreguín, who was a big proponent of cutting the department’s budget two years ago. “We refunded and we also expressed support for other approaches. We found a balance.”

The votes come nearly two years after Berkeley made headlines when leaders pledged to slash the police department’s budget in half.

In fact, the city ended up cutting about 12% of its police budget by freezing 30 positions. At the time, all city departments were required to find cost-saving measures because of pandemic deficits. The department accounts for nearly 40% of the city’s general fund with a nearly $73 million budget that will grow to about $80 million in the next fiscal year. The department currently has about 150 filled positions.

City leaders in Berkeley and Oakland say that police should focus more on violent crime and that most of their time is taken up with low-level calls. One way to free up officers — and potentially cut down on racial disparities in policing — is to move traffic enforcement away from cops. More than a year ago, Berkeley approved a plan for sweeping law enforcement reforms, including changes to traffic stops, but some of the plan has been stymied by limitations in state law.

While councilmembers said they feel pressure from constituents worried about violent crime, there isn’t a clear increase in homicides. Berkeley has recorded two homicides this year compared to none last year and five in 2020. Still, council members said Thursday they received nearly 900 emails from constituents urging them to hire more cops.

Dan Lindheim, a professor at UC Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy and a member of the city’s reimagine task force, said Thursday’s debate focused too much on police staffing.

“If this is the net result of a reimagining process in which Berkeley seems to be interested in reducing the footprint of policing, to fully fund the police seems like a bizarre result,” he said.

In parts of the East Bay, violent crime has disproportionately impacted Black and brown neighborhoods. Councilmembers in Oakland and Berkeley who represent those areas have called for more police. Council Member Terry Taplin, who represents part of South Berkeley, said a homicide occurred in his district earlier this week and that he’s tired of being lectured by “more privileged communities” that aren’t facing the same safety concerns.

Taplin told The Chronicle gun violence has impacted him personally. He said he’s had friends, cousins and loved ones murdered and so he’s “really eyeing these proposals with a lot of scrutiny.”

“How does keeping our police positions frozen improve my ability to protect my residents?” Taplin said.

Taplin ended up voting for the mayor’s proposal after Arreguín added several amendments that committed to restaffing the police department and allocated more funding to a new department of Office of Race, Equity and Diversity to study disparities in all city departments. The city manager will bring a proposal to the council to restore the positions over the next few weeks.

Berkeley is already working to launch a team of social workers and civilians — run by a nonprofit — to respond to some mental health and homelessness calls, part of a Bay Area trend to launch alternative policing teams of unarmed civilians. But the mayor’s plan approved Thursday would create a new office of community safety to eventually house the city’s different police alternatives.

Arreguín said the city’s efforts to rethink policing has been slow and methodical on purpose.

“Some cities have rushed into making decisions, some have backed away from reimagining,” he said. “We’ve taken our time and really given this serious thought.”

Arreguín said his plan lays out a framework for how “reimagining public safety” priorities can be implemented.

The city will also begin transitioning two aspects of traffic enforcement — collision analysis and crossing guards — from the police department to public works.

Arreguín’s proposal also commits funds to violence prevention and youth services among other programs and directs city staff to explore creating a team of unarmed community mediators.

The City Council will have to vote next month on how to fund Arreguín’s proposal, which will take several years to fully implement.

Still, not all councilmembers were on board. Council Members Lori Droste and Rashi Kesarwani voted against the mayor’s proposal.

Click here to read the full article at SF Chronicle

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.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

California Senate Leaders Say Budget Surplus Soars to $68B

 California’s budget surplus has more than doubled since January to a staggering $68 billion, Senate Democrats said Thursday, prompting a flurry of new spending proposals from lawmakers that include giving $8 billion back to taxpayers in a move that highlights a disagreement with Gov. Gavin Newsom.

While the pandemic had prompted warnings of multibillion-dollar budget deficits in most states, those fears did not happen as tax revenues across the country increased despite coronavirus-related shutdowns on businesses that caused millions to lose their jobs.

This revenue whiplash was most pronounced in California, the nation’s most populous state that is home to Silicon Valley and many billionaires. Newsom warned the state would have a $54 billion deficit in 2020 after he issued the nation’s first statewide stay-at-home order. Instead, revenues rose sharply as wealthy people — who pay much higher taxes in California — got richer throughout the pandemic.

Last year, California’s budget included a $47 billion surplus, which was a record at the time. Thursday’s new estimate — based on preliminary numbers from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office — confirms California is on track to blow by that number this year.

The $68 billion surplus in California’s general fund would be more than double the $29 billion figure Newsom announced in January. In addition, California is projected to have a $37 billion surplus that must be spent on education — an increase from the $16.1 billion Newsom announced in January. The Newsom administration will update its budget proposal by May 15.

Thursday, Democrats — who have a majority of seats in the state Legislature — announced how they would spend that money. Their plan confirms most of what Newsom announced in January, with some new proposals.

One of the biggest additions is a plan to send $200 checks to every taxpayer who makes less than $125,000 per year, or $250,000 per year for couples who file joint returns. The plan would also guarantee $200 checks for every dependent, meaning a family of five would get $1,000.

That proposal puts Democrats at odds with Newsom, who wants to send checks as large as $800 to people who own cars in California to help offset record-high gas prices. Newsom says his plan will cost about $9 billion.

Both Newsom and Democratic lawmakers have said they want to get this money to taxpayers as soon as possible. But so far, they haven’t been able to agree on how to do it. In general, Democratic lawmakers say they don’t like Newsom’s plan because the money would only go to people who own cars. Newsom’s plan also includes $750 million to give people free rides on public transit for three months.

“We stand ready to act as soon as the Governor joins us in supporting a plan that provides stronger relief for California families,” the Legislature’s top two leaders, Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, said in a joint statement earlier this week.

California’s gas tax increases slightly each year because of inflation. The tax is scheduled to increase about 3 cents per gallon on July 1. Newsom had proposed a bill that would halt that increase this year, which must pass before Sunday to have enough time to take effect. But Democratic leaders in the state Legislature never called it for a vote.

Republicans, meanwhile, want to temporarily suspend the state’s gas tax, which at 51.1 cents per gallon is the second-highest in the country. Thursday, a small group of Republican and Democratic lawmakers revealed a plan that would suspend the entire gas tax for a year, while ordering that the savings be passed on to drivers instead of oil companies. But legislative leaders have already said they won’t do that, a sign the proposal likely doesn’t have the support to pass.

Beyond help for individuals, the proposal from Senate Democrats would also give billions of dollars in aid to small businesses. Businesses pay a tax that pays for people’s unemployment benefits when they lose their job. But so many people lost their jobs during the pandemic that the fund ran out of money. California had to borrow money from the federal government, which businesses must pay back.

Senate Democrats want to give rebates to businesses with 250 employees or fewer, which would offset some of those taxes. In addition, Democrats want to give about $500 million in grants to businesses with 150 employees or fewer to help pay for a new law that requires them to give workers up to two weeks of paid sick leave because of the coronavirus.

The plan wouldn’t just spend money. It would also put more money into the state’s savings accounts, bringing the state’s reserves to a total of $43.1 billion — the most ever.

Atkins, the Senate president pro tempore, said the plan is “doubling down on our priorities” by “reinvesting California’s wealth in those who need it most, especially struggling families and small businesses.”

Click here to read the full article at AP News

Californians Don’t Get Much Bang for Billions of Bucks

The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association isn’t shy about its mission.

Named for the chief architect of California’s Proposition 13 property tax limit, the organization fiercely defends Jarvis’ iconic 1978 measure against those — public employee unions, particularly — seeking its repeal.

So far, Jarvis and its allied groups have prevailed for more than four decades, most recently fending off a 2020 ballot measure that would have removed some of Proposition 13’s limits from business property.

But HJTA, as it calls itself, also works on a broader front, opposing most non-property tax increases and criticizing what it regards as wasteful spending of tax dollars. The latter effort includes an annual report on “waste, fraud and abuse” — essentially a summary of reports from news organizations and independent watchdogs such as the state auditor.

This year’s version, called “Follow the Money 2021,” contains dozens of examples of how public funds have been squandered, embezzled or otherwise misused, plus situations HJTA says show politicians getting special treatment.

One could quibble with some of the examples, but in the main they indicate that taxpayers often are not getting as much bang for their bucks as they should.

So, one might wonder, how does California compare with other states in that regard? By happenstance, as HJTA was preparing its report, an organization called Wallet Hub was offering an answer.

In March, Wallet Hub, a website devoted to consumer finance, released a study of what it calls “return on investment,” merging tax burdens with quality of services to develop an index that compares states on how efficiently they spend public funds.

The factors included in the service side of the equation include schools, roadways, hospitals, crime, water quality and poverty. Minnesota is scored as having the best services.

Unfortunately — but perhaps not surprisingly — California does not fare well in its “return on investment” score. In fact, it’s the fourth worst overall, just ahead of Hawaii, New Mexico and North Dakota. New Hampshire scores the highest, followed by Florida and South Dakota.

In services, California ranks 34th, but its tax burden, one of the highest in the nation, pulls down its overall “return on investment” score. Arch-rival Texas, incidentally, has the seventh highest return.

The HJTA report and the Wallet Hub comparison underscore an irritating aspect of governance in California — the eagerness of political officeholders to create new projects and services and their reluctance to evaluate whether their pet programs are delivering the promised results and intervene when they are falling short.

One of the cases HJTA cites, a high-tech budget tool called FI$cal, is a prime example of the syndrome. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on FI$cal over the last decade and a half and it’s still not working. The state auditor has issued 18 reports critiquing the project’s management and performance but governors and legislators continue throwing money down a rathole.

Many other examples are obvious, some particular projects such as FI$cal and some broader issues such as homelessness. It’s very near the top of voter concerns, as measured in polls and California taxpayers have spent billions of dollars on it. However, the problem seems to be, if anything, growing more acute as politicians and supposed experts debate what might work.

Click here to read the full article at the Press Enterprise

Are You Overdue on Your Water Bill in California? This Program Can Credit Up To $2,000

New guidelines were released in early April for a federally funded program meant to help low income families pay their outstanding water bills.

The Low Income Household Water Assistance Program is part of an emergency effort to respond to the economic impacts caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

In California, the Department of Community Services and Development is the designated agency responsible for overseeing the program. The finalized state plan defines the scope of the program and how it will be implemented.

PURPOSE OF THE PROGRAM

The state plan was introduced in order to help families pay off unpaid water bills that were accumulated before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the guidelines document, COVID-related wastewater arrearages — or bills that are overdue — across the state are estimated to total several hundred million dollars.

Californians face some of the highest living costs compared to other states in the country, and some low-income households, who have also taken a financial toll from the pandemic, struggle with paying for basic necessities like water.

The goal of LIHWAP is to reduce arrearages owed by low-income households and ensure they have access to safe drinking water and wastewater services. Around half a million Californians experienced water shutoffs in 2019, according to data collected by the State Water Resources Control Board.

WHO IS ELIGIBLE FOR LIHWAP?

Payments issued by LIHWAP will help households on a “first-come, first-served basis” and can be applied to residential water and wastewater services.

In order for individuals to benefit from the program, eligible households must use community water systems or other billing entities that are enrolled to receive LIHWAP payments. These companies directly receive the allocated assistance benefits and will determine which individuals and households are eligible for the payment using state and federal guidance.

Households with private water wells and septic tanks are not eligible for assistance.

Eligible households include those that make below 60% of the state median income. For households of one, this threshold is $2,564.73 per month, and for households of four, $4,932.17 per month, according to a table from the CSD website that tabulates income thresholds.

In addition, households with members who are recipients of CalFresh or CalWORKs may also qualify for the benefit. Other households that qualify for the benefit include those with a past due amount on a water or wastewater bill.

“Eligibility for LIHWAP services can vary depending on income, household size, place of residence, and other factors,” the website says.

The application for water and wastewater systems to receive LIHWAP payment assistance for financially challenged customers opened April 1. The interest form is available online.

For individuals wanting to receive financial relief, the customer application portal has not opened just yet. Local service providers will be reviewing which households are eligible for the one-time benefit as early as May, and no later than June 2022. This form will also be available on the CSD website.

Click here to read the full article at the Modesto Bee

BART No Longer Requires Masks to be Worn, but Board Members Want to Reinstate a Mask Mandate

Passengers no longer have to wear face coverings to ride BART, but the regional rail agency’s Board of Directors will consider reinstating a mask mandate at its April 28 meeting.

The agency announced shortly before 5 p.m. Wednesday that masks are optional to wear on BART trains and stations, effective immediately, after the state’s Department of Public dropped its mask requirement on public transit earlier in the day. That decision came after a judge in Florida overturned the federal masking policies for public transportation and airplanes.

BART joined the Bay Area’s largest transit operators — Muni, Caltrain, VTA and AC Transit — in ditching mask mandates, though that change could be temporary for the region’s largest rail system.

Rebecca Saltzman, president of BART’s Board of Directors, said she and two other directors from San Francisco, Janice Li and Bevan Dufty, will introduce a temporary mask mandate at next week’s board meeting.

Commuters with and without masks travel on a BART train in San Francisco on Tuesday.
Commuters with and without masks travel on a BART train in San Francisco on Tuesday.Scott Strazzante/The Chronicle

Saltzman said late Wednesday afternoon that a mask mandate on BART is still necessary given rising COVID cases in the region and the fact that BART’s youngest riders — children under age 5 — are not yet eligible for vaccination. A mask mandate would also help protect immunocompromised BART riders, as well, she said.

“I think folks who don’t have young children or who don’t have these health problems maybe don’t realize it and are kind of back to regular life, but it’s scary, still, for a lot of people,” Saltzman told The Chronicle. “And even though everybody’s sick of this pandemic we need to protect our most vulnerable riders.”

The duration of the proposed mask mandate had not yet been finalized as of Wednesday, Saltzman said. For reference, the federal mask mandate that was overturned by a Florida judge’s order Monday was set to expire May 3.

The judge’s Monday order sent Bay Area transit agencies scrambling to decide whether to keep enforcing mask wearing on trains, buses and ferries, creating a confusing patchwork in the interim.

By Wednesday afternoon, all Bay Area transit agencies, as well as the region’s three major airports, said they would no longer require masks.

BART’s potential reinstatement of a mask mandate could make it an outlier, and it’s unclear if other transit agencies would act on their own to require masks again. Public transit had been one of the last remaining places in the Bay Area where masks were required to be worn — which some transit leaders said inadvertently sent the message that transit carried greater risks of catching COVID.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

Assemblyman Marc Berman Drops F-Bomb at Members of the Public During Hearing

AB 2098 would reclassify the sharing of COVID-19  ‘misinformation’ by doctors and surgeons as unprofessional conduct

During Tuesday’s Assembly Business & Professions Committee hearing on the very controversial AB 2098 by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell), to punish physicians and surgeons for “unprofessional conduct” for advocating for the potential benefits of early treatment with off-label drugs, or those who dare to ask questions about COVID vaccine safety, Committee Chairman, Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park) became outwardly upset at members of the public who showed up to testify in opposition to the bill.

After a handful of witnesses opposing AB 2098 made short statements at the end of their testimony instead of just giving a name, affiliation and support or opposition, Assemblyman Berman raised his voice and yelled, “Hey! Check it out! I need everybody to follow the fucking rules!” 

Increasingly legislative committee chairpersons are showing their frustration with members of the public who call in to the hearings in support or opposition to whatever bill is being heard. Yet this is the system the majority party demanded during the COVID lockdowns, partial re-openings, and continues to insist upon.

Previously before COVID, even hearings for very popular or controversial bills would attract a large gathering of members of the public inside the hearing room, as well as from the Capitol community of lobbyists and industry representatives, but the public comment time usually went smoothly and quickly, managed in person by Sergeants and the Committee chairman/woman.

With so much business still being done remotely at the Capitol, hearings can painfully drag on because members of the public aren’t sure what the protocol is, or they use the opportunity to lecture lawmakers on the error of their ways.

In addition to punishing physicians and surgeons for “unprofessional conduct” for making statements “contradicted by contemporary scientific consensus,” AB 2098 would reclassify the sharing of COVID-19  “misinformation” by doctors and surgeons as unprofessional conduct that would result in disciplinary action.

Under AB 2098, doctors would be subject to disciplinary actions by the Medical Board of California and the Osteopathic Medical Board of California if they do not adhere to the approved COVID treatment consensus.

Jonathan Zachreson shared this significant testimony at the hearing by a civil rights attorney: “Speaking personally as a life-long Democrat and a civil rights attorney, I am dismayed that Democrats are bringing forward bills that undermine civil liberties.”

This little gem is buried deep in the bill: “Major news outlets have reported that some of the most dangerous propagators of inaccurate information regarding the COVID-19 vaccines are licensed health care professionals.” It is a shame that lawmakers aren’t required to cite their sources.

The Globe has covered AB 2098 and other constitutionally dubious bills involving forced COVID-19 vaccinations for children for school enrollment, allowing minor children to make their own vaccine decisions away from a parent, requiring health care staff to complete cultural humility training to provide trans-inclusive health care, and, another would force law enforcement officials to enforce public health orders.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

A bill Proposing a 4-day Workweek Is Moving Through the California Legislature and Would Target Companies With 500+ Employees

California is taking the lead on making the four-day workweek a reality.

State Assembly members are proposing a bill that would create shortened workweek for non-union, hourly workers at companies with 500 or more employees. 

The bill, authored by Asm. Evan Low and Asm. Cristina Garcia, is currently moving through committee. It’s similar to a federal bill proposed by Rep. Mark Takano, also from California, that is currently awaiting a vote in the House Education and Labor Committee.

Low told Insider support surrounding Takano’s bill partially inspired this one: “As we come out of the COVID pandemic, I am excited about how we reimagine our workforce while uplifting the voices of workers to get back in the job market in response to the Great Resignation,” Low said.

Garcia told Insider that now is the perfect time for discussions surrounding a lessened workweek, especially as labor shortages continue across the country and companies begin experimenting with the concept. “Two years into this pandemic, you see a moment of employees driving change and employees reimagining what they think their work week or their work-life balance should be,” Garcia said.

It could take years before a proposed bill like this can become a law, but “there’s been a lot of enthusiasm more recently now that this bill was introduced out there,” Garcia added.

AB 2932 would change state law and shorten the workweek to 32 hours but compensate employees at a similar pay rate. Employees who work over 32 hours would receive overtime at 1.5 times their hourly wages. 

Companies around the world have tested or embraced the 4-day workweek, like Microsoft, which reported a 40% increase in productivity, and Buffer, which found that employees are less likely to burn out. The country of Iceland also had a trial of the 4-day workweek, which was so successful that 86% of the country’s workforce moved to a shorter workweek.

Critics say it’s a ‘job killer’

Ashley Hoffman, policy advocate for the California Chamber of Commerce, argued in a letter to Low that the bill is a “job killer” and would present added costs to employers.

“AB 2932’s impact on labor costs in California will discourage job growth in the state and likely reduce opportunities for workers,” Hoffman wrote.

In a comment to Insider, a spokesperson from the Chamber of Commerce said they would not be able to support a proposal that “requires employers to pay for 32 hours of work at the rate they are currently paying for a 40 hour work week.”

Garcia said that although labor costs are a concern, she feels a bill targeting larger companies would help protect smaller businesses. Additionally, she said boosting employee morale through a shortened workweek could help companies with hiring and retention.

“Especially if you’re seeing more productivity, you’re seeing less attrition, all those things are good things for companies,” Garcia said. “All those things help with the bottom line.”

Click here to read the full article at the Business Insider