imgFEBRUARY 3, 2014

DOWNLOAD A PDF OF THIS ARTICLE

BY LORI ARNOLD, RESEARCH ANALYST

California is just three weeks shy of the deadline to introduce legislation for the 2014 session and bills are still trickling in. Remarkably, several thousand bills are expected in a last-minute flurry in advance of the Feb. 21 cut off.

While it has been mostly uneventful on the legislative front, there has been plenty of action outside the chambers. Most prominent was the Jan. 28 jury conviction of state Sen. Roderick Wright (D-Inglewood), who was found guilty of eight charges, including perjury and voter fraud. He faces eight years in prison and will be sentenced on March 12.

During Wright’s trial, prosecutors demonstrated that the senator lived in a wealthy Baldwin Hills neighborhood outside of his district and not in a room that he claimed to be renting in Inglewood. The room he listed in official records was inside of a home that was owned by Wright, but which he was renting out to a family member.

Search warrants executed at both properties found that Wright had few possessions in the rented room, while the Baldwin Hills home housed personal belongings, including clothes, prescription bottles, artwork, collectibles, three guns and several luxury cars.

The California Constitution requires that candidates must reside within the boundaries of the district seat they seek. Even the editorial board of the left-of-center Los Angeles Times acknowledged the need for local representation.

“We want our elected leaders to live among us and come from our communities,” read the Jan. 30 commentary. “Residency is a proxy for engagement with and knowledge of a district. We believe that legislators will be able to understand and articulate the needs of their constituents because they live in their midst and run into them at the grocery store and in the park.”

Despite the convictions, Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento)—insisting that the matter was not final at least until Wright is sentenced—has refused to take steps to remove Wright from his seat, opting instead to strip him from his chairmanship of the high-profile Senate's Governmental Organization Committee, which overseas matters pertaining to gambling and alcohol. He was allowed, however, to keep his assignments on three other committees (Budget, Energy and Human Services) the Los Angeles Times reported.

“Where we stand today, there is no final conviction, but a jury verdict,” Steinberg told the Sacramento Bee. “Unless and until there is a final conviction for a felony I do not believe it is appropriate or necessary to expel Senator Wright or ask him to resign.”

Anything but contrite, Wright has vowed to appeal the conviction, meaning he could keep his ill-gotten seat for months, if not years.

Even more troublesome: two days after his conviction Wright flouted his legislative power by introducing Senate Bill (SB) 929. This new law would allow courts to reduce certain nonviolent felonies to misdemeanors if several criteria were met: the crime was not serious or violent, the defendant served no prison time, was not required to register as a sex offender, had no other convictions in the preceding five years and was determined to be rehabilitated.

It could certainly be argued that sentencing reform is needed in California. But, depending on his sentence, Wright could meet each of the criteria in his own case, thus benefiting personally from the bill!

In this matter, Steinberg acted quickly with his spokesman Rhys Williams telling the Times SB 929 would not advance.

“Regardless of any merits of the bill, wrong author, wrong time," Williams told reporter Patrick McGreevy.”

While the move is admirable, it is not enough. A Public Policy Institute of California survey released last week showed that the Legislature’s approval rating is just 42 percent. Integrity (or the lack of it) certainly colors Californians’ perceptions, and the Senate leader’s tepid response to this conviction does little to help alleviate public distrust of state government.

Steinberg and the Democrat caucus owe it to the residents of Wright’s Inglewood district to strip him of his seat and return representation to an authentic resident. With the Democratic party holding a strong demographic advantage in the district, they could easily replace Wright in a legitimate election without risking their supermajority. Such actions would go a long way to restore faith in “government by the people, for the people.”

Actions, week of Jan. 27

AB 135 (Buchanan, D-San Ramon) School employees: child abuse: reporting.
Passed Assembly Education Committee, 7-0
Passed Assembly Appropriations Committee, 16-0
Passed Assembly, 77-0
To Senate

AB 375 (Buchanan, D-San Ramon) School employees: Dismissal or suspension.
Passed Assembly, 64-11
Passed Senate, 25-13
Passed Assembly 52-22, concurrence
Governor vetoed
Assembly floor, veto reconsideration, no action

AB 714 (Wieckowski, D-Fremont) Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund.
Passed Assembly, 68-3
Passed Senate, 39-0
Governor vetoed
Assembly floor, veto reconsideration, no action

AB 883 (Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova) Child sexual abuse: Prevention and intervention programs.
Passed Assembly Human Services Committee, 5-0
Passed Assembly Appropriations Committee, as amended, 16-0
Passed Assembly, 77-0

AB 966 (Bonta, D-Oakland) Prisoner Protections for Family and Community Health Act.
Passed Assembly Public Safety Committee, 6-1
Passed Assembly Appropriations Committee, 12-4
Passed Assembly, 48-26
To Senate

 

On the floor: week of Feb. 3

In Assembly Governor’s Vetoes
(requires two-thirds vote in each chamber to override veto)

AB 714 (Wieckowski, D-Fremont) Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund.
Originally introduced as a $1 assessment for all moving violations to fund spinal cord research that includes the use of embryonic stem cells, author Bob Wieckowski has amended the bill to drop the traffic citation funding scheme, replacing it instead with a $1 million allocation directly out of the state’s general fund.

The amendment appears to deal with concerns raised last year by Gov. Jerry Brown, who vetoed a similar proposal, saying traffic fines were an inappropriate funding mechanism for research.

Passed Assembly, 68-3
Passed Senate, 39-0
Governor vetoed
Assembly floor, veto reconsideration, no action
Assembly floor, veto reconsideration, Feb. 3

Talking points:

  • Sacrificing the life of embryos is going too far in the development of cures for disabilities or diseases. Human life should not be reduced to a commodity.
  • Much greater promise has been shown in developing cures from adult stem cells, which do not require the destruction of life.
  • California taxpayers have already spent more than $6 billion on stem-cell research—most of it wasted on unsuccessful embryonic stem cell research—thanks to voter-approved Proposition 71.

 

AB 375 (Buchanan, D-San Ramon) School employees: Dismissal or suspension.
Existing law prohibits a permanent employee from being dismissed except for one or more of specified causes, including, among other causes, immoral or unprofessional conduct. Existing law requires the governing board of a school district to give notice to a permanent employee of its intention to dismiss or suspend the employee, together with a written statement of charges, for unprofessional conduct or unsatisfactory performance, at the expiration of 30 days from the date of service of the notice, unless the employee demands a hearing.

This bill would have required that a notice of the governing board of the school district to an employee of its intention to dismiss or suspend the employee, together with written charges filed or formulated pursuant to those procedures, be sufficient to initiate a hearing, as prescribed, and would prohibit the governing board of the school district from being required to file or serve a separate accusation. The bill proposed to revise various procedures for providing notice of dismissal or suspension and would have authorized a notice of dismissal or suspension to be given at any time of year, except a notice for a proceeding involving only charges of unsatisfactory performance, which would only be given during the instructional year of the school site where the employee is physically employed.

Existing law requires in a dismissal or suspension proceeding against a permanent employee for unprofessional conduct or unsatisfactory performance, if a hearing is requested by the employee, that the hearing be commenced within 60 days from the date of the employee's demand for a hearing.

This bill would have required that the hearing be commenced within 6 months from the date of the employee's demand for a hearing, and be completed by a closing of the record within 7 months from the date of the employee's demand for a hearing. The bill would have required that, if the record could not be closed within that timeframe, the charges be dismissed without prejudice to the governing board of the school district to refile, as specified.

Passed Assembly, 64-11
Passed Senate, 25-13
Passed Assembly 52-22, concurrence
Assembly floor, veto reconsideration, no action
Assembly floor, veto reconsideration, Feb. 3

Talking points:

  • The bill puts children before teachers by protecting them from teacher misconduct.
  • The bill restores control to locally elected school board members by removing a teacher’s ability to appeal discipline matters to the court system.
  • The bill avoids long delays in personnel matters, and saves funds from extensive appeals processes.
  • Puts teachers on notice that immoral and unprofessional conduct will be swiftly considered and managed.
  • Closes a ludicrous window of protection— from May 15 to September 15—for such teacher conduct. The summer freeze would still apply in instances pertaining to job performance.

 

Assembly Inactive File
(Ready for floor vote, requires one-day notice to call for vote)

SB 473 (Block, D-San Diego) Human trafficking.
Existing law, as amended by Proposition 21, as approved by the voters at the March 7, 2000, statewide primary election, provides that any person who actively participates in any criminal street gang with knowledge that its members engage in or have engaged in a pattern of criminal gang activity, and who willfully promotes, furthers, or assists in any felonious criminal conduct by members of that gang, shall be punished, as specified. Existing law defines “a pattern of criminal gang activity” as the commission of, attempted commission of, conspiracy to commit, or solicitation of, sustained juvenile petition for, or conviction of, 2 or more listed offenses.

This bill would add human trafficking as offenses that may be used to establish a pattern of criminal gang activity. Because this bill would amend Proposition 21, the bill requires a 2/3 vote.

Because this bill would change the definition of a crime and require a higher level of service from local prosecutors in pleading and proving the enhancement, it would impose a state-mandated local program.

Passed Senate Public Safety Committee, 7-0
Passed Senate Appropriations Committee, as amended, 7-0
Passed Senate, 39-0
Passed Assembly Public Safety, 7, as amended-0
Passed Assembly Appropriations, as amended, 17-0

Talking points:

  • Widens the definition of a “a pattern of criminal gang activity” to include human trafficking.
  • Provides law enforcement with another tool to get human traffickers off of the streets.
  • Further limits access to areas where minors gather for those who have been convicted of sex trafficking offenses.

 

SB 323 (Lara, D-Long Beach) Taxes: exemptions: Prohibited discrimination.
The Sales and Use Tax Law exempts from the taxes imposed by that law the sales of food products, nonalcoholic beverages, and other tangible personal property made or produced by an organization, as defined, but only if sold on an irregular or intermittent basis and the organization’s profits from the sales are used exclusively in furtherance of the purposes of the organization. The Corporation Tax Law, in modified conformity with federal income tax laws, exempts the income of various types of organizations from taxes imposed by that law.

This bill would revise the Sales and Use Tax Law exemption for those organizations, as provided. This bill would also provide, for taxable years beginning on or after January 1, 2014, that an organization that is a public charity youth organization that discriminates on the basis of gender identity, race, sexual orientation, nationality, religion, or religious affiliation is not exempt from the taxes imposed by that law.

This bill would include a change in state statute that would result in a taxpayer paying a higher tax within the meaning of Section 3 of Article XIIIA of the California Constitution, and thus would require for passage the approval of 2/3 of the membership of each house of the Legislature.

Passed Senate, 39-0
Passed Assembly Public Safety, as amended, 7-0
Passed Assembly Appropriations, as amended, 17-0
Passed Assembly Judiciary, 6-3
Passed Assembly Appropriations, 12-5

Talking points:

  • Punishes nonprofit youth organizations and schools for their moral and religious beliefs.
  • Elevates the cultural “rights” of homosexuals above religious liberties as guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution and, by doing so inflicts its own type of discrimination.
  • Sets the state up as the purveyor of what type of thought is acceptable.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court, in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale, has affirmed the right of nonprofit organizations to exclude from membership anyone who impacts the group’s private viewpoints.
  • The bill is the first-step toward stripping such groups of property tax exemptions and status as a charitable organization.

 

Senate Inactive File

AB 496 (Gordon, D-Los Altos) Medicine: Sexual orientation, Gender identity, and gender expression.
This bill would require the licensed Task Force on Culturally and Linguistically Competent Physicians and Dentists members and advocate task force members to provide health services to, or advocate on behalf of, members of language and ethnic minority groups and lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups. The bill would require the task force to report its findings to the Legislature and appropriate licensing boards by January 1, 2016.

Existing law, the Cultural and Linguistic Competency of Physicians Act of 2003, establishes the cultural and linguistic physician competency program which is operated by local medical societies of the California Medical Association and is monitored by the Medical Board of California. That voluntary program consists of educational classes for all interested physicians and is designed to teach foreign language and cultural beliefs and practices that may impact patient health care practices and allow physicians to incorporate this knowledge in the diagnosis and treatment of patients who are not from the predominate culture in California. Existing law also defines “cultural and linguistic competency” for the purposes of those provisions as understanding and applying the roles that culture, ethnicity, and race play in diagnosis, treatment, and clinical care.

This bill would additionally require the program to address lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender groups of interest to local medical societies. The bill would require the training programs to be formulated in collaboration with California-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender medical societies. The bill would also redefine the term “cultural and linguistic competency” and understanding and applying the roles that culture, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression play in diagnosis, treatment, and clinical care.

Passed Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee, as amended, 10-1
Passed Assembly Appropriations Committee, 12-5
Passed Assembly, 54-20
Passed Senate Business, Professions & Economic Development Committee, 8-2

Talking points:

  • Uses taxpayer funds to force “Cultural and Linguistic Competency” over LGBT issues on physicians and dentists.
  • Contains no opt-out clause for those who oppose the homosexual lifestyle on moral or religious grounds.
  • Adds state-mandated indoctrination upon medical entities, when the industry should be able to determine what type of cultural instruction is best suited for their own business.
  • Establishes and promotes another protected class for homosexuals.

No scheduled hearings week of Feb. 10

Archives of Previously Published Articles