California legislature: slumped towards sine die

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California lawmakers have less than two weeks to wrap up their work before the August 31 legislative session ends. Thus begins the final legislative gridlock, as bills line up for final votes.

A piece of legislation’s particular place in this line is the complex product of political horse-trading, the competing priorities of the state Assembly and Senate, and the whims of legislative leadership. It is therefore not always easy to predict when the final vote will take place.

The timing for Senator Maria Elena Durazo was particularly unlucky.

As CalMatters politics intern Ariel Gans reports, the Los Angeles Democrat tested positive for COVID last week. So after more than two years of work, she missed final legislative passage on Thursday of a bill that expands the types of arrests and convictions that are stripped from most criminal background checks.

The 28-10 vote in the Senate sent the legislation to Governor Gavin Newsom. If he signs it, the bill will come into force on July 1, 2023.

Durazo told CalMatters that these records make it difficult for formerly incarcerated people to “move on with their lives.”

  • Durazo: “We spend literally billions of dollars on many programs, both while they are incarcerated and right after they leave and are released. And it struck me that here we prepare them as best we can, and yet when they leave, they face all these obstacles. So our own investment – ​​our own taxes – we don’t get the most out of it.

But Senator Shannon Grove, a Republican from Bakersfield, pointed out that the bill extends that relief to perpetrators of domestic violence. She joined other Republicans, as well as Democratic Senator Melissa Hurtado de Sanger, in voting no.

  • Grove: “These are very violent things, even if they are not listed as serious and violent in the penal code.”

The Peace Officers Research Association of California also opposed the bill, warning that it would reduce deterrence for repeat offenses and endanger public safety.

But a long list of labor organizations and criminal justice reform groups have backed the bill, arguing that criminal records disproportionately limit access to jobs and housing for Blacks, Latinos and Californians. poor.

Nearly one in three adults in California have been arrested or convicted, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. While many cases are never prosecuted, in California these incidents may remain on an individual’s record until they are 100 years old.

The bill extends assistance to those arrested for crimes who have not been prosecuted after three years, or six years for more serious crimes. The relief does not apply to a “serious or violent” crime, or to crimes requiring registration as a sex offender. The state Assembly also amended the bill to require that criminal records be disclosed to school districts for hiring decisions.

Here are some other bills that are on their way to the governor’s office:

When lawmakers didn’t pass bills on Thursday, they gave long deadlines (and if you’re Democratic Senator Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, musical and populated by puppets) farewell to outgoing members.

There are many farewells in order. At least 22 Assembly members and 9 members of the Senate will not return next year. This does not include members who lose their re-election bids to non-incumbents or gain employment elsewhere in November.

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California administered 79 191 867 vaccine dosesand 71.8% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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Redux by Rod Wright?

Bill Essayli is a candidate for the National Assembly. Picture via Facebook

Consider the curious case of Bill Essayli.

A rising California GOP star vying for a Republican-leaning Assembly seat in West Riverside County, he was the subject of a Press-Enterprise article this week that noted that the attorney for The 36-year-old cannot vote in the district he hopes to represent after the November election.

Curiously, it’s unclear if this is actually a problem in California.

A brief summary of The Essayli Affair:

  • In late 2021, Essayli re-registered to vote from out-of-district (Irvine) to in-district (Riverside), making himself eligible to run.
  • On June 7, the day of the California primary, he returned his registration to Orange County.

Essayli told Press-Enterprise that he fully complies with California law. In a letter sent to Attorney General Rob Bonta, local Democrats and good governance activists say it is not and that candidates must maintain a “fixed domicile” in the district.

You might think that California law would be clear on this point. But you would be wrong.

Do you remember Rod Wright? The former state senator was convicted of eight felonies after running for office while living outside his own district. In response, Wright’s political ally, Senator Steven Bradford, drafted a bill specifying that a lawmaker’s legal residence is wherever they are registered to vote.

Last week, Riverside County Registrar of Electors Rebecca Spencer referred the Essayli question to the office of Shirley Weber, California’s secretary of state.

It turns out that the chief administrator of all of California’s elections isn’t planning on intervening either.

  • Spokesman for Secretary of State Joe Kocurek: “The only option to remove someone from the ballot would be legal action.”

Bill Hedrick, a former Democratic candidate for Congress and the principal signer of the letter sent to Bonta, said in an email that he still hasn’t decided whether to go that route.

  • Hedrick: “If, in fact, there is a loophole that Mr. Essayli was able to use regarding residency, hopefully there will be a legislative remedy to prevent this from happening in the future.”

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A meeting at McLane

Governor Gavin Newsom outlines efforts to support student mental health at McLane High School in Fresno on August 18, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

At a press conference at McLane High School in Fresno on Thursday morning, Governor Gavin Newsom, first partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, U.S. Representative Jim Costa and Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula all lined up to talk about the plan to state mental health spending.

  • But the most memorable speaker was Aliyah Barajas: “I had planned a speech yesterday that was a little less personal…But I realized overnight that this opportunity is a bit too big to just go over what everyone knows.”

Barajas said she started hurting herself when she was 10 years old. After her friends told a teacher, Barajas had a meeting with an assistant principal in which she said she thought she was “in trouble.” Then, she says, nothing happened.

  • Barajas: “My parents have not been contacted. I was not referred to a counselor… I know I am not the first, last or only 10 year old who has to go through this.

The plan the governor was touting is meant to help kids like Barajas. It’s a $4.7 billion spending plan for new mental and behavioral health initiatives, including hiring 40,000 new mental health workers for schools.

This is not new spending – nearly $4.5 billion was set aside in last year’s budget and the rest was rolled into this year’s. But the framework on how to spend it is new, the governor’s press office said.

Newsom also noted that the “biggest limiting factor” in making health services more accessible is not a lack of money, but a lack of trained professionals.

This will not be news for the approximately 2,000 Kaiser Permanente mental health clinicians on strike in the Bay Area and Central Valley. For the fifth straight day today, members of the National Union of Health Care Workers plan to picket the healthcare giant, demanding that it hire more therapists and counsellors.

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Comment from CalMatters


CARE Court’s plan rightly targets state responsibilities for homelessness: What is radically different about CARE Court is its demand that the government actually help people living in inhumane and unhealthy conditions on our streets, writes Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

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