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California’s “Ban the Box” law takes effect

California’s “Ban the Box” law – removing questions about criminal convictions from state and local government job applications – took effect Tuesday, and supporters say it’ll make the hunt for gainful employment easier for about 7 million Californians.

Ban the BoxA study released Tuesday by the National Employment Law Project shows public employers have updated their job applications to comply with the new law, enacted as AB 218 by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson, D-Sacramento.

“When we first introduced the bill nearly two-and-a-half years ago, our goal was to advance a simple but powerful message — that everyone who works hard deserves a second chance to turn their lives around and give back to their communities,” Dickinson said in a news release Tuesday. “We are heartened to see that the state’s public sector employers have embraced fair-chance hiring and that they are now setting an example for the private sector to follow.”

The law requires that state and local agencies determine a job applicant’s minimum qualifications first, and only after that can get and consider information about past criminal convictions. Certain employers – such as law enforcement agencies and school districts – are exempt from the law, as are any job positions subject to a criminal background check by an occupational or licensing law.

The NELP survey found all of California’s 10 largest counties and 10 largest cities – representing about three quarters of the state’s population – have removed the conviction-history question from their job applications and delayed the criminal background check until later in the hiring process.

Of the 10 largest counties, each of which has a population greater than 952,000, only Alameda, Santa Clara, and Riverside counties had a similar policy in place before AB 218 was signed into law. And of the 10 largest cities, each of which has a population of more than 346,000, only Oakland, San Diego, and San Francisco had such policies in place.

About half of the largest counties and cities – including Santa Clara County, Oakland and San Jose – have gone beyond what the new law requires: They delay the criminal-history inquiry until the employer makes a conditional offer of employment, or later. San Francisco has passed a local ordinance extending the policy to private employers, too. And Richmond and Compton extend the policies to private vendors doing business with those cities.

“AB 218 provided us with the mandate to adopt ban-the-box, which we’re proud to embrace, but it’s just a first step of our evolving process to ensure that all our residents share in the promise of economic opportunity,” said Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia, who has championed this cause.

The Assembly approved AB 219 on a 48-29 vote in May 2013, and it just barely squeaked through the state Senate on a 21-16 vote in September.

These “fair-chance hiring policies” are now in effect in 12 states plus almost 70 cities and counties across the nation.

Posted on Tuesday, July 1st, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate | 19 Comments »

Buchanan & DeSaulnier battle over license plates

Their East Bay Districts overlap, but Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan and state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier certainly weren’t seeing eye to eye at Monday’s Assembly Transportation Committee hearing.

DeSaulnier, D-Concord, was there to speak on behalf of his SB544, which would require the California Department of Education to apply to the Department of Motor Vehicles for creation of a specialized license plate program to generate funds for school violence prevention programs.

DeSaulnierThe problem is, DeSaulnier – who chairs the Senate Transportation Committee – earlier this year helped push through a resolution, SR28, that puts a moratorium on new license plate types until a task force made up of California Highway Patrol, DMV and local police can issue a report by July 2015 “on license plate designs appropriate for traffic safety and effective law enforcement in today’s environment.”

And that resolution essentially put the kibosh on Buchanan’s AB49, which would require the Department of Health Care Services to apply to DMV for a special license plate promoting breast cancer awareness – what supporters call the “pink plate” bill. AB49 now languishes in the Senate Rules Committee.

“Could you please explain to me why you should not have to follow the same rules as everyone else, and why this plate and any other should not be subject to the pending results of the study?” Buchanan, D-Alamo, asked DeSaulnier on Monday. “Because it seems to me that when we write a bill that kills one, it should apply to everybody, especially the author of that resolution.”

The difference, DeSaulnier replied, is that “the full-plate pink plate had a problem, in my conversations with the CHP” – police were concerned that the fully colored plate might be hard to distinguish from other states’ plates, especially under twilight conditions. His school-violence prevention plate, he said, merely has a logo on one side, not a fully different color.

But Buchanan insists SR28 applies to all specialty license plates. And “if we’re going to pass a resolution that clearly states it applies to all specialty plate types… we should be applying that equally to all license plates and not making special carve-outs,” she said.

Replied DeSaulnier: “If someone comes together with a plate that complies with our rules then it will get out of our committee.”

“Right now, my opinion is, your plate does not,” he told Buchanan. “In my discussions with CHP, they had some questions, so that’s why we’re doing the study. … My whole difficulty with your plate was whether public safety could see or not.”

Buchanan held her ground. “I believe for us to approve a bill that’s in conflict with an existing senate resolution that came out of the senate transportation department is not responsible,” she said. “I think that if they want to change it, it should be changed first.”

The Assembly Transportation committee voted 10-3 to advance DeSaulnier’s bill, which is now pending before the Assembly Education Committee.

The California Channel has video of the exchange here (starting at the 50-minute mark).

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Transportation | 9 Comments »

Bill would require cops to check gun database

Weeks after a mentally ill student killed six people plus himself and injured 13 in a rampage near UC-Santa Barbara, a state lawmaker has proposed two new bills she says will help prevent gun violence and save lives.

Hannah-Beth JacksonSB 505 by state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, would require that law enforcement officers who are making a “welfare check” on someone who might be a danger to themselves or others must first check that person’s name against the state Justice Department’s firearm database.

Deputies who visited Elliot Rodger in April hadn’t checked the system, and so didn’t discover he owned three handguns – all of which were found in his car after his deadly rampage through the Isla Vista on May 23.

“In addition to instigating an important conversation about mental illness and gun violence, the tragedy in Isla Vista has also raised questions about law enforcement protocols,” Jackson said in a news release issued Wednesday. “Right now, we seem to have a patchwork of inconsistent agency policy on database checks. This bill would create consistency and ensure that law enforcement agencies are using the tools available to them to gather potentially life-saving information for themselves and others.”

Deputies still might have lacked legal authority to seize Rodger’s guns, she said, but they at least could’ve made a more informed judgment about the threat he presented. “We will never know for sure if the outcome in Isla Vista might have been different with a gun database search,” Jackson said. “But the next time California experiences a similar tragedy, we shouldn’t be left wondering. Searches of the gun database can be done in as little as 90 seconds, and those 90 seconds can help save lives.”

Jackson also is offering SB 580 to provide more money for police to enforce existing laws, specifically:

    $5 million in grants to local law enforcement agencies to take guns away from those who currently illegally possess them; the state Bureau of Firearms has identified 20,834 people with a prior criminal conviction or mental health disorder which disqualifies them from possessing more than 43,000 firearms, and the list grows by about 15 to 20 people per day.
    $10 million over three years to improve the efficiency of the Justice Department’s aging data systems used to register gun ownership, conduct background checks, and monitor the possession of firearms by prohibited persons.
    $50,000 for the Justice Department to train local law enforcement on how to effectively use the Automated Firearms System, the centralized database of gun purchases.

“This case highlighted the need to consult these databases,” Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, a co-author of SB 580, said in Jackson’s news release. “But, we need to make sure there’s adequate training so law enforcement can use those databases effectively.”

SB 505 is scheduled for an Assembly Public Safety Committee hearing on June 24; no hearing has been set yet for SB 580.

Posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control | No Comments »

SD10: Mary Hayashi’s last-minute contributions

Former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, who was eliminated in last week’s primary election for the 10th State Senate District, reported a few pre-election contributions right after the vote.

Mary HayashiOn Thursday, she reported having received $1,000 from Rep. Karen Bass, D-Los Angeles, on May 31; Bass was Assembly Speaker during the second of Hayashi’s three Assembly terms.

And on Friday, she reported having received $2,500 from San Ramon-based Chevron Corp. on June 2. That’s interesting in light of Hayashi’s opposition to fracking, and her attack upon rival Democrat Bob Wieckowski for not supporting a moratorium; Chevron semi-notoriously provided free pizza to residents near the site of a fracking explosion and fire this past February in Pennsylvania.

Hayashi, perhaps best known for her 2012 shoplifting conviction for which she’s still on probation, finished third behind Wieckowski and Republican Peter Kuo.

Posted on Monday, June 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, California State Senate, campaign finance, Mary Hayashi | 1 Comment »

What the top two hath wrought upon California

My story today includes experts’ opinions on the effects that California’s top-two primary system had on Tuesday’s results; over at FlashReport.org, former state GOP Chairman Tom Del Beccaro makes an impassioned case against the system.

In furtherance of the debate, here’s a list of all House, state Senate and Assembly races I found in which candidates of the same party are advancing to November’s general election, leaving voters without an alternate party choice; I did not list races in which the incumbent stands unopposed.

SAME-PARTY HOUSE RACES: 5 Democratic*, 2 Republican

CA4 – Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Granite Bay, vs. Art Moore (R)
(A nonpartisan candidate was eliminated; there were no Democrats.)

CA17 – Rep. Mike. Honda, D-San Jose, vs. Ro Khanna (D)
(Two Republican candidates were eliminated.)

CA19 – Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, vs. Robert Murray (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates; Murray ran as a Republican in 2012.)

CA25 – Tony Strickland (R) vs. Steve Knight (R)
(Two Democrats, two Republicans, a Libertarian and a nonpartisan were eliminated.)

CA34 – Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Los Angeles, vs. Adrienne Edwards (D)
(A Peace & Freedom Party candidate was eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

CA35 – Norma Torres (D) vs. Christina Gagnier (D)
(Two other Democratic candidates were eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

CA40 – Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Commerce, vs. David Sanchez (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

* It’s still too close to call whether state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, or Alameda County GOP vice chairman Hugh Bussell of Livermore will advance to face Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, in the 15th District.

SAME-PARTY STATE SENATE RACES: 5 Democratic, 1 Republican

SD6 – Roger Dickinson (D) vs. Richard Pan (D)
(Two Republican candidates were eliminated.)

SD24 – State Sen. Kevin DeLeon, D-Los Angeles, vs. Peter Choi (D)
(One Republican candidate was eliminated.)

SD26 – Ben Allen (D) vs. Sandra Fluke (D)
(Five other Democrats and one nonpartisan were eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

SD28 – Jeff Stone (R) vs. ?????
(Too close to call, but those now in second and third place are both Republicans; another Republican and two Democrats were eliminated.)

SD30 – State Sen. Holly Mitchell, D-Los Angeles, vs. Isidro Armenta (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

SD40 – State Sen. Ben Hueso, D-Chula Vista, vs. Rafael Estrada (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

SAME-PARTY ASSEMBLY RACES: 8 Democratic, 3 Republican

AD7 – Kevin McCarty (D) vs. Steve Cohn (D)
(One Democrat and two Republicans were eliminated.)

AD9 – Jim Cooper (D) vs. Darrell Fong (D)
(One Democrat and two Republicans were eliminated.)

AD15 – Elizabeth Echols (D) vs. Tony Thurmond (D)
(Three Democrats, one Republican, one Peace & Freedom and one nonpartisan were eliminated.)

AD17 – Chris Campos (D) vs. David Chiu (D)
(One Republican was eliminated.)

AD26 – Rudy Mendoza (R) vs. Devon Mathis (R)
(Three Democrats and two Republicans were eliminated.)

AD39 – Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Arleta, vs. Patty Lopez (D)
(One Democrat was eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

AD47 – Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown, D-San Bernardino, vs. Gil Navarro (D)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

AD53 – Miguel Santiago (D) vs. Sandra Mendoza (D)
(Two Democrats were eliminated; there were no Republicans.)

AD64 – Mike Gipson (D) vs. Prophet Walker (D)
(Two Democrats were eliminated, there were no Republicans.)

AD71 – Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, vs. Tony Teora (R)
(These were the only two primary candidates.)

AD74 – Keith Curry (R) vs. Matthew Harper (R)
(Two Democrats and a Republican were eliminated.)

Posted on Thursday, June 5th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Election reform, Elections, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

‘Dancing hamster arrested on insurance fraud charges’

Best headline ever, no? It arrived in my inbox a few minutes ago atop a press release from California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, announcing the arrest of Leroy Barnes, 27, of Los Angeles, known as one of the dancing hamsters in Kia commercials.

Barnes faces insurance fraud charges related to his alleged collection of state disability insurance benefits under false pretenses.

“Fraudulently collecting disability benefits is not only illegal, it disrespects legitimately injured Californians who are unable to work,” Jones said as solemnly as one can in a news release involving dancing hamsters.

Jones’ release says Barnes in June 2010, while employed as a dancer for John Cossette Productions, was struck by a piece of ceiling that fell on him during a sound check; Barnes then received state disability insurance benefits from September 2010 to September 2011, totaling more than $51,000.

But while he stated he was unemployed during the year he received that money, detectives discovered evidence that he actually starred in a Kia car commercial playing the role of a dancing hamster, according to the news release. He also performed in a rap group called The Rej3ctz under the alias MoWii, assisting in recording the song “Cat Daddy,” and also worked as a backup dancer for Madonna, Kelly Rowland, and Chris Brown under the name Hypnosis.

I’m not sure which dancing-hamster Kia ad Barnes appeared in, so I have no choice but to offer a few for your review; watch carefully to see if any of the hamsters seem to be limping.

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Under: Dave Jones | 2 Comments »

Tim Donnelly: ‘We have not yet begun to fight!’

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly has conceded fellow Republican Neel Kashkari‘s win in Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary, his congratulations thus far haven’t been accompanied by an endorsement, leaving Kashkari’s call for GOP unity unfulfilled at least for now.

Here’s the note Donnelly sent to supporters Wednesday afternoon:

Dear Patriots,

There are no words to express the debt of gratitude I owe to each and every one of you for your tireless efforts in defense of liberty.

As many of you know, last night our campaign ended as we came in third in a race where only the top two advance to the general election.

It was a tough night, but once it became clear that there was no chance of closing that gap, I called my opponent, and congratulated him on the result.

Our campaign may have failed to win the top spot, but we showed that grassroots and meeting people in person is a powerful way to build support. This campaign brought together an amazing array of people from every walk of life, and background. I am honored to have served alongside some of the finest people on the planet over this past year and a half.

This part of the journey may have ended, but one thing became clear: the political establishment remains the greatest threat to California’s future, and last nights result showed that without spending a penny on traditional advertising, we nearly matched the millions spent to defeat us.

It is a credit to each and every one of you who contributed your time and financial resources that we reached almost 470,000 people simply by word of mouth, door-to-door, and on social media.

I am deeply grateful to you for taking a stand to defend our Liberty, when it’s future is most fragile. This campaign may have ended, but take heart; we have united a small, but hardy band of Californians who refuse to be controlled by their government, and our numbers are growing.

We have not yet begun to fight!

Godspeed,

Tim Donnelly

Posted on Wednesday, June 4th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Neel Kashkari, Republican Party, Republican politics, Tim Donnelly | No Comments »

Poll: Neel Kashkari and Tim Donnelly in dead heat

Tim Donnelly and Neel Kashkari, the two Republicans vying to make it into the top two with incumbent Democrat Jerry Brown in Tuesday’s gubernatorial primary, are in a statistical dead heat, a new poll finds.

Among likely primary voters, Brown leads with 50 percent while 18 percent favor Kashkari and 13 percent favor Donnelly – the first time any major public poll has showed Kashkari, a former Treasury Department official, leading Donnelly, a more conservative Assemblyman. But the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percentage points, meaning the Republicans basically are neck-and-neck.

Among Republican likely voters, 32 percent said they would vote for Kashkari in Tuesday’s primary election, 21 percent said they would vote for Donnelly and 17 percent said they would vote for Brown, while 23 percent of Republican likely voters remain undecided.

It certainly seems Kashkari’s May ad blitz – funded in large part by $2 million from his own pocket – had an effect, as he had been polling far behind Donnelly before that.

Either way, November isn’t looking like much of a contest. If the general election were held today, Brown would defeat Donnelly 54-26 and Kashkari 55-27, according to the poll conducted May 21-28.

“Establishment Republicans beat Tea Party candidates in Georgia, Kentucky, Idaho and Oregon last week. If the trend continues in California — and there’s growing evidence it might — we may be witnessing a national trend towards a more moderate national Republican Party. If The Tea Party candidate wins in California, the internal party struggles will continue and likely exacerbate,” said Mike Madrid, co-director of the USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times Poll, USC Unruh Institute Fellow and Republican strategist.

“With the Republican race in a statistical dead heat and with unprecedented levels of low voter turnout, a relatively small number of voters will be determining the ideological direction of the Republican party in California — and perhaps the image of the GOP nationally.”

Posted on Sunday, June 1st, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Jerry Brown, Neel Kashkari, Tim Donnelly | 3 Comments »

SD10: Hayashi launches ‘FrackBob.com’ site

Democratic former assemblywoman Mary Hayashi of Hayward has launched another website against her main rival for the 10th State Senate District seat, Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont.

The new “FrackBob.com” site calls attention to Wieckowski’s opposition to a moratorium on fracking, or hydraulic fracturing – the use of pressurized water to break rock formations and free the oil or gas within.

It goes hand-in-hand with a mailer that landed in district voters’ mailboxes this week, and coincides with the failure of a state Senate bill that would’ve imposed just such a moratorium.

Hayashi fracking mailer_1

Hayashi fracking mailer_2

Hayashi’s website features an embedded, brief video clip of Wieckowski, at the Bay Area News Group’s editorial board meeting, saying he doesn’t support a moratorium. But here’s Wieckowski’s full answer to the question:

“I do not support the ban on fracking. As everyone knows, I introduced the first bill to bring transparency to the issue of what was going on with fracking. I spent three years of my life working on two bills that were defeated by a combination of the oil companies and the environmentalists.

“And what we have now as a result of that work, we have regulations that were promulgated that will provide for pre-notification to landowners, disclosure of how much water is being used, disclosure of where the water is going, monitoring of the wellheads after, a website that goes up, complete disclosure of the chemicals that are used in the frack, and also – if you claim ‘trade secret’ – we created a private right of action for any citizen that would be affected by that, if the executive director of DOGGR [Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources] did not challenge the trade secret claim.

“Those are the regulations. That brings transparency so we know what is going on. I’m proud of that.”

Hayashi’s website and mailer say Wieckowski “supports fracking in the Bay Area.” I don’t see that he ever has said anything about this specific region, so I assume Hayashi is concluding that if he doesn’t support a fracking moratorium, he by extension must support fracking anywhere.

“The reality is, there is no oil in the Bay Area, so fracking in the Bay Area would not be happening,” Wieckowski campaign consultant Lisa Tucker said Thursday, adding that California now has the “toughest disclosure law in the country” as a result of Wieckowski’s earlier legislation. “Like all of their communications against Bob, it’s disingenuous and it’s just part of the story.”

The website also features a sound file of a robocall from “Theresa, a longtime Sierra Club member and a lifetime environmentalist” who criticizes Wieckowski’s position. Michelle Myers, director of the club’s Bay Area chapter, said Thursday she has heard from some members who were confused by or concerned about the call.

“We did not make an endorsement in that race,” Myers said, describing the caller’s self-identification “a tactic used by the campaign to identify themselves with the Sierra Club brand, and that is not appropriate.”

At least this website and mailer deal with a real issue on which the candidates have a real difference of opinion. Most of the nasty mailers, ads and websites in this race have either been about Hayashi’s 2012 shoplifting conviction, for which she remains on probation, or Hayashi’s claim that Wieckowski “protected rapists” by voting against a certain bill in committee in 2012, even though he later voted for an amended version on the Assembly floor.

Posted on Thursday, May 29th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Bob Wieckowski, California State Senate, Mary Hayashi | 29 Comments »

‘Gun violence restraining order’ bill proposed

Lawmakers reacted to the Santa Barbara shooting by announcing plans Tuesday for a bill to create a “gun violence restraining order.”

The bill would establish a system in which concerned relatives, intimate partners or friends can notify police about someone showing a propensity toward violence, so police can investigate and seek a judge’s order to seize that person’s firearms and prevent any purchases.

Current law lets that process start only when therapists notify police that a client is at risk of committing a violent act. Family members can call police, but if no crime has been committed and the individual doesn’t meet criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, there isn’t anything police can do about that person’s firearms.

“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs,” Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, said in a news release. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool they can act on to help prevent these tragedies.”

Skinner will co-author the bill with Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, and state Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. “The tragic incident in my hometown of Isla Vista is not a result of gun laws failing,” Williams said. “Rather, it is a horrific example of how our mental health laws and gun control laws are not working together.”

Also, state Senate Democrats will present a package of mental health policy and budget proposals Wednesday in Sacramento “to address mental healthcare within California’s criminal justice system, recidivism and public safety,” according to a release from Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg’s office. “The package includes a proposal to strengthen and apply statewide protocols to help frontline law enforcement identify signs of mental illness.”

Posted on Tuesday, May 27th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Nancy Skinner | 4 Comments »