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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 »

CA15: More time for a recount… if Corbett asks

Contrary to what was reported here last week, state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett has not yet run out of time to request a recount of her apparent defeat in this month’s primary election for the 15th Congressional District.

After Contra Costa County’s results update on Tuesday afternoon, Corbett, D-Hayward, trails Republican candidate Hugh Bussell of Livermore by 430 votes in their battle to finish second after Rep. Eric Swalwell. The second-place finisher, of course, will go on to face Swalwell, D-Dublin, in November’s general election.

A spokesman for Alameda County Registrar Tim Dupuis had said Friday that candidates have five calendar days after the election results are certified – which Dupuis did Friday – in which to request a recount. But Dupuis said Wednesday that because this district spans two counties, candidates actually have five days starting on the 29th day following the election; the 29th day will be July 2, so a recount can be requested up until July 7.

Dupuis said Corbett has not yet requested a recount. Corbett hasn’t returned several calls over the past two weeks seeking comment on her intentions.

Posted on Wednesday, June 25th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 5 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 »

CA15: Corbett silent as recount clock starts

Alameda County Registrar Tim Dupuis certified his county’s primary election results Thursday, starting a five-calendar-day clock in which candidates can request recounts.

That’s particularly germane for state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, who is still 413 votes – half a percentage point – behind Republican Hugh Bussell of Livermore in their battle to finish second after Rep. Eric Swalwell in the 15th Congressional District. The second-place finisher, of course, will go on to face Swalwell, D-Dublin, in November’s general election.

Most of the district is in Alameda County, where Corbett beat Bussell by 1,048 votes. But it also includes a small piece of Contra Costa County as well, where Bussell outperformed Corbett by 1,461 votes.

Corbett hasn’t returned six phone calls over the past 10 days, including one this afternoon, inquiring about her intentions (though her Senate staff has issued 10 news releases about her activity in Sacramento during that time). Depuis has not yet received any request from her for a recount, spokesman Guy Ashley said.

Posted on Thursday, June 19th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 5 Comments »

CA15: Hope fades for Ellen Corbett

Republican Hugh Bussell leads state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett by 413 votes in their battle to finish second behind Rep. Eric Swalwell in the 15th Congressional District, following Friday’s election-returns update from Contra Costa County.

Contra Costa Registrar Joe Canciamilla said all his county’s ballots are now counted except for about 4,000 with damages, soiling or errors; only a fraction of those would fall in the 15th District, most of which falls in Alameda County where counting was completed earlier this week.

“Based on the data from this run that I have just been given, I don’t think it will make much of a difference in the outcomes,” Canciamilla said. “The close races have margins that are remaining pretty much the same.”

Corbett, D-Hayward, did not return phone calls Friday afternoon. The most recent item on her campaign’s Facebook page was posted Tuesday.

“As we await the final vote tally, I want to take a moment to thank my many supporters, volunteers, and team for an outstanding show of support and dedication,” she wrote. “Together we have shown East Bay voters a real difference and why it matters.”

Hugh BussellBussell, the Alameda County GOP vice chairman from Livermore, sounded ebullient Friday afternoon.

“It still feels like we’re 95 percent there to crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s,” he said. “It isn’t quite official yet and the margin is so slender, and no matter who ends up the winner, it certainly was a great battle.”

“Obviously I’m very pleased with how things have turned out at this point … and I’m looking forward to stepping up the pace between now and November,” Bussell added.

As of Friday’s update, Swalwell, D-Dublin, had finished first with 42,386 votes, or 49.1 percent of all those cast. Given that Corbett ran as a more progressive candidate while Bussell ran as a more conservative candidate, he seems well-situated in the middle to pick up many of Corbett’s votes come November.

Bussell on Friday had 22,204 votes (25.7 percent) and Corbett had 21,791 (25.22 percent).

Posted on Friday, June 13th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 7 Comments »

CA15: Bussell’s lead over Corbett has been halved

Republican Hugh Bussell’s narrow lead over state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett in the 15th Congressional District was halved by an election-results update posted Wednesday afternoon by the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.

Bussell, of Livermore, and Corbett, D-San Leandro, are vying to finish second in the race; whoever prevails will face Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, in November’s general election. Swalwell finished first with 49.1 percent of the vote in last Tuesday’s primary.

Since the previous update on Saturday, Bussell had led Corbett by 721 votes, or about 1 percent of all votes cast. But after the update at 4 p.m. Wednesday, his lead is now 323 votes, or about four-tenths of a percent.

However, this might be as close as Corbett gets.

This now Alameda County’s “unofficial final” result, spokesman Guy Ashley said Wednesday afternoon – all ballots have now been scanned, and the county is now starting its one-percent manual tally to audit its results, as required by law.

The district also includes a slice of Contra Costa County, where registrar Joe Canciamilla won’t update his online results until Friday; as of Monday, his county had about 6,000 provisional ballots and about 4,000 exception ballots – damaged or otherwise questionable – left to count.

But Bussell has led Corbett in Contra Costa County all along, so it’s unlikely that further results there will help her.

Corbett could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

Posted on Wednesday, June 11th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 3 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 »

CA15: Corbett still lags as uncounted ballots wane

A Saturday update in Alameda County’s ballot tally didn’t help state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett gain any ground in her bid to finish second in the 15th Congressional District race.

Ellen CorbettAs of now, Corbett, D-Hayward, trails Republican Hugh Bussell by 721 votes, or about 1 percent of all votes cast in the race; before Saturday’s update, she’d been trailing by 713 votes. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Dublin, finished with a more-than-comfortable 49.3 percent of the vote to Bussell’s 25.9 percent and Corbett’s 24.9 percent.

Alameda County, which contains most of the district, still has about 4,500 ballots (1,000 vote-by-mail and about 3,500 provisional) to process county-wide; a spokesman said the registar will next update the results on his website Tuesday afternoon. Contra Costa County has about 10,000 (6,000 provisional and 4,000 exceptions – damaged or otherwise questionable vote-by-mail ballots); registrar Joe Canciamilla said he’ll next update the results on his website Friday before 5 p.m.

But Bussell has basically maintained the same lead as the number of ballots still outstanding has dwindled tremendously since last Wednesday, and so it’s growing ever more unlikely that the relative few ballots remaining will suddenly turn the tide.

Corbett couldn’t be reached for comment Monday.

Posted on Monday, June 9th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 9 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 »

CA15: Bussell now leads Corbett by 710 votes

The long, tough wait goes on in the 15th Congressional District, where Friday’s vote-tally updates still couldn’t provide a clear picture of who’ll finish second behind Rep. Eric Swalwell.

Alameda County’s update had narrowed Republican Hugh Bussell’s lead over state Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, D-Hayward, from 600 votes to 310, but then Contra Costa County’s update broke in Bussell’s favor so that he now leads Corbett by 713 votes – about 1.1 percent of all votes counted so far.

Both counties still have tens of thousands of vote-by-mail and provisional ballots to process, so the candidates must remain on pins and needles – except for Swalwell, of course, who’s sitting pretty no matter who’s in second place.

Posted on Friday, June 6th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell, U.S. House | 31 Comments »