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Beall tries again on bills for sex abuse victims

A South Bay lawmaker is taking another stab at legislation to allow more time for child-molestation prosecutions and civil lawsuits, after the governor vetoed his last effort.

Jim Beall“California must not allow sex abusers to turn the law on its head so they can continue to molest children,” state Sen. Jim Beall said in a news release Wednesday. “Changing both the criminal and civil statutes of limitations will give victims more time to report crimes and allow the justice system to get child molesters off the streets.”

Beall, D-San Jose, said medical research has found trauma inflicted on childhood sex abuse victims can result in memory loss and severely affect their ability to report the crime to authorities. “But the law fails to recognize pedophiles are using that psychological harm to help them hide from justice,” he said. “We can’t allow this injustice to continue.”

Beall’s new SB 926 would reform the criminal statute of limitations by raising the age at which an adult survivor of childhood sex abuse can seek prosecution from 28 to 40 years. The bill would affect sex crimes against children including lewd and lascivious acts, continuous sexual abuse of a child, and other offenses.

And SB 924 would reform the two standards that now govern the statute of limitations for civil lawsuits. It would increase the age deadline – the age by which the victim must make a causal connection to his or her trauma – from 26 years old to 40. And it would increase the time in which to sue after discovering the link between a psychological injury and childhood sexual abuse from three years to five, starting from when a physician or psychologist first informs the victim of the link.

Both laws are co-authored by state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Long Beach.

Beall last year carried SB 131, which would have applied retroactively to a small number of adult survivors of abuse, letting them sue the organizations that harbored their abusers. The bill was passed by the Assembly on a 44-15 vote and by the state Senate on a 21-8 vote, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it.

In an unusually lengthy veto message, Brown wrote “there comes a time when an individual or organization should be secure in the reasonable expectation that past acts are indeed in the past and not subject to further lawsuits,” given that evidence can be lost, memories can fade and witnesses can become unavailable over time. “This extraordinary extension of the statute of limitations, which legislators chose not to apply to public institutions, is simply too open-ended and unfair.”

Beall noted his new bills apply to both to public and private entities and will be applied starting Jan. 1, not retroactively, if they become law.

He had bitterly criticized Brown for vetoing last year’s bill, calling the governor’s “policy paper” on the importance of statutes of limitations a step backward for the state and a smack in the face for victims. “Saturday was a sad day for sexual abuse victims who clearly got the message that the governor is not on their side,” Beall said at the time.

Posted on Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Jim Beall | No Comments »

Court: Chiang shouldn’t have held lawmakers’ pay

State Controller John Chiang overstepped his legal authority in 2011 by deciding to dock lawmakers’ paychecks because he deemed the budget they had passed to be unbalanced, a state appellate court ruled Friday.

“(W)here the Legislature is the entity acting indisputably within its fundamental constitutional jurisdiction to enact what it designates as a balanced budget, the Controller does not have audit authority to determine whether the budget bill is in fact balanced,” Court of Appeal Associate Justice M. Kathleen Butz wrote; associate justices Cole Blease and William Murray Jr. concurred in this affirmation of a lower court’s 2012 decision.

Proposition 25 of 2010, approved by 55 percent of voters, lets the Legislature approve budges on a simple-majority vote, but it also says lawmakers must forfeit their pay and per diems for each day the state is past its constitutional deadline without a budget.

Chiang announced in June 2011 that his office’s review of the budget, which had been passed on the day it was due, “found components that were miscalculated, miscounted or unfinished. The numbers simply did not add up, and the Legislature will forfeit their pay until a balanced budget is sent to the governor.” He ended up withholding about $583,000 from the lawmakers.

Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, and state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, sued on principle, without seeking recovery of that back pay.

Posted on Friday, January 24th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Darrell Steinberg, John Chiang, John Perez, state budget | 2 Comments »

CA11: The who-will-and-who-won’t roundup

Two days after Rep. George Miller announced he’ll retire at the end of 2014 after 40 years in the House, here’s the shakeout so far on who will and won’t try to succeed him in the 11th Congressional District:

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord: At almost the same instant Miller started his news conference in Richmond, DeSaulnier was telling a reporter in Sacramento that he would run; he issued his news release less than four hours later.

Walnut Creek Mayor Kristina Lawson: She’s “seriously considering” it.

Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo: “She’s still looking at what the options are,” spoklesman Michelle Henry said Wednesday.

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord: She is “is focused on her upcoming re-election for state assembly and not considering a run for Congress,” spokesman Luis Quinonez said Wednesday.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson: Endorsed DeSaulnier on Tuesday.

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia: Endorsed DeSaulnier on Wednesday.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Fairfield: Won’t run for the seat next to his.

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin: Won’t run.

Former airline pilot and “Hero on the Hudson” Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger of Danville: Won’t run.

Watch for Lisa Vorderbrueggen’s story this weekend reviewing the whole scrum in much more detail; stay tuned, as the landscape continues to shift.

Posted on Wednesday, January 15th, 2014
Under: 2014 primary, George Miller, Joan Buchanan, Mark DeSaulnier, Susan Bonilla, U.S. House | 4 Comments »

Transit strike ban bill dies on party-line vote

A bill to ban all California public transit workers from going on strike died on a party-line committee vote Monday.

SB 423 by state Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff, R-Brea, had gone first to the Senate Public Employees and Retirement Committee. There, senators Jim Beall, D-San Jose; Leland Yee, D-San Francisco; and Marty Block, D-San Diego, all voted against it, while senators Mimi Walters, R-Laguna Niguel, and Ted Gaines, R-Granite Bay, voted for it.

BART strike (AP photo)Huff suggested in a news release that the bill should’ve been heard first by the Senate Transportation Committee, since it’s all about making sure our transit systems actually work for the public.”

“But instead it was sent to the committee that focuses on the concerns of public workers,” he said. “That should tell you something about the priorities of the majority party.”

“Last year Californians witnessed the Bay Area come to a screeching halt not once, but twice, as leaders of the BART employee union called strikes and BART trains went dark,” Huff said in a news release. “Hundreds of thousands of Bay Area residents could not get to work, go to school, see the doctor, or visit with family and friends and it cost the region $73 million each day. We have made the public rely on public transit, but as a legislature, we have failed to make public transit reliable. That’s a major failure. Californians deserve a government that works for everyone but today they were let down.”

Huff in September had gutted and amended SB 423 to compel BART workers to honor the no-strike clause in their contracts even after those contracts expire. But he only amended the bill on the last working day of the legislative session, so no action was taken.

He later amended the bill further to ban strikes by all California public transit workers, with anyone who violates the ban subject to removal or other disciplinary action. Huff said the bill provided “a fair violation determination process” for such workers, but if a violation is found, such workers would lose two days of pay for every day of strike. Public transit unions similarly would have been banned from instigating strikes, and if the Public Employee Relations Board found a violation, that union’s rights would have been forfeited for an indefinite period; after three years of forfeiture, an employee organization could have sought reinstatement by the Legislature.

UPDATE @ 1:11 P.M.: Beall says he voted against the bill because it “just was not solution-oriented. It offered nothing to resolve the underlying bargaining issues that separate employees and management or to keep both sides at the table, such as binding arbitration.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
Under: Bob Huff, California State Senate, Jim Beall, Leland Yee, Mimi Walters, Transportation | 3 Comments »

Corbett offers care-home bills after East Bay snafu

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett introduced two bills Monday that aim to prevent future snafus like that which led to more than a dozen senior citizens being abandoned at a Castro Valley residential care home in October after the state ordered it shut down.

Ellen CorbettCorbett says her SB 894 will strengthen and clarify the obligations of the California Department of Social Services and a licensee when that license is suspended or revoked, to ensure safe relocation of residents when a facility closure happens. And SB 895 will bolster the assisted-living facility inspection process by requiring that unannounced, comprehensive inspections of all residential care facilities for the elderly occur at least once per year, and more often if necessary to ensure the proper quality of care.

Corbett, D-San Leandro, said in a news release that the bills “are a direct result of the tragic gaps in care that occurred in Castro Valley at the Valley Springs Manor facility.”

“Particularly since the California Department of Social Services recently admitted that their oversight and response at the facility was inadequate, I believe that there continues to be an urgent need for increased protections for residents at these facilities,” she said. “We must ensure that families have the peace of mind of knowing that there are safeguards in place to protect their loved ones when they are residents of assisted living facilities, as well as if and when those facilities are closed by the state.”

Posted on Monday, January 13th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Ellen Corbett | No Comments »

Bill would ban sale of license-plate reader data

Those who collect data with automatic license-plate readers would be prohibited from selling or sharing it except among law enforcement agencies, under a bill introduced Friday by a Bay Area state Senator.

“Automatic license plate reader technology is a useful tool for law enforcement,” state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, said in a news release. “But use of this technology must be balanced with personal privacy.”

Used mainly by law enforcement agencies, automatic license plate reader technology uses high-speed cameras – often mounted on police cars, but sometimes mounted at fixed points as well – along with software and criminal databases to rapidly check and track the license plates of millions of Californians. It’s also often used by private, non-law enforcement entities, such as parking and repossession companies.

But as use of this technology has increased, so has the concern of civil libertarians; current law doesn’t require LPR operators to keep the data private.

Under SB 893, data that’s less than five years old could be sold or provided only to law enforcement; data that’s more than five years old would be available to law enforcement only with a court order. Violators would be subject to civil lawsuits, with anyone affected by a privacy breach entitled to recover damages including costs and attorney’s fees.

license plate readersHill notes license-plate readers are an important law-enforcement tool: The Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department, in its first 30 days of using the technology, identified and located 495 stolen vehicles, five carjacked vehicles, and 19 other vehicles that were involved in felonies. These identifications led to 45 arrests, including some people suspected of bank robbery and home invasion.

“Law enforcement will still be able to continue to use LPR technology to catch criminals,” Hill said. “But Californians will have peace of mind that their personal information is safeguarded.”

Posted on Friday, January 10th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Civil liberties, Jerry Hill, Public safety | 5 Comments »

Lawmakers urge Jerry Brown to halt all fracking

Nine state lawmakers, including a few from the Bay Area, have signed a letter urging Gov. Jerry Brown to impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing to obtain oil and gas, the process commonly called “fracking.”

Marc Levine“The risks are simply too great to allow fracking to continue,” Assemblyman Marc Levine, who authored the letter, told reporters on a conference call this morning.

The technique demonstrably hurts air and water quality, might influence seismic activity, and furthers a dependence on fossil fuel that contributes to climate change, said Levine, D-San Rafael, and so it must be suspended “until we have all the data to address the immediate and long-term dangers.”

Signing Levine’s letter were Assemblymembers Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara; Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica; Adrin Nazarian, D-Van Nuys; Bonnie Lowenthal, D-Long Beach; and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, as well as state Senators Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa; Lois Wolk, D-Vacaville; and Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley.

Levine, who announced the letter in November, teamed up with CREDO, an activist group which had thousands of members sign petitions and make phone calls urging their lawmakers to sign the letter. Levine and CREDO delivered the letter and held their news conference during this final week of a public comment period on Brown’s proposed fracking regulations, which they say would allow a massive expansion of fracking in California.

CREDO campaign manager Zack Malitz called fracking “one of the greatest environmental struggles to face Califonians in a generation,” and said Brown has proposed “dangerously weak regulations that would only encourage more fracking” despite “massive public opposition.”

“His legacy as an environmental leader is on the line,” Malitz said. “Californians will hold him responsible for putting oil-industry profits ahead of our health and the climate.”

Several bills proposing a moratorium on fracking failed to get enough votes to advance in the Legislature last year. The Legislature did pass SB 4 by state Sen. Fran Pavley, D-Calabassas, which Brown signed into law in September; that bill requires oil companies to go through a permit process, disclose chemical uses, do groundwater tests and send notices to neighboring landowners about their intent to drill.

Brown generally has pursued energy policy that supports increased oil production while expanding California’s goal of producing at least a third of its electricity from renewable sources (such as wind or solar energy) by 2020.

UPDATE @ 12:32 P.M.: This just in from Evan Westrup, Brown’s spokesman: “After extensive debate, the Legislature – including the authors of this letter – voted to enact SB 4, which became effective just days ago. Pursuant to this bill, the regulatory process has begun and we encourage these legislators and other interested citizens to actively participate.”

Posted on Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, energy, Environment, Gov. Jerry Brown, Jerry Brown | 1 Comment »

Bill would bar state from aiding NSA surveillance

California state agencies and officials, as well as corporations providing services to the state, would be prohibited from supporting or assisting the federal government’s collection of certain data on Californians, under a bipartisan bill introduced Monday by two state lawmakers.

Ted Lieu“The National Security Agency’s massive level of spying and indiscriminate collecting of phone and electronic data on all Americans, including more than 38 million Californians, is a direct threat to our liberty and freedom,” state Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, said in a news release.

Lieu co-authored SB 828 with state Sen. Joel Anderson, R-San Diego. “I support this bill because I support the Constitution, our Fourth Amendment rights and our freedoms to live in the United States of America,” Anderson said in the release.

A federal judge ruled last month that the National Security Agency’s blanket collection of phone records is unconstitutional, calling the dragnet “near Orwellian,” the lawmakers noted. “I agree with the NSA that the world is a dangerous place. That is why our founders enacted the Bill of Rights. They understood the grave dangers of an out-of-control federal government,” Lieu said.

“All 317 million Americans cannot reasonably be considered to be suspicious simply for making or receiving telephone calls,” he said. “The NSA’s blanket seizure of the telephone records of all Americans is therefore an ‘unreasonable seizure’ by any definition of the term under the Fourth Amendment.”

The lawmakers said the NSA sometimes relies upon services provided by the state, or upon private entities that provide services on behalf of the state. SB 828 would ban state agencies, officials, and corporations providing services to the state from giving any material support, participation or assistance to any federal agency to collect electronic or metadata of any person, unless there has been a warrant issued that specifically describes the person, place and thing to be searched or seized.

The state Senate last year voted 32-1 to pass Lieu’s resolution urging Congress to vote to stop the NSA’s unconstitutional practices.

Posted on Monday, January 6th, 2014
Under: California State Senate, Civil liberties | 3 Comments »

Leno to offer bill requiring cell ‘kill switches’

A Bay Area lawmaker will offer a bill requiring cell-phone manufacturers to include a “kill switch” that can remotely render a phone inoperable after it has been stolen.

State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, is working on the legislation with San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón, who has been crusading for kill switches for a while in order to combat a plague of cell-phone robberies and thefts. Leno said Thursday he intends to introduce the bill at the start of the 2014 legislative session next month.

Mark Leno“One of the top catalysts for street crime in many California cities is smartphone theft, and these crimes are becoming increasingly violent,” he said in a news release. “We cannot continue to ignore our ability to utilize existing technology to stop cell phone thieves in their tracks. It is time to act on this serious public safety threat to our communities.”

Cell phone service providers are resisting such requirements, saying kill switches both could present opportunities for hacking and would create a huge customer-service burden.

The Federal Communications Commission reports cell phone thefts account for 30 to 40 percent of all robberies nationwide; more than half of all robberies in San Francisco involve the theft of a mobile device, and cell phone thefts in Los Angeles are up almost 12 percent in the last year. These crimes cost U.S. consumers more than $30 billion in 2012, even though technology already exists that can render stolen devices useless.

“I appreciate the efforts that many of the manufacturers are making, but the deadline we agreed upon is rapidly approaching and most do not have a technological solution in place,” Gascón said in Leno’s news release. “Californians continue to be victimized at an alarming rate, and this legislation will compel the industry to make the safety of their customers a priority.”

Posted on Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Mark Leno | 1 Comment »

DeSaulnier founds an ‘EPIC’ anti-poverty caucus

California’s Legislature has a new caucus focused on poverty and income inequality, an East Bay lawmaker announced Thursday.

State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, will chair the Ending Poverty and Inequality in California (EPIC) Caucus.

Mark DeSaulnierBill Monning suggested that name, and as a fan of Upton Sinclair, I immediately liked it,” DeSauliner said Thursday afternoon.

Through the difficult budgets of recent years, “a lot of my frustration was that there’s not a lot of research that indicates what a good investment is” to abate poverty and reduce inequality, he said. Just as the Legislature’s Environmental Caucus has been instrumental in developing landmark legislation that has put California ahead of the nation and world on various issues, so too does DeSaulnier hope this new caucus will do likewise.

But he doesn’t underestimate the magnitude of the task the caucus must tackle, he said. “I’m excited, knowing that we have a lot to prove and that this is something that has vexed the industrial west and the American scene even since the Industrial Revolution.”

Nearly one in four Californians lives in poverty, a third of impoverished Californians are children, and the state is home to nearly a third of the nation’s chronically homeless people, DeSaulnier said. “Endemic, crippling poverty should no longer exist amidst the world’s greatest wealth. As more Californians struggle to remain in the middle class, our entire economy is hindered. This caucus is our commitment to tackle the causes of poverty and inequality in California in a bi-cameral, data-driven manner.”

DeSaulnier said the caucus will take a bipartisan approach, embracing neither liberal orthodoxy about spending nor libertarian orthodoxy about people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps. “My hope is we’ll be guided by the research,” he said. “We need to incentivize people to get to work, but we also recognize that different people have different obstacles.”

The caucus has the support of State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez, and if it proves to be a fruitful starting point, could eventually evolve into a joint committee, DeSaulnier said.

He envisions the caucus as a conduit through which lawmakers can hear from some of the foremost thinkers on these issues. He said Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz – “I’m a fan, I’ve read all his books,” DeSaulnier said – has agreed to come speak, and the caucus will pursue input from and perhaps partnerships with experts at Stanford, UC-Davis and other institutions.

The EPIC Caucus’ initial partners include the Western Center on Law and Poverty, Service Employees International Union California, the California Business Roundtable, and the County Welfare Directors Association of California.

“We see the faces and know the children and families behind those stark numbers of the millions living in poverty. While we diligently work to help them meet their basic needs, we recognize more can and must be done to see lasting improvements in their lives,” said CWDA President Susan von Zabern, director of the Riverside County Department of Public Social Services. “My colleagues and I appreciate Senator DeSaulnier’s leadership in this initiative, and look forward to working with he and Caucus members toward policy changes that best serve children and families.”

Posted on Thursday, December 12th, 2013
Under: California State Senate, Mark DeSaulnier | 5 Comments »