On politics in the Golden State

Category: Senate

Newtown shooting prompts revival of campus safety proposal

Ted LieuThe Connecticut school shooting continues to spawn legislation in California aimed at improving campus safety.

A year after the Legislature stalled action on a bill to require schools to establish emergency-response plans, state Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) said he is reviving it, and this time has Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) as a co-author.

“When children attend public school, they are in the care of the state and we better make sure they are as safe as possible," Lieu said.

The senator said the state does not know how many public schools have safety plans that outline steps that must be taken in an emergency.

“The Legislature has a responsibility to do what it can to ensure basic safety requirements are enforced in our schools,” Steinberg said. “Many schools have good plans in place, but that’s not enough. The safety of our children demands 100% compliance.”

Separately, other state lawmakers have proposed legislation regulating guns and ammunition.


Court decision a boost for California's budget

Sanchez dances close to 'fiscal cliff' on holiday card

More valuable gifts, contributions allowed to politicians in 2013

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance). Credit: AP Photo / Rich Pedroncelli.


Lawmaker calls for new gun controls after Connecticut shooting

Leland-yeeA California lawmaker is calling for new gun control measures in the wake of the mass shooting at a Newtown, Conn., elementary school Friday that reportedly killed at least two dozen people, including 18 children.

State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) called the incident the most shocking in a series of shootings this year, including a rampage in July in which a gunman killed 12 people in a Colorado movie theater.

"My thoughts and prayers go out to the children and families of Newtown," Yee said in a statement. "While we do not have all the details behind this senseless and unconscionable massacre, it is a sad and horrific reminder of what is possible when guns get into the wrong hands. We must limit access to weapons that can result in such catastrophe and mass murder."

The lawmaker said he is considering reintroducing a gun-control bill that died in committee this year. Yee said the proposal would have closed a loophole in California's assault weapons ban that allows guns to be easily reloaded with multiple rounds of ammunition through devices called "bullet buttons."

State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) offered up prayers for the victims and their families.

"Since the late 1980s, we have seen such terror unfold at schools all over the country, including close to home in Olivehurst, Stockton and Southern California. Wherever it occurs, we are all touched by these despicable crimes against the innocent," he said in a statement.

Steinberg said that as more details emerge, lawmakers and others will reflect on how the incident could have been prevented.

"It’s incumbent upon us to ask the questions that need answers, examine the circumstances, and to address these issues with whatever steps we can take to better protect our families and our schools," he said. "Now however, is a time for us to mourn, and to hold our children and loved ones closer as we pray for the victims in Newtown."


Connecticut school shooting: 18 children among at least 24 dead

Oregon shooter's ex-girlfriend: 'Last thing I would have expected'

Connecticut school shooting: Bullets, then tears in morning of terror

-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

Photo: State Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) is shown in 2001. Credit: Ben Margot / Associated Press

Lawmaker revives bill to ease firing of teachers in sex abuse cases

AlexPadillaA California lawmaker has revived legislation to speed the dismissal process for teachers who sexually abuse students.

The proposal, prompted by the the sexual abuse scandal at Miramonte Elementary School in Los Angeles, died in committee last session after the state's powerful teachers unions declared it an assault on due process rights.

State Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) reintroduced the bill last week, saying the need for his legislation was bolstered by a recent state audit that found the state's lengthy dismissal process contributes to districts "entering into settlement agreements rather than continuing with attempts to dismiss the employees."

Last year, the L.A. Unified School District chose to pay $40,000 to Mark Berndt, the former Miramonte teacher charged with 23 counts of lewd acts on children, to retire rather than take him through the dismissal process. (Berndt has pleaded not guilty to the charges.)

The bill, SB 10, would expedite the dismissal process for teachers who engage in "serious or egregious unprofessional conduct": offenses involving sex, drugs or violence.

In testifying before the Assembly Education Committee last session, Padilla said his proposal would have affected only "the very, very few who abuse the trust we've given them."

"This bill is not about dismissing a teacher if the lesson plan is not ready or they've shown up tardy too many times," Padilla testified.

The California Teachers Assn. objected that the bill would have given school boards, rather than an administrative judge and two educators, final authority over dismissals.

"If you take teacher dismissal and you make it a political process, you will be undermining the basic tenets of the system we've had for 40 years and that has worked for 40 years," said Warren Fletcher, president of United Teachers Los Angeles, CTA's largest affiliate.


Lawmakers want to change Proposition 13

Rural counties seek bigger share of prison money

New Assembly members already eyeing seats in Senate

--Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento


Photo: State Sen. Alex Padilla

Changes to California children's healthcare won't be delayed, official says

Diana Dooley

A top official in Gov. Jerry Brown's administration said Tuesday that California will begin transferring poor children into a cheaper healthcare plan on Jan. 1, despite concerns from some lawmakers and advocates that the state's plan is inadequate.

California is eliminating the Healthy Families program next year and shifting nearly 900,000 children into Medi-Cal, which reimburses doctors at lower rates, in hopes of saving $73 million annually. The transition will happen gradually, starting with the easiest cases.

Diana Dooley, secretary of the Health and Human Services Agency, said children won't be shifted unless the state is sure they will still get healthcare under the new plan.

“If they can’t meet those conditions, we will delay the transition," she told reporters after speaking at a conference in Sacramento. "At this point, everything is on track."

Democratic lawmakers agreed to eliminate the Healthy Families program as part of a budget deal with Brown earlier this year.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) wrote in a letter to Dooley last week that he's concerned the state is moving too quickly.

"Without additional time, the likelihood of children losing health, dental and mental health care coverage and access to critical services increases exponentially," he wrote.

Norman Williams, a spokesman for Department of Health Care Services, defended the state's schedule, saying officials have "thoughtfully planned this transition."


Healthcare cuts questioned by lawmakers

Senate leader questions plan for childrens' healthcare

Republicans aim to save children's healthcare program

-- Chris Megerian in Sacramento

Photo: Diana Dooley, the secretary of health and human services appointed by Gov. Jerry Brown, in her office in January 2011. Credit: Hector Amezcua / Sacramento Bee

2nd judge refuses to block ban on sexual-orientation 'conversion' therapy

The day after a federal judge cast doubt on a new state law banning sexual-orientation therapy for minors, a second judge issued a ruling upholding it.

According to Lynda Gledhill, a spokeswoman for the California attorney general, the ban on sexual-orientation therapy will take effect Jan. 1 as scheduled for everyone except two therapists and an aspiring therapist who sued to keep the ban from taking effect.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge William Shubb ruled that the law may inhibit the 1st Amendment rights of therapists who oppose homosexuality. He issued a temporary restraining order preventing the state from enforcing the ban, the first of its kind in the nation, against the three plaintiffs pending a broader ruling on its merits.

"The reality is those three individuals are not subject to the law, so [the initial ruling] is very narrow," Gledhill said.

In Tuesday’s ruling, in a case brought by opponents asserting that the law violates free-speech, religious and parental rights, U.S. District Judge Kimberly J. Mueller said the Legislature and governor had enough grounds to enact such a law, given that multiple mental health groups, including the American Psychological Assn., have discredited the therapy.

"The court need not engage in an exercise of legislative mind reading to find the California Legislature and the state’s Governor could have had a legitimate reason for enacting SB 1172,’’ Mueller wrote in declining to issue a temporary injunction.

State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance), author of the law, said he expects the first case to be decided in favor of it.

"On behalf of the untold number of children who can expect to be spared the psychological abuse imposed by reparative therapy, I’m thrilled that today’s ruling by Judge Mueller will continue to protect our children from serious harm,” Lieu said in a statement.

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento


State lawmaker to propose changes to Proposition 13

California prison manuals change with the sexual times

Lottery buying new cars despite governor's effort to pare state flee

State Senate begins new two-year session with oaths of office

The state Senate convened a new two-year session on Monday, with Democrats who hold supermajorities in both houses signaling their priority issues will include restoring education funds, relaxing immigration enforcement and shedding more light on campaign finances.

In the state Senate, the oath of office was administered to nine new members, eight of them former Assembly members, by California Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. The Senate then re-elected Sen. Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) as Senate president pro tempore, giving him the power to appoint committees, including their leadership, and control which legislation is heard.

Steinberg told the Senate that there is a danger in overusing the two-thirds majority, but that there also is a danger in not using it enough. Steinberg noted that he has had to deal with $42 billion in deficits, and the shortfall has been reduced to a manageable $1.9 billion.

He said the supermajority will come in handy as the state Senate pursues efforts to restore funding to education, improve the state’s infrastructure and revise regulations that interfere with economic growth, primarily state environmental quality laws.


State lawmaker to propose changes to Proposition 13

California prison manuals change with the sexual times

Lottery buying new cars despite governor's effort to pare state fleet

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Bob Huff reelected as California Senate Republican leader

A5f7a368effd4bd99be61debcd3fa535–0With the state Legislature beginning a new session today, Senate Republicans have announced the reelection of Sen. Bob Huff of Diamond Bar as the Republican leader of the upper house.

Senate Democrats had previously shown support for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) to continue in his leadership position, but that requires an official vote when the Senate convenes later today.

Huff was reelected by a unanimous vote of Senate Republicans on Sunday afternoon and resumes his leadership role at a difficult time, when the Republican Caucus ranks are down. Last month’s election gave the Democrats a supermajority in the Senate and Assembly for the first time since 1883.

That means Huff and Connie Conway of Tulare, the Republican leader in the Assembly, face a challenge to keep the minority party a relevant part of the Legislature at a time when Democrats can raise taxes and put measures on the ballot without a Republican vote.

"Our caucus has always worked hard to reduce our state’s deficit, ensure we use the taxpayers’ resources wisely and get Californians back to work, all efforts we will continue in the upcoming year,’’ Huff said in a statement. The millions of voters across the state who elected us deserve for their voice to be heard in Sacramento, and we will strive to ensure that as we work with our Democratic colleagues to rebuild trust with the voters and grow California’s economy.”


State lawmaker to propose changes to Proposition 13

California prison manuals change with the sexual times

Lottery buying new cars despite governor's effort to pare state fleet

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: State Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar. Credit: Associated Press

Skelton: Capitol lacks compromise and camaraderie

Capitol Christmas tree

Skelton hedSacramento is on its way toward becoming a one-party town. Democrats are expected to control both houses of the Legislature, and they already hold every statewide elected office.

In Monday's column, George Skelton says it's another sign that bipartisan compromise is becoming further out of reach.

"Democratic and Republican legislators just don’t hang as they used to," he writes.

Former Assemblyman Jim Brulte (R-Rancho Cucamonga), who's being recruited to take over the Republican Party, said conservative lawmakers need to focus on "serious proposals."

“A good idea is a good idea regardless of how many Republicans are supporting it. If it’s really a good idea, the Democrats will steal it and put their name on it. But the Republicans’ goal should be to get good public policy enacted.”

All of Skelton's columns are here.


California sees strong October for tax revenue

Federal budget standoff could hurt California economy

Proposition 30 win no guarantee of fiscal safety for California

Photo: A crane places a Christmas tree in front of the Capitol in Sacramento on Nov. 7. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Freshman orientation underway for new California legislators

A reflection of  the California Capitol, where freshmen legislators are undergoing orientation.
Ian Calderon comes from a family of prominent state politicians, but as a newly elected member of the state Assembly, he is joining 38 other freshman lawmakers in going back to school, their classroom the Capitol.

The freshman orientation that resumes Wednesday teaches new lawmakers such basics as how to draft legislation, gain recognition to speak on the Assembly floor and avoid conflicts of interest that could land them in hot water legally. The class roster includes clear winners in the election as well as some candidates in races that are still too close to call.

Calderon, a Hacienda Heights resident, is joining a Legislature where his father, Charles, has served, as have his uncles, Ron and Tom Calderon. Still, he said he has learned things since the orientation began last week.

"I may be part of a family that has been doing this for a long time, but that doesn’t make me an expert in this area," Ian Calderon said. He particularly looks forward to the mock session that the freshmen will hold later this week as they get hands-on learning about the procedures and decorum of the Legislature.

"The orientation is like drinking from a fire hose,'' emailed Bill Quirk, a Democrat and astrophysicist from Hayward who has a lead in election returns for a Bay Area Assembly seat. "I love it!'' 

The 80-member Assembly will have 38 freshmen, the most since 1934. Nine of the 10 new members of the 40-person Senate have previously served in the Assembly. Only Riverside attorney Richard Roth, a Democrat, is new to the Legislature.


Prop. 30 win gives Jerry Brown a major boost

Cal State University seeking new fees next fall

Assembly speaker confident he has a two-thirds majority

-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: The state Capitol, where freshmen legislators are undergoing orientation, viewed in a puddle during a rainstorm last year. Credit:  Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times.


After election, what's next in California? [Google+ hangout]

Times reporter Evan Halper will join city editor Shelby Grad in a Google+ hangout at 2 p.m. to discuss the passage of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax measure and the likely Democratic supermajorities in the Assembly and Senate.

From Halper and The Times' Anthony York's story Thursday:

The supermajorities would mark a dramatic shift in Sacramento's balance of power, where GOP legislators have aggressively used their ability to block state budget plans and prevent revenue increases to scale back the scope of state government.

Coupled with the approval of Brown's tax plan, Proposition 30, the Democrats now have not only the power but also the money to break free of the deficit that has paralyzed state government for years.

The pressure on Democrats to restore funding for the many services slashed to balance the budget in recent years will be intense.

Already, activists are pressing lawmakers to pump new money into such programs as college scholarships, dental care for the needy and, of course, public schools.

But the first move Brown and legislative leaders made Wednesday was to reassure voters that they would show restraint.

They promised there would be no frenzy of tax hikes.

"Voters have trusted the elected representatives, maybe even trusted me to some extent, and now we've got to meet that trust," Brown said at a Wednesday news conference in the Capitol. "We've got to make sure over the next few years that we pay our bills, we invest in the right programs, but we don't go on any spending binges."

Still, lawmakers can appear to hold the line on revenue generation without actually doing so.


Secret Arizona donation failed to dent Democrats and unions

California 'moved further to the left,' state GOP chairman says

More than 792,000 ballots uncounted in L.A. County, registrar says


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