Tag Archives: CA Assembly

Wake Up CA Assembly! Who are You Punishing with this Prison Budget?

I don’t know what they’re drinking in the Assembly in Sacramento, but it’s not the coffee we’ve been offering.  Assembly members stumbled out of the chamber early Friday morning without voting on a bill that would reduce prison spending; a bill that is supported by the Republican Governor, the head of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and received an “aye” vote in the Senate on Thursday.  One of the sticking points in the Assembly: the idea that we might reduce some petty thefts to misdemeanors, rather than crimes that can result in a prison sentence when charged as a felony.

Really? Assembly Members are really voting against the bill because they think stealing a piece of pizza should get you a spot in California’s overwhelmed prison system at the price tag of $50,000 a year?  If that’s what they are thinking, they can’t be thinking straight. They must be under the influence of something, or more likely, some special interests. They are certainly not acting in the interest of public safety for the people of California.

The bill passed by the Senate is by no means perfect, but it’s an important first step in the right direction – it will only begin to get us close to the $1.2 billion in cuts needed from the prison budget and implement small but overdue criminal justice reforms.   In passing the bill, the Senate showed tremendous leadership and put healing California corrections and our public safety first.   Doubt is currently looming over whether our Assembly will match the Senate’s courage.  

If our Assembly Members insist on maintaining the status quo and gutting any real reform out of the bill, the people they will really be punishing are the people most in need: the children and the poor who depend on the state’s safety net. If we can’t make sensible reforms to save money in our corrections’ system, then more children will lose their health care, more teachers will be laid off, and more health and safety programs will be cut. Inevitably, we will have more people stealing more pizza and headed off to the only government program left: prison.

It’s time for our elected leaders to lead us out of this mess.

Natasha Minsker is the death penalty policy director for the ACLU of Northern California.

Pro-LGBT bills moving forward in CA legislature

I am thrilled to report that EQCA-sponsored legislation is moving right along, with two bills passing their first key committee votes yesterday, one to establish Harvey Milk Day, and one to protect LGBT victims of domestic violence.

SB 572, the Harvey Milk Day Bill, passed the Senate Governmental Organization Committee by a 9-4 margin. Introduced last month by Senator Mark Leno (D — San Francisco), it calls for a “day of special significance” to recognize slain civil rights leader Harvey Milk.

The far-right wants to stop this bill. The Traditional Values Coalition and Capitol Resource Institute lobbied against it in the hearing, saying it would teach youth about a “controversial lifestyle.”

Sen. Dean Florez from Bakersfield countered by asking where the opposition witnesses were from – they responded Inland Empire, Roseville and Sacramento. He then requested to become a co-author of the bill to demonstrate that people living in more conservative parts of the state also support the measure.

Debra Jones, who served alongside Cleve Jones as an intern for then Supervisor Milk in 1978, also testified: “There are some who say that Harvey's contributions to the civil rights movement should merely be acknowledged locally. With that perspective, Dr. Martin Luther King's legacy would not be known outside of Atlanta, and the legacy of Cesar Chavez would not be known outside of the Central Valley. Hope doesn't know geographic boundaries.”

I couldn’t agree more.

The legislation was originally introduced last year by then Assemblymember Leno, but Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed it, claiming Harvey Milk was not well known enough beyond San Francisco. Since that time, however, Harvey Milk has become a focal point of national conversation following the release of the successful biographical film Milk, for which both Penn and screenwriter Dustin Lance Black received an Academy Award. You can use EQCA’s Action Center to urge the governor sign it this time once it reaches his desk.

AB 1003, the LGBT Domestic Violence Services Bill, introduced last month by Assemblymember John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles), passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee by a 5-2 margin.

The rates of domestic violence in same-sex relationships are equivalent to the rates in opposite-sex relationships. Unfortunately, though, service and support for LGBT survivors of violence still lags far behind that provided for their non-gay counterparts. The LGBT Domestic Violence Services bill corrects this inequity by expanding access for LGBT service providers to funding within a state agency responsible for responding to domestic violence. This bill will both support innovative, proven program models assisting survivors and will also help decrease the overall rate of domestic violence within the LGBT community.

We’re also waiting on bills to protect LGBT prisoner safety, provide accurate ID documents to transgender individuals (possibly a moot point after a recent court victory), make mental health treatment more accessible for LGBT youth, prevent unfair property tax increases and end discrimination against gay men in blood donations. More information can be found at EQCA’s Legislative Center.

Stay tuned for the unveiling of our full 2009 legislative package, coming soon…  


Alice Kessler is the director of government affairs for Equality California.  She blogs for the California Ripple Effect

Central Valley heat: Assembly, Senate and House races warming up

by Randy Bayne
The Bayne of Blog

X-posted from California Notes

With only 200 days left to the first 2007 election an early presidential primary seems to have accelerated the regular June primary season as candidates begin positioning themselves. Depending on how things progress, Democrats could have an interesting time with this.

Jim Cook

In the 10th Assembly District, Jim Cook who lost to incumbent Alan Nakanishi in the last go round, is planning to run for what will this time be an open seat. Nakanishi is the victim of term limits. Also running for the Democratic nomination is Alyson Huber, an attorney from Elk Grove.

Some Democrats in the district, hoping to avoid a primary battle between two good candidates, and not let a Congressional seat go unchallenged, are asking Cook to fill a Democratic candidate void in the 3rd Congressional District. In 2004, Dr. Bill Durston lost a bitterly contested election to incumbent Dan Lungren. He had a strong showing, however; getting 38% of the vote in the heavily Republican district.

For the time being Cook is sticking with plans for the 10th Assembly, but has not ruled out running for Congress. At a meeting of area Democratic leaders last week Cook laid out what would be required if they wanted him to run against Lungren. It boiled down to professional campaign help and money. Otherwise, he says, he will stay with plans to run for the Assembly.

Angela Raeburn
Photo courtesy of
California List

The other race that is heating up in the valley is for the 26th Assembly District now held by Greg Aghazarian. Aghazarian is another victim of term limits. Democrats have a candidate on the ground already; Angela Raeburn of Turlock. Raeburn most recently worked in the office of Congresswoman Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick from Michigan.

Republicans are rumored to be putting up Bill Berryhill, brother of Ceres Assemblyman Tom Berryhill, in the 26th Assembly contest. Bill Berryhill is currently serving on the Ceres Unified School District Board of Trustees.

The 26th will be a tough race and could go either way on the numbers. Registration is evenly split between Democrats and Republicans (41% – 42%) with 13% DTS.

SB 840 – single payer health care bill passes Senate Health Committee

(Great work detailing the discussion at the hearing. – promoted by dday)

Slightly dated. Took me a while to X-post from California Notes. And I have to admit, I wanted to give Frank and myself a couple exclusive days with it.

Senate Bill 840, Shiela Kuehl’s single payer health care bill passed its first committee test Wednesday afternoon on a 6-4 which sends it to the Appropriations Committee. The companion bill, SB 1014, which details the funding also passed the committee on a 6-4 vote and will be heard next week in the Revenue and Taxation Committee.

SB 840 hearingHundreds of supporters of SB 840 packed the hearing room, overflow rooms and lined the halls outside the hearing. Most were members of the California School Employees Association and were wearing “CSEA Blue” shirts. CSEA is a co-sponsor of SB 840 and a staunch supporter of single payer health care. Close to half of CSEA members work part-time and do not qualify for employer paid health benefits.

More on the flip…

Before the hearing got started supporters were already packed into the hearing room. The Senate Education Committee was meeting, and the school employees found the deliberations interesting. As the Education Committee adjourned, Senator Jack Scott, Chair of the committee acknowledged the blue shirted CSEA members. Someone in the audience shouted, “Please support single payer, Senators,” to which Senator Tom Torlekson gave a thumbs up.

SB 840 hearingSenator Sheila Kuehl entered the hearing room to hearty round of applause and also gave a thumbs up to the audience. The crowd settled down and the business at hand, debate on the California Universal Healthcare Act, was addressed.

In her opening remarks Kuehl said we cannot depend on insurance companies to do the right thing, regulate themselves and bring the cost of health care under control. She went on to say that there is plenty of money for reform if we just stop the waste. Single payer is “not a new idea,” she said, “this is Medicare for all.”

California Nurses Association President Deborah Burger was one of the first witnesses. She told the committee about several people who had been denied coverage. Over the objections of her doctor, one woman was forced to leave the hospital.

Healthcare for All California Executive Director Andrew McGuire pointed out the popular support for Carla Held testifying before the Senate Health CommitteeSB 840. He promised to get more people involved, “and we will continue until we get single payer signed by any governor.”

A long line of witnesses, approximately 50, came forward to express their support. Among them were Carla Held, a CSEA member from Oroville whose planned testimony before the Assembly Health Committee is here. Martha Penry testifying before the Senate Health CommitteeAlso testifying was Martha Penry, a member of the CSEA Board of Directors from Sacramento.

Of course, the opposition got their chance to speak too. They were visibly in awe of the number of supporters for SB 840. They couldn’t refute the stories that had been told and so resorted to complaining about the damage they perceived SB 840 would do to businesses. Dominic DiMare of the California Chamber of Commerce pleaded, “Don’t support the outright banning of an industry.”

There is nothing in SB 840 that bans any industry. The fear is that health insurance companies will cease to exist. Their role is likely to be greatly diminished, but there will still be a need for them under SB 840.

The opposition also complained about what they call a “low threshold” to qualify for coverage. Under SB 840 every resident of the state is covered. They argue that this allows anyone to come into California and claim residency to gain health care coverage.

It was interesting to compare the arguments of the supporters against those of opponents. Supporters focused on people and the problems the present system causes people. Opponents seemed more focused on the SB 840’s effect on insurance companies and businesses. People were never part of their equation.

On the companion funding bill, SB 1014, it was noted that the cost of providing health care will be reduced overall. Minimum wage workers will pay approximately $300 per year and low wage employers approximately $500 per year. This is far less than the thousands now paid and is a shifting and lowering of taxes currently paid in other ways rather than a new tax.

Witnesses from Los Angeles Unified School District noted that they presently spend $816 million, or 11% of their budget on health care. This will rise to about $1.1 billion or 14% in 2010. The savings that could be generated under SB 840 could go directly into the classroom for our children’s education.

Following the hearing on SB 840 and SB 1014 members of CSEA went to Shiela Kuehl’s fifth floor office where they presented her with over 100 letters they had gathered from other CSEA members supporting SB 840 and telling their own health care horror stories.

Carla Held testifying before the Senate Health Committee