AB 359: A Quietly Lurking Threat to Prosecutors Throughout California

Michele Hanisee
President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys

Some threats to public safety are obvious, such as Prop. 47 and Prop. 57. They were high-profile initiatives that received plenty of public attention and debate.

Other efforts to change the criminal justice system appear to be well meaning, but contain consequences that reveal both a misunderstanding of how the system operates and are ill considered in their scope. Take, for example, Assembly Bill 359.

AB 359 would require prosecutors to disclose information about in-custody informants that would be devastating to investigations and potentially deadly to the informants themselves. However, while the bill would hamstring prosecutors statewide, it has received virtually no public attention since Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer introduced it earlier this year.

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Reserves for Me But Not For Thee

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

When is it good for a California government to hold moneys in reserve for a rainy day?

Only when the governor or legislative leaders say so.

Recent so-called scandals have exposed a hypocrisy in state government. Gov. Brown and leading Democrats all talk up the virtues of rainy day funds. But they are only interested in those funds they control.

So they fought for voter approval of a new reserve fund back in 2014. And they have touted its growth.

But at the same time, they have declared war on other parts of the state that want to build reserves – against the very same volatile budget winds.

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UFW Union Failed its Own Workers

Luis Alvarado
President of Familas Unidas de California

In the latest crisis facing the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), Monterey Superior Court Judge Thomas Wills recently ruled that the union failed to pay its workers for their hours worked, which included overtime and meal breaks. Judge Wills ordered the UFW to pay $1.2 million to their employees.

The verdict comes at a time when the union caught an indefensible web of hypocrisy for firing its own UFW employees, who they themselves, wanted to form their own union. Amazingly, the UFW leadership doesn’t believe in the right of its own employees to unionize because they didn’t want to deal with union demands themselves.

The fact the UFW doesn’t extend overtime pay and the right to unionize to its own employees is shameful and erodes credibility. 

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A President from California? The Speculation Begins

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

With all the commotion raised by President Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey and the House passing the American Health Care Act, many Democrats and a number media members are already considering possibilities of a 2020 challenger to Trump. For a change, a Californian may be part of the conversation.

California has not had a president in the White House since the 1980s when Ronald Reagan occupied the office, and has not had a credible contender for the job since Jerry Brown and Pete Wilson made efforts in the 1990s. What is striking about this absence of California presidential contenders is that the most populous and powerful state in the nation can usually be counted on as a launching pad for presidential bids.

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Los Angeles County wants to connect your small business to $1 billion in contracting opportunities

Brian J. Stiger
Director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs

What if I told you there’s a customer who has a goal to buy $1 billion worth of goods and services from small businesses? This customer buys everything from office supplies and computers, consultant services, clothing, hygiene products, food, bedding, cookware, furniture, and more.

This customer is Los Angeles County.

Maybe you’ve never considered selling your products or services to the government—maybe you didn’t think it was possible or you just didn’t know where to start? There’s no better time than now to certify with the County, connect with contracting opportunities, and grow your business.

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PAGA Lawsuits Hit Small Businesses Hard

Joel Fox
Editor of Fox & Hounds and President of the Small Business Action Committee

The problem with the Private Attorneys General Act on small business was made clear in a recent article in the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. It points to an obvious solution to prevent the crippling of small businesses while at the same time supporting labor laws: give businesses a fair amount of time to fix any problems uncovered.

In many cases, the problems that are challenging the businesses are small and unintentional omissions in following the letter of the law.

The article by reporter Stephanie Henkel points out a glaring circumstance.

Two former employees of a Van Nuys event rental company sought out a lawyer to sue over being terminated. The lawyer, using the Private Attorneys General Act (PAGA), did more than go after the company over the termination of two employees. Eventually, a suit was filed for $29 million dollars over alleged missed lunch breaks.

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The Valley Silver Lining in the Health Bill

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

In the awful cloud of the Obamacare rollback approved by the U.S. House of Representatives, there’s a silver lining: health care in the Central Valley is going to get much more of the attention it needs.

The bill saw California’s Republican members of Congress vote for a bill that would cost millions their health coverage—specifically by cutting Medicaid and turning it into a block grant beginning in 2020. Already, health interests and Democrats have accused those members of thoughtlessly endangering people’s lives.

There’s not any good news in that. Except this. Gov. Brown, the media and other critics have pointed to the large numbers of people in the Central Valley districts of Republicans who voted for the health bill. Their argument: those congress members voted against their district’s interests. The Republicans have countered by arguing that they are trying to save their people from failing legislation.

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The News Media are Losing their Search for Truth

Joel Kotkin
Editor of NewGeography.com and Presidential fellow in urban futures at Chapman University

 

To someone who has spent most of his career in the news business, it’s distressing to confront the current state of the media. Rather than a source of information and varied opinion, the media increasingly act not so such as disseminators of information but as a privileged and separate caste, determined to shape opinion to a certain set of conclusions.

When you pick up a great newspaper like the New York Times, it is sometimes shocking how openly partisan the coverage tends to be. For example, when President Donald Trump unveiled his new tax plan, the headline was not about the proposal per se, but rather how it would serve the wealthy. This may indeed be the case, but such an approach would traditionally be the role of the editorial pages — not the Page 1 headline writers.

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Nepotism Wave At UC Merced Fits A Wider Pattern

Jeremy Bagott
Former Journalist. He writes about land-use and finance issues from Los Angeles.

It’s hard to say what’s more troubling: an audit showing systematic nepotism, sham recruitments and falsifying of records among mid-level managers at the University of California’s newest campus or top administrators choosing to release the findings long after the fact and buried in an innocuous-sounding webinar.

The discovery of years of nepotism, abuse and dishonesty at UC Merced – and the cagey release of the audit results – fits a pattern at the University of California seen last year in the investigation and resignation of then-UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi after allegations of nepotism, conflicts of interest and misuse of student fees. The pattern was again seen in a recent state audit showing the office of UC President Janet Napolitano controlled a $175 million off-books fund, had paid above-scale salaries to top administrators and had interfered with the efforts of state auditors.

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CA Public Employee Unions Push Bill to Block Public From Negotiations

Jon Fleischman
Publisher of the FlashReport

Democrats advanced legislation supported by public employee unions this week that would block the public from seeing collective bargaining negotiations between labor and government until they are complete.

Assembly Bill 1455, introduced by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), passed the State Assembly Judiciary Committee on a party line 8-3 vote.

According to the floor analysis, AB 1455  “[e]xempts from required disclosure under the California Public Records Act the records of local agencies related to collective bargaining if those records reveal a local agencies deliberative processes, impressions, evaluations, opinions, recommendations, meeting minutes, research, work products, theories, or strategy…”.

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