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LEGISLATIVE DIRECTORY UPDATES
Happy Presidents Day! I hope that you are enjoying a beautiful day outside! I'm probably talking into the corner like a kid in time out, but anyway...
WORTH A CLOSE WATCH: Tomorrow, Senate Education will have the first showdown over charter schools following the end of the Los Angeles Unified School District strike by United Teachers Los Angeles. A major non-compensation agreement leading to the end of the strike was a concession by the pro-charter majority of the LAUSD board to support more oversight on charters and a slowdown on approval of new charters. LAUSD currently has 275 charters and five more have been approved.
Tomorrow, Senate Education is hearing an urgency bill (SB 126) authored by the committee's chair Connie Leyva (D-Chino) that would explicitly state that "charter schools and entities managing charter schools" are subject to the state's open meetings law (Brown Act), Public Records Act, and conflict-of-interests laws (Political Reform Act).
All of these issues were included in bills last year and all died without a final vote.
Obviously, the bill authored by the committee chair is likely to easily pass, particularly with its membership. However, as an urgency bill, it will need supermajorities on both floors. This is the first foray in to what will be a dicey issue yet again this session and there are several new Democratic legislators who will be worth watching. They were largely elected to office with the support from labor, but they also represent more moderate-conservative districts.
Here is the support and opposition of SB 126 from the committee analysis:
What is noteworthy is not the support listed. Those administering public schools want the others receiving public funds as a charter to be on the same playing field as those directly administered as a public school. Labor is generally hostile to charter schools, preferring instead the community school model. While charter schools are often seen as focused on academics, community schools are designed to be holistic centers for the needs of enrollees, from instruction to social services. A "one stop" center if you will for the needs of the child. That's not saying that most charters aren't concerned about those issues, but rather that the school itself is often not the center.
Back to support and opposition. Note that the major charter groups are not listed as either, including the California Charter Schools Association, EdVoice, and Green Dot Public Schools.
Now, I have to assume they don't like SB 126. Frankly, administrative groups listed as "support" rarely like the Brown Act and Public Records Act. It's expensive and cumbersome even under the best intentions. But they are the law and aren't going to go anywhere.
As I mentioned above, the issues in SB 126 were all in bills that died last year--AB 276 (Brown Act/Political Reform Act), SB 949 (Political Reform Act), and SB 1216 (Brown Act/Political Reform Act). Let's look at what happened:
These were all bills that required a simple majority on the floors of each house. Democrats had a supermajority in the State Assembly and were one short in the State Assembly, so with only a simple majority, plenty of Democratic members could have been given a "pass" from voting for the bill to get it out of the house. One of the bills, SB 949, was authored by one of the most moderate Democrats in the State Senate, Steve Glazer (D-Orinda).
In the midst of an election year, the charters clearly won and the bills had an organized mass killing.
But the election is over and, in most cases, charter school advocates were not successful. They lost big on Antonio Villaraigosa in the Democratic primary, Marshall Tuck for Superintendent of Public Instruction, Andy Vidak in SD14, and Catharine Baker in AD16. They also lost on their play for Republican Phil Graham (Pete Wilson's stepson) in the hope to avoid a Dem-on-Dem general in Rocky Chávez's now-former AD76. They also went after Cristina Garcia (AD58) in the primary, who was re-elected following harassment complaints. Their candidate was Friné Medrano, a former staffer of Kevin de León.
The charters' candidate in Tony Mendoza's SD32 was Vanessa Delgado. Delgado won the special but placed in third in the regular election and thus Bob Archuleta was elected in November. Delgado earned the distinction of being the shortest-serving female State Senator in California history.
Charter advocates won on the Dem-on-Dem race in SD22, where Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) prevailed over labor-endorsed Mike Eng. They also played in favor of Democrat Anna Caballero in SD12 as an olive branch to Democratic leaders, although that wasn't really seen as a competitive race.
Let's just say that millions were spent by charter advocates, largely from a few well-known benefactors such as Eli Broad, Richard Riordan, Jim Walton (Walmart fortune), and John Scully (former Apple CEO) and there was little to show for it at the conclusion of the election cycle.
Last month, it was no secret that Sacramento, including newly sworn-in Governor Gavin Newsom, played a major role in ending the UTLA strike. After the governor's budget was released and the funding picture for K-12 schools gave LAUSD breathng room, the financial pieces of the contract were basically set. But, UTLA wanted something on charter schools from Sacramento to push back on a pro-charter Board of Education and district superintendent.
Mayor Eric Garcetti and Superintendent Austin Beutner were actively lobbying in Sacramento for help to end the strike, with the big issue being charter schools. Only Sacramento could bring charters under the public transparency laws and provide criteria for districts to slow the approval of new charters. Garcetti and Beutner (and briefly, Sebastian Ridley-Thomas) were actively lobbying for actions.
Part of the agreement to end the strike was the adoption of the LAUSD board to approve a moratorium on charters, which the board has done.
Tomorrow's issues may seem trivial, but the big issue is the moratorium or cap on new charters. For now, let's just look back to last year and the failure of the bill that made it the further, Jose Medina's (D-Riverside) AB 276. The same organizations listed above as supporting SB 126 tomorrow were supporting AB 276 on the Senate Floor at the end of session. Brown Act, Public Records Act and conflict of interest. It needed 21 votes in the State Senate and then would return for a concurrence vote in the State Assembly, where it would need 41 votes. At that point, Democrats had 26 members of the Senate and 55 in the Assembly.
On the opposition side of AB 276 were the California Charter Schools Association, California School Employees Association, and EdVoice. CSEA had supported the bill in committee, so I'm not sure what amendment between committee and the floor had them switch positions. CSEA's opposition was on issues unrelated to the "big three" incorporated in Leyva's SB 126 and is not opposed to the bill up tomorrow.
The bill wasn't brought up on the Senate Floor which means either the votes weren't there or Jerry Brown was not going to sign it when it got to his desk.
Now it's 2019 and the 2018 elections are behind us. Charter advocates gave to lots of Democrats but where they placed their big bets, they largely lost. I haven't tabulated the total but I know that the California Charter Schools Association transferred $5.64 million to their Parent Teachers PAC. They also played through coalition independent expenditure committees. The big money came from the above-referenced deep pockets. Of course, supporters of SB 126 were big players for Democrats in 2018 and are expecting yields for their money and labor.
Governor Newsom and legislative leaders provided assertions to Mayor Garcetti, Superintendent Beutner and UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl. Most people see Caputo-Pearl as the biggest winner in the strike and results. But, just how those assertions from Sacramento play out through the legislative process are uncertain.
Tomorrow, we test the low-hanging fruit, and the bill will pass on a 5-2 vote. That said, the two Republicans on the committee--Ling Ling Chang and Scott Wilk--are the most vulnerable GOP state senators up in 2020 and could vote for it. However, will charters try to kill the bill in the dark fog of the legislative night? As we saw with the three bills in 2018, mysterious things do happen.
Or, perhaps more likely, do charters give up fighting the open meetings and records, as well as the state's conflicts of interest law? One could see them letting that through as an olive branch with a focus on fighting a moratorium or cap on charters from Sacramento. It poses a familiar problem that many state associations encounter in Sacramento. Protect the "rights" of current members or expand the organization through new members?
The Senate Education Hearing is noticed to occur in Room 2040 upon adjournment of the Senate floor session, which is scheduled for 2pm, and should be on CalChannel. SB 126 is the only bill on the agenda. The charters fight has been a longstanding one in Sacramento that divides the Democratic Party. The issue got a lot more interesting, behind closed doors, in those chilly days in January as the contract fight in LA Unified landed at the doorstep of legislative leaders and a new governor.
I'll be watching to listen to the tone of the supporters and whether any opponents rise to speak. While there is no formal opposition, it is not uncommon for folks who don't like a bill to get up to essentially say "Our board has not taken a position on this bill, but here is our litany of concerns." That's an opposition sign-posting.
Get your popcorn.
WATER WARS: In the Times, George Skelton writes that Gavin Newsom's plan for a Delta "water fix" is more reasonable for compromise among warring interests than that of his predecessor. "
"The battle has been over whether to bore two monster water tunnels under the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta or to build none at all. The solution: Duh. One tunnel."
Speaking of agua, I errantly said that the water tax plan wouldn't affect bottled water or most households. To my knowledge, the Newsom Administration has not endorsed a specific plan for how the costs of low-income water assistance would be spread. Under AB 401 (Chapter 662, Statutes of 2015), the State Water Resources Control Board is charged with developing recommendations to the Legislature.
I'm studying the issue and just wondering if my new favorite Hint Fizz infused water will be affected. Until summer fruit arrives, it's a great winter-over beverage from San Francisco!
FELONY MURDER: For CALmatters, Dan Walters looks at the implementation of SB 1437 (Skinner), which ended the state's felony-murder law, and a recent superior court ruling that challenges the ability of the Legislature to change the law without a vote of the people. Felony-murder is a charge that had been allowed under the law when there is a homicide (murder) that occurs in the commission of a crime by someone else involved as an accomplice of the crime.
The simple criminal law class example would be that Fred and Barney decide to rob Bedrock Bank and Trust. They collect the loot and Barney stops for a bathroom break while Fred hops in a footmobile to get out of Bedrock. While escaping, Fred's footmobile is stopped by Mr. Slate who was slowly crossing the street while reading his, well, slate device. Fred doubled-down on his foot power and plowed through the intersection, killing poor Mr. Slate. Obviously, Fred can be charged with the murder of Mr. Slate. Under the felony-murder rule, so can Barney, even though he was reading his own slate device in the Bedrock Bank and Trust and lacked the specific intent himself to cause the homicide.
It's called "transferred intent," meaning that because Barney was part of the commission of the original crime and Fred was still acting in the crime by trying to get away, Fred's intent to plow through the intersection transfers to Barney. They are essentially treated as one. Felony murder goes back to English Common Law.
With specified exceptions, such as when the victim is a peace officer, SB 1437 requires that the accomplice must have the specific malice toward the victim that would ordinarily be required to be directly charged.
So, if it could be shown that Barney said "I'm going to go drop one. Get the loot to the cave hideout and I'll meet you there. Do anything you need to get there, even if it means running over someone," then Barney could be charged with felony murder. A more dramatic modern-day example would be that there were bank robbery plans and the team hired a shooter to be the lookout knowing that lethal force could happen.
It's one of those great first year law school debates. It's rare to see such basic elements of law change at the state legislative level, but we saw it in SB 1437. I personally like it, but I'll just say that Dan Walters and I had a vigorous discussion about it back in December as we sat in the green room for a taping.
Back to the legal case and the column by Walters:
“The Legislature cannot amend or redefine murder in order to avoid penalties that (voters) set for the crime,” Prickett ruled.
The declaration drew scorn from [bill author Senator Nancy] Skinner and other supporters of the new law.
“As the author of SB 1437, which reformed California’s unfair felony murder rule, I look forward to the state appellate court overturning this wrong-headed decision by an Orange County judge. Other courts around the state have already held that this much-needed reform is constitutional. I’m confident that SB 1437 will ultimately be upheld,” Skinner said in a statement.
The issue is obviously headed to the state Supreme Court.
Off the top of my head, the Supreme Court of California has not had a significant criminal justice case in recent years under a court that seems pretty unified with moderate (now politically independent) Chief Justice Tani (go Sac City, go UC Davis, and go King Hall Cantil-Sakauye. This could put the court in the spotlight, which it likely doesn't want.
Okay, that's lots of heavy stuff for a holiday. It's beautiful outside! Enjoy!
2020 and #CAKEDAY after the jump...
WHERE'S KAMALA? KDH is doing a town hall meeting in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
WHERE'S KLOBUCHAR? Dug out of the snowbank, senior senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar will be at a CNN town hall in Manchester, NH at 10pm EST.
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Congressman Jared Huffman, Senators Connie Leyva and Bob Wieckowski, Assemblyman Jim Patterson, Tyler Aguilar, Louise Jaffe, Jean Kinney Hurst, Jim Leddy, Ben Pak, and Burt Stillar!
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