Political Playback: California Capitol, News You Might Have Missed
News You Might Have Missed
By Tanu Henry and Joe W. Bowers Jr. | California Black Media
Asm. Tina Mckinnor Elected Chair of L.A. Delegation to Legislature
On Jan. 24, the members of the Los Angeles County Delegation (LACD) to the California Legislature elected Assemblymember Tina McKinnor (D-Inglewood) as the group’s chair.
McKinnor, who is a member of the California Legislative Black Caucus, will lead the 39-member body, which is comprised of 15 State Senators and 24 State Assemblymembers representing various areas of Los Angeles County.
As LACD chair, McKinnor succeeds Assemblymember Luz Rivas (D-San Fernando Valley).
“I am grateful for the trust legislators from the Los Angeles County Delegation have placed in me to serve as its next Chair,” said McKinnor in a statement.
LACD Vice Chair, Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles), said the body, which collectively represents about 10 million people in California’s populous county, is the largest, bi-partisan, and most diverse delegation in the California Legislature.
“Heading into a challenging budget year, the Delegation, and I will be intensely focused on making sure communities throughout Los Angeles County receive the services they need and that we continue our historic investments to address homelessness and the housing affordability crisis in Los Angeles County,” Durazo added.
McKinnor thanked Rivas for her stewardship of the LACD during the last legislative session.
“The Delegation and I are grateful to outgoing Chair, Assemblymember Luz Rivas, for her incredible leadership to the Legislature, the state, and especially the people of Los Angeles County,” said McKinnor.
V.P. Kamala Harris: Americans With Criminal Records Will Soon Be Eligible for SBA Loans
Speaking in Las Vegas on Jan. 27, Vice President Kamala Harris announced a forthcoming federal rule that will extend access to Small Business Administration (SBA) loans to Americans who have been convicted of felonies but have served their time.
Small business owners typically apply for the SBA loans to start or sustain their businesses.
Harris thanked U.S. Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV-04), the chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, for the work he has done in Washington to support small businesses and to invest in people.
“He and I spent some time this afternoon with business leaders and small business leaders here in Nevada. The work you have been doing to invest in community and to invest in the ambition and natural capacity of communities has been exceptional,” Harris said, speaking to a crowd of a few hundred people at the Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Hall in East Las Vegas.
On her daylong trip, Harris was joined by Horford, SBA Administrator Isabella Guzman, Interim Under Secretary of Commerce for Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) Eric Morrissette, and Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev).
“Formerly incarcerated individuals face significant barriers to economic opportunity once they leave prison and return to the community, with an unemployment rate among the population of more than 27%,” the White House press release continued. “Today’s announcement builds on the Vice President’s work to increase access to capital. Research finds that entrepreneurship can reduce recidivism for unemployed formerly incarcerated individuals by as much as 30%.”
Calif. Dept. of Public Health: Got Milk Allergies? Don’t Eat Dave’s Bakery Cornbread
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) issued a warning on Jan. 26, instructing consumers with milk allergies or “severe sensitivity to milk” in the state to not eat at Dave’s Bakery Corn Bread due to “risk of illness.”
The CDPH warns that consumption of the corn bread manufactured by a Gardena-based company — with expiration dates up to June 18, 2024 — may lead to “life threatening” reactions.
“This warning applies only to the Corn Bread produced by Bake R Us, DBA Dave’s Baking Company and distributed to schools, retail facilities and in vending machines primarily in southern California,” the DCPH statement reads.
“This product should not be confused with other similarly named companies with national distribution,” it continues.
According to the CDPH, although the corn bread product contains Whey, which is milk allergen, there is no allergy warning label on the packaging, which is required by state law.
So far, authorities say, no illnesses have been reported in the state, but if anyone finds the products on sale anywhere in the state should call the CDPH complaint hotline at (800) 495-3232 or file a report online at CDPH.ca.gov
The CDPH is also recommending that people who have eaten the product and are experiencing any reaction or ill effects should consult their health care provider.
Report: Black Enrollment at Calif. Colleges and Universities Remains Low and Flat
A report the non-partisan Legislative Analyst’s Office (LAO) released last week revealed that Black student enrollment at California’s institutions of higher learning has remained relatively low and flat.
Over the last two decades, for example, the study found that, compared to all other ethnic groups, total Black student enrollment at the University of California (UC) has increased by a miniscule one percentage point.
During that period, Black young adults from 18 to 24 years old accounted for between 7% and 8% of the state’s total population but the number enrolled at UC remained in a disproportionately low range, between 4% and 5%.
White student enrollment at UC decreased the most over that time period from 42% in 2000 to 23% in 2021.
Latino student enrollment at UC increased from 14% to 31% and Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) student enrollment remained relatively constant from 39% to 40%. But the AAPI total percentage of AAPI students attending UC remained at almost two times higher than the state’s total population of college-aged AAPI students, which moved from 13% to 15% over that period.
Titled “Student Access,” the report focuses on pathways and barriers to enrollment in higher ed, examines admissions policy, categorizes enrollment by academic specialization, and provides demographic information on students attending California’s private universities and public university systems: California Community Colleges (CCC), California State University (CSU) and the University of California (UC).
“The series has two main objectives,” the report’s introduction reads.
“The first is to help legislators, staff, and the general public track many of the key changes that higher education has undergone over the past few decades,” it continues. “The second is to help legislators and staff leverage their better understanding of the past to aid them in better navigating the future.”
According to the LAO, the report highlights priorities it recommends members of the Legislature to consider in their decision-making around the budget or higher education policy.
Anti-Theft Bill With Jail-Time Requirement Gets Wide Ranging Support
Fed up with the alarming frequency of retail theft across California, including smash and grabs, a diverse group of business leaders, law enforcement officials, policymakers and public safety advocates joined their efforts in Sacramento on Jan. 24.
Their purpose: to increase public support for Assembly Bill (AB) 1772, a bill that would make jail time mandatory for repeat theft offenders.
Co-authored by Assemblymembers James C. Ramos (D-San Bernardino), Avelino Valencia (D-Anaheim) and Devon Mathis (R-Tulare), AB 1772 would require jail time “of one to three years for theft crimes depending upon the circumstances.
“Offenses would include grand theft, theft from an elder or dependent adult, theft or unauthorized use of a vehicle, burglary, carjacking, robbery, receiving stolen property, shoplifting or mail theft,” the bill language reads.
Ramos said the need to act is urgent.
“It’s time for us to reverse the spikes in theft crimes since the pandemic. Our law enforcement members and district attorneys need additional tools such as AB 1772. We must reverse the trend before the problem grows worse. Last year I requested a state audit of the impact of Prop 47 on Riverside and San Bernardino counties,” said Ramos.
Prop 47 is the California initiative, approved by voters in 2014, that reclassified some felonies to misdemeanors and raised the minimum amount for most misdemeanor thefts from $400 to $950.
According to a Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report, the rate of occurrence of petty crimes like shoplifting and commercial burglaries have increased by double digits over the last four years.
In Orange County alone, commercial burglaries have spiked by 54%.
“Our communities are experiencing an increase in retail crime and deserve appropriate action from their legislators,” Valencia said.
San Bernardino County Sheriff Shannon Dicus thanked Ramos.
“This bill, designed to impose stricter penalties on serial retail theft suspects, responds urgently to the escalating consequences of shoplifting and related crimes on our communities,” he said.
AB 1772 supporters who spoke at the gathering included Sacramento Sheriff Jim Cooper and San Bernardino Chief of Police Darren Goodman. Listed as supporters are the California State Sheriff’s Association, City of Riverside Police Chief Larry Gonzalez and Redlands Chamber of Commerce.
G.O.P. Lawmakers: Repeal AB 5 and Resist Nationalization of “Disastrous” Contractor Law
Republican lawmakers gathered outside of the Employee Development Department in Sacramento on Jan. 23 to call for the repeal of AB5, the five-year old California law that reclassified gig workers and other independent contractors as W-2 employees under the state’s labor code.
Organizers said they also held the rally to push back against current efforts in Washington to pass a similar federal law.
“We are here to talk about this very important issue – a battle we have fought for many years – to stop this disastrous AB 5 policy,” said Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher (R-Yuba City).
Now, that threat has gone national as we have seen this new rule being pushed out of the Biden administration,” Gallagher continued.
“This final rule rescinds the Independent Contractor Status Under the Fair Labor Standards Act rule (2021 IC Rule), that was published on January 7, 2021, and replaces it with an analysis for determining employee or independent contractor status that is more consistent with the FLSA as interpreted by longstanding judicial precedent,” a Department of Labor statement reads.
U.S. Congressmember Kevin Kiley (R-CA-3), who is a former California Assemblymember, spoke at the rally.
“We are here today to warn against the nationalization of one of the worst laws that has ever been passed in California, which has devastated the livelihoods of folks in over 600 professions,” said Kiley, adding that the law has led to a 10.5% decline in self-employment in California.
Kiley blamed U.S Acting Secretary of Labor, July Su, who was the former secretary of the California Labor and Workforce Development Agency, for leading the effort to redefine “contract workers” at the federal level.
Kiley said two separate lawsuits have been filed against Su’s Rule – its constitutionality and the way it was enacted, respectively. He said he is also working on legislation in Congress that puts restrictions on the creation and implementation of executive branch decisions like Su’s.
Assemblymember Kate Sanchez (R-Rancho Santa Margarita) announced that she plans to introduce legislation to repeal AB 5 during the current legislative session.
“So many working moms like myself, who are also raising kids, managing households, were devastated by the effects of AB 5 because they lost access to hundreds of flexible professions,” Sanchez continued. “I’ve been told by many of these women that they have lost their livelihoods as bookkeepers, artists, family caregivers, designers, and hairstylists because of this destructive law.”