Sacramento Report: Arbitration, Mental Health Money Bills Are Coming Back From the Dead - Voice of San Diego

Government UNVEILING THE UNSEEN

Sacramento Report: Arbitration, Mental Health Money Bills Are Coming Back From the Dead

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez and Assemblyman Todd Gloria say they’re ready to revive bills that failed in the last session.

Image via Shutterstock

Google employees around the world walked off the job Thursday to protest the company’s handling of sexual harassment claims.

At the top of organizers’ list of demands for how the company can make things better for workers: an end to forced arbitration.

That’s an issue that Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez tried to tackle in California over the last year. Her bill to end mandatory arbitration clauses as a condition of employment passed the Legislature, but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown, who said the bill would not stand up to constitutional scrutiny.

Gonzalez disagrees, and confirmed to me this week that she will reintroduce the bill. This time, a new governor will be the one to consider it if it passes once again.

“I think the governor was wrong, we worked with legal scholars to create an approach we think would withstand judicial scrutiny. The approach and bill was also supported by our attorney general, Xavier Becerra,” Gonzalez said in an email.

The California Labor Federation said it’s ready to go another round on the bill. “This issue isn’t going away and neither are we. Workers — especially women — in CA need the protection #AB3080 would have provided. We’ll continue the fight to end forced arbitration for as long as it takes,” the group tweeted Thursday.

Gonzalez said she’s been inspired by the Google employees’ actions.

“I think it’s always better for workers to come together and demand change when they can, this has been awesome to see,” she wrote.

♦♦♦

Another San Diego bill will be given new life in the next legislative session, too.

Assemblyman Todd Gloria tried and failed earlier this year to pass legislation to force counties to unload hundreds of millions of dollars meant to aid Californians with mental illnesses.

He’s pledging to try again.

Gloria said this week he plans to reintroduce a reworked version of AB 2843 early next year with the goal of giving counties including San Diego more incentive to swiftly spend cash they receive through a voter-approved state millionaire’s tax.

Gloria, partly inspired by Voice of San Diego coverage, introduced that legislation within weeks of a state audit that last year revealed $2.5 billion in Mental Health Services Act funds sat unspent in California counties’ bank accounts as of 2016 – and that the state was providing insufficient oversight.

A year ago, San Diego County held nearly $166 million in unspent mental health dollars. County officials report they are now rapidly spending down those funds.

Yet county lobbyists as well as a coalition including the Behavioral Health Directors Association and State Association of Counties have resisted Gloria’s legislation. They argued Gloria’s bill would disrupt existing plans for unspent money.

Gloria’s bill died in May when it failed to get a necessary two-thirds vote on the Assembly floor.

But Gloria said he’s continuing to look at options to ensure counties use the cash as voters had imagined – now and in the future.  He hopes to confer with county officials in San Diego and elsewhere in coming months, though he said San Diego County leaders declined to discuss options last go-round.

(Indeed, Gloria has tussled with county supervisors on the topic of unspent mental-health funds both on Twitter and in person.)

Perhaps, Gloria said, unspent money could be directed at investments to serve homeless Californians with serious mental illnesses who are languishing on the street or new legislation or even a ballot measure could institute performance measures to ensure Prop. 63, the Mental Health Service Act passed in 2004, delivers the results voters were promised.

“I’m certainly not giving up on this matter because I think it’s an absolute scandal to have these kinds of reserves of unexpended funds in the middle of a crisis as significant as the one we’ve experienced – not just here in San Diego but we’ve experienced across the state,” Gloria said.

– Lisa Halverstadt

Tacos on the Campaign Trail

As a taco and politics enthusiast, I was highly susceptible to Kevin de León’s recent press release touting his appearance at the “nation’s best taco stand.” He was referring to Ave 26 Tacos in Los Angeles, ranked No. 1 in the nation on this Business Insider list (not a single San Diego taco purveyor appears on the list, so take it for what you will).

Just as Whataburger became a supporting character in the Texas Senate race, tacos have naturally popped up in quite a few California election stories.

A Rolling Stone reporter writing about California’s possible role in flipping control of the House wrote this about his meeting with candidate TJ Cox:

I meet Cox at a roadside taqueria, near lush fields of grapes in Fowler. Cox does not speak Spanish; he washes down al pastor tacos with the “Mexican Coke” he orders in English. But he’s been picking up colorful phrases from Valley constituents on the campaign trail, including from an elderly man who once voted for the incumbent but now says Valadao “chupa la teta de Trump.” (Literally: sucks Trump’s tit.)

Meanwhile, proponents of Prop. 6, the effort to repeal the gas tax, took the curious approach of vilifying tacos in a press release, and punctuated their point with an offensive “Ay carumba!”:

Finding 5: Excessive Purchases with Gas Tax Funds

  • It must have been quite the party! In August, 2017 MTS purchase orders included $7474 for a party at the exclusive Symphony Towers for MTS executives – including $780 in floral arrangements. They got caught with their hand in the cookie jar $3200 for a one-time purchase of “cookies,” and $5800 for Tacos costing $8 for each taco! Ay caramba!

Catch Up on VOSD’s Election Coverage of State Races

We’re a few days out from the election. A few gems from our coverage of state issues and races over the last several months:

Golden State News

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