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Sacramento Report: Bill to Revamp the Airport Authority Gets Dramatically Scaled Back

Two San Diego legislators are moving forward with novel plans to advance women in the workplace, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber unveiled the text of her controversial police shooting bill and more in our weekly roundup of news from Sacramento.

A plane touches down at San Diego International Airport. / Photo by Dustin Michelson

For now, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher has dramatically de-escalated her latest attempt to restructure a major local public agency from Sacramento.

The latest version of her bill, AB 3119, has dropped the idea of making the San Diego County Regional Airport Authority a part of the Port of San Diego instead of an independent agency.

It now simply creates a committee of representatives from regional public agencies with an edict to create a plan to solve the traffic and transportation problems on and around Harbor Drive, including a proposal to extend transit to the airport.

That plan would need to be delivered to the Legislature by the start of 2020.

Gonzalez Fletcher said that since she introduced the bill – promising a dramatic shake-up – she held a number of meetings and came away convinced there was a consensus that something new needed to happen to solve the transportation problems around the airport.

“I love this town, but in San Diego you have to do things that are drastic to get people’s attention,” she said. “Hopefully we got people’s attention.”

She said some people opposed the bill simply because she proposed it – or assumed it was a labor power grab in disguise. She also said she determined Kim Becker, CEO of the Airport Authority, wanted to know what problems the bill hoped to solve, and if there was another way to deal with them.

“I found meetings with her to be hopeful and instructive,” Gonzalez Fletcher said. “She wants to resolve these issues, so I thought the best way was to give everyone an opportunity to come up with a realistic plan, and make the airport have a requirement for accountability.”

The committee that will work on the plan includes representatives from the airport, port, city of San Diego, the county, the San Diego Association of Governments and both transit agencies.

April Boling, the chair of the airport’s board, said she’s on board with the changes and that the committee is nearly identical to the existing Harbor Drive Mobility Committee, which is already working on the issue.

But, she said the new committee has one major difference.

“What we didn’t have was a way to enforce the alternatives we come up with, or as a committee to make a final decision, because we couldn’t obligate other agencies’ money,” Boling said. “This doesn’t do that either, but by creating a requirement for a report going to the Legislature, I think it could identify where the funding shortfalls are.”

As Gonzalez Fletcher’s third bill to revamp local agencies, AB 3119 lands somewhere in between the previous two. A bill to effectively shutter Civic San Diego, the downtown redevelopment agency, was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. On the other end, AB 805 last year succeeded in remaking SANDAG and MTS, and shifting power on that board from small and rural cities to large and urban ones.

Andrew Keatts

Gloria Bill Would Incentivize Spending Mental Health Funds

Assemblyman Todd Gloria wants to force counties statewide to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to help Californians with mental illnesses.

Gloria, partly inspired by Voice of San Diego’s coverage, introduced AB 2843 in February to try to give counties including San Diego more incentive to swiftly spend cash they receive through a voter-approved state millionaire’s tax.

state audit found $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. As of November, San Diego County was sitting on nearly $166 million of that money.

If Gloria’s bill passes, counties that fail to spend MHSA dollars within three years could see that cash flow to the state for potential reallocation to cities, school districts or other agencies. Gloria’s bill cleared the Assembly health committee on Tuesday and is now headed to the appropriations committee.

A coalition of groups including the Behavioral Health Directors Association and State Association of Counties have come out against Gloria’s bill. They argue it would disrupt planning and priorities already set by counties, some of which are coordinating with other agencies to use the money. They also noted that new rules approved last year already clarify spending requirements for counties.

Gloria said this week he’s undeterred by those beefs.

“I would argue it’s because of the lack of leadership and initiative on mental health that AB 2843 is necessary,” Gloria wrote in a statement. “Make no mistake, I want counties to fulfill their legal responsibility and provide mental health services, but that’s not happening.”

Lisa Halverstadt

Two Novel Approaches to Advancing Women in the Workplace

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez wants Tara Zoumer to testify in favor of one of her bills, which seeks to end mandatory arbitration agreements that require victims of workplace harassment to keep quiet about their experiences.

Such agreements have emerged in the #MeToo movement as helping perpetuate pervasive sexual harassment in the workplace: “Recent revelations of widespread sexual harassment have focused policy makers on the need to ensure that victims have access to justice and that violators are held accountable. They have also demonstrated the harm that comes from keeping these cases confidential,” Gonzalez Fletcher says in a summary of the bill.

Zoumer is barred from testifying, though, because of stipulations tied to the arbitration agreement. The New York Times wrote more about Zoumer’s case in depth here.

Gonzalez Fletcher believes she’s found a way around Zoumer’s inability to speak out, though. She wants Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon to compel Zoumer to testify using a subpoena.

“Arbitration, by its very nature, is a secretive process that is often lopsided in favor of the employer,” the New York Times noted.

Arbitration agreements aren’t unique to employment situations, either. Consumers are often forced to agree to arbitration as part of virtually every contract they sign – whether it’s buying a car, or signing up for a wireless policy.

In 2013, Voice of San Diego found that arbitration firms have largely ignored California law requiring them to publish information about cases – but in one snapshot of how lopsided the process is: “one large private arbitration provider, the National Arbitration Forum, found against consumers 99.8 percent of the time in hearings between Jan. 1, 2003 and March 31, 2007.”

♦♦♦

A bill written by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson that would require publicly held companies in the state to have at least one woman on their corporate boards advanced this week.

The bill, if passed, would make California the first state to have such a requirement.

Many countries in Europe, however, have similar requirements for corporate boards. The Economist examined those policies earlier this year and found mixed results: “While quotas have not been the calamity that many had feared, they have also so far failed to achieve what governments had promised they would.”

Weber Unveils Police Shooting Bill Text

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill that would limit the circumstances in which police can legally kill managed to generate a lot of controversy before anyone read the actual bill text.

It went live this week.

It emphasizes that instances in which an officer deployed deadly force when he or she could have reasonably used de-escalation tactics would have less protection under the law, and would require prosecutors to take into account whether an officer’s own negligence contributed to making a situation more dangerous.

Golden State News

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