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Read about the latest decisions at the state Capitol and how they impact your life (Fridays)
Encinitas hopes the state can help solve one of its many housing issues, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber takes another shot at reforming teacher tenure, the Washington Post recognizes the joy of being a Californian and more in our weekly roundup of news from Sacramento.
Two Democratic Assembly members want to change San Diego County Board of Supervisors elections. The all-Republican board is displeased.
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s AB 801 would overhaul the redistricting process. After the 2010 census, the supervisors drew their own districts. That allows those in power to stay in power. Amid criticism, they backed a 2012 law that puts a panel of retired judges in charge.
“While my husband was a judge, panels of judges are likely to come from a similar socioeconomic background and live in certain parts of the county,” she said in a statement.
Her bill creates a panel of citizens: People volunteer to be on the panel. The county’s Registrar of Voters would pick the 60 “most qualified” volunteers. The county clerk would randomly pick eight of them. That eight would choose another six meant to represent the racial, gender, geographic and partisan makeup of the county.
A law approved last year to change the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors’ redistricting process is heading to court.
The second bill is Assemblyman Todd Gloria’s AB 901, which would make every candidate for supervisor face voters in November, when most voters – and most Democrats – show up. Now, candidates can win outright during the primary if they get a majority of the vote.
“I think my interest in AB 901 stems from Measure K, from last fall, and a desire to align county elections with those of the city, state and federal government,” Gloria said. Measure K ensures city of San Diego candidates face voters in November instead of winning outright in a June primary.
Even if Gloria’s bill became law, county voters would still have to approve the charter amendment, unless the board votes to change the charter itself.
That last bit seems unlikely, given the current composition of the board.
“This is not an issue I’m hearing about from my constituents, but if it’s something we need to address, discussion should take place at home, not 500 miles away in Sacramento,” Dianne Jacob, the chairwoman of the Board of Supervisors, said in a statement.
– Ry Rivard
Encinitas is looking to Sacramento to solve one of its housing problems.
The city has struggled for years to meet state affordable housing mandates and has tried to get its more than 1,000 accessory dwelling units or granny flats – smaller homes that share a property with a main house – to count toward that total. But many of them are illegal.
Encinitas has tried make these units legal, but the cost of doing so is too high, so homeowners don’t participate in the program.
Now it’s turning to the state, with the help of state Sen. Patricia Bates and SB 431.
The bill would allow local inspectors to determine whether a granny flat is safe, even if it doesn’t meet current building codes. That would allow the city to legally permit the homes and, maybe, count them toward the state’s housing mandates.
“The goal is multi-pronged,” said Encinitas Mayor Catherine Blakespear. “The first is to make sure the units we have in the city are safe – in light of the Ghost Ship tragedy, where people weren’t safe. But we would like some of these units to count for [state housing] numbers if possible,” she said, referring to a fire that claimed many lives in Oakland.
The bill’s second point may be a harder sell.
At a March 8 City Council meeting, the city’s lobbyist said there’s more resistance from lawmakers to count the newly legal units in cities’ housing numbers than in waiving code requirements.
The bill isn’t finalized yet, but Blakespear said it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker if they have to walk away from that point.
The numbers that Encinitas is struggling to meet are part of the state’s housing element law, which requires cities to increase density and provide housing for residents at different income levels.
In November, residents voted down the city’s latest plan to comply with that state law. Encinitas has long been the only city in the county that doesn’t comply. It loses out on state grants as a result, and has been fending off lawsuits for years.
The Public Interest Law Project and the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer program last week sent Encinitas a letter saying if it doesn’t adopt a housing plan by March 30, they would sue. This is the first lawsuit from affordable housing advocates, and is coming from a group in Sacramento that has a long history of suing California cities over affordable and fair housing issues.
Encinitas previously settled two lawsuits from the Building Industry Association and a local developer, DCM Properties. Both are looking to go back to court because the city still has no housing element.
– Maya Srikrishnan
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber is taking another crack at reforming teacher tenure in California.
Here’s how my colleague Mario Koran has described the current teacher tenure system:
In California, new teachers are given a “probationary status” for their first two years. They’re observed and evaluated, and it’s relatively easy to dismiss them. If after this time they earn permanent status, they get extra union-won legal protections, and it becomes much more costly and legally difficult to fire them. …
Permanent status is earned after two years, but the decision to keep or toss a probationary teacher must be made earlier than that. That doesn’t give principals much time to evaluate the educator before they have to make high-stakes decisions. California has one of the shortest probationary periods in the country. In most states, it takes at least three years to earn tenure.
That’s the discrepancy Weber’s bill seeks to address – AB 1220 would “extend the current minimum time to tenure from two years to three” and would “provide optional fourth and fifth years with additional mentoring and other professional development resources for teachers who need extra support,” according to a fact sheet from Weber’s office.
Pushing for accountability and reforms in California classrooms has been a hallmark of Weber’s legislative career – though many of those efforts have failed, thanks to strong opposition from teachers’ unions. An earlier bill of Weber’s would have required evidence of student progress to be used in teacher evaluations – it died.
Weber will have some support from across the aisle, including from North County Assemblyman Rocky Chavez, who introduced a similar bill last session that died in committee.
Chavez told me he’s on board for the reforms Weber’s proposing: “I am excited about the idea of supporting teachers through affording them the opportunity to earn tenure by getting mentoring and additional professional development support. Investing in the development of our teachers is the key to great education,” he said.
Teachers unions, of course, will be another story.
Weber is teaming up with two teachers’ groups that support the bill, Educators for Excellence and Teach Plus, to try to blunt the inevitable pushback.
One teacher from Teach Plus wrote a Huffington Post op-ed this week boosting Weber’s bill: “When teachers are dismissed too early in their careers, students miss out on teachers who want to teach learners with the most acute needs,” she argues.
Did former Santee Assemblyman Brian Jones get a new job as the state’s insurance commissioner?
Here he is pictured in a new California legislative directory:
The group Capitol Enquiry set the record straight, clarifying that Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones actually looks like this:
Jones (Brian, that is) does hope to make it back to Sacramento, though. He told me earlier this year he plans to run for the Senate seat being vacated next year by Sen. Joel Anderson.
• Republican legislators were outraged earlier this year when state Sen. Janet Nguyen was removed from the Senate chamber after speaking out against a former senator who criticized the Vietnam War. But in Nguyen’s district, the largest Vietnamese enclave in the U.S., “the topic of free speech has always been fraught with tension.” (L.A. Times)
• Can California pull off debt-free college? (Pacific Standard)
• Here’s a good analysis of what California’s millennials look like. (Grizzly Bear Project)
• Former Gov. Pete Wilson has no regrets about Prop. 187, the racist ballot measure that handed California over to Democratic domination. (L.A. Times)
Just had to share these two lines – one about California generally, and one about Rep. Darrell Issa’s North County congressional district – that were in the news this week.
From the Washington Post: “Californians wake up every day delighted to be in California, and then they remember they are also in the United States.”
From the Sacramento Bee: “Issa, who represents a stretch of sunshine, sand and smoothies north of San Diego into Orange County, is a top target of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.”