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The latest decisions at the state Capitol and how they impact your life (Fridays)
Assemblywoman Shirley Weber looks to make school spending more transparent, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez warns against flying drones over fires, Chula Vista supports SANDAG reform bill and more in our weekly roundup of news from the Capitol.
State lawmakers hit their Thursday night deadline and passed a $183 billion budget. Notable entries include rules to dramatically scale back the power of the state Board of Equalization, new rules for legal pot that merge rules for medical pot and recreational pot and more money for the UC system if it incorporates recommendations from a harsh state audit. The Sacramento Bee further breaks down the budget here.
The L.A. Times notes that though there are millions in the budget earmarked to help illegal immigrants obtain services, the $12 million sought by San Diego Sen. Ben Hueso in a high-profile bill to provide legal services for immigrants facing deportation is not part of the deal.
The budget actually encompasses many bills – the main bill, then several so-called trailer bills that come along for the ride.
Two San Diego Republicans crossed the aisle to vote for the main budget bill, Assemblymen Brian Maienschein and Rocky Chavez.
I reached out to each member of the San Diego delegation asking them to highlight specific inclusions or omissions in the budget they had strong feelings about. Most – but not all – returned with the same generic press releases they sent out to the general public. Sorry, readers! But some did zero in on issues and causes particular to San Diego, here they are:
Sen. Joel Anderson:
“The majority party’s budget includes a ‘power-play’ to retroactively change recall election laws to keep their vise-grip on power. Our 100-year-old recall election rules were meant to empower people, and today they’ll be changed to benefit the powerful. When Senators believe maintaining their power is more important than serving people, that breeds corruption.”
Editor’s note: Anderson’s referring to a bill within the budget to change recall election rules. Read more on that fight here. Here’s video of Anderson speaking out against the change in the Senate this week.
Sen. Toni Atkins:
“This is a strong and solid budget that is both prudent and progressive. It continues to bolster our rainy-day reserves, further invests in education, increases childcare funding and preserves the Middle Class Scholarship. It shores up funding for Planned Parenthood, doctors and other medical providers to increase access to healthcare for our residents. I am especially gratified to see the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit that I fought so hard to create as Speaker of the Assembly. California must continue to help struggling families, and this budget does that. I’m proud to support it.”
Sen. Pat Bates:
“This budget is an improvement compared to what was delivered to us earlier this year. But it must be noted that Sacramento Democrats just passed a budget that is the biggest in the state’s history.
Sadly, it also continues a trail of broken promises and bait-and-switch maneuvers exploiting the initiative process. Californians deserve honesty. Voters approved the tobacco tax initiative last year because they were told those tax dollars would go to help address the shortage of doctors and dentists serving disadvantaged Californians. This budget fails to dedicate all of those tobacco tax dollars for health care. It also ignores a school bond initiative voters approved which would have gone to building and modernizing classrooms for our students and teachers.”
Sen. Ben Hueso:
“Today’s vote confirms our responsibility to protect the due process rights of people living within our borders which is fundamental to our democracy. I look forward to working with the Governor to continue to support our priority bills which also benefit our hardworking families across the state.”
Hueso also flagged these budget items that he said help his district specifically:
• El Centro CHP office will receive $30.4 million for the design-build phase of their area office
• Veteran resource centers will receive an additional $5 million
• Childcare reimbursement rates will be increased by up to 16 percent
• Tijuana River Valley will receive a re-appropriation of $2.1 million
• Denti-Cal benefits will be restored for the first time in nearly a decade
Assemblyman Rocky Chavez:
“It would have been a bad faith vote to vote no on a collective budget that includes important asks for our district and California that I have been fighting tirelessly for in Budget Subcommittee #2 on Education Finance. Things such as our Veteran Resource Centers in Community Colleges, the Middle Class Scholarship, more support for mental health, and increased eligibility for childcare assistance for families. All of these are Republican victories in this year’s budget, and they cannot be ignored.
I have always held the belief that Californians need leaders that stand strong and work for their people. I am voting for a budget that implements the concerns of my constituents. It is easy to follow the heard (sic), but it is harder to stand your ground on the items you support.”
Assemblyman Todd Gloria:
“This budget is balanced, on-time, protects California’s progress, and continues to make meaningful investments to strengthen our working and middle class. … I’m grateful that the Legislature agreed with my request to dedicate $10 million for homeless youth services. However, in the years ahead, we will need to continue to focus on more solutions to help resolve homelessness and increase our supply of affordable housing. While much remains to be done, this year’s budget is a responsible step in the right direction.”
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher:
Gonzalez Fletcher’s chief of staff Evan McLaughlin pinpointed three San Diego-specific wins in the budget:
• $10 million for school districts impacted by refugees – with City Heights serving many refugee students, SD Unified will likely receive money for these services (things like English-learner services).
• The assemblywoman has been working with Asm. Santiago as joint author of AB 60 to extend eligibility for child care, raising the income threshold and changing over to a 12-month period for eligibility.
• Gonzalez Fletcher’s companion budget request to her AB 386 to provide legal services to deported veterans is included as eligible for the $45 million in immigrant services funding that is included in this budget.
As San Diego Unified School District finalizes its Local Control and Accountability Plans and budgets for next school year, parents, advocates and teachers have been urging the district to be more transparent in its expenditures. They’re particularly concerned over how the district is using special funds from the state intended to help low-income students, English-learners and homeless and foster youth.
SDUSD isn’t the only school district that Californians are worried about. In Los Angeles and Long Beach, schools have been slapped with lawsuits for misusing these funds.
“If you’re hearing it at the local level in San Diego, clearly I think it’s a statewide concern,” said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, a San Diego Democrat.
At the end of last month, Weber’s AB 1321 passed the state Assembly at the end of May, it’s now being vetted in the Senate. The bill would impose higher levels of fiscal transparency on school districts over the influx of funds they’ve been receiving from the state over the past three years.
“There’s been ongoing concern that we haven’t gotten the information or the transformation,” Weber said. “I could not tell you with any confidence that the money meant to go with kids to special needs is going where it’s supposed to go.”
In 2013, the governor and Legislature increased school funding and changed how money is doled out, using a new system called the Local Control Funding Formula. First, base funding is doled out to districts based on enrollment. Then districts get Supplemental and Concentration funds on top of that, based on the number of low-income students, English learners and homeless and foster youth they have. The idea is that these students require more resources, so districts with higher concentrations of these student populations should get the funding to address their needs.
But districts get a lot of flexibility in how those funds are used. The thinking was that the state doesn’t know better than localities what is needed in each classroom, but the districts are required to engage parents, teachers and other stakeholders to come up with a plan laying out how they will meet state goals using the funds.
Now, years later, no one can say for sure whether those special funds are actually being spent on the students they’re intended to help.
“The state did the right thing in my opinion by moving toward the LCFF about four years ago in order to increase equitable investments in students,” said Ryan Smith, executive director of Ed Trust West, an educational justice advocacy group that co-sponsored Weber’s bill. “The challenge is, while we’ve seen funding change as far as how we invest in districts, we haven’t necessarily improved transparency, so the parents and the public has trouble understanding how those dollars are being spent.”
In April, Ed Trust West released a report showing that while funds to districts have increased, there hasn’t been a significant change in the achievement gap for the student populations targeted by the LCFF Supplemental and Concentration dollars.
Weber’s bill would change the reporting requirements for school districts in regard to those special funds, by requiring districts to specify how they are being spent at both the district and school levels.
“The special grants were built around the idea that it takes more money to equalize a situation and create a level playing field for these kids and we would begin to experience a closing of the achievement gap,” Weber said. “We are not seeing that.”
– Maya Srikrishnan
• Assemblyman Rocky Chavez urged Oceanside residents against using drones over a brush fire near Camp Pendleton. Oceanside’s fire officials warned drones were impeding firefighting efforts.
• Chula Vista’s City Council voted to support Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s AB 805, which would reform the SANDAG board of directors. The bill would give Chula Vista more power. Smaller cities in the county that believe they’d lose power under the bill are opposed.
• USA Today created an interesting timeline tracing California lawmakers’ decisions – and broken promises – regarding the Salton Sea.
• State senators were very amused by a great typo this week. (Cap Public Radio)
• Longtime California Capitol observer Dan Walters made news a few weeks ago when he announced he was leaving the Sacramento Bee. He made news again this week by unveiling a new column over at CALMatters.
• The state Board of Equalization, which collects taxes, was gutted in the new state budget. (Sacramento Bee)