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Morning Report: Visa Rule Change Could Hit San Diego Hard

Tara Kamalapur, an H-4 visa holder, has been able to work as an IT project manager for a health care company in San Diego. / Photo by Maya Srikrishnan

Roughly 20 percent of all skilled foreign workers in the United States live and work in California. But potential changes that would bar their spouses from working may make it more difficult to attract foreign workers to the state – and especially San Diego, Maya Srikrishnan reports.

When companies bring in skilled foreign workers under an H1-B visa, those workers’ spouses can come along under another visa, known as H-4. The change, which could come in the next three months, would undo an Obama-era regulation that allowed H-4 visa holders to work in the United States. Attracting skilled workers means making sure their spouses can live productive and happy lives, but the change could undercut that possibility.

Women would disproportionately bear the brunt of the new regulation’s impact, since 93 percent of the people holding H-4 visas are women.

But it’s not just foreign women who could suffer. The U.S. workforce will also miss out, since this particular group of spouses tends to be highly educated.

San Diego’s Qualcomm is the fifth largest user of H-1B visas in the country, according to one estimate.

Pension Debt Is the Band-Aid No One Wants to Rip Off

California schools have a bruising path ahead to deal with rising pension costs, according to a recent report out of Stanford University.

The state and local school districts spent years underfunding pensions, Will Huntsberry reports in the latest Learning Curve. But in 2014, California mandated increased contributions to the pension fund. Over the course of seven years, that figure will almost double from 18.3 to 35.3 percent.

At least 18 percent of teacher salaries would be needed to pay off the old pension debt by 2046, Cory Koedel, the lead researcher found. The money doesn’t reach today’s classrooms in any way whatsoever. Koedel sees one bold fix: Let California buy all the old debt to get money back in classrooms.

Having school districts pay down all the old debt at once, Koedel said, “would be like ripping off a really big Band-Aid and then be left holding this bloody, hairy mess.”

Some Answers for Your Questions About San Diego

You’ve got questions. Voice has answers.

Our People’s Reporter series gathers questions from readers, then people vote on the questions and a VOSD reporter then answers the one that garners the most votes. We’ve been getting dozens of good questions that are making their way through the system, and we’ve also received a handful of questions that we’ve already answered in past stories. Here’s a roundup of a few of those:

Could you remind me again why I don’t pay anything for city trash and recycling services, but my neighbors next door do? Some old lawsuit?

VOSD’s reporters have explored this messy issue over the years. Some San Diegans pay for trash services and others don’t because the city provides taxpayer-subsidized free trash service for single-family homeowners but makes everyone else pay private waste-hauling companies. This has been called unfair because wealthy homeowners get free trash service, but people who live in apartments and own businesses have to pay.

Why does this weird trash policy exist in the first place?: The 1919 People’s Ordinance, a law in the city’s charter, is what caused the messy trash services in San Diego. Here’s an in-depth history on how and why the ordinance was adopted.

What to look for next: There have long been complaints and public calls to change the system. Separately, there have been calls to rein in the various private companies, which have overlapping service territories. The city has taken baby steps to sort out the issue but private trash haulers have pushed back against those efforts. In 2016, the City Council voted unanimously to keep the current trash system in place through 2023. If the city really decides to get serious about changing its system, it must give the private trash haulers at least five years’ notice – something it hasn’t yet done.

What is the exact process and policy for release of police body camera video. It seems to be a secret and closed process.

Last year, Voice of San Diego’s Ashly McGlone explained the narrow set of circumstances under which the public gets to see police body camera footage. The short answer: Even though police-worn body cams have been sold to the public as a transparency tool, it’s very difficult – sometimes impossible – for the public to access any of the footage. Even after a trial is complete, it’s nearly impossible to get ahold of the footage.

What would it take to have the portion of property taxes allocated to the zoo be dedicated instead to all of Balboa Park?

The San Diego Zoo has received a share of city property taxes since it successfully persuaded city voters to back a permanent tax measure in 1934. The tax, which was added to the city’s charter, has pulled in more than $10 million annually in recent years. That funding source has repeatedly drawn the interest of Balboa Park advocates who note the park’s long list of repair needs and the fact that the zoo is the park’s most prosperous tenant. But as our Lisa Halverstadt reported back in 2016, city attorneys have repeatedly concluded it’s not possible to force the zoo to spread the wealth elsewhere in the park. Thus, a city charter amendment – and another public vote – would be necessary to direct property taxes to the rest of Balboa Park.

Poll: Duncan Hunter Still Has a Solid Lead

Monmouth University released a poll Thursday on Rep. Duncan Hunter’s re-election campaign against Ammar Campa-Najjar, finding the indicted congressman leads by 8 points in the East County district among probable voters. Perhaps most troubling for Campa-Najjar is that the pollster found him trailing even if there was a “Democratic surge” among the electorate.

Quick News Hits

What Do Locals Say?

A Voice of San Diego reader who’s new to San Diego wants to know if Carmel Valley/Carmel Mountain is pronounced kar-MEL, or KAR-muhl. What do you think? Let us know by voting on our Facebook poll.

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry and Kinsee Morlan, and edited by Sara Libby.

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