Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 1155 by State Senator Ben Hueso on September 27 as Chapter 852. The bill revises the provision of law for language interpreters in small claims court. It also attempts to expand language access to limited English-proficient parties while in small claims court.

The Assembly repealed the section of law in order to ensure that parties in small claims actions are treated the same as parties in other civil actions for purposes of being provided interpreters. SB 1155 deletes the provisions that excludes small claims proceedings from the definition of a court proceeding for purposes of the requirement to use certified court interpreters and thereby extend that requirement to all small claims proceedings.

SB 1155 repealed Section 116.660 of the Code of Civil Procedure to strike the phrase “court proceeding.” In addition, the law requires each small claims court to make a reasonable effort to maintain and make available to the parties a list of interpreters who are able and willing to aid parties in small claims actions.

The new requirements and repeals language from the California Code of Civil Procedure went into effect on January 1, 2019.

You can find a full transcript of today’s podcast here.

This week’s episode of The CAP⋅impact Podcast features a meaty conversation about voting rights and elections with North Carolina Central University School of Law Professor Irving Joyner – who in addition to teaching is Legal Counsel for the North Carolina NAACP. In a conversation that covers gerrymandering, and lawsuits against voter ID laws, and election fraud I did not expect that a history lesson would be the part of the conversation would be most interesting and impactful thing we talked about.

But today’s conversation I think is truly about the importance of history and how it still influences voting rights in the present. North Carolina’s new voter ID law is a prime example of how. One of the requirements to obtain a driver’s license is to have a birth certificate. That might not be an issue for most folks, but for thousands of African Americans in North Carolina who born during the Jim Crow era, it is. That’s because Jim Crow laws prevented African Americans from giving birth in hospitals and which in turn prevented them from getting birth certificates. So, should this new voter ID law go into effect in North Carolina, thousands of African Americans will lose their voting rights because they had the misfortune of being born in the Jim Crow south.

That voter ID law is one example of Prof. Joyner’s ongoing work to protect voting rights. He was also involved in the process that led to a new election in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District after an investigation confirmed election fraud occurred and has been involved in multiple lawsuits against gerrymandered state legislative and congressional district maps in North Carolina.

You can learn more about Professor Irving Joyner on his NCCU School of Law faculty page and you can find his published work here. As always, if you enjoyed today’s conversation please share it with a friend. Or, if you haven’t already, please subscribe to The CAP⋅impact Podcast on your preferred podcast listening app and leave us a positive review and 5-star rating on Apple Podcasts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The California Research Bureau is a part of the California State Library and it’s a hidden gem located on the fifth floor of the California State Capitol Annex. It has been around for over a quarter of a century and it provides independent research and analysis to the Legislature and the nine constitutional officers.

The Bureau, or CRB, has more than a dozen individuals on its research staff who explore issues, provide policy research, multi-state reviews, academic and media summaries, data analysis, fact checking, and much more. In addition, they provide weekly updates that are quite helpful.

The first is called Lunch with a Side of Research. It’s a free weekly email that lists all upcoming events in Sacramento that include both a free lunch and a public policy research discussion. It comes out every Monday morning at 8 am.

Studies in the News is a weekly roundup of high quality research and surveys on policy issues relevant to the state of California. The Research Bureau releases each new issue Wednesdays at 8 am.

The CRB also provides services that include fact finding and fact checking; review and assessment of third party data or research; analysis of data from other levels of government; media and news collection of various topics; summaries of scholarly research; investigative surveys; 50-state reviews; tracing of bills, regulations, and court decisions; in depth research; and other specific public policy topics requested by legislators or constitutional officers.

For the elected legislators and staff and the constitutional officers the Bureau can greatly assist in researching and analyzing public policy issues and measures that are being debated, and they can provide additional data to assist decision makers in their deliberations.

You can find a full transcript of today’s brief podcast here.

Senate Bill 224 deals with sexual harassment. Governor Brown signed SB 224 by State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson on September 30, as Chapter 951. The bill adds investors, elected officials, lobbyists, directors, and producers to the list of examples of relationships that are covered by Civil Code Section 51.9. Civil Code Section 51.9 imposes civil liability for sexual harassment in the business, service or professional context.

According to the analysis of this bill, because the current list of examples is not exclusive, it deems this bill as declaratory of existing law. Nonetheless, it serves to highlight that investors, elected officials, lobbyists, directors, and producers can be subject to liability if they engage in sexual harassment.

Existing law establishes liability for sexual harassment when the plaintiff proves certain specified elements; among other things, that there’s a business, service, or professional relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant, and that there’s an inability for the plaintiff to easily terminate that relationship.

Existing law also states that a relationship may exist between a plaintiff and certain persons, including – under the law prior to SB 224 – attorneys, holders of a master’s degree in social work, real estate agents, and real estate appraisers. Senate Bill 224 not only amended Civil Code Section 51.9, but it also amended sections 12930 and 12948 of the Government Code so that it includes within the elements in a Cause of Action for sexual harassment, when the plaintiff proves that the defendant holds himself or herself out as being able to help the plaintiff to establish a business, service or professional relationship with either the defendant or a third party.

To summarize, SB 224 eliminates the element that the plaintiff proves that there’s an inability by the plaintiff to easily terminate the relationship. Next, the bill includes an investor, elected official, lobbyist, director, and producer among those listed persons who may be liable to a plaintiff for sexual harassment. Third, the bill makes the Department of Fair Employment and Housing responsible for the enforcement of sexual harassment claims. Finally, the bill makes it an unlawful practice to deny or aid, incite or conspire in the denial of rights of persons related to sexual harassment actions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The state of California has long played a relatively outsize role in national politics for a number of reasons. An often mentioned phrase in national politics is, “What starts in California often migrates to the rest of the country.” As such, how public policy issues are addressed here in the state of California – by legislation, by regulation, or by judicial decision – often sets the standard for other states and even the nation as a whole.

Many state capitol observers note that California legislators enjoy being the first in the nation with some of their bills. In the past, California legislators have often considered what’s been enacted in some of the other states, particularly those who might be deemed comparable, at least in relative terms of size, such as New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Illinois, etc. But, in recent years, it seems that’s less of a consideration and now being at the head of the pack, if you will, of the different states often seems to be the preferred route.

What are some of the reasons that California plays such a prominent role in national politics? Well the obvious ones include the fact that California is the largest state in the nation by population size. If it were a country, it would be the fifth largest economy in the world today. And certainly, Californians and their elected officials view themselves as leaders, not as followers.

What are some of the policy areas that California has tried to be the leading role model in national politics? Well certainly climate change comes to mind, with California leading efforts nationally, and frankly even internationally, to deal with the problems of climate change. And while the Trump administration generally hasn’t even agreed that such a problem exists, there’s been quite a lot of disagreement and quite a bit of legislation and even lawsuits regarding climate change.

California has also played a significant role in national politics through litigation in recent years. Attorney General Becerra in the state has filed more than forty lawsuits that have challenged federal actions, including lawsuits on immigration laws, the US Census, education, student debt, net neutrality, provisions of healthcare, and many in the environmental and climate change arenas. It’s interesting that during the 2017-18 state fiscal year, the AG incurred about $9 million in legal bills on a lot of these measures which was up over $6 million from just the prior fiscal year. So quite a considerable amount.

Finally, and probably most importantly, California has played a major role in national politics. Although, to be fair, most of our influence has come in the form of campaign contributions. We, despite even moving up our primary during a presidential election year, still have not as a state been able to really impact the presidential election.

Nonetheless, we do impact the federal elections because we do have the most Electoral College votes for purposes of the Presidential election. And of course we have the largest Congressional delegation.

You can find the full transcript of today’s podcast here.

Senate Bill 1412 from the 2018 legislative session provides a new rule for employers in considering prior convictions. Governor Brown signed Senate Bill 1412 by State Senator Steve Bradford on September the 30th. It was Chapter 987.

Basically, the bill requires employers to only consider convictions that are relevant to the job which applicants are applying for when screening job applicants using a criminal background check. The bill amended several provisions of Labor Code Section 432.7. As a result of the amendments, SB 1412 now clarifies that employers include public agencies, private individuals, and corporations.

Also, the law states that employers will not be prohibited from conducting criminal background checks for employment purposes, restricting employment based on criminal history, or seeking or receiving an applicant’s criminal history report that has been obtained pursuant to procedures that are provided under federal, state, or local laws.

Note that existing state law basically prohibits an employer, whether the employer is a public agency, a private individual, or a corporation, from generally asking an applicant for employment to disclose, for determining a condition of employment, any information concerning participating in a pretrial or post-trial diversion program, or that concerns a conviction that has been judicially dismissed or ordered sealed.

Now this bill, Senate Bill 1412, defines particular conviction under Labor Code Section 432.7(m) and it specifies that the provisions do not prohibit an employer as I indicated before about utilizing certain information. Now again in subdivision (m) employer was added to include public agency, private individual, or corporation. They struck the term “criminal conviction” and substituted instead the term “particular conviction” and subdivision (m) (1) of Labor Code Section 432.7 modifies three of those exceptions.

Now, in subdivision (m) (2) the definition of particular conviction was added, and the legislature defined it to mean, “a conviction for specific criminal conduct or a category of criminal offenses prescribed by any federal law, federal regulation or state law that contains requirements, exclusions or both expressly based on that specific criminal conduct or category of criminal offenses.”

Then finally, SB 1412 adds a new subdivision (n) to provide clarifications so that nothing in this section shall prohibit an employer required by federal, state or local laws to conduct criminal background checks for employment purposes to utilize anything that was provided under federal, state or local laws.

You can find a full transcript of today’s podcast here.

You can listen to today’s conversation on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, and everywhere podcasts are listened to. You can also help more people hear about Professor Van Nostrand’s work, and the work of the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development by subscribing to The CAP⋅impact Podcast and leaving a 5-star review.

On this week’s episode of The CAP⋅impact Podcast I talk with West Virginia University School of Law Professor James Van Nostrand. He is also Director of the school’s Center for Energy and Sustainable Development. West Virginia is being impacted by climate change in multiple ways. The state is one of the most flash flood prone states in the U.S. An uptick in extreme weather events has not helped that situation. The state’s coal industry – although indirectly – is also being affected by climate change.

We talked about the declining coal industry, and how market factors like inexpensive natural gas and increasingly competitive renewable energy sources, are really driving the decline of coal. The third factor Prof. Van Nostrand notes is declining coal exports due to the international community’s acceptance of climate change and a resulting desire to use less coal for energy production. To Prof. Van Nostrand’s chagrin, “People aren’t all that enthusiastic about accepting the notion of climate change in West Virginia.”

He testified in support of two bills in the West Virginia legislature that would have helped position the state better for the new energy economy. Both of those bills – one allowing utilities to build solar plants on abandoned coal mines and ship that energy across the state and another to allow consumers to enter into solar power purchase agreements – died in committee. A recent bill to lower the severance tax on coal from five percent to three percent, however, did pass.

Another regulation that Professor Van Nostrand has been outspoken about was the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan. His concern was that it was the wrong tool for the job, regularly telling Congress that what is actually needed is comprehensive legislation to address climate change. That specific concern about the Clean Power Plan is moot now that the Trump administration has eliminated the Clean Power Plan. But the need for comprehensive legislation remains, so naturally, I had to ask him about the most comprehensive piece of climate change legislation on the board, the Green New Deal.

You can learn more about Professor Van Nostrand’s work by visiting his faculty page on West Virginia University’s website or his SSRN page. You can also follow him on Twitter @jamievanWVU. You can learn more about the Center for Energy and Sustainable Development here.

In one way budget advocacy is no different than legislative or regulatory advocacy. The concept is essentially the same – to educate, and ultimately influence, lawmakers or administrative officials and staff concerning specific budget appropriations in the main budget bill or provisions of budget trailer bills.

As other capital observers have noted, the California budget is a bill that the state must pass every single year. But it still is a bill. However, what we find is that many advocates do not have budget issues. There are a smaller number of advocates who find the budget to be intimidating with large numbers and tremendous implications. The state budget process on paper is similar to the legislative process, however, in practical terms, it can be quite different.

The full budget committees of the Senate and the Assembly act mostly as the final arbiter of their respective houses’ views when it comes to finalizing the actions of the Subcommittees of the two full budget committees. As you can imagine, legislative leaders can and do impact final budget decisions as well, but the budget bill is rarely modified on either floor of the Legislature. Instead, the five Senate Budget Subcommittees and the six Assembly Budget Subcommittees act as both the policy and the fiscal committees in determining budget actions and trailer bill actions.

Most of the work on the California state budget occurs at the sub-committee level. Prior to the sub-committee hearings, the full budget committee staff usually examine the major budget proposals and they prepare agendas that include an explanation of the governor’s budget proposals as well as the staff’s recommendation whether to accept the governor’s budget, reject the governor’s budget proposal, modify it in some way or hold it open – meaning take further consideration down the road perhaps after the governor’s May budget revision has been submitted. In instances where the governor’s budget proposals are “Held open,” this is to allow for further discussion. It should be noted that the minority party staff also prepare similar information for their members for consideration.

It’s important that any communications be done early in the budget process, particularly at the subcommittee level. Any differences between the actions of the Assembly and the Senate are usually handled by a two house conference committee. The Assembly and the Senate rotate the chairpersonship of the conference committee each year. This process is supposed to address the differences between the Assembly’s and Senate’s versions of the budget.

Although the public aspect of budget process is usually just about five months in length, please note that the development of the state budget actually begins shortly after the prior year’s budget takes effect. California’s fiscal year begins on July 1 of each year, which means, of course, that the state’s fiscal year ends the following June 30th. By way of comparison, the Federal Government’s fiscal year runs October 1 through September the 30th.

You can find a complete transcript of today’s podcast here.

Then Governor Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 2782 by Assembly Member Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) on August 24, 2018 as Chapter 193 of the Statutes of 2018. Assembly Bill 2782 authorizes lead agencies to consider the specific benefits and negative impacts of a project during the EIR process.

The CEQA guidelines contain language that is similar to language in Assembly Bill 2782. The bill was actively supported by the California Chamber of Commerce, California Business Properties Association, and California Building Industry Association. Assembly Bill 2782 added Section 21082.4 to the California Public Resources Code and its provisions went into effect on January 1, 2019.

The author’s explanation for the legislation stated, “The current EIR process does not include considering the negative consequences within an area of a project not being approved. For example, a project that increases density within the area could lead to overall GHG reduction. Without considering all potential negative and positive impacts of a project, the value within a community is diminished or a careless project can be avoided. It is beneficial to a region for every aspect of a project and its impact to be considered as part of the final approval or denial of a project under environmental review.”

That’s the stated purposed of the Legislature’s adoption of AB 2782.

I recorded today’s episode on efforts to reduce and prevent youth suicide with University of Kansas School of Law Professor Jennifer Schmidt last Wednesday, 3/20. Just days later we learned that one survivor of the Parkland school shooting took committed suicide. Then another Parkland survivor took their life. And then news broke that a parent of a victim of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting committed suicide as well. Three suicides in one week. If you think you need help, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). It’s free to call, and your conversation is confidential.

It is generally nice when the conversations that I’m fortunate enough to have are timely and relevant to current events. But not like this. What has happened over the past week is nothing short of an absolute tragedy. There is a much broader conversation to be had about mental health issues and the mental health services and supports – or lack thereof – that exists for survivors of mass shootings and other traumatic events that are a part of modern society, but that is both another episode and a much longer conversation than the 40-minute talk I had with Professor Schmidt.

All that said, there really isn’t a much better time to highlight the work Professor Schmidt has done and is doing to prevent youth suicide in Kansas. She recently led a statewide task force to examine the causes of the suicide epidemic in Kansas and is currently advocating for new tools and services to be implemented to help address the crisis.

To see the task force’s recommendations, you can read the Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Task Force State Report from December 2018. You can also keep up with Professor Schmidt’s work more generally by visiting her University of Kansas School of Law Faculty page.

You can listen to today’s conversation on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, Stitcher Radio, Spotify, and everywhere podcasts are listened to. You can also help more people hear about Professor Schmidt’s work by subscribing to The CAP⋅impact Podcast and leaving a 5-star review.