On Wednesday May 9th, the California Energy Commission approved a set of standards that will require most new homes built in the state after 2020 to include solar panels on their roofs. This standard was introduced to move California closer to a long-held goal of creating “zero net-energy” buildings, which generate as much electricity as they use over the course of a year.

The standards (PDF) apply only to single-family homes and certain low-rise condos, townhomes, and apartments. To environmentalists, the move is an important step to curbing greenhouse gas emissions. California law calls for cutting the state’s total carbon emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2030.

Of course, adding a solar requirement to new homes will increase the upfront cost of a new home in a state where cost of purchasing a house is already too high for many potential homebuyers. The California Energy Commission has estimated that the increased cost will average to over $10,500 per home. The extra expense would hit at a time when California is suffering a severe and deepening housing affordability crisis. Proponents of the new regulation say that the reduced utility costs generated by the solar power will lead to the panels paying for themselves over the course of a mortgage. However it’s the high upfront cost of building or buying the home that deters buyers and this new requirement does not improve that situation.

Obviously, not everyone is pleased with this mandate. Bill Watt, a homebuilder and design consultant, said those added costs – on top of other building mandates like fire sprinklers – are pushing home prices further out of reach for many buyers.

“We’re not building enough housing already,” said Watt, “Why not just pause for a little while, focus on the affordability and housing issues, then circle back?”

The California housing crisis is nothing new and legislators have been grappling with the issue for years. In fact, the upcoming ballot in November may have as many has five additional ballot measures in regards to affordable housing including rent control and low income subsidies.

On today’s episode of The CAP⋅impact Podcast we’ll be exploring a bill that’s been mentioned in a few previous episodes and still working it’s way through the California Legislature, AB 931. The bill would change the use of force standard in California from reasonable to necessary. To help explain the bill itself and what that change would mean in practical terms, we talked to the bill’s author, Assembly Member Shirley Weber.

This is the conclusion of a trio of podcasts we’ve done in response to the shooting of Stephon Clark here in Sacramento. Those episodes were “Protests and the Push for Independent Investigations” with Assembly Member Kevin McCarty talking about his push in the California Legislature for indpendent investigations of instances of use of deadly force, and “Moving The Needle on Police On Black Violence” which featured four lawyers who are members of the Wiley Manuel Bar Association talking about how the shooting of Stephon Clark has affected them and their thoughts on what the community can do going forward to heal the wounds and find solutions.

On legislation like AB 931, that is, legislation that would make a noticeable impact on how folks go about doing their job on a day to day basis, it’s to be expected that the affected groups – both directly affected and indirectly affected – are going to try to influence the shape and outcome of that legislation. That is certainly the case here with AB 931 with the law enforcement community and community groups both showing up to have their voices heard. And to explain how groups influence legislation, and which pressure points they consider to influence legislation, we talk to veteran lobbyist and adjunct professor in McGeorge School of Law’s Capital Lawyering program, Chris Micheli.

As always, if you like the show, please click “SUBSCRIBE” on iTunes or Apple Podcasts, and while you’re there, please leave the show a 5 star rating. You can also let us know what you think of the show on Facebook or Twitter. And feel free to like and/or follow us while you’re there as well.




The Governor’s Role in the Legislative Process (transcript)

Today’s podcast is a look at the governor’s role in the legislative process.

As you well imagine, California’s Governor is a key player in the legislative process, even though the bulk of legislation is done by the elected members of the Legislature in the Assembly and the State Senate. It’s important to appreciate the various roles that the state’s chief executive plays in the legislative process.

In a quick look at the administration and the legislative process, we know that the Governor of California has a significant impact – both with regard to specific legislation as well as the budget and funding priorities of the state.

As such, it’s critical that interested parties work with the administration throughout the legislative process, which includes the members of the Governor’s office, the Department of Finance and relevant state departments and agencies. Some of the other commonly known roles the Governor has include identifying issues for the legislature to address. He or she has the authority to call the California Legislature into extraordinary or special session. And, of course, he or she has the final say, absent a veto override, over individual bills.

Because of the Governor’s multiple roles in the legislative process, he or she can lead and influence public policy development, as well as often set the major legislative agenda items for the legislative session.

I hope you will enjoy this opportunity to look at some of the roles of the Governor, with particular attention to the chief executive’s role in the legislative process. Remember that the Governor has many tools and powers to control and influence legislation in California. As a result he or she plays a prominent role in any lawmaking by the California Legislature.




Intro to Capital Lawyering – Part 2 (transcript)

Today’s post is part two on the Introduction to Capital Lawyering course – to be called Capital Lawyering and Policy Making going forward – that is offered at McGeorge School of Law. You can find my first post on the Capital Lawyering and Policy Making course here.

McGeorge’s Capital Lawyering and Policy Making course is taught by adjunct professor Tom Nussbaum, who is a former Chancellor of the California Community College system. He also authored the course reader.

According to Professor Nussbaum, policy analysis is the rubric for problem solving that is typically applied in policy making settings, like the California Legislature. As such, the first three class sessions revolve around various policy analysis methodologies and applying policy analysis to real world issues.

The course also serves to introduce students to the various venues for lawyering in the government, with a particular focus on California state government. Of the fourteen class sessions that comprise this course, half of them focus on lawyering at the three levels of government. Four of those courses focus on California state government, two classes focus on lawyering at the federal government level, and one is dedicated to local government.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, the purpose of the course is to provide students with exposure to capital lawyering in general while educating them about the levels of government so that students understand that government may provide an avenue to resolve a client’s legal problem beyond traditional litigation of alternative dispute resolution. Students will take away from this course the knowledge that changing the law may be the best approach to solving a legal issue rather than litigating it.

In next week’s post, as part of this larger series on how the Capital Center for Law & Policy trains capital lawyers, I’ll start walking you through McGeorge’s Lawmaking in California course, which I co-teach with Legislative Counsel Dianne Boyer-Vine.

The Clinic – Episode 8: The Staff/Sponsor Relationship (transcript)

Today we have a very special episode of The Clinic.  In  addition  to  Keri  and  Michelle,  we’ve  got  the  legislative  staffer  who  they’ve  been  working with very  closely,  Carli  Olson,  in  Assembly Member  Maienschein’s office  joining  us. The conversation focuses less on AB 1784 and the legislative process and more on the relationship between the legislative staffer and bill sponsors.

Keri, Michelle, and Carli give insights into their relationship and communication strategies in order to ensure their bill’s success. Carli also tells us what she looks for in a bill sponsor such as willingness to adjust bill language, successful interpersonal relationships, and level of commitment to the bill passage.

One of the main obstacles in the staff/sponsor relationship can be managing amendments to the bill. Luckily, Keri, Michelle, and Carli have demonstrated an effective way to avoid tension and disagreement through maintaining open communication and respect. Keri and Michelle also explain that when they propose amendments and they are denied, they trust in the expertise of the legislative staff and the Assembly Member. The same is also in the reverse, Carli states that while she has done research on the subject, Keri and Michelle are experts and can provide insight to any questions Carli or Assembly Member Maienschein have.

Once again, a special thank you to Carli Olson for her candor and an insight into how she works with bill sponsors.

The Clinic is going to be taking a break for the next few weeks. As you remember, AB 1784 is currently sitting in the Assembly Appropriations Committee’s Suspense File. The deadline to move those bills isn’t until May 25, so we likely won’t see any action on the bill until after that date. We’ll be back with you as soon as there’s some movement.

We hope you enjoy this week’s episode!

In today’s episode of The CAP⋅impact Podcast we are talking about California’s foster care system and. In particular, we’ll be talking about AB 1784 – authored by Assembly Member Brian Maienschein (R – San Diego) which is one bill working its way through the California Legislature aimed at improving the system. To get more information on what’s in the bill and what it will do, we’ve brought Carli Olson on to this week’s episode. Carli is a Legislative Aide in Asm. Maienschein’s office and she is the staffer who is taking the lead on AB 1784.

The other people you’ll hear in today’s episode will sound familiar if you’ve been following our series The Clinic. That’s because we’re talking to Keri Firth and Michelle Evans, both of whom are McGeorge students who are participating in the school’s Legislative and Public Policy Clinic. We explore in much more depth what that clinic is in The Clinic, but to give you a quick summary of it, the Legislative and Public Policy Clinic gives McGeorge students the opportunity to experience the legislative process first-hand. Students come up with an idea for a bill and from there, they lobby that bill from start to finish through the California Legislature.

This is an exciting episode because it gives us a chance to highlight the great work Keri and Michelle are doing for a new audience.

As I promised in the episode, there are two places you can find the entirety of this series we’re doing with Keri and Michelle and they navigate AB 1784 through the California Legislature. Again, those spots are our page for The Clinic here on CAP⋅impact. The other place you can find all the episodes of The Clinic on our Soundcloud page.

As always, if you enjoy The CAP⋅impact Podcast, there are a couple of free and easy things you can do to help us out. Please subscribe to the show on iTunes or Apple Podcasts, and while you’re there, please leave us a five star rating and a review.

Election Day for the primary election in California isn’t until June 5. But for the campaigns and candidates up and down the ballot, election season started yesterday when vote-by-mail ballots started going out.

In some counties, including the county I call home – Sacramento – this year’s primary will be a little different. As CALmatters  reports, Sacramento is one of five counties in California that will be switching from traditional polling places to vote centers.

In addition to having fewer vote centers than polling places, “People will be able to not only vote in-person or drop off their ballots, but also pick up replacement ballots and make use of language assistance and translated materials. Crucially, they’ll also be able to register to vote on the spot – without the inconvenience of having to make what would otherwise be a required trip to the county registrar’s office to do so.”

The other practical differences are that instead of either going to your neighborhood polling place on Election Day, or mailing in your vote-by-mail ballot, registered voters “will automatically receive a ballot in the mail, which they can either return by mail, place in one of the many drop boxes … or take to any county vote center (including one near their work or along their daily commute). And they’ll be able to cast their ballots in-person up to 10 days before the election.” Essentially, every registered voter gets a ballot in the mail. Then it’s up to the voter to either mail that ballot back in or turn it in in-person at a vote center of their choosing.

I’ve typically been an in-person voter. I enjoy going to my neighborhood polling place, casting my ballot, and getting my I Voted sticker that I wear with a little too much pride. But I also enjoy getting mailers from campaigns and independent expenditure committees (IE’s) because I like to see where the campaigns think they’re at – and their messaging is generally a pretty good indicator of that. Were I to mail in my ballot early, the campaigns that are worth their salt and use voter targeting software like PDI, would know that I mailed in my ballot – once it’s received by the county registrar – and stop sending me mail.

I’m also interested in seeing how this shift will affect campaigns here in Sacramento County. One example: There’s a time honored GOTV (get out the vote) tradition of sending volunteers to “watch” polling places for the entirety of Election Day to make sure supporters in that precinct are turning out to vote. GOTV is a stressful enough time where every resource a campaign has is stretched thin. I can’t imagine trying to stretch resources even thinner when there are still potentially undecided voters out there to talk to.

Personally, I’ve yet to decide if I’m going to vote in person at one of the new vote centers or if I’ll just mail in my ballot. Right now, I’m leaning towards mailing it in, but I do like those campaign mailers.




Intro to Capital Lawyering – Part 1 (transcript)

Today’s post is a continuation of last week’s post about the role of the capital lawyer. As I mentioned last week, I’ll be explaining how the Capital Center for Law & Policy at McGeorge School of Law trains capital lawyers. Today’s podcast is the first of five that will give an overview of how McGeorge School of Law trains capital lawyers.

The podcast today is part one of going over the Introduction to Capital Lawyering course. Part two will be next week’s podcast. This is the one mandatory course in the Capital Lawyering concentration. I should also note that starting in fall 2018, the name of this course will be different. The new name for the course going forward is “Capital Lawyering and Policy Making.”

The course is geared to give students the proverbial 30,000 foot view of the three levels of government, as well as the three branches of government – with a particular emphasis on California state government. The overall objective of the course is to ensure that students are informed and aware of the different avenues available to address a client’s legal issue.

Specifically, the learning objectives of the course are to introduce and acquaint students with the fundamental knowledge and skills that are essential to lawyering with California state government and with government in general; ensure that students will be able to perform policy analysis using a variety of methodologies; ensure students will be able to weigh and consider particular venues to pursue a policy change and they’ll be able to determine which venue provides the greatest opportunity for client success. The course also serves to provide students with an understanding of the many career options available to capital lawyers in and around California state government, which I go into greater detail on in the podcast. These are just a few of objectives, but there are many more.

Next week we’ll dive into the syllabus and more of the specifics of the Capital Lawyering and Policy Making course.

The Personalities of Committees

On today’s episode of The Clinic Keri and Michelle discuss their experience navigating budget subcommittee hearings in the Assembly and Senate. What stood out most to Michelle was how the two different subcommittees felt like they had different personalities.

That’s largely a result of the Committee Chairs running those committees, but an interesting observation. The primary different between the two committees was how the respective Chairs wanted to receive testimony. In one, the Chair was more lax with enforcement of the generally accepted two-minute rule for testimony and wanted to hear people’s personal stories to add context to their budget asks. In the other committee, the Chair was much more strict with the two-minute rule, and wanted to be impressed with the facts.

All in all, things seemingly went well in those subcommittees, and Keri and Michelle came out of those hearings with a further refined approach to their budget ask. We talk about that change in greater detail in the podcast.

We also revisit our earlier conversation about stakeholders and supporters of AB 1784. That list of groups is growing, which is good news for Keri and Michelle, but that was not always the case. There was a period of time where it seemed momentum was stalling around their bill. In the podcast we talk about some of the approaches that Michelle and Keri considered at the time – and are still considering – inject new energy into the bill.

Like I said, the list of supporters is growing, so the need to actively try to inject more energy is on hold for the time being. And as Michelle and Keri prepare for finals and the Bar Exam, it’s probably for the best that they sit back (a little bit) and react to requests rather than take the usual hyper-proactive approach that they’ve going with so far.




The Role of the Capital Lawyer

Today’s podcast is on the role of the capital lawyer. One of the things we do here at McGeorge School of Law is train individuals to be successful capital lawyers. I’ll talk more about how McGeorge trains capital lawyers in the coming weeks.

So, who are capital lawyers, and what do they do? Capital lawyers are those who attain the fundamental knowledge and skills that are essential to lawyering in California state government. Of course, these individuals could also practice law at the local or federal levels of government.

Some of the foundational skills that capital lawyers possess include:

  • Public policy research, development, and analysis skills;
  • Appreciation for the various policy-making venues so that a proper determination can be made as to which venue or venues provide the best chances for client success;
  • Verbal and written advocacy and negotiation skills in different policy-making venues; and
  • Knowledge about multiple areas of law and public policy issues that are unique to government and the public sector

A well prepared Capital lawyer will be able to work within the different and rather unique policy-making venues at the local, state, and federal levels.

What are some examples of Capital Lawyering careers? In the California Legislature examples include: committee consultants, staff to the legislative leaders and individual legislators, and staff to party caucuses or other legislative support agencies such as the Office of Legislative Counsel.

In the executive branch, a capital lawyer could work for the Governor in legal affairs, legislative affairs or appointments. Or they could work in one of California’s more than 200 state agencies with rulemaking authority as an attorney, advocate, administrative law judge – ALJ – or enforcement officer.

There are also opportunities for capital lawyers with non-profits and businesses in the private sector that seek to influence policy on both legislative and regulatory matters.

This is just a sampling of the skills a capital lawyer has and the opportunities for capital lawyers in a capital city, like Sacramento. Next week, we’ll start diving in to how the Capital Center for Law & Policy at McGeorge School of Law trains capital lawyers and prepares them for success.