The Clinic – Episode 1: Introducing Keri and Michelle

We’re excited to announce the launch of a new series here on CAP·impact that we’re calling The Clinic. CAP·impact exists to make it easier to understand the legislative process. We do that by utilizing the knowledge and experience of experts who work in California’s public policy world.

In this new series, we’ll explore California’s legislative process through the experiences of people just beginning to experience California’s legislative process. In this first season, those people are two McGeorge students, Keri Firth and Michelle Evans, who are both participating in the Legislative and Public Policy Clinic.

In the first episode we’ll meet our two students, get to them know them, their inspirations, and their bill. As the show goes on, and as their bill progresses further and further through the Legislature, we’ll progress with them. Speaking of their bill, Keri and Michelle are working on a bill affecting California’s foster care system that would create a pilot program for counties to give foster parents access to in home coaching after they receive a foster child.

We’ll get into more details of the bill and the legislative process in later episodes. For now, we hope you enjoy meeting Michelle and Keri, and learning a little bit more about their bill.

Lobbying the Budget

There are some who are intimidated by the process of lobbying the budget. One theory as to why they’re intimidated is, put simply, that it contains numbers and people are intimidated by numbers. That’s just one theory. However, there are quite a few subtle and not so subtle differences between lobbying the budget and lobbying any other piece of legislation that can make the budget process seem more intimidating. Today’s podcast with veteran lobbyists Ray LeBov and Chris Micheli seeks to demystify that process.

There are two very important things to understand about the budget. First, remember that in some ways, the budget bill is a bill just like any other bill – but in some ways unlike any other bill. The other thing to keep in mind is why the budget is so important because it can do things to you and your client(s) or for you and your client(s).

We’ll go over the calendar for the budget here and leave the other topics Ray and Chris discuss for you to listen to. The first difference between lobbying the budget and lobbying legislation is the calendar. The budget does not run on the normal legislative calendar. The budget process starts right after beginning of the new fiscal year on July 1. There is a lot of behind the scenes work over the next six months culminating in the Governor’s budget proposal on January 10, which kicks off the legislative portion of budget lobbying.

After the Governor announces the budget proposal, it becomes two identical bills – one in the Assembly and one in the Senate – that begin to work their way through the California Legislature. The bills start in their respective house’s Budget Committee, and then the work on the budget gets divided up between the budget subcommittees which work on different issue area jurisdictions within the budget.

After the subcommittee process is completed, the budget bill goes back to the full Budget Committee, which essentially amends the recommended changes from the subcommittees into the budget bill. The next step in the legislative process is conference committee to reconcile differences between the Assembly and Senate versions of the budget. That said, they can make changes to the budget bill that were identical in the versions the two houses sent over in addition to reconciling differences between the two versions of the budget bill.

After conference committee come negotiations between the Big Three – the two Democratic leaders in the Legislature and the Governor – to negotiate any final changes to the budget. Then, by June 15, the budget is passed by the Legislature and sent to the Governor to be signed. The Governor has the final say on the budget and can either reduce, or completely line item veto, appropriations in the budget.




LORA and How to Examine California Legislative Records

Dan Walters had a commentary column on CALmatters earlier this week about the California Legislature and the Legislative Open Records Act that governs what the Legislature can and cannot choose to release to members of the public. Today’s podcast examines the Legislative Open Records Act, or LORA.

Pursuant to LORA, record requests by members of the public must be made in writing and be submitted to either the Senate Committee on the Rules or the Assembly Rules Committee, depending on the location of the documents being requested.

Generally, the respective rules committee will respond within 3-10 days upon receiving written requests for legislative records. If a request is denied, the individual who made the request is entitled to a written explanation of that denial.

Another general rule is that the records may not be removed from the office space that is designated for records inspection, and must be inspected in the presence of a designated staff member from the Legislature. The public can request copies of legislative records.

LORA does list categories of legislative records that are exempt from public inspection. A not-exhaustive list of some of those categories includes:

  • Records pertaining to certain claims against the Legislature until they’re finally adjudicated or settled, and records pertaining to litigation to which the Legislature is a party, until such litigation has been finally adjudicated or settled;
  • Records of complaints to the Legislature, its investigations, and its security procedures;
  • Correspondence of members and their staff;
  • Written commentary submitted to a Committee on legislation that was not utilized by the staff; and
  • Other records determined by the Committee to be confidential and records where, based on the facts of the particular case, the Joint Rules Committee believes that the public interested served by not disclosing the records outweighs the public interest served by disclosing the records.

I explore other components of LORA in more depth in the brief podcast, so be sure to listen.




Laws Regulating Lobbyists

Today’s podcast is a brief overview of some of the laws that regulate the lobbying profession in California. In the podcast, I go over lobbying laws and campaigns laws, and how they impact lobbyists.

The Political Reform Act of 1974, often referred to as the PRA, was adopted by the voters as Proposition 9 and is the main law governing lobbying ethics and political campaigns. Note that some cities and counties have locally adopted ordinances regulating lobbying activity as well.

The PRA charges the Fair Political Practices Commission, also known as the FPPC, with enforcing the PRA. I will leave most of the details of the laws regulating lobbyists to the podcast, and here, direct you to where in the Government Code and California Code of Regulations you can find the various laws regulating lobbyists.

The purpose of lobbyist regulation as stated in the PRA is found in Title 9. It reads:

The activities of lobbyists should be regulated and their finances disclosed in order that improper influences will not be directed at public officials.”

Chapter 6 of Title 9 deals specifically with lobbyists. Chapter 6 contains Sections 86100 through 86300. In addition to the laws found in Government Code provisions, the FPPC has adopted regulations on lobbying. Those regulations are contained in Title 2, Sections 18109 through 18997 of the California Code of Regulations.

Article 1 of Chapter 6 of the Government Code sets forth the registration and reporting requirements for lobbyists, Article 2 of the Government Code deals with prohibitions, and Article 3 of Chapter 6 deals with specified exemptions. Again, I go over the contents of those articles in the podcast. The laws I have pointed to here specifically deal with lobbying – you’ll need to listen to the audio for a discussion on how campaign laws impact lobbyists.


In 2013, Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) proposed a bill to allow teens aged 16 and 17 to preregister to vote in order to promote registration and involvement in the political system. This bill, SB 113, was signed into law and enacted in 2014, and is now part of the California Elections Code §2102(2)(d).

Just last week, Sam Mahood, a spokesman for Secretary of State Alex Padilla, posted on twitter the results for an 18-month study on preregistrations under the new Elections Code.

The results demonstrate a trend among young voters- almost 44% of preregistrations listed ‘No Party Preference’ with about 37% selecting ‘Democrat’ and 10% as ‘Republican’.

Preregistrations have increased in numbers over the past years. Padilla attributed some of the uptick in preregistration to current events, such as the Parkland, Florida shooting.

“The shooting has high school students very active, aware and engaged,” he said. “We’ve seen the numbers go up even recently.”

Whether this increase in registration and lack of party affiliation will continue will be followed over future years.





With school shootings making headline news across the country, a rising movement across the United States is to arm teachers to protect students is making headlines. Not surprisingly, there are strong emotions both for and against allowing teachers to carry firearms in schools.

California law prohibits the possession of concealed firearms on campus with a few exceptions. In 2015, the California Legislature passed SB 707, which recognized exceptions, such as persons who have the written permission of specified school district officials or for certain retired reserve peace officers who are authorized to carry a concealed or loaded firearm.

For years, several districts in California have allowed teachers and staff to carry concealed firearms on their school’s grounds. Since 2010, Folsom Cordova Unified School District in Sacramento County has allowed staff to carry weapons on school campuses, however they must be stored in a specified location. In response to the San Bernardino shooting in 2016, Kingsburg Joint Union High School District in Fresno County voted to allow no more than five people to carry concealed weapons on  their person to address “immediate” threats. Anderson Union High School District in Shasta County also allows employees to carry weapons at schools.

Campaigns and citizens across America are protesting policies such as these, with just as many supporting it. The National Educators Association President, Lily Eskelsen García, quickly announced her opposition to arming teachers. She stated in her official comment, “We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that.” The California Teachers Association and many of its members expressed their opposition to guns on schools online as well:

However, supporters of arming teachers cite an Illinois teacher who shot an armed student threatening the school. President Donald Trump suggested teachers should have guns in the classroom since the teacher could “[shoot] and that would be the end of it.”

California is just one of over two dozen states that allow teachers and staff to bring firearms on campus with the topic becoming more widespread across the nation, likely more school districts will have to decide if they should allow firearms on their campuses as well.




How Interest Groups Influence Policymaking

Often, when we think of special interests, we associate them with lobbying legislators. However, interest groups not only actively lobby in the legislative arena, but they’re also active in efforts to influence state agencies and regulatory activities.

Who and what are these special interests? Arguably, anyone with a point of view on a matter of public policy is a special interest. However, we generally characterize such interest groups as those with specific public policy agendas that they try to advance with the legislative and executive branches of government. They are generally those with vested interests, who are politically active in the lawmaking process.

What makes interest groups effective? The keys are often being politically powerful and socially popular. For example, teachers, labor unions, and public safety groups enjoy public support, in general. These groups raise and spend enormous sums of money for political campaign contributions. In addition, their members walk precincts, telephone voters, and get people to the polls for voting for their selected candidates.

What are some key ways that interest groups utilize to attempt to influence the Legislature and state agencies?

In order to influence policymaking in the legislative arena, interest groups obviously lobby legislators, as well as staff, legislative staff, committee staff, and ultimately, the Governor’s office. They lobby both in person and via written communications, such as: letters, emails, faxes, and even social media – of which Facebook and Twitter have become popular forums for policy discussions. Some interest groups nearly always include a media component to their lobbying efforts by sending out press releases, holding press conferences and rallies, and pitching favorable stories to the news media.

This is just scratching the surface of ways interest groups can influence the policymaking process in the California Legislature and in state agencies. There is an even more robust exploration of this topic in the podcast.

Live from Classroom A McGeorge School of Law, Prof. Josh Blackman discussing the new sanctuary jurisdiction lawsuit against California.

Posted by McGeorge Capital Center for Law & Policy on Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Last night, news broke that U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the U.S. Department of Justice are suing the state of California, Governor Jerry Brown, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra over California’s sanctuary jurisdiction policies.

Prior to the development, the Federalist Society had lined up Professor Josh Blackman from Southern Texas College of Law to speak at McGeorge School of Law on the topic of President Trump’s travel ban. The new lawsuit derailed those plans, and he instead spoke about the lawsuit.

There are three California bills that are at play in the case: SB 54, AB 450, and AB 103. The common theme in the lawsuit with these three pieces of California legislation is the issue of preemption and whether or not these pieces of legislation interfere with federal law in ways that would create preemption issues.

That is where today’s two speaker, Prof. Blackman and McGeorge’s own Professor Clark Kelso differed. Enjoy the video of their conversation and the questions that are asked of them afterwards!

There have been thirteen firearm attacks on school campuses resulting in injury or death across the United States since the beginning of 2018,and five more instances of gunfire on campuses – two of which occurred in California. All of this, combined with the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida and the and the ongoing work of the survivors of that shooting have catapulted gun safety towards the top of 2018’s major issues. In response, Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) has a bill to raise the minimum age to purchase a rifle to 21.

California law already restricts handgun sales to only persons over 21 and to a maximum purchase of one handgun every 30 days. However, for purchasing rifles, 18 is the minimum age. Portantino’s bill would have rifle restrictions mirror the restrictions on handgun purchases, raising the minimum age to 21 and limiting purchases of rifles to once every 30 days.

It is not uncommon for California legislators to propose legislation to limit the sale of firearms. In 2016, the California Legislature passed a bill banning the sale of assault rifles and required registration by owners. A bill, similar to Sen. Portantino’s, limiting rifle purchases to every 30 days was defeated last year in the Assembly after the National Rifle Association opposed the bill.

This bill is not without its opponents. Sam Paredes, Director of Gun Owners of California, argues that the proposed restrictions are excessive. He notes that 18 year-olds are allowed to serve in the military, vote, and drive cars. Other proponents of the freedom to purchase weapons are not hesitating to condemn the revised legislation as well.

As mentioned earlier, 2018 has had two school shooting incidents in California. On January 10, at California State University, San Bernardino, bullets were fired through a window, with no suspects or motive identified. Later, on February 1st, a semi-automatic handgun brought to school in Los Angeles by a 12-year-old student accidentally went off. Four students were injured.

Sen. Portantino’s legislation joins dozens of other bills on guns working their way through the California Legislature this year. It will be interesting to see where they all land.




The Role of State Agencies in Public Policy

Today’s podcast deals with state agencies and their role in public policy development. California’s agencies – including departments, boards and commissions – engage in a fair amount of public policy making through their rulemaking authority as well as their interpretation and enforcement of existing statutes and regulations.

There are many state agencies that do policy development by adopting regulations and implementing statutes. They can also engage in policy making when issuing guidelines, legal opinions, management memos and other sorts of written documents.

When dealing with a given state agency, it’s important first to know whether it’s a plural executive agency, an independent agency, or a line authority agency. Generally speaking, the Governor has less control of plural executive – his or her fellow constitutional officers – and independent agencies. On the other hand, the Governor has considerable authority to manage his or her line authority agencies.

Generally speaking, the authority of state agencies to adopt policy through their rulemaking process is defined and often restricted by state statute. While it’s an established principle of administrative law that an agency cannot go beyond its legally prescribed authority to regulate, many statutes confer broad powers to some state agencies regarding matters that directly affect the general public.

One interesting phenomenon in the rulemaking process is that businesses cannot rely in good-faith upon the written determinations issued by state agencies. State agencies’ written interpretation is often not given significant legal weight by a reviewing court.

In other words, despite being charged with interpreting, implementing, and enforcing California statutes and regulations, individuals and businesses that obtain written guidance from state agencies have little to no protection from legal liability if they follow that written guidance. There are a few exceptions, such as the FPPC, with advice letters to requestors, as well as the Franchise Tax Board and the Board of Equalization, which have Chief Counsel Rulings that provide limited protection to taxpayers.