Police body camera bill advances in Assembly

May 1, 2015

A contentious bill that would set guidelines for the use of police body cameras squeaked through the Assembly Committee on Privacy and Consumer Protection, with six members (all Dems) voting in favor, and four Republicans and one Democrat declining to vote.  Melanie Mason has the story for the Los Angeles Times:


“[Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s (D-San Diego)] bill would set statewide guidelines for law enforcement agencies that use body-worn cameras, including barring officers from using footage for personal use and requiring that officers give notice to individuals that they are being recorded…


“The updated bill will include increased protections for informants and restrictions on camera use in private residences. It will also specify that all officers would be able to review footage prior to making a statement, except in cities such as Oakland that already have policies designating otherwise.”


In a landmark open records case, a Sacramento County Superior Court judge yesterday ruled that the appointment books, meeting schedules, calendars, and other records for suspended state senators Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) and Charles Calderon (D-Montebello) are public record.   The ruling tentatively upends a precedent of "legislative privilege," set nearly 25 years ago.  Mathias Gaffni, Contra Costa Times:


“In his strongly-worded decision, Judge Michael Kenny ruled nearly all the records for suspended state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, and state Sen. Ron Calderon, D-Montebello, requested by the newspaper groups should be handed over, despite the state Legislature arguing the records were exempt from disclosure under the Legislative Open Records Act….


[Attorney] Duffy Carolan said the tentative ruling -- which is expected to be made final after a hearing Friday -- would finally clarify the 1991 court ruling Times Mirror Company v. Superior Court, where the court blocked a request for five years of the governor's calendars. Although the court stressed that its ruling should not be read as a politicians' cloak of secrecy, over the years the California Legislature has leaned on the Times Mirror decision to reject numerous news organization requests for information about lawmakers' activities.”


And speaking of open records, the Cal Poly Institute for Advanced Technology and Public Policy just released the results of a poll that found overwhelming public support for proposed reforms that would increase the level of access and transparency in state government.  From Sam Blakeslee, the Institute’s founding Director and former state legislator, at Fox and Hounds:


“This survey asked 800 likely voters to provide their views on California government, their support or opposition to key government reform and transparency proposals, and how they might become more informed and involved in the activities of state government.


“By overwhelming margins, Californians believe there is a genuine need for greater transparency and openness in California state government.  [Reforms including access to searchable documents, quarterly reports on Legislative spending, a 72 hour waiting period before a vote on final legislation, mandated online video of all legislative public hearings, and turning bill analyses over to the nonpartisan LAO] each received strong support, ranging between 82% and 91%, regardless of party affiliation or ideology…”


Dem party op Steve Maviglio prods the beast in the comments, asking, “can you please list all of the funders of this effort and the amount of their contribution? Thank you.”


A bipartisan bill seeks to help the roughly 16,000 students affected by the abrupt closure of colleges in the Corinthian Colleges chain. From Kale Williams at SFGate:


“’Corinthian has caused significant financial and educational harm to California students,” said state Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, Chair of the Assembly Higher Education Committee and one of the bill’s authors. ‘This legislation ensures our community colleges can provide these students with a second chance to achieve their educational goals, as well as provide students access to federal loan discharge and state tuition recovery programs.’


“If passed, the bill would waive fees at community colleges for Corinthian students affected by the closure, give them legal assistance to help with the loan forgiveness process and provide them with tuition recovery by expanding the California Student Tuition Recovery Fund to students who attend high-risk, for profit colleges, among other benefits.”


Lawmakers questioned delays that have left guns in the hands of over 16,000 felons and people with mental illness who are barred from possessing them.  From Melody Gutierrez at SFGate:


“The Legislature awarded the California Department of Justice $24 million in 2013 to launch a three-year program to eliminate the backlog by sending newly hired agents to confiscate guns from owners who had lost their rights due to felony convictions, domestic violence actions, mental health conditions or addiction to narcotics, among other things. But halfway through the effort, the department has spent 40 percent of the funds and reduced the backlog by only 3,400 people…


“The Department of Justice creates the list by cross-checking registered gun owners with records of offenses or situations that prohibit gun ownership. When Justice Department officials requested the funding, they told lawmakers that the prohibited list generally grew by about 3,000 people a year and that they did not have the manpower to keep up. They said they planned to create 50 additional positions with the money to clear the list.


“There were 19,784 people on the list then. Today, there are 16,396 people on the list, a reduction of 17 percent.”


Senate Democrats have sent Governor Brown a list of suggestions for dealing with the drought.  So helpful!


Alexei Koseff and Christopher Cadelago, Sacramento Bee: In a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown released Thursday, the Senate Democratic Caucus offered a list of 12 steps the state could take to deal with the four-year dry spell, including appointing a ‘water czar’ within the Governor’s Office to coordinate the state’s drought response.


“Among the other suggestions are using money from the $7.5 billion water bond and the greenhouse gas reduction fund for drought relief programs; creating new incentives for farmers to use water more efficiently; replacing lawns at state buildings with drought-friendly landscaping; and investing in more residential recycled water systems.


“Senate Democrats also said the state should adopt a new model tiered-rate system that could be used by local governments after one such method was ruled unconstitutional by a state appeals court.”


“As the crisis grows, our two branches of government should work even more closely so that the state responds quickly and appropriately to the conditions on the ground,” the letter states. “Therefore, we want to offer our help and suggestions for additional actions that may be needed as we enter the driest months of the year.”


As we looked back to see who would win our Worst Week Award, there really wasn’t any competition – after all, only one NASDAQ-traded California company went belly up in spectacular fashion this week, all while under state AND federal investigation.


Santa Ana-based Corinthian Colleges was founded in 1995 and quickly grew to be one of the largest – and most successful – for-profit educational chains in the country, with over 100 campuses in the U.S. and Canada.  Cracks started to appear in 2004, with the first of what would ultimately be many lawsuits questioning the school’s accreditation and inflation of job-placement rates.


Fines, settlements and investigations plagued the company from 2007 on, leading to  a major collapse in the summer of 2014, and culminating in a $30 million federal fine announced a few weeks ago.


That fine, perhaps along with a pending investigation by the California Attorney General’s office, was the nail in the coffin.  Corinthian CEO Jack Massimino announced the immediate closure of all campuses on April 27, issuing a statement that, ‘Unfortunately, the current regulatory environment would not allow us to complete a transaction with several interested parties that would have allowed for a seamless transition for our students.’


Apparently, the ‘current regulatory environment’ precludes overcharging low income students for crappy, semi-worthless degrees, but perhaps that’s just our reading of it.


In any case, congratulations Jack Massimino, you’re our California Blues Singer of the Week!

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