As the initial Chair of the Orange County Commission to End Homelessness, I have a concern about this critical topic. Remember, I was sworn into the California State Senate last March at the Orange County Rescue Mission. Also see MOORLACH UPDATE — C2EH — December 11, 2013 december 11, 2013 john moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — Homelessness Review — December 19, 2013 december 19, 2013 john moorlach).
As the Chair of the Orange County Criminal Justice Coordinating Committee for most of my eight years as a County Supervisor, I had a keen interest in Prop. 63 (2004), the Mental Health Services Act, and how it interfaced with our public safety efforts.
And, having successfully worked with former Sen. Darrell Steinberg to see the passage of SB 585 in 2013, giving counties the ability to fund for assisted outpatient treatment, I helped make Orange County the second to adopt Laura’s Law in 2014.
For background on Laura’s Law, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Laura’s Law Journey — August 11, 2014 august 11, 2014 john moorlach, MOORLACH UPDATE — SD U-T on Laura’s Law — June 6, 2014 june 6, 2014 john moorlach, and MOORLACH UPDATE — Laura’s Law Resolution Passes — May 13, 2014 may 13, 2014 john moorlach).
For more on Senate Bill 585, see MOORLACH UPDATE — Laura’s Law Variants — February 10, 2014 february 10, 2014 john moorlach and MOORLACH UPDATE — Kelly Thomas Reverberations — January 15, 2014 january 15, 2014 john moorlach.
When Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon invited me to attend his press conference to repurpose some of the Prop. 63 tax revenues as security for a bond to immediately build housing for the mentally ill, I said I would. I also said I would like to drill into the details and, hopefully, find a bipartisan solution that makes good fiscal sense. Now that we have been provided with all of the details, my staff and I are doing a review to see if all of the components are supportable. As a conservative, I want any solution to actually solve the problem, and I want any monies spent to be efficient and effective, without adding to California’s already high tax burden nor contributing to the state’s spending excesses.
The connection between chronic homelessness and mental illness is agreed to by most. And, California municipalities are spending a considerable amount of funds for incarcerating the homeless or paying for their medical care in our already busy emergency rooms. In fact, the largest housing provider of the mentally ill in Orange County is the Orange County Jail. Consequently, looking at alternatives is something that I am prepared to do.
My first day traveling back to the Capitol found me spending the morning in Skid Row. Directly before the press conference, I had the good fortune to pay a visit on an old friend, Herb Smith, who is the CEO of the Los Angeles Mission. Herb provided me with an impressive tour of the LA Mission’s facilities.
The press conference was covered by the Sacramento Bee, in the first piece below and an editorial on this new initiative in the second piece. Also see http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article52957540.html for a brief video. It also gave me an opportunity to publicly thank former Senator Darrell Steinberg for his authorship of SB 585.
The Sacramento Bee also has a piece on how the Republican State Legislators are leaning in this year’s Presidential race, see http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article53209460.html. The "At a Glance" portion is the third piece below.
Senate Democrats propose $2 billion plan for homeless
Senate leader wants to build homes for homeless people with mental illnesses
Proposal comes before Gov. Jerry Brown releases budget plan this week
“We totally oppose this,” says Proposition 63 advocate
BY DAVID SIDERS
In an opening to this year’s budget negotiations at the Capitol, Senate Democrats on Monday proposed a $2 billion bond to build homes for homeless people with mental illnesses.
The measure would be funded by Proposition 63, the existing, 1 percent income tax on Californians earning $1 million or more per year to pay for mental health services.
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said at a news conference in Los Angeles that the money could fund construction of at least 10,000 housing units statewide.
The proposal comes before Gov. Jerry Brown releases his annual budget plan this week. Brown, a relatively moderate Democrat, has clashed with lawmakers of his own party in previous years over funding for social services.
Deborah Hoffman, a spokeswoman for Brown, said in an email that “the administration is supportive of efforts to empower local governments to tackle homelessness, poverty, and mental health issues in our communities and we will take a close look at the proposals in this package.”
In addition to the $2 billion bond, de León, D-Los Angeles, said he will push for $200 million in general fund revenue over four years to pay for rent subsidies for homeless people and will seek to increase in the Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment grants that help low-income seniors and people with disabilities. The measure would not have to go on the ballot, but would part of the budget negotiations with Brown.
His predecessor, Darrell Steinberg, the Sacramento Democrat who wrote Proposition 63, called the housing plan “the boldest proposal to reduce homelessness in a generation, if not longer.”
De León cast the proposal as a bipartisan effort. He and Steinberg were joined in Los Angeles by two Republican senators, Bob Huff and John Moorlach.
Huff, of San Dimas, said, “We’re trying to do something about a persistent problem.”
Nearly 30,000 chronically homeless people live in California, more than one-third of the nation’s total chronically homeless population, according to federal estimates.
Senate Democrats estimate annual debt service on a $2 billion bond would require about $130 million of about $1.8 billion in annual Proposition 63 revenue.
Proposition 63, passed by California voters in 2004, has been hailed by mental health advocates as an irreplaceable source of funding, while facing persistent criticism about oversight. Last year, the Little Hoover Commission faulted the state for bureaucratic and technological shortcomings it said made it difficult, if not impossible, to analyze the effectiveness of spending under the measure.
In a separate report in 2013, state Auditor Elaine Howle said that because of minimal oversight, California has “little current assurance” that funds directed to counties have been used effectively.
Rose King, a political consultant who helped craft Proposition 63, said that before the state starts spending money on housing construction, it should repair a mental health system that she said fails to reach many Californians who need it.
“We totally oppose this,” she said.
Senate offers a powerful $2 billion plan to fight homelessness
$2 billion plan to house homeless mentally ill people is a powerful statement of priorities
Senate leader Kevin de León is right to invite Republicans to work out details
Californians must not become inured to the plight of mentally ill homeless people
BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD
A bipartisan group of California state senators on Monday offered a powerful $2 billion housing plan to combat the appalling level of homelessness, particularly among severely mentally ill people in this rich state.
By making the announcement on the first business day of 2016, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, made clear his budget priority for the new year. No issue is more worthy of the Legislature’s attention.
Twenty-five years ago, then-San Francisco Mayor Art Agnos spoke about “compassion fatigue,” the idea that residents in that liberal city had grown sick and tired of panhandlers and homeless people. The problem has only gotten worse.
Now, a fifth of the nation’s homeless population calls California home, an estimated 114,000 people. Two weeks ago, we learned of the death of 5-month-old Sivam Lekh, the son of an often-homeless, drug-addled woman. In October, we read about 77-year-old Genevieve Lucchesi, who died in a sleeping bag in midtown. We cannot become inured to these deaths and call ourselves civilized.
Confronting the slow-motion crisis, de León, joined by several other politicians, announced the proposal on Los Angeles’ Skid Row, a festering example of California’s failure to solve homelessness.
De León’s predecessor, Darrell Steinberg, was at his side, as were two Republican state senators. Steinberg, a candidate for Sacramento mayor, endorsed the plan to raise the $2 billion by leveraging the billions raised by Proposition 63, a voter-approved initiative he promoted in 2004 to help severely mentally ill people.
Proposition 63 generates $1.8 billion a year by imposing a 1 percent income tax on people earning $1 million or more annually. The Legislature would take 7 percent of the Proposition 63 money, about $130 million, to finance $2 billion in revenue bonds to build housing for severely mentally ill homeless people.
The $2 billion would provide 10,000 to 14,000 housing units, as much as $200,000 per unit. That might seem high, but taxpayers already pay dearly for homelessness in added health care and policing costs, and in lost economic development.
Counties would be expected to compete for the funds. Presumably, areas with the largest number of homeless people – Los Angeles, San Francisco and other urban areas including Sacramento – would receive much of the money.
Sen. Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, and Sen. John Moorlach, an Orange County Republican, attended the news conference. As an Orange County supervisor, Moorlach used Proposition 63 money to implement that county’s version of Laura’s Law, a statute that allows judges to order treatment for mentally ill people who have a history of incarceration and hospitalization.
De León’s proposal is aimed at providing housing first. Once people have roofs over their heads, de León said, social workers would offer services including mental health care and drug treatment.
Democrats would do well to listen to Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel. Bates sees a need – as does The Sacramento Bee’s editorial board – to spend some money on housing that caters to formerly homeless people who seek drug- and alcohol-free housing.
Getting chronically homeless people off the street ought to be the priority. But California should not reject funding for programs simply because they require that residents be drug- and alcohol-free. Keeping drugs and alcohol away from severely mentally ill people is especially important.
De León’s proposal comes amid protests by so-called homeless advocates at Sacramento City Hall and arrests over the weekend. Pointless protests do nothing to solve the problem of homelessness. Spending $2 billion to provide housing would. It’d also provide a powerful statement that the people of this state care about the least fortunate among us.
California Republican lawmakers’ presidential pick: ‘I don’t know’
Republican legislators still largely undecided on whom they support for president
Those who have a preference overwhelmingly back Marco Rubio
Two legislators like Ted Cruz, who leads polling in California
AT A GLANCE
Which presidential candidate do California Republican lawmakers support?
Pat Bates, Bob Huff, Jim Nielsen, Janet Nguyen, Andy Vidak; Travis Allen, Ling-Ling Chang, James Gallagher, Tom Lackey, Kristin Olsen, Marc Steinorth
Shannon Grove, Matthew Harper
Joel Anderson, Jean Fuller, Ted Gaines, John Moorlach, Mike Morrell, Sharon Runner; Katcho Achadjian, Catharine Baker, Frank Bigelow, Bill Brough, Rocky Chávez, Brian Dahle, Beth Gaines, David Hadley, Brian Jones, Young Kim, Eric Linder, Brian Maienschein, Devon Mathis, Chad Mayes, Melissa Melendez, Jay Obernolte Jim Patterson, Don Wagner, Marie Waldron
Declined to say:
Did not respond:
Tom Berryhill, Anthony Cannella, Jeff Stone
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