What do you do when you’re in the super-minority in the Legislature and you watch the monopoly party abuse their dominance to maintain it? You have a little fun.
Let’s recall what has happened of late. Gov. Jerry Brown has not made fixing roads a priority. A review of the state’s budgets for the last thirteen years proves it.
While gas taxes were rising, spending on roads remained flat or declined. This means that the Governor reallocated the higher gas tax revenues to other general fund expenditures. Can anyone say "public employee defined benefit pension plans"?
Instead of moving more funding to the Caltrans budget, the Governor allowed for some $40 billion in budget growth to go elsewhere. What to do? Simple. Blame the voters for the poor condition of the roads, use the super-majority dominance to unilaterally impose a $5.2 billion annual gas and auto tax, and refer to anyone who objects as a "free loader." Never mind that the Governor came in with the principle of allowing voters to increase taxes on themselves — do you recall Proposition 30? I’ll leave a lesson on the word "irony" for another time.
With the necessity of obtaining 27 votes in the Senate, where there are 27 Democrats, one of them refused to foist this egregious tax mandate on his constituents. Wow! A Democrat with a conscience. With some sense of irony, you may recall that this Senator was the Governor’s campaign manager in 2012. You may also recall that the language and terms directed toward Brown’s opponent that year were referred to as "salty" by this campaign manager.
Fortunately for the Governor, to get a massive gas tax to pass, he was able to flip one Republican Senator to obtain the necessary 27th vote. You may recall that the Republicans historically have always had one malleable legislator. You may recall one Abel Maldonado, of whom one well known pundit stated something like "he believes there is no issue upon which one can’t compromise." But, I digress.
Senate Bill 1, the gas tax, passed with the minimum votes required. What to do? Well, one newly elected Senator with a good portion of his District in Orange County, has stated often that he reflects the views of his constituents. This became news to them, as they were not in favor of a gas tax. And, they are probably not in favor of Senate Bill 2 and its new tax, as well (see MOORLACH UPDATE — SB 2: Another Tax! — July 7, 2017 july 7, 2017 john moorlach). This tax also passed with the minimum 27 required Democrat votes. So, the voters in Senate District 29 have been providing signatures by the droves to pursue a recall campaign at a fast and furious pace.
Seeing this tidal wave of angst, the monopoly party had to figure out how to slow it down. Being clever, they used a budget trailer bill to make the recall process more laborious and time consuming (see MOORLACH UPDATE — Stinky Budget Tactics — June 19, 2017 june 19, 2017 john moorlach).
The bill created a 30-day period for citizens to withdraw their signatures from a recall initiative and calls for the Department of Finance (run by the Governor) to do a cost analysis of holding a special election, which is to be reviewed within 30 days by a legislative committee for comment (whatever that means). Suffice it to say, that if one is elected to the Assembly, that legislator would be immune from being recalled, as the process would take longer than the two-year term of that office.
This Machiavellian ploy infuriated the voters and volunteers all the more. The number of signatures gathered far exceeded the minimum required to qualify the recall for the ballot. So, what do the Democrats do next? They started pressuring the Fair Political Practices Commission to increase the contribution limitations on legislators, so that they could donate more than the $4,400 cap to fight the recall.
But, that was not all. Then they sued California State University Fullerton students for volunteering to obtain these signatures. You’ve just got to love the monopoly party.
Now, back to my idea of fun. In last week’s Senate Governance and Finance Committee, Assembly Bill 943 was sailing along comfortably until Sen. Robert Hertzberg shared his concerns about changing the rules of the game when it came to longstanding election traditions (see https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201720180AB943).
Wow! What an insight. So I decided to remind my colleagues, in a subtle manner, that I recalled that something similar just happened literally a few days earlier (see the video clip at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Za_3QATP8xI&feature=youtu.be).
For fun, I did it again on a budget trailer bill and on the SB 2 vote during Thursday’s Senate Floor Session (see the clips at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FW9W-2GkD1k&feature=youtu.be and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mHKnd-pB_Is&feature=youtu.be).
After you watch the clips, you’ll see that I never threatened a recall. I just used the word "recall" as it has two meanings. Can you say "double entendre" or "pun"?
Why this long preamble? Because using the word "recall" was so subtle. I’m sure everyone listening and paying attention on the Senate Floor understood exactly what I was doing. But, without knowing the full context, you will miss the subtlety of it, as one reporter did in the Voice of San Diego piece, the first below. The reporter clearly heard what I said, but didn’t understand the nuance of my delivery, which is the joy of overly clever double entendres. The reporter also missed the difference between a fee and a tax. And her piece’s emphasis (bias) was on what a big favor these 27 Democrats are doing for California.
I don’t have much history with this online media outlet, but one might assume the reporter is a summer intern, but that would be wrong. Oh, well, at least you will recall that I’m having a little fun.
The second piece is from the Sacramento Bee and deals with AB 291, a bill that I opposed in a recent Senate Judiciary Committee meeting. For this immigrant, it has not been a frightening time since last November’s election. I empathize with those who have malicious landlords, but I am not in the mood to vote for a blanket solution as a result of a few bad apples. On the whole, most landlords are happy to have good, long-term, paying tenants. My biggest concern for voting against this bill was that it gave nonprofit organizations standing to sue in place of the tenant.
Sacramento Report: Atkins Bill to Fund Affordable Housing Clears Senate
By Sara Libby
Sen. Toni Atkins’ bill to fund construction of affordable housing, one of her signature efforts as a state legislator, cleared a big hurdle this week when it passed the state Senate on Thursday.
SB 2 would impose a $75 fee on certain real estate documents.
Because the bill imposes a new fee, it had a high bar to clear: a two-thirds vote. It got there.
On top of funding housing subsidies, the bill “would also allow the money to be used for community plan updates or fiscal incentives for local governments to approve new low-income housing,” Maya Srikrishnan reported earlier this year.
More than 100 housing bills were introduced in the Legislature this session – many of them targeting localities that don’t do enough to greenlight and actually build new housing.
SB 2 is a key piece of the puzzle because it actually provides a funding source for new construction.
Sen. John Moorlach, a Republican who represents portions of Orange County, urged his colleagues to vote against the measure, and suggested that if they didn’t, they could face a recall effort similar to the one facing Assemblyman Josh Newman over his vote in support of a new gas tax.
“This is a vote, colleagues, that your constituents will hold you accountable to. And they will help you recall this vote,” Moorlach said (emphasis mine).
San Diego Sen. Ben Hueso had a response for that. On top of heaping praise on Atkins, Hueso challenged the idea that constituents would revolt over the measure.
“This is going to make an enormous difference for the people of California. And while yes, nobody likes fees, nobody likes taxes, I know how that works,” Hueso said. “But when you see results with the dollars that you pay into services, when you can pay into something that changes our state, that improves the quality of people’s lives, that contributes to the economy, I’m telling you – people are adults in this state. They will welcome these investments in their community, and they will be thankful for our efforts to provide more affordable housing.”
The bill now heads to the state Assembly.
Rent increases, evictions up in immigrant communities under Trump, housing lawyers say
BY ANGELA HART
When Maria got an eviction notice telling her she had to be out of her Redwood City apartment by late February, she thought something seemed fishy.
She contacted housing attorneys, who confirmed to her landlord that the notice was not served legally and she didn’t have to move out right away.
Her landlord responded with a text message threatening to call immigration authorities on Maria if she didn’t comply, saying it was a “duty” to report anyone who is undocumented.
A second text from the landlord referenced Maria’s attorney, Daniel Saver, who works for an East Palo Alto nonprofit law firm.
The landlord warned of reporting Saver to the State Bar of California “for helping his clients who illegally live in the United States of America,” according to text message correspondence Saver sent to a legislative committee in March.
The text continued: “I believe the State Bar of California will be interested (in) my complaint, under the new leadership of our president.”
“This has gotten pretty pervasive,” said Saver, a lawyer at Community Legal Services in East Palo Alto.
Even before Donald Trump’s presidency, landlords across California were capitalizing on the state’s tight housing market by jacking up rent, delaying costly health and safety repairs and evicting tenants to move in higher-income renters, housing attorneys say. But since Trump took office, they say, tenant harassment, intimidation and discrimination have gotten worse – especially in immigrant communities throughout California, from Los Angeles and the Central Valley to the Bay Area and Sacramento.
“It isn’t anything new that immigrant tenants are threatened by landlords, or that they’re fearful about complaining about unhealthy conditions or asserting their rights,” Saver said. “What has changed now is the tenor of those threats and the brazenness of landlords who make those threats. That has shifted in the Trump era. This is not anything we’ve ever seen before.”
Backing up lawyers’ reports with specific data is difficult. No agencies track data on the reasons people are evicted or loss of housing due to someone’s immigration status. And immigrants, particularly those who are undocumented, are reluctant to come forward out of heightened concern that they, or their family members, will face repercussions. The Sacramento Bee agreed to use the pseudonym Maria, which Saver used in his testimony, because she is fearful of being identified by immigration authorities.
State Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, said he isn’t surprised tensions are running high. He said the state shouldn’t “protect illegal immigrants and keep them in housing when we’re trying to find housing for legal residents.”
“There’s always a concern that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from U.S. citizens,” Moorlach said. “Now we have an issue of them taking housing away when it is getting so expensive, and our young kids are moving out of the state because of it.”
State and federal fair housing laws, however, cover undocumented immigrants and make it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their race, national origin, religion, sex, gender identity, disability and more. Still, some state lawmakers say California must strengthen tenant protections.
Estimates show California is home to roughly 2.5 million undocumented immigrants.
“Most of them are renters, and landlords almost always known the immigration status of their tenants. They are even more vulnerable than other low-income tenants because they have this fear of being deported or their landlord reporting them to Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” said Jith Meganathan, an attorney and policy advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
“We’d like to think this is happening in the dusty corners of the San Joaquin Valley, where there are more farmworkers, but it’s happening everywhere – Silicon Valley, Oakland, throughout Los Angeles, on the Peninsula and in the East Bay,” Meganathan said. “It’s all since November, with the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from this new administration. Many more of these threats are being made, often times with invocations of Trump.”
Maria Estrada said she and her family were forced out of their Oakland apartment after her landlord threatened to call immigration agents.
“He (said) he’s going to report us to ICE,” Estrada said. “Any car we saw stop in front of the place, we couldn’t even go back to sleep because we (were) scared. Every time he would stop by the house and talk to us, he’d say ICE is going to pick you up … when we hear that, we’d run away for the whole day.”
Estrada, 56, is in the country legally, but some in her family are not.
“I was worried what would happen to them, and for me, too,” she said. “I’m not a criminal.”
Abel Gonzalez said his landlord threatened to call immigration on him and his family, then sought to evict them from their southeast Los Angeles apartment that they’d lived in for seven years.
“I said, ‘Please don’t threaten us with this,’ ” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez, 46, said he and his wife are going through process of getting a green card and had spent their disposable income on “solving their status issue.”
“It felt really bad. We’ve been here 25 years,” he said.
With the help of their 21-year-old son who was born in the U.S., the couple negotiated an agreement with their landlord to stay in their apartment in exchange for paying higher rent. They now pay $2,000 per month for their two-bedroom apartment, up from $1,200 previously.
“We’re still worried,” said Gonzalez, one of hundreds of tenants across the state participating in the activist group Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment, also known as Housing Now, which is trying to put pressure on elected officials to enact rent control and stronger anti-eviction policies across the state.
Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, said something must be done to to help tenants facing extreme rent increases, evictions and deportation threats. He has proposed legislation that seeks to prevent landlords from threatening to report tenants to immigration authorities or disclosing their immigration status themselves.
“Since Election Day last year, it has not been an easy time to be an immigrant in our country. For immigrant tenants, in particular, it has been a frightening time,” Chiu said. “We don’t think anyone should live in fear.”
State and federal fair housing laws prohibit discrimination based on race or national origin, disability status, sexual orientation and gender. Assembly Bill 291 from Chiu would strengthen those laws by:
▪ Prohibiting landlords from threatening to report tenants to immigration authorities, either in retaliation for asserting their rights or to evict them.
▪ Bar landlords from disclosing a tenant’s immigration status.
▪ Allow tenants to sue landlords who disclose their immigration status to law enforcement.
▪ Prohibit questions about a tenant’s immigration status during a trial.
▪ Prohibit attorneys from reporting or threatening to report the immigration status of people involved in housing cases.
Moorlach criticized the bill for “seeking to legislate something based on a few bad apples.”
Though he and other Republicans in the Legislature voted against Chiu’s bill, it has no recorded opposition. The California Apartment Association, a statewide lobbying organization representing landlords, has endorsed it.
“The vast majority of landlords are in the business of providing housing. They’re not in the business of trying to identify, capture and report people to immigration officials – that’s just not their job,” said Debra Carlton, senior vice president for public affairs for the association. “Tenants shouldn’t have to worry after they’ve already been a tenant that their landlord is going to report them to ICE.”
Ilene Jacobs, statewide director of litigation for California Rural Legal Assistance Inc., called the bill is an important measure to help tenants facing unlawful eviction or deportation threats.
“People have rights to not be discriminated against because of who they are, or what language they speak, what they look like or what their gender expression is,” Jacobs said. “That doesn’t mean they are not discriminated against and it doesn’t mean they don’t need help enforcing those laws.”
The California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation is a co-sponsor of the bill along with the Western Center on Law and Poverty.
She said it’s critical to beef up the ranks of nonprofit lawyers in the state who can help tenants who need legal assistance.
The state’s recently adopted budget includes $45 million to assist undocumented immigrants, including those seeking help to become citizens, deportation defense and other legal and immigration-related services.
Dean Preston, executive Director of Tenants Together, a statewide housing advocacy organization, also endorsed Chiu’s bill. He has seen cases skyrocket this year amid soaring rents in the Bay Area.
“This is not an anecdote here and an anecdote there,” he said. “This is an ongoing problem that has gotten even worse since the election.”
Angela Hart: 916-326-5528, @ahartreports
This e-mail has been sent by California State Senator John M. W. Moorlach, 37th District.
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