While the California Legislature can only set policy for the state's nearly 40 million residents, its ambitions are often much grander. With, we are often reminded, one of the largest economies in the world to dangle and deploy for influence, lawmakers regularly wade into issues on the global stage, thousands of miles from California's borders.
The tense relations between Armenia and Turkey, which continues to deny that the then-Ottoman Empire committed a genocide of 1.5 million Armenians during World War I, is a perpetual topic. California has the largest population of ethnic Armenians outside of Armenia — hundreds of thousands in Los Angeles County alone — and there is an annual resolution to recognize the Armenian Genocide.
Last year, the Assembly even passed a bill to prohibit California's public employee retirement funds from investing with the Turkish government, though it ultimately stalled in a Senate committee.
The divestment push has found more success at the University of California, which is reported to hold more than $70 million in Turkish bonds and investments. Activists have pushed the student governments at nearly every campus to pass resolutions urging UC to divest.
A Senate hearing, 1 p.m. in Room 2040 of the Capitol, will highlight that campaign by inviting the student founders of the Divest Turkey movement to testify. Jagdeep Singh Bachher, UC's chief investment officer and vice president of investments, is also slated to discuss why UC remains committed to its financial obligations in Turkey.
Sen. Anthony Portantino, a Democrat from La Cañada Flintridge who represents a large Armenian-American population and will chair the hearing, said California should treat Turkey the same way it does Iran, which the state divested from a decade ago.
"If I can help highlight those human rights atrocities and use that as a justification for divestiture, I'm going to do that," Portantino said. "At the end of the day, we're talking about Californians with both human and business ties to these countries."
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WHAT'S GOING ON: A decade ago, former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and members of the California Legislative Black Caucus issued a report on the "state of Black California." Seeking to bring attention back to the community's progress and its remaining challenges, the caucus will release an update today for the 10th anniversary, examining how African-Americans fare on health outcomes, education, economic prosperity and voter engagement compared to other ethnic groups in California. Following a press conference at 8:30 a.m. in Room 1190 of the Capitol, the caucus will hold a day of informational hearings on the results of the report in Room 4202. At noon, Brown and Inglewood Unified School District board member D’Artagnan Scorza headline a luncheon at the Tsakopoulos Library Galleria on I Street.
REPORT CARD: Poor results for students who start their college careers in developmental English and math classes have prompted education officials and lawmakers alike to push for changes to remediation at California State University and the community college system. The Public Policy Institute of California hosts a panel on whether those initiatives are helping students and what more colleges can do, noon at the California Endowment on K Street. Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin, D-Thousand Oaks, is among the participants.
LISTEN UP: Former legislative staffer Gibran Maciel has launched his own online talk show, SacTown Talks, featuring interviews with Sacramento's "movers, shakers and eclectic personalities." Past guests include notable Capitol figures like Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove; Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker; and Dan Walters, former longtime political columnist at The Sacramento Bee. New episodes are available every few weeks on iTunes, YouTube and other podcast platforms. The latest, with band The Fontaine Classic, includes a discussion about the end-of-session tradition of throwing coins into the crown of the Queen Isabella statue in the Capitol rotunda.