Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Teacher employment bill responds to Vergara ruling

Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, talks colleagues in Sacramento on Aug. 19, 2013.
Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, talks colleagues in Sacramento on Aug. 19, 2013. AP

There are few policy endeavors tougher than changing how California retains and fires teachers.

So arduous is the process, and so widespread is the perception of the legislative route’s futility, that school reformers went to the courts on the premise the Legislature would do nothing. An appeals court recently invalidated a lower court’s landmark decision upending California’s rules. Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla, D-Concord, doesn’t want to wait for the Supremes to weigh in.

Her Assembly Bill 934, which gets its first vote when it appears in Senate Education Committee this morning (room 4203, starting at 9 a.m.) has undergone some changes. Gone is the piece eliminating seniority as the overriding factor in who loses their job first during layoffs. A piece mandating that districts offer an expedited dismissal for struggling teachers is now voluntary. Those changes prompted condemnation from former supporter Students Matter, bringer of the lawsuit.

But local districts can still bargain for that sped-up firing. More importantly, the bill extends to three years how long it takes teachers to win tenure. Those provisions are enough to keep the powerful California Teachers Association opposed and to win the support of school administrators and the state PTA. Can AB 934 navigate those political headwinds and pass a committee?

FIELDWORK: Farmworkers lost out yet again on an overtime pay boost last month, with 15 Democrats declining to vote for expanded wages after an emotional debate that invoked slavery, family farms and the Bible on both sides. Undeterred, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, has revived her effort to guarantee more overtime (while the feds cut agriculture out of overtime decades ago, a California wage order offers some), and the gutted-and-amended Assembly Bill 1066 goes up in the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee at 9:30 in room 2040.

BEAT THE HEAT: In addition to fighting for better pay, the United Farm Workers Union has long advocated for heat safety regulations to protect farm workers, settling two lawsuits in June last year which will require Cal/OSHA to improve its farm inspections and enforcement of heat-safety rules. In the midst of a scorching week, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, a potential 2018 gubernatorial candidate who is working to activate the Latino vote, will join UFW President Arturo S. Rodriguez, Bishop Jaime Soto and farm workers on the north steps of the Capitol at 11 a.m. for a display of insulated “Lifeline” water bottles that are being distributed to farm workers statewide.

SURPRISE! Large out-of-network medical bills would seem to make for an easy political target, but an effort to limit the inflated charges stumbled last year amid opposition from the California Medical Association, whose representatives warned it would limit access to care. Public health advocates have continued pushing for a change, resuscitating the idea in a new vessel. Assembly Bill 72 faces its first vote in the Senate Health Committee today (1:30 p.m., room 4203).

ELECTIONEERING: Ever-uncertain runs the fate of the termed-out lawmaker, compelled to either seek a new office or find a new gig (some more related to their past job than others). Assemblyman Roger Hernández, D-West Covina, may be sleeping a little easier after the most recent vote count shows him sliding into the 2nd place spot – and thus a Dem-on-Dem showdown – in his bid to unseat Rep. Grace Napolitano, D-Norwalk. Until the latest total, Hernandez trailed Republican Gordon Fisher; now he holds a slim lead.

TOUR DE BREWS: A city ordinance permitting the consumption of alcohol on bike-buses is scheduled to take effect Friday. Gov. Jerry Brown celebrated with a ride after signing SB 530 in October of last year, giving cities the authority to approve buzzed bike-bus tours provided that there are fewer than 15 passengers and a safety monitor on board. The City Council approved an ordinance in May allowing “brew bike” passengers a generous 36 ounces of beer or 18 ounces of wine. At 1 p.m. Wednesday, Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, the author of SB 530, and Todd Sebastian of Off the Chain Bike Bus tours will join local officials and business owners to celebrate on board one of Off the Chain’s bike buses at the 1200 block of K Street.

CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, who turns 42 today, and to former Assemblyman Henry Perea, D-Fresno, who turns 39.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert. Anshu Siripurapu of the Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.