Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

UC fields scandal questions + Housing transgender inmates + Small business day

Good morning and happy Tuesday!

PAYING TO GET IN

The Assembly Budget Subcommittee on Education Finance has a heavy agenda today. Members plan to discuss the U.S. Department of Justice’s recent charges filed against top universities, including University of California Los Angeles, for accepting bribes in exchange for admission.

Catch up: Last week, the internet shattered when news broke that the USDOJ charged dozens of parents, coaches, athletic directors and test administrators for their role in the massive cheating scandal. Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, called for University of California President Janet Napolitano to open a deeper investigation into other campuses after the UCLA men’s soccer coach was charged.

“It is unfortunate that the unethical behavior of a few individuals colors UC’s unwavering commitment to fairness and equity,” Napolitano responded. “The university will seize this moment as a valuable opportunity to improve its policies and practices, while continuing to be transparent, accountable and expeditious, as this is our fundamental obligation to our students — prospective, current and alumni — as well as the public. We will uncover the full truth and make things right.”

A representative from UC will be at the hearing to answer questions on the progress of the investigation.

Also — The committee will hold the “first consequential vote,” for Assembly Bill 2 , which would provide a second year of free tuition for full-time students at community colleges.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in room 447.



THE FIGHT FOR TRANSGENDER INMATES

Amid growing awareness and empirical evidence that transgender prisoners face high rates of sexual assault and solitary confinement in the prison system, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, renewed efforts on Monday to combat the crisis.

Senate Bill 132 would require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to house inmates in facilities specific to their gender identity. The proposal also requires corrections staff to reference inmates using the pronouns and the names that the individuals prefer and allows prisoners who are transgender to determine the gender identity of guards who body search them.

“The experience of transgender people in prison is a major human rights issue,” Wiener told The Bee, adding that transgender women are particularly vulnerable to abuse and violence in the prison system.

“Transgender incarcerated individuals often have terrible experiences in prison, including significant violence, sexual assault and so forth.

A spokesperson for CDCR said the department does not comment on proposed legislation, but the agency maintains policy to refer certain cases to a classification committee “for review of all case factors and determination of appropriate institutional placement and housing assignment.”

Wiener said the bill provides “flexibility” for prison authorities in cases of specific security concerns.

The senator introduced the similar Senate Bill 990 last year, which focused on ensuring isolated transgender inmates have access to programming and work opportunities while separated from the general population.

Citing cost concerns in the tens of millions required to build new units and upgrade training policies, the Assembly Committee on Appropriations killed the bill.

The senator’s office said there is no cost analysis for SB132 yet, but that there is ongoing collaborating with CDCR and Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office.

“We have enormous work to do to start treating transgender people in prison with the dignity and the respect that they deserve,” he said.

MOM AND POP SHOP DAY

The National Federation of Independent Business in California is hosting its annual Day at the Capitol to advocate for small business policy priorities, including fighting against “unnecessary regulations,” healthcare and minimum wage issues.

The federation awarded the state a disappointing scorecard following the governor’s State of the State address in February, referencing a high state and local sales tax and cost of living for its below-average ratings.

California Treasurer Fiona Ma will join the small business leaders and owners at the event today, scheduled to begin at noon. Ma will highlight the state’s fiscal health and ways for California to support small businesses.

The state treasurer will also join a bipartisan group of state Senators Steve Glazer, D-Orinda, Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, Brian Jones, R-Santee, John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, and Assemblymen James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, Vince Fong, R-Bakersfield, and Robert Rivas, D-Hollister.

“In California, small businesses have an extraordinary burden of excessive taxes and regulations,” Jones said. “We all need to work together to improve positive business climate.”

For your radar — The Assembly Committee on Public Safety is meeting this morning at 9 a.m., and on its agenda is Assembly Bill 582, authored by Republican Jim Patterson of Fresno.

The proposal cracks down on sentencing drunk drivers who don’t stop at the scene of an accident, and doubles the imprisonment from between two and four years to, in some cases, eight years.

“We need to close the loophole in state law that actually benefits DUI drivers,” Patterson said. “We want drivers to stay, help the person they hurt and be responsible for their actions.”

If the bill fails, it will be the second Republican-authored DUI legislation that the committee killed in a week. Assemblyman Heath Flora’s Assembly Bill 401 would have made a DUI punishable as a felony if the driver had four or more previous convictions within 10 years.

You can follow yours truly @hannahcwiley for live updates on AB 582 and more from the hearing.

Bonus radar blip With less than a year for county elections officials to update their voting technology to meet new statewide standards, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla is hosting a public hearing this afternoon at the Capitol to hear how the process is going.

The Presidential Primary Election is scheduled for March 3, 2020, and counties must implement the California Voting System Standards system before then. The current state budget allocated $134.3 million for counties to upgrade their outdated technologies. Twenty of 58 counties are up to code, while several are in the process and many more have fallen behind.

The hearing, scheduled for 1 p.m. in room 3191, will offer stakeholders the chance to share their support, opposition and recommendations. You can watch the livestream here.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

March 18 — Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-North Hollywood

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