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California’s Public Policy Playback: News You Might Have Missed

Tanu Henry and Joe W. Bowers Jr. | California Black Media

California Celebrates César Chávez Day

To mark César Chávez Day on March 31, Assembly Speaker Robert Rivas, who is the son of farmworkers, partnered with Assemblymember Esmeralda Soria (D-Fresno) to honor the legacy of labor leader Cesar Chavez.

“César Chávez is an inspiration, said Soria in short video the two lawmakers posted on X.

“His leadership and advocacy created opportunities for generations of farmworkers – the men and women who feed our entire nation and the entire world. He worked tirelessly alongside Dolores Huerta and others, added Soria. Today, we remember César Chávez’s many lessons and we reiterate our commitment to fight for protections and the right of every worker.”

Ahead of a Los Angeles event organized Sunday by presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy to celebrate the Mexican American labor activist and civil rights leader, Chávez family issued a statement opposing the use of his image in political campaigning.

“When we saw Bobby Kennedy begin to use images of my father, and then when we heard about this event in L.A., it really prompted us to stand up and to make sure that people understood that the Chavez family does not support his campaign,” wrote the labor icon’s son, Paul Chávez.

Andres Chavez, Paul’s son, also registered his outrage with the Kennedy campaign.

“We’ve never seen anybody go as far as using that image for political gain,” said of Kennedy’s campaign event invitation.

The leadership of the National Chavez Center in Keene has announed that they tend to endorse President Biden.

Gov. Newsom Grants Clemency to 52 People, Including Popular Podcaster

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he granted clemency to 52 people: 37 pardons and 18 commutations.

One of the people the Governor is requesting a full pardon for is  Earlonne Woods, who was formerly incarcerated at San Quentin and is one of the creators of the popular, award-winning podcast Ear Hustle, which chronicles prison life.

Woods, a Los Angeles native who now lives in Oakland, recently signed a deal to work with Morgan Freeman on a documentary series.

Because Woods has been convicted of two or more felonies, his pardon will have to be approved by the State Supreme Court.

“The California Constitution gives the Governor the authority to grant executive clemency in the form of a pardon, commutation, or reprieve, the statement from the Governor’s office reads.

“The Governor regards clemency as an important part of the criminal justice system that can incentivize accountability and rehabilitation, increase public safety by removing counterproductive barriers to successful reentry, correct unjust results in the legal system, and address the health needs of incarcerated people with high medical risks.

Woods, an outspoken advocate for repealing California’s Three Strikes law, spent 21 years in prison, for attempted robbery.

Newsom also granted a posthumous pardon to civil rights activist William Burwell, whose life and advocacy became the impetus for establishing Cal State Northridge’s Africana Studies Department. In 1969, Burwell was arrested and convicted of misdemeanor trespass and failure to disperse during a racial justice protest on campus.

Report: Local Public Safety Funding Falls Short

A report published March 25 says local funding in California for mental health and substance abuse is inadequate. This deficiency is contributing to the state’s mental health and public safety problems.

Complied by the Steinberg Institute, a Sacramento-based independent public policy research institute focused on mental health and substance use disorder, the report is titled “Misaligned: California’s Public Safety Funding Doesn’t Meet Today’s needs.”

“Too many Californians with significant behavioral health needs find themselves languishing in our jails while their illness is left untreated,” the report reads.

“Counties report that 53 percent of people in county jails have an open mental health case, a figure that has more than doubled since 2010. While state-level information on substance use disorder prevalence is limited, national estimates find that over 60 percent of incarcerated people have a substance use disorder,” it continues.

In 2011, California adopted AB 109, legislation that required people convicted of certain misdemeanors and lower-level crimes to be moved from state prisons to county jails. Since then, the state and counties have allocated billions to meet that goal. However, the money is insufficient to address behavioral health problems, according to the report.

The Steinberg Institute says the available data underestimates the true prevalence of behavioral health conditions among jail and prison populations.

“Connecting these individuals with effective behavioral health care is essential to reduce needless human suffering, shorten incarceration stays, and improve public safety by preventing future offenses,” it puts forward.

Gov. Newsom Extends California Financial Aid Deadline, Signs Other Bills

On March 25, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced that he has signed five bills, including one that extends the state’s financial aid deadline to May 2.

Most of the bills took effect April 1.

Assembly Bill (AB) 1887, authored by Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, D-Riverside), goes into effect immediately. According to Cervantes, she authored the law to address technical problems families faced with completing the U.S. Department of Education’s FAFSA application this year.

“Making the path to fulfilling our students’ dreams of achieving higher education more affordable and accessible is among the highest duties of our state government, and Assembly Bill 1887 being signed into law is a way to honor that duty,” Cervantes said. “This new law will give California students more time to complete the FAFSA and gain access to the financial resources they need to begin their college careers in earnest.”

The governor also signed AB 610, authored by Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), which exempts some fast-food restaurants – like those inside airports and hotels – from California’s recent minimum wage increase to $20 per hour

Other bills Newsom signed are:

  • SB 136 – establishes new taxation structure for Medi-Cal: managed care organization providers.
  • SB 477  — adds new requirements on reporting and tracking local housing development as well as streamlines and adds transparency to the  building permit and development application processes.

 

  • SB 479 by Senator María Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) makes changes to the Tenants Protection Act, including who has authority to evict a tenant.

CDPH Launches New Youth Suicide Prevention Campaign

On March 28, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) launched a campaign aimed at preventing youth suicide. It was created with the input of hundreds of teens across the state.

Titled “Never a Bother,” CDPH officials say the campaign is designed to create awareness and inspire action around: the second leading cause of death among youth ages 10-25 years in California between 2018 and 2022.”

“Young Californians are facing a mental health crisis like never before,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer, Dr. Tomás J. Aragón.

“While this crisis has been growing for years, the pandemic put a spotlight on the issue, especially those in marginalized and underserved communities,” Aragón continued. “This campaign directly addresses this crisis with education, tools, and resources informed and co-created by diverse young people across the state.”

First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom says it is important that the campaign speaks to young people using their own voices.

“The youth who partnered with us to create this campaign provided invaluable insight into the resources, knowledge, and support needed to best address their needs. As a mother, I am proud to see a campaign that resonates with youth and serves as a reminder to them that they are never alone and never a bother,” Siebel Newsom said in a statement.

The CDPH is encouraging young people experiencing suicidal thoughts to call 988.

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