California Legislature: many private meetings

Today, California lawmakers are gearing up for a series of high-stakes meetings — behind closed doors.

The House Legislative Ethics Committee — a bipartisan panel of three Democrats and three Republicans — must meet privately to consider a complaint filed against a lawmaker or other official or employee, under the legal code cited in the notice of meeting.

This is the first time the committee has met since June 27, 2019, said Katie Talbot, spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.

In order for the committee to hold a hearing, it must first find that “the verified complaint alleges facts…sufficient to constitute a breach of any standard of conduct” and then conduct a preliminary investigation which determines “there are grounds reasonable to believe that the allegations of the complaint”, according to the Standing Orders of the Assembly.

  • Veteran Sacramento lobbyist Chris Micheli told me: “It’s unique because the Legislative Ethics Committee rarely meets. In fact, they haven’t met since 2019. And it’s the first time they’ve met in the current two-year term, as the session ends in just three weeks. And the other unique aspect of it is that they are considering a complaint against a public official. We don’t know who that official or that employee is, and that’s why they’re meeting behind closed doors. »
  • Adam Silver, the committee’s chief counsel, wrote in an email: “Information and records related to complaints received by the Ethics Committee are deemed confidential under the Rules of the Assembly.”
  • However, certain information will eventually become public, in accordance with the Standing Rules: If the committee dismisses the complaint, it’s a public record – and if the committee finds the respondent violated a standard of conduct, it will submit a report to the Assembly along with a resolution including recommendations for disciplinary action.

The office of Democratic Assemblyman Akilah Weber of San Diego, who serves as co-chair of the committee, did not respond to a request for comment. Republican Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo, the other co-chair, declined to comment.

Also today, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee is set to begin the first of two days of closed meetings to discuss candidates for California’s next state auditor, according to online meeting notices.

Once the committee selects the three final nominees — a process that staffers say may or may not happen this week — it will send those names to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who will then appoint the next head of the independent agency. tasked with evaluating the performance of its own administration.

California has been without a permanent auditor since the start of the year following the retirement of Elaine Howle, who resigned after leading the office for 21 years. The bureau has continued to produce scathing reports under Acting State Auditor Michael Tilden, who recently released an audit criticizing the state water board for failing to provide emergency assistance to systems serving water. unsafe drinking water to nearly one million Californians.

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The toll of the coronavirus: On Thursday, California had 10,024,326 confirmed cases (+0.4% compared to the previous day) and 93,056 deaths (+0.2% compared to the previous day)according to state data now updated only twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters also tracks coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California administered 78,998,017 vaccine dosesand 71.8% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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Unemployment benefits too hard to get, report says

Hospitality workers apply for unemployment benefits at the Hospitality Training Academy in Los Angeles on March 13, 2020. Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP Photo

“People should get fired for this.” That was Republican Fresno Assemblyman Jim Patterson’s response to a scathing Monday report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office that found California’s beleaguered Unemployment Service had delayed job payments. about 5 million workers in the midst of the pandemic and had wrongfully turned them away for probably 1 million more. The report revealed that the Department of Employment Development placed a higher priority on cost reduction and fraud prevention than on the provision of employee benefits, which resulted in hundreds of thousands of pending applications, blocked phone lines and account freezes that have prevented many desperate Californians from accessing funds. they had to stay afloat — even though the agency paid out at least $20 billion in fraudulent claims, including nearly $1 billion to inmates.

Grace Gedye of CalMatters breaks down the other key points from the report:

  • More than half of unemployment compensation denials in California are overturned on appeal, meaning these workers should have gotten the benefits in the first place.
  • In reports to the Legislative Assembly, EDD misrepresented the number of applications it disqualified or denied. From the start of the pandemic through June 20, 2021, EDD said it had disqualified or denied 705,000 claims – when it had in fact disqualified at least 3.4 million. About 78% of the 200,000 workers who appealed were successful.
  • EDD has disqualified about 1 in 4 jobless claims during the pandemic for failing to respond to requests for additional information — or for not being able to process the additional information provided within the time allowed.

Michael Bernick, a former director of EDD who is now a special adviser to the law firm Duane Morris, countered that many of the anti-fraud measures accused of slowing payments are required by the federal government. And EDD spokesman Gareth Lacy said many of the legislative analyst’s recommendations, “such as limiting inappropriate claim denials and minimizing delays, have been incorporated into EDD’s actions over the of the past year”.

California and Texas renew bounty hunting

Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters, iStock and Reuters

If You Can’t Beat Them, Join Them: After the U.S. Supreme Court refused to block a Texas law allowing private citizens to sue abortion clinics and anyone who ‘aids or abets proceedings after about six weeks of pregnancy and collecting less than $10,000 per violation, Newsom responded with a proposal — which he recently signed into law — allowing private Californians to collect the same amount of money for suing successfully anyone who manufactures, distributes or sells certain illegal weapons. Both of these laws essentially shift law enforcement power from the state to individuals — and in doing so, add to a long and difficult history of bounty hunting in the United States, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports.

  • Randy Beck, professor at the University of Georgia Law School: “There’s a good reason lawmakers have stopped using them, and…I’m afraid a group of lawmakers is repeating history that we don’t want to repeat.” … It kind of becomes part of this culture war, one state fighting back against another state. These things are not good in practice.

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