Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

December 10, 2013
California teacher firing fix could go directly to voters

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An education advocacy group known for supporting charter schools is pushing a ballot initiative that would streamline the process for firing abusive teachers, after bills on the subject failed in back-to-back years.

Amplifying criticisms that dismissing teachers often entails a drawn-out, costly process, lawmakers this year sent Gov. Jerry Brown a bill to expedite proceedings. Brown vetoed the bill, saying its prescriptions were too rigid and suggesting it might backfire and lengthen dismissal proceedings.

The demise of the bill, authored by Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan, D-Alamo, came a year after a teacher firing bill by Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Los Angeles, crumbled in committee amid opposition from the California Teachers Association. Padilla's bill responded to a storm of outrage following a series of sexual misconduct cases in Los Angeles Unified School District.

The proposed ballot measure has been submitted by EdVoice, a nonprofit that backs charters and pushes an education agenda often at odds with teacher unions. The measure similarly focuses on the worst offenders, setting up a compressed hearing process for teachers accused of severe offenses that include child molestation, child abuse and offering drugs to students.

Those teachers would be stripped of certain protections. Unlike with other teachers, whose firing goes before a three-person panel that includes two fellow educators, the fate of teachers accused of extraordinary misconduct would be in hands of an administrative law judge. Their cases would be prioritized and heard before other pending firing cases.

As with Buchanan's bill, the ballot initiative would make the adjudicating panel's decision binding and would allow older evidence to be used in cases revolving around allegations of sexual abuse.

The California Attorney General's office has yet to review the proposal, which would still need to gather the requisite number of signatures before going to the ballot, although the Legislative Analyst's Office has released a summary.

"As we've witnessed over the last two or three legislative cycles, the Legislature has gotten caught up in trying to make the issue of improving the law contingent on treating everyone the same," said Bill Lucia, the president and CEO of EdVoice, adding that the initiative draws a "bright line about the type of the more egregious version of misconduct."

Teachers' association spokeswoman Claudia Briggs said the group had not taken a position. "Our members are the last ones who want child molestors in the schools," she said. "It's another measure that's being proposed that hasn't been qualified (for the ballot) yet, so we at CTA don't have a position on it "

PHOTO: A first-grader during a yoga class at Paul Ecke Central Elementary School in Encinitas, Calif., Dec. 11, 2012. The New York Times/T. Lynne Pixley.

December 10, 2013
Dan Walters Daily: Gov. Jerry Brown can't afford his legacy

California's proposed high-speed rail system and Delta water tunnels could be the signature achievements Gov. Jerry Brown is looking for, Dan says, but not if they remain in funding limbo.

Have a question you'd like Dan to answer? Post it on our Facebook page.

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

December 10, 2013
AM Alert: Majority of California voters support legalizing weed

MC_POTFARM_04.JPGCalifornia's last initiative to legalize marijuana suffered a close defeat in 2010, garnering nearly 47 percent of the vote. Organizers are attempting to get the issue back on the ballot in 2014--and a new Field Poll suggests they may have more luck this time around.

For the first time, a clear majority of respondents support the legalization of marijuana. Fifty-five percent of California voters believe the drug should be legal for purchase either by anyone or with age and other controls, up from 50 percent three years ago and a lowly 13 percent four decades ago.

About 56 percent of Californians are also inclined to vote yes on one new proposed statewide initiative, which would legalize marijuana use for adults over the age of 21 and set a standard for intoxication similar to alcohol. The group behind the proposition has until February to collect 500,000 signatures to qualify it for the ballot. If it were to pass next November, California would become the third state to legalize marijuana, after Washington and Colorado.

Here are the statistical tabulations provided exclusively for Capitol Alert. Reporter Jeremy B. White has more on the state's shifting acceptance of marijuana.

VIDEO: The outlook is murky for two controversial projects that could be Gov. Jerry Brown's legacy, Dan Walters says.

NEW JOB: Lobbyist Natasha Karl is leaving the League of California Cities for a new position overseeing government affairs for Sacramento County. She begins the job next week.

DECK THE HALLS: If you're looking for some lunchtime entertainment, the State Capitol Holiday Music Program continues today with the Sheldon High School Concert Choir at 11 a.m. and the Cantare Chorale at noon in the Capitol Rotunda.

CELEBRATIONS: It's a double birthday! Best wishes to Assemblyman Isadore Hall, D-Compton, who is 42, and state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, turning 47.

PHOTO: Marijuana plants at an illegal marijuana grow site off Interstate 5 and the Twin Cities exit on August 30, 2013. The Sacramento Bee/Manny Crisostomo

Editor's note: This post was updated at 11:09 a.m. to reflect the correct year of California's last marijuana initiative.



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Capitol Alert Staff


Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers California politics and edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. jwhite@sacbee.com. Twitter: @capitolalert

Amy Chance Amy Chance is political editor for The Sacramento Bee. achance@sacbee.com. Twitter: @Amy_Chance

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. smith@sacbee.com

Christopher Cadelago Christopher Cadelago covers California politics and health care. ccadelago@sacbee.com. Twitter: @ccadelago

Micaela Massimino Micaela Massimino edits Capitol Alert. mmassimino@sacbee.com

Laurel Rosenhall Laurel Rosenhall covers the Legislature, the lobbying community and higher education. lrosenhall@sacbee.com. Twitter: @LaurelRosenhall

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. dsiders@sacbee.com. Twitter: @davidsiders

Dan Walters Dan Walters is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. dwalters@sacbee.com. Twitter: @WaltersBee

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