Capitol Alert

The latest on California politics and government

June 27, 2014
UC system reviewing employee use of Lyft, Airbnb

uber.JPGAs lawmakers and regulators work to create rules for an emerging sharing economy, the University of California system is grappling with its own set of safety and liability concerns when employees use popular services like Uber, Lyft and Airbnb.

It appeared earlier this week that the system had banned its staff from using the online-based services after a UCLA administrator emailed top campus officials a notice that the university was prohibiting such tools while traveling on business. The decision from the UC general counsel was prompted by "concerns that these services are not fully regulated and do not protect users to the same extent as a commercially regulated business," the email said.

After media reports and criticism, UC President Janet Napolitano's office clarified the policy. The services are allowed, the university told employees in a follow-up email on Thursday, but under review.

"We are actively seeking ways to overcome potential liability and safety concerns and would like to work proactively with companies such as (Lyft, Uber and Airbnb]) to get everyone to a point of complete comfort with the risks involved," the second email said.

The UC move comes at a time when state officials are considering new insurance requirements for ride-sharing services, including Uber and Lyft. Several cities, including San Francisco, have also taken steps to regulate Airbnb, an online marketplace for posting and finding rental housing.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a vocal supporter of ride-sharing and a UC regent, criticized the reported ban in a letter to Napolitano on Thursday. Newsom said he recognizes "legitimate regulatory questions" about the sharing economy, but warned that a ban could result in higher costs and would send an anti-innovation message.

"Sharing economy companies offer consumers more choices at often less cost than comparable services offered by traditional vendors," Newsom wrote. "This decision also sends an unfortunate message to UC students, faculty and countless Californians who are striving to create the next generation of innovative businesses and technologies."

PHOTO: A Lyft passenger steps into a car in San Francisco. Associated Press/Jeff Chiu

June 27, 2014
FPPC rejects Tuck ethics complaint against teachers union

Marshall_Tuck.JPGThe state's political ethics enforcement agency has rejected a complaint filed by state superintendent of public instruction challenger Marshall Tuck against the California Teachers Association for a series of television ads supporting incumbent Tom Torlakson.

Tuck filed the ethics complaint with the Fair Political Practices Commission in late May, charging that the CTA had misleadingly characterized the ads as "issue advocacy" rather than a campaign expenditure. The spots applaud Torlakson's work as state schools chief and encourage viewers to "tell Tom Torlakson to keep fighting" for local control of school funding decisions and career training,

FPPC regulations specify that any political spending to influence voters for or against a particular candidate qualifies as an expenditure, but among the exceptions is spending "urging the public to adopt a particular position and to contact the candidate with respect to the matter or issue."

"After review of your complaint and the evidence obtained, we found no violation of the Political Reform Act," Gary Winuk, FPPC's chief enforcement officer, wrote in a letter to Tuck. "Although the television commercials occurred fairly close to the election, the commercials did not expressly advocate the election of a candidate at the June Primary."

Tuck spokeswoman Cynara Lilly disagreed with the ruling.

"Regardless of what the FPPC ruling says on a technicality, it's clear that the television commercials violated the spirit of the law," she said. "It's still part of a broader effort that CTA is doing to buy the election and influence the election for their chosen candidates."

In an e-mail, CTA spokeswoman Becky Zoglman said the decision was not a surprise.

"The ads were clearly advocating on issues important to students and public schools and the complaint was clearly a campaign gimmick by Tuck," she wrote. "We hope he will stop wasting taxpayer money by filing such baseless complaints in his fall campaign."

Tuck and Torlakson have been locked in a costly and ideologically charged race for state superintendent. During the primary cycle, it attracted more outside spending than any other race in the state--more than $4 million from CTA and Los Angeles businessman Bill Bloomfield, among others.

PHOTO: Courtesy of Marshall Tuck

June 27, 2014
PPIC study says realignment has not reduced recidivism rate

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for CaliforniaPrisonsRealignment.jpgGov. Jerry Brown's "realignment" of criminal justice procedures, aimed at reducing overcrowding in state prisons by diverting more felons into local jails and probation, has not resulted in lower rates of new criminal activity among offenders, a study by the Public Policy Institute of California concludes.

New offenses by those released from custody are known as "recidivism" and putting felons under local control was supposed to include more drug treatment and other programs to reduce their criminal activity.

However, the PPIC study concludes, "We find that the post-realignment period has not seen dramatic changes in arrests or convictions of released offenders. In the context of realignment's broad reforms to the corrections system, our findings suggest that offender behavior has not changed substantially."

"Overall arrest rates of released offenders are down slightly, with the proportion of those arrested within a year of release declining by two percentage points," the authors of the study, Magnus Lofstrom, Steven Raphael, and Ryken Grattet, continue. "At the same time, the proportion of those arrested multiple times has increased noticeably, by about seven percentage points. These higher multiple arrest rates may reflect the substantial increase in the time that released offenders spend on the streets--a result of counties' limited jail capacity."

June 27, 2014
Californians cope with nation's highest housing cost burdens

Housing.JPGExcept for those living in the state's most remote rural areas, Californians must contend with the nation's highest housing costs, both rental and ownership, relative to their incomes, a new nationwide study by Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies reveals.

The massive report underscores a Census Bureau conclusion that when the cost of living, particularly housing, is included, California has the nation's highest rate of poverty, with nearly a quarter of its residents impoverished.

The Los Angeles-Orange County region has the nation's highest "cost burden" among all large and small metropolitan areas, with just under half of its households -- 2.1 million -- struggling to maintain housing, and half of those having "severe cost burdens." The reason for that ranking is that the region's residents have only moderate personal incomes but must shoulder relatively high housing costs.

Conversely, San Franciscans have higher housing costs than Angelenos, but their incomes are much higher, proportionately, so the San Francisco-Oakland area is No. 32 on the housing burden list with 42.7 percent of its households having "cost burdens."

California's other coastal regions join Los Angeles-Orange with relatively high housing cost burdens among 381 large metropolitan areas nationwide. San Diego is No. 5, San Bernardino-Riverside is No. 6, Fresno is No. 8, Monterey-Salinas is No. 9, Oxnard-Ventura is No. 10 and Santa Barbara is No. 11.

New York-New Jersey is No. 7, incidentally, while Miami is No. 3.

Most of California's semi-rural smaller regions also rank high on the housing burden lists. Lake County is tied for No. 1 in the nation with 47.3 percent of its households feeling a "cost burden."

Updated at 11:54 a.m. with Lake County data.

PHOTO:Jon Ward and Jose Hernandez construct a roof on a home on the corner of Barcella Dr. and Caneria Way at The Ranch Madeira subdivision on May 22, 2013 in Elk Grove. The Sacramento Bee/ Jose Luis Villegas

June 27, 2014
AM Alert: Voter approval of Legislature trending down again

Assembly_chamber.JPGA steady increase in the Legislature's approval rating over the past two years sharply reversed course this spring, a new Field Poll shows.

Only 35 percent of California voters now view the Legislature favorably, down 8 percentage points from early April. Disapproval ticked up slightly to 47 percent.

Respondents in the April poll almost showed net satisfaction with the Legislature for the first time in over 13 years, marking a huge comeback from the depths of 2010, when fraught budget deliberations nearly pushed lawmakers into single-digit approval.

Then came the news of the corruption scandal involving state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, which immediately swung voter opinion back into the negative. It has continued to slide.

There remains a large partisan divide in views of the Democrat-controlled Legislature, however. Half of Democrats approve of the job lawmakers are doing, while 68 percent of Republicans and 45 percent of independent voters disapprove.

Daniel Rothberg has more in his story from today's paper. Here are the statistical tabulations, prepared exclusively for Capitol Alert, as well as the publicly released results from the poll.

VIDEO: Despite improving state finances, California has one of the worst credit ratings in the country, Dan Walters says.

SCHOOL SPIRIT: How are local educators managing the adoption of new Common Core curriculum standards? Is the program on track to deliver the improved instruction and student performance that were promised? Policy Analysis for California Education holds a day-long conference on the implementation of Common Core in California, starting at 10 a.m. in the Department of General Services Auditorium on Capitol Avenue with a welcome from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson.

FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD: Effective July 1, a new rule for food trucks will allow vendors to sell their items with the presumption that tax is included in the sales price. Board of Equalization member George Runner discusses the change, which is intended to simplify things at the counter, 11 a.m. at 160 Promenade Circle.

JAILHOUSE ROCK: California has had one of the highest recidivism rates in the country for more than a decade, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Research fellow Magnus Lofstrom presents his findings on recidivism trends in the state, in the context of changes to the corrections system, noon at the CSAC Conference Center on 11th Street.

ETERNAL FLAME: The Law Enforcement Torch Run team, carrying the Special Olympics Flame of Hope, stops by the west steps of the Capitol at 10 a.m. on its way to the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics Northern California Summer Games, which begins at 7 p.m. at UC Davis.

CELEBRATIONS: An early happy birthday to state Sen. Marty Block, D-San Diego, who turns 64 tomorrow. Best wishes to two Sunday celebrants, as well: Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, will be 40, and Assemblyman Henry T. Perea, D-Fresno, turns 37.

PHOTO: Twenty-eight of the new Assembly Members undergo orientation inside the Assembly Chambers on Nov. 12, 2008. The Sacramento Bee/Brian Baer

June 27, 2014
Dan Walters Daily: California credit rating uptick is only small step

capital_gains.JPGDespite improving state finances, California still has one of the worst credit ratings in the country, Dan says.

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

See other Dan Walters Daily clips here.

PHOTO: Gov. Jerry Brown holds up poster boards with graphic information regarding revisions to his budget during a press conference at the state Capitol on May 13, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/Randy Pench


Capitol Alert Staff

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

Dan Smith Dan Smith is Capitol bureau chief for The Sacramento Bee. Twitter: @DanielSnowSmith

Jim Miller Jim Miller covers California policy and politics and edits Capitol Alert. Twitter: @jimmiller2

David Siders David Siders covers the Brown administration. Twitter: @davidsiders

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

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

Jeremy White Jeremy B. White covers the Legislature. Twitter: @capitolalert

Koseff Alexei Koseff edits Capitol Alert's mobile Insider Edition. Twitter: @akoseff

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

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