California Could Add More Paid Sick Days for Workers. Here’s How Much Time They Would Get

California lawmakers stood in the vanguard in 2014 when they mandated that workers be allowed three days of sick pay annually, but more than a dozen other states have since enacted more generous sick leave policies than that one.

Sen. Lena Gonzalez, D-Long Beach, said it’s time that California increase the amount of mandated sick time, and she has introduced Senate Bill 616 to get it done. Initially, the measure would have mandated at least seven days of sick pay, but Gonzalez amended the bill last week to say at least five days.

COVID-19 left people unable to work for significant periods, Gonzalez said, and federal and state laws ensured they got the supplemental recovery time and sick pay to avoid infecting co-workers and suffering financial setbacks. Even now, it can take five days or longer for COVID-19 to clear the body, supporters say.

“Families no longer have the temporary protections afforded by COVID-19 supplemental paid sick leave, which ended last year,” Gonzalez said. “This back-to-school season, let’s commit to ensuring that parents can take the sick leave they need to take care of their health and the health of their children.”

A coalition of employer groups opposed the legislation, saying that many small businesses are still in survival mode because of financial setbacks they incurred during the pandemic.

“Despite the economic struggles that businesses have faced recently, the number of overlapping leaves has grown over the last few years and continues to grow,” they wrote in letters to legislators. “Some are paid and some are unpaid, but even unpaid leaves increase costs on employers because the employer must either shift the work to other existing employees on short notice, which leads to overtime pay, or be understaffed.”

They also pointed to an estimate from the workforce solution company Circadian that said unscheduled absenteeism costs roughly $3,600 per year for each hourly employee in this state.

Poll: Small business owners support 7 days

In July, though, the Small Business Majority said that its polling on SB 616 found that an overwhelming majority of small business owners, some 85%, support expanding guaranteed annual paid sick days from three days to as many as seven. The organization noted that owners have concerns about their employees’ finances as well as their own.

Kim Robinson, who manages two health clinics in Stockton for Community Medical Centers, said she has long supported SB 616 as a wellness advocate but that she now is facing a sick time challenge at work that has shown her just how crucial this measure is.

Robinson’s employer allows the 56 hours of sick time that SB 616 initially required, she said, and even so, she has struggled to accommodate the demands of caring for not only herself but also an adult child and a parent who both have ongoing medical conditions.

Robinson said she believes her story encapsulates what many workers experience as they try to hold down jobs that provide the income their families need to survive while also trying to care for ailing relatives.

A Community Medical employee for five years, Robinson said she feared the company would fire her for taking excessive time off after her mother’s health deteriorated two years ago. She was running through her sick time and, although her company’s sick leave exceeded the state-mandated time, she knew it wouldn’t be enough last year.

The thing about sick time, she said, is that if you use all those hours up, you have to wait until you can accrue more time before you can take leave. With her mother’s condition, she said, emergencies and unexpected urgent needs had cropped up.

Robinson decided last year that it would probably be best to apply for an intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act. If workers have qualifying reasons, and Robinson’s case did, this law entitles them to take unpaid, job-protected time off to care for themselves or family members.

If workers have earned paid time off, FMLA allows them to use it rather than going without a check. Robinson had acquired as much as 224 hours by early this year.

Community Medical approved Robinson’s FMLA request last year, and before it expired this summer, the company’s human resources team reached out to her and asked if she wanted to renew it. Robinson assured them that she did, and at their request, supplied them with information from her mother’s physician explaining how much time she might need.

“Her provider put in that it could be up to 40 hours a week, up to eight hours a day. This isn’t saying that this is what’s going to happen,” Robinson said. “It is just giving guidelines that, if it needs to happen, I’m able to take that time off, and it will fall under the Family Medical Leave Act so that my hours are protected and can’t be used against me as I’m taking excessive time off and be terminated from my job.”

Fear of losing employment haunted worker

Robinson feared losing her job even as she earned fresh accomplishments. Last month, for instance, one of her health centers earned the highest possible marks on two inspections, a scheduled one by the California Department of Public Health and a surprise one by the joint commission that accredits her company’s clinics.

She recalled how the auditor from the joint commission chuckled and said, “I can’t find anything that you guys are doing wrong.”

The clinic, based at Stockton’s Dorothy L. Jones Family Resource Center, was 100% compliant, Robinson said, and while other Community Medical Centers clinics also had gone through surprise inspections, none of them had earned that high a score. She managed this without the help of the two medical assistant leads who normally help her run the clinics she manages: One had gotten a promotion, and the other had taken some time off.

Despite the wins, Robinson said, her worst fear came true when she received emails from her company telling her that they could not accommodate the leave time spelled out in her intermittent FMLA and that they were placing her on an unpaid leave of absence until Sept. 20. At that time, the note said, the company would reassess how to proceed.

No one called to discuss this decision, Robinson said, and no one has yet returned her calls and emails for more information.

In a statement sent to The Bee, the company did not address Robinson’s specific case. The Department of Labor said they would need more information to determine whether Community Medical’s actions were legal.

Robinson said she was left with unanswered questions as her company email was disabled: Would she be able to pay her rent or her daughter’s college tuition? What would she do if she exhausted all her paid time off and had none left when her mother needed her to be there for eight hours or more every day?

Still, Robinson fielded staff calls for direction and, after scheduled vacation time, she said, she returned to the office because she had never requested the unpaid leave. Her teams at both clinics were relieved but surprised to see her, Robinson said, because other staff told them she’d been fired.

Undeterred, Robinson messaged her supervisor and told her that she was not on leave and had not requested to take a week off for FMLA time. Another manager had been assigned to cover her clinics, Robinson said, so she also told her manager that was unnecessary since she was back in the office.

Slowly, she said, her email was restored, and her manager welcomed her back to work.

Sarah Taft, the communications director at Community Medical, said the company, which also runs health centers in Dixon, Lodi, Manteca, Tracy, and Vacaville, offers a variety of benefits to meet the needs of its employees, including a generous holiday and paid-time-off schedule. Full-time employees can earn 56 hours of paid sick leave annually, she said.

“We welcome input on our benefits from employees and are committed to providing the support they need to thrive,” Taft said. “Improving health and well-being in our communities is our mission and it drives everything we do.”

Robinson said she hadn’t given her employer any reason to think she couldn’t handle her workload. The move to place her on unpaid leave, she said, made her keenly aware that workers could easily have their lives turned upside down in disputes over sick leave.

How much sick time do other states mandate?

So many people are in that sandwich generation, caring for both parents and kids as they try to earn a living, she said, and they need more job protection than the current three days afford them.

Proponents of SB 616 have told legislators that this is a pocketbook issue for many workers. Missing 3.5 days of work without pay equates to losing an entire family’s monthly grocery budget, they said, so those four additional days could mean the difference between putting food on the table and kids going hungry.

In California, seven cities already mandate that employers provide nine to 10 days of sick time, according to researchers at the California Budget ajnd Policy Center. They are San Diego, Santa Monica, West Hollywood, San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville.

Fourteen other states and the District of Columbia also mandate more sick days than California does. Six require more days for all employers or soon will:

▪ Washington: One hour for every 40 hours worked

▪ New Mexico: 64 hours

▪ Colorado and Minnesota: 48 hours, the Minnesota law will go into effect in January

▪ Vermont and New Jersey: 40 hours

Six states require employers to offer 40 hours of sick time once their workforce has met or exceeded a specific number: 10 in Oregon, 11 in Massachusetts, 15 in Maryland, 18 in Rhode Island, and 50 in Connecticut and Michigan.

The number of sick days vary in two states and D.C., depending on employee headcount:

▪ New York mandates 40 hours of sick time for businesses with fewer than 100 workers and 56 hours businesses with 100-plus employees.

▪ Arizona businesses with fewer than 15 workers must offer 24 hours of sick time, but those with 15-plus have to offer 40 hours.

▪ In Washington, D.C., companies with 24 or fewer employees must provide 3 days, those with 25-99 must offer 5 days, and those with 100-plus workers have to give 7 days.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee via Yahoo News

School District in Orange County Becomes Latest in California to Approve Transgender Policy

The Orange Unified School District became the latest district in California to approve a transgender notification policy following a packed meeting that grew heated at times Thursday night. 

The policy requires the school to notify parents when their children under the age of 12 request to use different names or pronouns than what is on their birth certificate. 

Prior to the meeting, school board members said they received an email from California Attorney General Rob Bonta threatening to take action to protect student civil rights. Meanwhile, students and their families anxiously awaited the fate of the proposed policy.

It was a packed house with demonstrators spilling into the parking lot. During the meeting, there were several delays and disruptions, along with over three hours of public comment from both sides. 

Despite Bonta’s warning, the policy was approved in a 4-3 vote around 11:30 p.m. to a roar of applause. 

Board members Ana Page, Kris Erickson, and Andrea Yamasaki, who opposed the policy, left the meeting early citing safety concerns.  

Meanwhile, the Chino Valley Unified School District is at the center of an ongoing legal battle with California Attorney General Rob Bonta over the controversial policy. A judge issued a temporary block on Chino Valley’s policy.

Click here to read the full article at Fox 11

CA Senate Passes Bill to Charge Parents With ‘Child Abuse’ for not Affirming Transgenderism in Custody Cases

A 7-year old child has a vivid imagination, believes in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, and still watches cartoons

Under California’s Assembly Bill 957 by Assemblywoman Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), a parent could lose custody for not “affirming” or agreeing to a child’s claims about gender identity. This bill just passed the Senate Tuesday.

The bill, co-authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), would require judges adjudicating such disputes over transgender-identifying children to favor the parent who “affirms” the child’s preferred identity.

But even more disturbing, bizarre, and ironic, in the State of California where the policy of California public schools is to keep “gender” information hidden from parents, how could a divorcing parent even know if they are affirming their child’s “gender identity?”

“Affirming a child’s identity about gender is in their best interest,” Assemblywoman Wilson said in a hearing June 9th. Wilson also notes that if you the parent reject your child’s chosen gender, “you are rejecting that child.”

As we reported in June:

“This bill clarifies that a family court, when determining the best interest of the child in a proceeding to determine custody or visitation for a child, shall consider, as part of the consideration of the health, safety, and welfare of the child, a parent’s affirmation of the child’s gender identity,” the 06/09/23- Senate Judiciary bill analysis says.

So imagine a child of parents going through a contentious divorce, feeling confused, responsible for the breakup, and wanting the parents to get back together, announces that she is really a he. Under Wilson’s and Wiener’s bill, the parents must drop everything and provide “gender affirming care.”

We hear stories daily from teachers who report that school-aged kids’ claims of being trans are mostly jumping on the trans bandwagon. It’s an attention-getter. Suddenly they are more popular, in a freaky way, can dress oddly, and get more attention.

To understand the motive behind this radical legislation, the list of sponsors speaks volumes:

This bill is sponsored by the California State PTA, the California TGI Policy Alliance, the EmpowerTHEM Collective, Equality California, Gender Justice Los Angeles, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, TransFamily Support Services, TransYouth Liberation, and the Women’s Foundation of California, and is supported by the California Faculty Association, the California Youth Empowerment Network.

This bill is opposed by Bridge Network, the California Parents Union, California’s Legislative Voice, Carlsbad C2O, the Silicon Valley Association of American Women, Stand Up Sacramento County, and 14 individuals.

Senator Scott Wiener, who is not a parent, added in the mandatory “affirming” language to AB 957.

Once again, the California Legislature is trampling all over parental rights, rather than doing the jobs they were elected to do – govern and public policy. Parenting isn’t listed in the California Legislature’s legislative process. And these hair-brained bills should be summarily rejected by other lawmakers.

As we reported in June, Nicole Pearson, founder of the Facts Law Truth Justice law firm and civil rights advocacy group, condemned AB 957’s unconstitutionality in an interview with The Daily Signal:

This bill makes law that failure to affirm your child’s identity is child abuse. This will be a final, legal determination without any evidence in support, or a hearing with notice or the opportunity to be heard. Assemblywoman Wilson and Senator Scott Wiener are not doctors. They can’t make this determination for every single child aged 0 to 17 in the state and, yet, that is exactly what they’re trying to do here.

If a parent or guardian is unwilling or simply not ready to affirm their 7-year-old’s new identity—as they transition from Spongebob to Batman to Dora the Explorer—they can be found guilty of child abuse under AB-957 if it passes into law.

This is a horrifying bill for children, and for parents and guardians not just in California, but across the country. Gavin Newsom is gunning for president in 2028. If he signs this bill into law, here, it will be headed to every state if he wins.

A 7-year old child has a vivid imagination, believes in Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, and still watches cartoons. Giving that child chemical castration through drugs, or even buying into the opposite gender claims, is child abuse. Like many girls, I was a tomboy, played sports with the boys, climbed trees and got in fights. But I also had a Barbie Dream House and liked to sew my own Barbie clothes. I grew out of the tomboy phase, stopped getting in fights and put away the baseball cap about the same time I gave my Barbie Dream House to the little girl down the street. It was a phase.

Wilson also notes that if you the parent reject your child’s chosen gender, “you are rejecting that child.”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Lawmakers, Parents Run Out of Patience with CA Leaders on Stalled Punishment for Fentanyl Dealers

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — As California’s Democratic Party-led Legislature continues to be divided on establishing more punishment for illegal fentanyl dealers, a group of Republican lawmakers and a group of parents who have lost loved ones to fentanyl are planning on launching separate efforts Tuesday to address the issue.

At the center of each effort is a proposal that would require courts to notify convicted fentanyl dealers that if they deal again and someone dies, they could face murder charges. Supporters of the measure have noted the advisement is similar to the notice drunk drivers receive once convicted under California law.

The proposed law, also known as Alexandra’s Law, is named after Alexandra Capelouto, a 20-year-old woman from Temecula who died of fentanyl poisoning in 2019. The proposed law was filed by a Republican in the Assembly and a Democrat in the Senate. The Republican’s version was blocked by the Assembly Public Safety Committee in one of its first hearings of the year. The Democrats’ version was blocked twice by the Senate Public Safety Committee.

In the bill’s last hearing, two Democratic lawmakers said they couldn’t support the version written in the Senate, with concerns it wouldn’t stop fentanyl-related deaths and didn’t exactly mirror the state’s advisement for those convicted of driving under the influence. In the Assembly, some lawmakers in the public safety committee said the Republican’s measure was too broad. The leader of the committee, Democratic Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, said he had concerns about filling up prisons and was interested in a public-health related approach.

The last-minute legislative effort

On Tuesday, Republican lawmakers in the Assembly plan to force Democrats to flex legislative rules to force lawmakers to vote on ACA 12, a proposed ballot initiative to allow voters to ultimately decide whether Alexandra’s Law should go into effect.

Click here to read the full article in KCRA 3

High-tech California struggles to use technology managing state government

California may be the global capital of high technology, but its government is chronically unable to utilize that technology effectively.

That woeful reality is evident in State Auditor Grant Parks’ annual update of state programs and agencies that he considers to be “high risk” due to their deficiencies.

The report, issued late last month, identifies some aspects of government previously designated as highly risky that are now functioning satisfactorily, such as transportation infrastructure, prison inmate health care and the teachers’ pension system.

However, the list of poorly performing functions contains some long-term occupants, such as the implementation of technology.

The state’s technology failings, moreover, are an aspect of the Employment Development Department’s chronic problem with managing unemployment insurance benefits, another high risk activity, and contribute to the state’s equally chronic inability to produce timely financial reports.

The tardiness and incomplete nature of the state’s financial reporting processes are deemed high risk issues unto themselves, and are directly connected to technological shortcomings.

Although the state created the California Department of Technology, or CDT, and instituted new procedures in response to previous criticism about its lagging ability to design and build cost-effective information technology systems, Parks’ new report continues to question how projects are managed.

“CDT’s oversight of IT projects has yet to demonstrate significant improvement and will therefore remain on the state high-risk list,” Parks says, pointing out that earlier this year “we noted that CDT’s oversight of IT projects has been ineffective at addressing risks on complex projects. During that audit, we reviewed CDT’s oversight of four IT projects and found that although CDT identified deficiencies in three which required immediate corrective action, it had not used its authority to ensure that the problems were resolved.”

Parks zeroes in on what has become a poster child for IT failings, the Financial Information System for California. That awkward name was adopted to justify a catchy acronym: FI$Cal. But state officials are apparently more adept at naming the program than in making it work.

“The scope, schedule, and budget of this nearly $1 billion information technology project has undergone numerous revisions since it began in 2005,” Parks notes. “However, despite nearly two decades of continued effort, many state entities have historically struggled to use the system to submit timely data for the ACFR.”

ACFR is an acronym for the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report and is supposed to give officialdom, entities that do business with the state, and the larger public a reliable guide to the hundreds of billions of dollars that the state collects, spends and invests each year.

The ACFR, Parks points out, “provides an important resource for stakeholders, such as the state’s creditors, to use when making decisions about the state’s ability to borrow money affordably. Further, billions of dollars in federal grants are contingent on the state’s timely filing of the ACFR for federal review.”

The 2020-21 report was 12 months late, Parks notes, and the 2021-22 reporting “is already past due.”

“The state’s late financial reporting could also negatively affect its credit rating, which could increase the cost associated with borrowing,” Parks says. “According to the state treasurer, the state borrowed $5.6 billion in general obligation bonds in fiscal years 2021–22. Thus, even a small increase in the interest rate, as might happen with a downgraded bond rating, could cost the State millions annually in increased borrowing costs.”

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

The Great Climate Change Con isn’t Resonating With Normal People

‘Eco-guilt is a first-world luxury’

“Anthropogenic global warming is the biggest, most dangerous and ruinously expensive con trick in history.”

Remember when climate hysterics claimed “the science is settled?” That claim didn’t weather well, but it also didn’t stop the climate liars: “The scientific consensus that humans are altering the climate has passed 99.9%, according to research that strengthens the case for global action at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow,” the Guardian reported in 2021. The Cornell University climate study the Guardian cites in the article was “supported” (funded) by Alliance for Science. “Support for the Alliance for Science is provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.”

But the hysterics just moved on from that lie to other climate lies.

A little over one year ago, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced his pompous plan for addressing “California’s hotter, drier future:”

“Hotter and drier weather conditions spurred by climate change could reduce California’s water supply by up to 10 percent by the year 2040. To replace and replenish what we will lose to thirstier soils, vegetation, and the atmosphere, Governor Gavin Newsom has announced California’s latest actions to increase water supply and adapt to more extreme weather patterns caused by climate change.”

Think about that arrogant statement – as if California politicians are going to stop hot weather. But the joke was on the governor with record rainfall and snowfall in the winter of 2023… except that didn’t stop him. Since then, we’ve been barraged with absurd radio advertisements warning us, “now that we face a hotter, dryer future…” and “let’s make conservation a way of life,” providing helpful hints about saving water.

Enjoy the water-saving brilliance, brought to you by the website:

  • If it’s raining, turn off your sprinklers
  • Take 5-minute showers
  • Fill bathtubs halfway or less
  • Turn off water when brushing teeth or shaving
  • Wash full loads of clothes and dishes
  • Fix leaks
  • Set mower blades to 3″
  • Use a broom to clean outdoor areas
  • Improve landscape irrigation

Taxpayers paid for this babble. With the state sending 50% of the water to the Pacific Ocean for environmental purposes, of the remaining 50%, 40% goes to agriculture, and 10% is urban use. Setting your mower blade to 3″ isn’t going to make a measurable amount of water conservation.

And, as we heard this week, PG&E will be shutting off the power when it is windy. Never in California’s history have energy providers shut off power when it was windy. This is a new policy, and is criminal – we are paying for that electricity. Who will be the first to sue over this?

According to the governor, “California’s Water Supply Strategy, Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future calls for investing in new sources of water supply, accelerating projects and modernizing how the state manages water through new technology.”

Refuting this drivel is not difficult.

One way is to read the monthly reports by E&E Legal, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), the Heartland Institute, Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), and Truth in Energy and Climate, which just released another version of “Climate Fact Check,” for July.

Climate Fact Check: July 2023 Edition highlights sensationalized stories about the climate, which is typical for the corporate media propaganda machine, although not rooted in reality.”

“The media is calling July 2023 the ‘hottest month on record’ and even the ‘hottest month in the history of civilization.’ Keeping in mind that July is typically the warmest month of every year, NASA satellite data indicate that July 2023 was the warmest July in the satellite record. But that record only dates back to 1979 and there certainly were Julys before 1979.”

This is Very interesting:

Recalling that average global temperature is on the order of 58°F, use of the term “hottest” is obviously quite an exaggeration. Finally, the notion of “average global temperature” is not really meaningful in the first place. It has no physical reality, and its component satellite and surface station temperature measurements lack precision to a significant degree.

The group of actual scientists debunk recent reporting of the Washington Post’s claims of an “Era of Global Boiling”:

And no, extreme heat is not killing more people. The scientists confirm that “it is well established that cold weather kills many more people than hot weather.”

In an old interview (2009) at the Spectator, James Delingpole talked to Professor Ian Plimer, the Australian geologist who dispelled much of the nonsense:

“…geologists have always recognized that climate changes over time. Where we differ from a lot of people pushing Anthropogenic global warming is in our understanding of scale. They’re only interested in the last 150 years. Our time frame is 4,567 million years. So what they’re doing is the equivalent of trying to extrapolate the plot of Casablanca from one tiny bit of the love scene. And you can’t. It doesn’t work.”

“What Heaven And Earth sets out to do is restore a sense of scientific perspective to a debate which has been hijacked by ‘politicians, environmental activists and opportunists’. It points out, for example, that polar ice has been present on earth for less than 20 per cent of geological time; that extinctions of life are normal; that climate changes are cyclical and random; that the CO2 in the atmosphere — to which human activity contributes the tiniest fraction — is only 0.001 per cent of the total CO2 held in the oceans, surface rocks, air, soils and life; that CO2 is not a pollutant but a plant food; that the earth’s warmer periods — such as when the Romans grew grapes and citrus trees as far north as Hadrian’s Wall — were times of wealth and plenty.”

How did this common sense not get more traction? We can thank the media for that, and the global nonprofits funded by hateful billionaires.

Looking at the mind numbingly imbecilic headlines reminds us that the stupid people are in charge of everything right now – they are easier to control.

Plimer said “modern environmentalism is that it is driven by people who are ‘too wealthy’. ‘When I try explaining “global warming” to people in Iran or Turkey they have no idea what I’m talking about. Their life is about getting through to the next day, finding their next meal. Eco-guilt is a first-world luxury. It’s the new religion for urban populations which have lost their faith in Christianity. The IPCC report is their Bible. Al Gore and Lord Stern are their prophets.’”

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

California Unions Make Major Push with Strikes and Legislative Action

This has been a year of labor unrest in California, a state in which unions represent a relatively small faction of the state’s workforce but wield great political power.

The most obvious example is the protracted strikes of actors and writers in Southern California’s iconic entertainment industry, but Tinseltown’s picketers are just a fraction of the workers who have been demanding more in wages and benefits and are willing to walk off the job to get them.

There have been 53 labor strikes in California so far this year, involving 276,340 participants, or about 10% of total union membership in the state, according to Cornell University’s Labor Action Tracker. That doesn’t include strikes that began in 2022, either.

What’s happening in California mirrors trends in other states, leading to much speculation about underlying factors, such as post-pandemic angst and inflation.

As the California Legislature enters the last days of its 2023 session, the growing unrest in workplaces is manifesting itself in high-stakes drives by union officials to gain new members and more benefits for those members.

The final agendas for legislative action are studded with union-sponsored bills that, in some cases, would make major alterations in the relationships between California employers and their workers.

One of the biggest is Assembly Bill 1228, which would make fast food franchising companies such as McDonald’s liable, along with their franchise holders, for labor law violations.

It’s the latest move by the Service Employees International Union in its drive to organize fast food workers, and responds to – or retaliates for – the fast food industry’s referendum, due to appear on the 2024 ballot, aimed at overturning previous legislation. The law in question sought to create a state commission to oversee fast food wages and working conditions.

The Hollywood strikes have spawned a late-session effort to make strikers eligible for unemployment insurance benefits.

“Striking workers have earned their unemployment insurance benefits. They deserve to use them when they are unable to work,” said Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, head of the California Labor Federation. “We can’t have workers economically insecure because they’re forced to go out on strike, it harms them and their families and has rippling effects on the entire community.”

Business groups oppose the measure, of course, arguing that since employers finance unemployment insurance benefits, they would be unfairly underwriting strikes.

Still another hard-fought measure, Senate Bill 525, would raise the minimum wage for health care workers to $21 an hour and later to $25. It’s needed, health care unions say, to allow workers in a vital industry to meet their rising living costs. Hospitals and other health care providers see it as too costly. Los Angeles County says its system would take a $200 million hit.

SB 525 is one of several union-backed measures to make the California Chamber of Commerce’s “job killer” list, meaning it’s a high-priority target for the influential business organization.

Senate Bill 616 is another chamber target and another one on the Labor Federation’s priority list. It would increase the number of mandated paid sick leave days off from three to seven.

“We knew when we passed the first paid sick days law that three days wouldn’t be enough,” Fletcher said.

The bill “imposes new costs and leave requirements on employers of all sizes … in addition to all other enacted leave mandates that small employers throughout the state are already struggling with to implement and comply,” the chamber responded.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

California State Auditor Rates Unemployment Agency ‘High Risk’

Awful EDD added to watch list

The California State Auditor’s Office has slapped the omni-shambles Employment Development Department, California’s unemployment agency with a “high risk” rating, meaning that the “likelihood of waste, fraud, abuse, or mismanagement or the likelihood of impaired economy, efficiency, or effectiveness causing harm is so great that this likelihood constitutes a substantial risk of detriment to the State.”

And the sun sets in the west.

While the high risk could not possibly come as a shock to anyone who lives, well, anywhere, the Auditor’s report does peel back some of the layers to show the egregious level of incompetence at the EDD.

This is not the first time the Auditor has lambasted the EDD; in early 2021 the office issued a scathing report regarding fraud, security, and terrible client service.

This report, however, goes further.

The report states: “EDD is a high-risk agency because of its mismanagement of the UI program. Specifically, EDD is unable to reliably estimate improper payments under the UI program, thus adversely affecting the State’s financial statements as well as impairing efforts to independently evaluate the efficacy of EDD’s own fraud prevention activities.”

In other words, it can even figure out how much money it lost to pandemic unemployment benefit fraud.  The current estimate is about $40 billion dollars.

“EDD cannot effectively measure its progress at addressing potentially fraudulent payments because it is unable to accurately determine how many improper payments it has made,” the report states.

This is a problems for law enforcement as well, as not even knowing how many improper payments were made puts rather a crimp in the ability to try to find that money and get it back.

The report notes the EDD did not “block addresses used to file unusually high numbers of claims,” hence dozens if not hundreds of pre-loaded chipless debit cards containing up to about $13,000 each being sent to the same address.

An independent “federal program compliance” report issued in April noted the agency is poorly run that it issued an “adverse opinion” on the EDD’s following of federal guidelines and standards.  Adverse opinions in such governmental audits are very rare and means the EDD is out of compliance with federal requirements.

This from an agency that owes the very same federal government more than $18.4 billion dollars, in large part because it had to borrow from the feds to cover the pandemic fraud losses.  The EDD has continued borrowing – to the tune of about $18 million a day – from the feds to pay benefits to those currently unemployed.  It is not clear how the “adverse opinion” and/or the “high risk” designation could impact that situation.

What the audit did note is that the condition of the EDD could impact the state’s credit rating.  Currently, the state’s Standard and Poor’s rating is AA-, better than only 4 other states.

The audit also noted the agency has one of the highest claim appeal reversal rates in the nation, meaning it is not terribly good at figuring out if a person deserves benefits in the first place.

This audit comes just a couple of months after the state Legislative Analyst’s Office declared the EDD to be “structurally insolvent” and that the surcharge imposed in every California business to repay the feds will last for more than a dozen years – at least – and could total upwards of $1,500 per employee in the state.

In its formal response to the Auditor, the EDD tried to defend itself by spewing the same nonsense they tried to pedal to Congress earlier this year: every unemployment agency in the nation had a pandemic problem, we have new systems in place today, and most of the fraud came specifically from the federal “PUA” pandemic program (the Agency did not reply to a request for further comment.)

The first statement is true, though no other state failed as badly as California; the second statement is meaningless because the EDD didn’t have the systems in place when it needed them – and had known for months it needed them; and the third defense in simply a mathematically impossible lie.

The EDD even had the temerity to push back on the Auditor’s assertion that the agency’s client service is appalling and degrading – which it is.

The Agency countered the auditor by saying that “We agree customer satisfaction with the Unemployment Insurance claim process fell during the pandemic, however, we disagree it remains low.”

To prove it is no longer “low,” the agency said that “Sixty-Nine percent of customers surveyed in 2022 were completely or mostly satisfied with the application process, up from 67 percent in 2021.”

Seriously – here’s the link to the Auditor’s report.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

California Parental Rights Battle Gets Louder

t was a tale of two opposing events on parents’ role in California schools — though one was postponed because of Tropical Storm Hilary.

In one corner was the California Family Council, a nonprofit, religious organization rallying at the state Capitol on Monday with pastors, attorneys and Sonja Shaw, Chino Valley Unified School District board president, to protest a series of bills they argue prevents parents from caring and overseeing their children. Many of the same people showed up at a similar rally last week; several Southern California school boards have been battling with Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond over book bans and other culture wars in the classroom. 

  • Shaw: “The majority of Sacramento politicians are programmed and the political cartel of Newsom, Bonta and Thurmond have a stronghold on California’s public education and use that to push their ideology — but not for long.… All the wicked, low-class politicians following their lead, listen to us. This is from us. Today we stand here and declare in His almighty name that it’s only a matter of time before we take your seats.”

Shaw specifically called out two measures she says “silence us, the parents”: Assembly Bill 1078, which would raise the threshold for school boards to ban books, from a simple majority to two-thirds; and Senate Bill 596, which would fine individuals who “substantially” disrupt a school board meeting or harass school employees. (The bill joins a number of other bills that were placed in the suspense file last week.)

In the other corner was supposed to be Thurmond, a potential 2026 gubernatorial candidate, hosting an online panel at the same time about “inclusive education” with a handful of Democrats from the Legislature’s women, LGBTQ+, Black, Latino and Jewish caucuses. In June, the education department launched a Task Force on Inclusive Education focused on diversifying textbooks.

The event, which would “highlight efforts to create safe, supportive learning environments” for students, was canceled “out of respect for the individuals and locations impacted by the tropical storm,” according to the Department of Education. (Monday’s legislative floor sessions were also canceled due to the storm, reports KCRA.) A Thurmond roundtable about combating antisemitism is still on for Wednesday, however.

But Shaw was apparently unaware about the cancellation and called out Thurmond’s panel: “This is a spiritual battle. This is a warfare.”

This “battle” between Shaw and Thurmond is a familiar one: In July, Shaw successfully pushed a Chino Unified policy to require district teachers and staff to notify parents if a student requests to identify as a different gender or otherwise identifies as LGBTQ+. (It’s similar to a bill that was blocked in the Legislature this year.) Thurmond showed up at the meeting to oppose the policy and was ultimately escorted out by security after saying the measure would put “students at risk.”

The other bills the Family Council and Shaw are pushing back against are:

  • AB 5: Require the Department of Education to develop a training course for school employees on “LGBTQ cultural competency” (currently in the suspense file);
  • AB 665: Allow children 12 and older to receive “mental health treatment or counseling on an outpatient basis” without parental consent;
  • AB 957: Require judges to consider a parent’s affirmation of a child’s gender identity or expression when it comes to granting custody. 

More Capitol news: A proposed temporary $1.50 hike in Bay Area bridge tolls to fund public transit was put on pause Monday.

Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who authored the bill, and Assemblymember Lori Wilson, a Suisun City Democrat who opposed it, jointly announced that SB 532 will be held until next year and that a group of Bay Area legislators will talk this fall about proposals to keep public transit agencies afloat to consider when the Legislature returns in January.

Wiener is acknowledging political reality: While what he called an “eleventh hour effort” had the backing of some local legislators, others were adamantly against making commuters pay more and seven Bay Area members of Congress were also opposed.

  • Wilson, in a statement: “Increasing tolls can be a significant burden to Bay Area commuters who are already dealing with high cost of living, inflation, and other expenses. From an equity perspective, tolls can have substantial repercussions especially for those where public transit is not a viable option.”

The bill would have raised tolls on seven Bay Area bridges for five years by $1.50 to $9.50, raising about $180 million a year. It was designed to supplement the $5.1 billion in public transit money in the state budget over four years, which included $400 million in new operational money for Bay Area transit agencies. But they need $2.5 billion in the next five years, according to Wiener. 

Speaking of money: Eleven local government leaders on Monday urged Gov. Newsom and the Legislature to add $1.5 billion to a proposed mental health services bond, with the additional cash set aside for cities and counties.

The group — which includes the mayors of Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego and San Francisco — says in a letter that the money “would allow us to serve tens of thousands more Californians who desperately need housing, treatment, and recovery resources.”

The current $4.7 billion bond issue is central to Gov. Newsom’s controversial plan to revamp mental health care and spend more on housing and services for homeless individuals.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

‘Downright Orwellian’: San Jose church that was fined $1.2 million over violating COVID mandates sues county over surveillance

Calvary Chapel wants to make sure this doesn’t happen to another church

A San Jose church ordered to pay $1.2 million in fines for defying public health mandates at the height of the pandemic is suing Santa Clara County, accusing it of putting the non-denominational Christian church and its congregants under unconstitutional surveillance.

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by Calvary Chapel and its pastor, Mike McClure, alleges the county “embarked on an invasive and warrantless geofencing operation to track residents.”

“Our church believes in the rights and privacy of all our members,” McClure said in a statement about the lawsuit.

Geofencing uses cell phone data to track its users’ movements. In late 2020 and early 2021, the county used third-party phone data to monitor worshipers inside the Hillsdale Avenue church, according to court documents filed last November. The county’s COVID-19 Business Compliance Unit also parked a car in a neighboring church’s lot on numerous occasions for surveillance purposes.

The county’s inspectors made 44 visits to the church between August 2020 and January 2021 and found congregants gathering maskless in large indoor crowds in defiance of public health orders as COVID-19 cases skyrocketed, previous court records showed. The county’s initial orders at the start of the pandemic banned all indoor gatherings. But by May 2020, the church began holding indoor services with anywhere from 100 to 600 maskless attendees.

The county used data from the Denver-based company SafeGraph to compare the size of Calvary Chapel’s services from March 2020 to 2021 with other gatherings throughout the county, according to the November 2022 filing.

In its lawsuit, the church accuses the county of using geofencing for over a year without a warrant — an operation they called “not just un-American” but “downright Orwellian.”

“This type of expansive geofencing operation is not only an invasion of privacy but represents a terrifying precedent if allowed to go unaddressed,” the lawsuit stated.

Calvary Chapel alleges the county specifically targeted the church because of its “ongoing state enforcement action where it sought to weaponize potentially incriminating evidence against Calvary” and that the county has a “history of discrimination against religion and Calvary Chapel San Jose during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

“The county consistently imposed harsher restrictions on churches and fined Calvary millions of dollars while overlooking other large gatherings,” the lawsuit said, specifically naming protests, weddings and graduation parties as other alleged offenders.

SafeGraph, at the direction of the county, put up two geofences around the church — one around the lawn and parking lots that stretched to adjacent streets, and the other around the church’s buildings, which included the sanctuary, Calvary Christian Academy and ministry housing, according to the lawsuit.

The church accuses the county of not narrowing the “search parameters of their geofencing operation,” which they claim allowed the county to gather data from congregants anywhere on the property, including classrooms, the sanctuary, the nursery and bathrooms.

Mariah Gondeiro, an attorney for Advocates for Faith and Freedom, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Calvary Chapel, said the suit was filed to ensure the same measures are not used on another church.

“People of faith should never have to worry about the government spying on them in places of worship,” Gondeiro said in a statement.

Former County Counsel James Williams, who took over earlier this year as county executive, previously defended the county’s use of geofencing, asserting it isn’t unusual for enforcement officials to use technology to ensure businesses are in compliance. He maintained, however, that the county did not track individuals’ cell phones at the church.

In a statement to the Mercury News, the county said it “did not use cell phone surveillance to track anyone at Calvary Chapel during the pandemic.”

“What the allegations take out of context is the analysis of third-party, commercially available aggregate data that was used to respond to Calvary’s own allegations in a lawsuit that Calvary itself filed,” the county stated.

In its statement, the county also decried Calvary Chapel’s allegations that it discriminated against the church because of its religious beliefs, stating that “unlike the state of California or many other jurisdictions, the county’s health officer never issued any restrictions specific to churches or religious institutions whatsoever.”

“The county’s health officer protected the public during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the time before widespread vaccination, by implementing public health measures that were uniform and identical according to the health risks of the activity occurring, regardless of their purpose or type of facility.”

The county and Calvary Church have been locked in a legal battle since 2020 over public health rules. In 2020, the church sued the county, arguing that COVID-19 mandates violated its religious freedoms. In response, the county sued the church, arguing that they owed $2.87 million in fines for violating public health orders. In November 2020, a judge issued a temporary restraining order against the church for gathering despite the public health rules.

Since then, the two parties have been engaged in several other back-and-forth legal tussles over the fines in local, state and federal courts.

An April ruling by Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Evette D. Pennypacker ordering the church to pay $1.2 million in fines is the latest development in the saga. Though the county sought nearly $3 million in fines, the judge reduced the fine to a specific period — November 2020 to June 2021– when the church was not following the county’s mask policy.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News