Breaking News: State Assemblyman resigns in wake of harassment scandal

California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, who represents a large part of the East San Fernando Valley, announced Monday he will resign “immediately,” one week after multiple women alleged he sexually harassed them.

In a statement Monday, he said he decided to accelerate his resignation, which he said was his “original intention.”

“By doing so I hope the community will have a new representative sooner rather than later. Furthermore, it is my hope that in taking this action we can help clear the path so that women and men who have been truly victims of sexual assault and workplace harassment can step forward and get justice for any crimes committed against them. While I am not guilty of any such crimes, I am admittedly not perfect,” Bocanegra said in the statement.

He continued: “I sincerely hope that my decision to resign immediately does not embolden those who are using this serious problem in our society to advance their own personal political gain, rather it is my hope that this action can instead help to widen the doors for victims of sexual assault and workplace harassment to find justice and solace.”

He submitted a resignation letter, “effective immediately,” to Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount).

His announcement comes the day before the Assembly will hold a public hearing on how to prevent harassment, discrimination and retaliation in the Capitol.

For workers, voters, and consumers: SB384 to extend last call to 4am in CA

From today’s Los Angeles Times Editorial Board:

Last call in California is 2 a.m. That’s when bars, restaurants, nightclubs and any other businesses licensed for on-site liquor sales are legally bound to stop serving alcohol, and that’s when most of those establishments close for the night.

Why 2 a.m.? That’s just the way it’s been in California for the last 80 years, ever since the 21st Amendment ended the national prohibition on alcohol and states were left to set their own laws governing its sale and distribution.

California picked 2 a.m. as the appropriate time to stop pouring libations. So did Colorado, Iowa, Texas and about two dozen other states. Indiana, Tennessee and West Virginia picked 3 a.m., while Alaska, Illinois and New York settled on 4 a.m. Several states, including Nevada and New Jersey, have no state limits at all on when alcohol can be sold. Many states also give cities and counties the flexibility to set their own local rules on alcohol sales. That’s why New Orleans bars can stay open 24 hours a day, while bars in nearby Baton Rouge have to close at 2 a.m.

The point is that there’s no firm science behind last-call laws, no data that prove that 2 a.m. is better than 4 a.m or 6 a.m. or any other time. The laws are more a reflection of a state’s history, its cultural practices and its politics. California is still hewing to a 1935 law dictating that alcohol sales stop from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m., and that blanket prohibition no longer makes sense for cities with thriving music and nightlife scenes that compete for investment and tourism with the likes of New York City, Las Vegas and other late-night cities.

It’s time to give local governments more control over when, where and how alcohol is served. A city like Los Angeles, for instance, shouldn’t have to shut down its bars early each night in deference to a fusty, 80-year-old law. Letting responsible establishments in appropriate neighborhoods stay open later would help create a fun, bustling, vibrant, big-city atmosphere attractive to younger people and tourists — while also generating tax revenue, creating jobs and increasing the earnings of small businesses.

Senate Bill 384 would have California follow the lead of other states that have allowed cities and counties more authority to set rules on closing times. The bill would establish a process by which the state Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control would allow certain bars, restaurants and nightclubs to sell alcohol between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. — if, and only if, the local government wants to allow extended hours.

There would be lots of hoops to jump through. The City Council or local governing body would have to submit a plan to the department that identifies when and where extended hours would be allowed, how law enforcement authorities would manage the effects and what transportation services would be available. The local authorities could decide to limit extended hours to certain commercial districts only, say, or to allow them only on weekends. The department would need to sign off on the plan. Then individual businesses would need to apply for permission from the ABC, which would require notifying law enforcement and residents within 500 feet of the establishment.

The hoops are designed to address concerns from law enforcement and community activists, who have successfully killed previous efforts to relax the 2 a.m. cutoff amid fears that later hours will lead to more drunk driving and raucous partying. Those are legitimate concerns, although advocates for the bill note that of the 10 states with the highest DUI-related fatalities, only three allow alcohol service after 2 a.m.

The reality is 2 a.m. is unnecessarily early for communities with busy restaurants, music venues and clubs, such as downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and San Francisco. Why should bars close at 2 a.m., especially if law enforcement can handle the additional patrols and taxis and ridesharing apps, like Lyft and Uber, give revelers more options to get home without a car? State lawmakers should support SB 384 and let cities and counties set a last call that works for locals.

CA considers legislation for students to refinance loans with lower interest rates

From today’s LA Times:

State treasurer and gubernatorial hopeful John Chiang is wading into the increasingly high-profile debate over college affordability with a new push for California to play a role in alleviating the burden of high-interest private student loans.

Chiang is sponsoring legislation that would create a $25-million fund that would offer a degree of protection to student loan providers. With the state assuming some of the risk, the measure’s proponents say financial institutions will be more likely to offer lower interest rates to those carrying student debt.

“We know that unfortunately too many Californians, too many Americans, are saddled with extraordinary debt,” Chiang said in an interview, touting his plan as an effort to “try to get them out of debt as quickly as possible.”

The proposal, which is being carried in the Legislature by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), is among a swell of measures introduced in the Legislature this year aimed at tackling the high cost of college. Allen and Chiang will unveil the legislation at a Capitol news conference Tuesday.

Read the complete story here.

The Golden State’s Tarnished Anti-Tax Image

According to the U.S. Labor Department’s monthly household survey released today, unemployment and joblessness in California officially stands at 12 percent. That number is, of course, an underrepresented sample. It counts only those who are actively looking for work and qualify for federal unemployment insurance. It does not count the millions of people who no longer qualify for benefits, and therefore “officially” have “given up” looking for work. Never mind that millions of people need work and are still looking for work without federal assistance, because they are not counted in official unemployment figures.

The Golden State now has the second-highest unemployment rate in the country, following the dismal likes of Nevada, where even the luxury-gaming-entertainment-recession-proof juggernaut called Las Vegas has downsized noticeably thanks to the recession. California’s economic woes are further compounded and prolonged by the political morass in Sacramento. The state’s government has slashed spending heavily over the last year, but it has failed to resolve the biggest sticking point:  an anti-tax bias against balancing budgets sensibly that is crippling the public sector. Then again, the national debate over raising the debt ceiling, and the rather crappy compromise made by Congress, highlights the fact that it is primarily to blame for compounding and prolonging the economic woes of the nation. (Though one would think the Constitution gives the President the duty to run the economy, given the finger pointing and finger wagging of Tea Party and Republican rhetoric.)

States like California face a choice that is unpleasant but also unnecessary. Cutting deficits is unpleasant but doing so without raising taxes is unnecessary. Resolving the state’s $25 billion deficit required a huge disinvestment in the public sector:  education, roads, police and fire services, parks, and public health all suffered deep cuts. The fiscal year began on July 1 and the projected deficit shortfall over the next year will be well-above $10 billion. That means more unilateral cuts hurting millions of Californians unless Gov. Brown and the California Assembly can find a way to bring an end to the anti-tax bias that is enshrined in the State Constitution and hamstrings legislators from raising taxes without a super-majority vote.

California needs a new social compact in which the tax system is clear, fair, and protected from market failures, and where the public sector is transparent, well-funded, and protected from the failure of moral and economic leadership in the private sector. Whether the Assembly gets smart and finds a legislative solution to the initiative-driven policy of direct democracy? Only time will tell, and Gov. Brown has an uphill battle against another looming deadline to convince Californians it is time for substantive reform to the politics of taxation. ::KPS::