Support funding for civil counsel in California

*as adapted from the LA Times Editorial Board*

Tens of thousands of Californians who otherwise would have been at grave risk of losing their homes, their children, their ability to pursue a living or other basic human rights and needs at least had a fighting chance to defend themselves in court because of landmark 2009 legislation that gave them access to lawyers.

In a rare feat of foresight, the Sargent Shriver Civil Counsel Act that established the pilot program required and provided funding for evaluations. So we know, for example, that providing counsel for low-income tenants facing eviction in Los Angeles County increased the likelihood of tenants responding to eviction actions, of cases being settled, and of tenants retaining their housing or finding new places to live with minimal costly disruption.

Similarly good outcomes in the few other counties involved in the pilot led the Legislature to make the program permanent in 2016. Now lawmakers are considering a bill that would increase court filing fees to expand the number of people served by the program. It’s a good move that deserves to proceed.

AB 330 by Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat representing the west San Fernando Valley, would increase filing fees for some court services, such as issuing a writ to enforce a judgment or taking an affidavit.

Legislation to Establish Major New Incentive for Affordable Housing in Opportunity Zones Clears Key Committee with Unanimous Bipartisan Support

Legislation would address concerns from the 2017 federal tax overhaul and build on
Governor Newsom’s call for California to direct investments in low income census tracts
 
SACRAMENTO, CA – Yesterday, the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee voted unanimously to advance legislation by Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel (D – San Fernando Valley) that would provide a major new incentive for the production and preservation of affordable housing in low income census tracts known as “Opportunity Zones.” The legislation—Assembly Bill (AB) 791—would provide $200 million in new tax credits for the construction of affordable housing in Opportunity Zones, and $100 million in new tax credits to preserve affordable housing stock in Opportunity Zones.

$15 million earmarked to fend off hate crimes

SACRAMENTO — Two days after a fatal shooting at a San Diego County synagogue, California officials pledged millions of dollars to protect religious congregations and other organizations targeted by hate crimes.

Surrounded by two dozen lawmakers, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday that his revised budget proposal will include $15 million for grants to nonprofit groups to improve security at buildings — such as mosques, synagogues, churches and LGBT community centers — that are frequented by people at risk of being attacked because of who they are or what they believe.

The security grants, which are based on a federal program, have been made available for the past three years to California churches, schools and women’s health clinics to pay for reinforced entrances, alarms, guards and other safety improvements.

But Newsom said hundreds of applications have gone unfulfilled for lack of money. The state set aside only $500,000 for the program last year.

The California Legislative Jewish Caucus requested the funding increase this month, following an attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, that left 50 people dead and a shooting last fall in which 11 people were killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“I know it feels on some days like our world is unraveling, like every day we wake up and read about another act of hate-motivated violence. But we cannot accept this, we cannot accept this new normal,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, an Encino Democrat who is vice chair of the Jewish caucus.

California governor aims to hike security grants

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California’s Democratic governor vowed on Monday to spend $15 million for increased security at “soft targets” like the synagogue where a gunman opened fire over the weekend, killing one worshipper.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said he will include the money in his $144 billion general fund budget proposal, which he intends to revise by the middle of May.

The California Legislative Jewish Caucus had requested it, calling for a 30-fold increase in a state program that last year spent $500,000 on grants to nonprofits organizations vulnerable to hate crimes.

“It was self-evident, the need to do more,” Newsom told reporters. “That money pales in comparison to the need for mosques, for synagogues, for other institutions.”

California has spent $4.5 million since 2015 to augment a federal grant program created after the 2001 terrorist attacks, including $2 million in 2017. But lawmakers and previous Gov. Jerry Brown reduced the funding to $500,000 this year.

California’s Jewish lawmakers want the state to spend much more on security guards, reinforced doors and gates, high-intensity lighting and alarms, and other security for vulnerable institutions. Those include Muslim, Sikh and other minority institutions, women’s health groups and LGBTQ organizations.

“The unfortunate reality is that even in houses of worship, thoughts and prayers won’t keep us safe,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, a Democrat from Encino and vice chairman of the caucus. “We need more than thoughts and prayers. We need real security and we need the state to step up and play a role in that.”

Gabriel’s legislation would help pay for increasing physical security at nonprofit organizations at higher risk because of their ideology, beliefs or mission.