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Education Revolution in Orange County: Part III of III – OC Teachers Lawsuit Against Unions Reaches Supreme Court

Posted by Chris Nguyen on August 6, 2015

U.S. Supreme Court Justices

This is the third in my series on the education revolution brewing in Orange County.  The first piece was on the growth of charter schools in Orange County to catch up to the number of charter schools in the rest of California.  The second piece was on the use of the Parent Trigger Law at Palm Lane Elementary School.  Today, in the final piece, we turn to an Orange County case that has reached the United States Supreme Court seeking to overturn the “agency shop” rules for California school districts and to overturn the opt-out procedure for the “nonchargeable” portion of union dues.

Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is the most sweeping part of the education revolution in Orange County.  The plurality of the teachers, unions, and school districts in the case are from Orange County.

The growth of charter schools in Orange County is just OC playing catch up to its neighboring counties.  The Palm Lane Elementary School case is Orange County being one of the early adopters in the efforts around the Parent Trigger Law.  Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association is Orange County seeking to pave the way for the nation.

If the petitioners (Rebecca Friedrichs, et al.) prevail in Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, collective bargaining in this country changes forever and the influence of public employee unions in elections, particularly California elections, will wane significantly.

Public employee unions’ enormous sums of money for political campaigns are fueled by the dues they collect from their members.  For an individual employee to opt out of contributing their dues for political purposes, that employee must during a six-week period each year send a letter to the union stating they wish to opt out (there’s even a confusing box on the CTA’s regular dues form that implies employees can opt out entirely but is actually a box that accomplishes a far narrower task).

If the Supreme Court simplifies the opt-out system or switches opt-out to opt-in, you will see a precipitous fall in the amount of union money in politics.  With this fall in union money, it will be much tougher for union allies to win elected office in Congress, the State Legislature, and local government.  Fewer elected officials will be beholden to teachers unions.

If the petitioners prevail, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association will represent a sea change in American and California politics and governance.

What does “agency shop” mean?  What are “nonchargeable” portions of union dues?

(The petitioners describe describe “agency shop” rules as: “The State of California empowers school districts to require public-school teachers, as a condition of employment, to either join the union representing teachers in their district or pay the equivalent of dues to that union.”)

(California Government Code Section 3546(a) describes “agency shop” rules as: “the employee shall, as a condition of continued employment, be required either to join the recognized employee organization or pay the fair share service fee,” and the “nonchargeable” portion of union dues are the part of the “fee that is not devoted to the cost of negotiations, contract administration, and other activities of the employee organization that are germane to its function as the exclusive bargaining representative.”)

Who are the petitioners and the respondents?

Led by Orange County teacher Rebecca Friedrichs, ten California teachers and the Christian Educators Association International filed suit against the California Teachers Association (state teachers union), the National Education Association (national teachers union), and ten local teachers unions, including four from Orange County:

  • Savanna District Teachers Association
  • Saddleback Valley Educators Association
  • Orange Unified Education Association
  • Santa Ana Educators Association

Also among the respondents are the Superintendents of the Savanna School District, Saddleback Valley Unified School District, Orange Unified School District, and Santa Ana Unified School District.

Posted in Orange Unified School District, Saddleback Valley Unified School District, Santa Ana Unified School District, Savanna School District | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Education Revolution in Orange County: Part II of III – Parent Trigger Law and Palm Lane Elementary

Posted by Chris Nguyen on July 30, 2015

Anaheim City School DistrictLast week, I began my three-part series on the education revolution brewing in Orange County with a post on the rapid increase in the number of charter schools in the county after years of stagnation.

In this second post, I will turn to the use of the Parent Trigger Law at Palm Lane Elementary School in the Anaheim City School District.  My colleague, Craig Alexander, was the first person to break the news when he posted here on OC Political that Superior Court Judge Andrew Banks had ruled in favor of the parents in Ochoa vs. Anaheim City School District when Palm Lane Elementary School families used the Parent Trigger Law to petition for a public charter school.

This is a watershed moment in Orange County education.  Should the judge’s ruling stand, this will be the first successful use of the Parent Trigger Law in Orange County and one of just a handful in California.

Utilizing the Parent Trigger Law allows parents of students in failing schools to take back control of their schools like never before.  For many parents in lower-income areas that have been traditionally pro-union, using the Parent Trigger Law exposes them to the first time to the hostility of the California Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association ̣(and their local chapters, of course).  This is an eye-opening experience that causes many of these parents to turn against these unions that are impeding their efforts to improve their children’s education.

It is no surprise that Anaheim City School District administration are opposed to the use of the Parent Trigger Law because it is essentially an indictment of their failures at Palm Lane Elementary School.  Furthermore, the conversion of Palm Lane Elementary into a charter school weakens the Anaheim City School District administration’s control of the school (and its funding).

Four of the five Anaheim City School District trustees are in their first term on the school board, so they could hardly blamed for the failures at Palm Lane Elementary School, and when the petitions were submitted to the school district, two of the trustees had been in office less than six weeks while a third trustee had not yet even been seated.

Disappointingly, the Anaheim City School District trustees voted unanimously to appeal the judge’s ruling.  Not one trustee stepped back and asked themselves one basic question: “What is so horrible about a public charter school that I’m willing to spend an additional $600,000 to stop one at Palm Lane Elementary?”

The Anaheim City School District contends that only 48.43% of Palm Lane Elementary School parents provided valid signatures for the petition.  The Superior Court found at least 51.57% of signatures were valid, but the judge stopped counting at this point because it was clearly above the 50% threshold.

Even accepting the school district’s lower number, at what point do the Anaheim City School District administration and trustees take another step back and simply say, “Wow.  48% of parents at Palm Lane are so upset that they want to convert it into a public charter school.”  That’s not to say that the other 52% oppose a charter school; they simply did not sign the petition (if we use the school district’s numbers).

So, we now await the Court of Appeal, as the Anaheim City School District continues their battle against the parents of Palm Lane Elementary School.

In the second half of this post, I have excerpted four of the most stunning sections of the ruling by the judge.  The two longer excerpts give a glimpse into the truly offensive way in which the Anaheim City School District has handled this process.

What is the Parent Trigger Law?

Readers familiar with the Parent Trigger Law can skip down to the next section on the scathing court ruling.

In a nutshell, the Parent Trigger Law authorizes parents to petition for one of five types of reforms at their children’s school.  The school must meet legal definitions for a low-performing school for the petition to be valid.  A majority of parents must sign the petition in order to for one of the reforms to be implemented.  Yes, a majority of parents at the school must sign the petition.  This is a very high petition threshold. (Contrast that with ballot measures, a certain percentage far below a majority [varying from 5%-20% depending on the type/jurisdiction of measure] is needed to qualify a measure for an election, and most types of ballot measures pass with a majority vote.  Getting a majority to sign your petition is a much more challenging task than getting a majority to cast their ballots for your proposal.)

One of the five options for reform is launching a public charter school, and that is the route that Palm Lane Elementary School parents opted for in their petition to the Anaheim City School District.

The Parent Trigger Law was passed in 2010 by a bipartisan coalition of Sacramento lawmakers, and I don’t mean that a couple renegades from one party hopped on board with the other party to pass it.  This was authored by former Senate Majority Leader Gloria Romero ̣̣(D-East Los Angeles) and Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff (R-San Dimas).  In the Senate, 12 Republicans and 11 Democrats formed the group of 23 Senators who voted to pass the bill; in the Assembly, it was 25 Republicans and 16 Democrats.  These weren’t rogue Democrats who joined the Republicans — this included the Democrats’ top leaders: then-Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, then-Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, and future Assembly Speaker John Perez.

Truly Scathing Court Ruling in Ochoa v. Anaheim City School District

After reading the full text of the judge’s decision that Craig posted, I am amazed that no one has quoted more extensively from it.  In the published sources I’ve seen, the quotes have been limited to the judge’s findings that the Anaheim City School District’s petition “rejection to be procedurally unfair, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious” and regarding petition verification: “The deficiencies in the process used were substantial; so substantial that it made it an unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious and unfair process.”  (Craig in his original post also quoted “Clearly, the Respondents [the District] did not meet their obligations of good faith cooperation with respect to this issue and as mandated by the Act.”)

I am amazed no one has published more excerpts of the truly scathing court ruling.  As I read the full text of the ruling, I was actually angered and offended by the Anaheim City School District’s behavior.  Below are the four most stunning excerpts, and the two longer ones describe the repugnant fashion in which the Anaheim City School District conducted itself with regard to the petition.  In the court ruling, references to the “respondent” mean the Anaheim City School District while references to the “petitioners” mean the parents suing the school district in defense of the Parent Trigger petition.

Judge Banks noted about the school in question, “This proceeding involves parents of students at Palm Lane Elementary, a school whose performance over 10 of the last 11 years as measured by the legislatively imposed standards can be described as abysmal.”

The Anaheim City School District attempted to argue that the Court lacked jurisdiction because the parents had not completed all administrative remedies since the district had not rejected the petition. This is ludicrous because even the minutes of the school board meeting note that the motion was “to reject the Petition” of the Palm Lane parents. The Court described the school district’s brazen argument as:

The Respondent Board rejected the Petition in Exhibit 16…In the section “Action” the last sentence in relevant part reads “Accordingly the Petition…is rejected.”

Respondents sought to characterize the rejection as something less, arguing in the trial brief and at trial that the action of February 19th was not a final determination on the Petition (Respondent’s Trial Brief at page 1, lines 17-23 and page 25 lines 3-5). They presented their case in part on the theory that the Petition was returned as allowed under 5 CCR Section 4802.1(g)(j) and not rejected.  The language used by the District’s Board plainly says otherwise.  They rejected the Petition they did not return it.

The Respondents also argue that this Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this matter as well as to grant relief because the Petition was not rejected but only returned and therefore Petitioners have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies.  This argument fails because the Respondents rejected the Petition.

I find the rejection to be procedurally unfair, unreasonable, arbitrary and capricious.

The school district attempted to argue that Palm Lane did not fit the criteria of a low-performing school for purposes of the Parent Trigger Law, relying on a truly bizarre rationale that the state Department of Education did not issue a 2014 adequate yearly progress report, so Palm Lane could not have “failed to make adequate yearly progress (AYP).”  The Court wrote:

The Respondents [sic] own internal communications admit to the fact that Palm Lane is a subject school subject to the [Parent Trigger] Act and has failed to make AYP.  Exhibits 29, 31, 32,67 and 80 are just some of those communications.

The reliance of the Respondents upon Exhibit 47 and the determination by State Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Honorable Tom Torlakson, that no 2014 AYP report for elementary and other schools would be prepared by the California Department of Education did not provide a safe harbor against parents utilizing the Act as the Respondents argue.  Instead, it froze those schools and districts in their status based on prior measured AYP results.  The evidence clearly establishes that Palm Lane failed to make adequate yearly progress.  I therefore find that Palm Lane is a subject school under the Act.

In the Anaheim City School District’s rejection of the Parent Trigger petition, their findings noted that “The Petitioners failed to submit a separate document that identifies the lead petitioners.” The judge rips the school district to shreds for attempting to use this argument:

The evidence on the “lead petitioner list” issue was directly contradictory.  The Petitioners said they provided it when they delivered the signed petitions to the District at the District’s Office on January 14, 2015.  The Respondents said they never got it.  After considering all the evidence I resolve this issue in favor of the Petitioners.  In particular, I find the testimony of Alfonso Flores to be persuasive and he to be the most credible witness on this issue, and probably in the entire case.

I would be remiss however if I left the issue there.  The behavior of the Respondents [sic] personnel in doing absolutely nothing to determine who the lead petitioners were can not go without comment.  Wisely or not, the Act requires the Local Educational Agency (LEA) to work with the lead parent petitioners in the process.  In practical terms it means the Districts must cooperate and work together with the very people who seek to take from the District a school (and its funding etc) and to establish in its place a charter school.  No clearer repudiation of a school district’s performance could be imagined.

I find that the Respondents’ claimed ignorance of the identity of the lead parents and ignorance as to how to learn their identity (feigned and contrived ignorance in the Court’s view) is unreasonable.  They could have looked at the “sign in sheet” for January 14th when the petitions were delivered to see which parents were there – but they did not.  They could have called the name and phone number of the person listed on most of the petitions; which information was listed after the words:

“For more information, all interested persons, the school district, and others should contact:” (emphasis added)

[Name and number omitted by the Court]

And if that was not enough, immediately below the name and phone number of the contact person were the words:

“Supporting organizations”

with the name of two supporting organizations, one of which is headed by Senator Romero, with whom the evidence showed the Respondents were well acquainted.

Any of those acts would have been what a reasonable person would have done and what a reasonable process would have called for.  Instead, they manufactured a continuing state of ignorance as to the lead person identities.

Finally, and not to beat a dead horse, Senator Romero herself wrote to the Respondents and offered to put them in touch with and coordinate between the District and the lead parents (Exhibit 49, page TX 049-003 to 006).  Respondents never responded to her offer.

On July 2, 2015 while testifying before the Court the District Superintendent testified that even on that day she still did not know who the lead petitioners were.  The evidence established that Exhibit 97 (list of petitioning parents, i.e. lead petitioners) was again provided shortly after the District findings were announced on February 19, 2015.  How she could not know the identities is troubling.

Clearly, the Respondents did not meet their obligations of good faith cooperation with respect to this issue and as mandated by the Act.

The Court found the petition signature verification process to be”unreasonable, unfair and incomplete” and with just a few phone calls, the judge himself was able to confirm enough signatures to easily exceed the 50% threshold for the Parent Trigger petition.  Judge Banks brutally dissects the signature verification process:

Under the [Parent Trigger] Act and its related regulations, the Respondents as an LEA may verify signatures on petitions, but they are not required to do so; and if they undertake to do so their efforts must be reasonable. 5 CCR § 4802.1 (b).

I find that the process set up and utilized by Respondents was unreasonable, unfair and incomplete.

The process was developed by a temporary employee (Evelyn Gutierrez) who was given no training or education about the Act, the Regulations or the importance of what she was being asked to do.  She had no background, training or experience in handwriting analysis or comparison.  She was not supervised in any meaningful regard. She received no written procedures to follow.  She had to develop the script she used when calling parents phone numbers.  The deficiencies in the process used were substantial; so substantial that it made it an unreasonable, arbitrary, caprcious [sic] and unfair process.  In fairness it must be noted that Ms. Gutierrez did her best in the situation into which she was placed.

The result of this defective process was that valid signed petitions were not counted.  Ms. Gutierrez testified to several petitions she rejected that on reflection should have been determined valid.  In addition she testified that a number of petitions were placed by her in a “pending” status because she could not reach the parent signatory or for some other reason.  Someone, not Ms. Gutierrez, later decided to improperly classify those petitions as invalid.

A brief description of the signature verification process is in order.  Ms. Gutierrez would call the phone number twice to try and reach a parent signatory.  She called between approximated [sic] 8:30AM and 4:30PM. If she could not reach the person, she would put them in “pending”.  If she reached the parent she inquired about their signing the petition.  Calling only during normal working hours for the parents decreased the probability of making contact.

Some persons reached by phone said they had signed; others said their spouse signed; others said they could not recall if they signed and finally some denied they had signed.

Some children had separate petitions signed by each parent.  If the first petition signature could not be verified there was no attempt to look at the other signed petition to verify the accuracy of the signature on that petition.

In sum, there are numerous deficiencies in the process.  The result of the flawed process was that valid signatures sufficient to reach and exceed the 50% threshold were improperly excluded.

In the interest of brevity I attach and include a list of 29 students and parents utilized in argument and entitled “Improperly Invalidated Petitions (Child/Parent)”.  I have independently evaluated the evidence relating to some but not all of the 29, stopping once a total of 23 additional valid signed petitions were established.  Inasmuch as the Respondents determined and found the Petitioners were 12 valid petitions short there is no need to go further.  The Petitioners needed 367, the Court finds they presented a minimum of 378.  Using the aforementioned chart, the Court determines the following numbers referenced thereon were valid petitions: 1 – 7; 9; 13 -24; 27 -29.  The Court does not reach items 25 and 26.

The Anaheim City School District has much to answer for about the reprehensible way they handled this process.

Key Question for Anaheim City School District Trustees

To reiterate my point from earlier: each Trustee should take a look in the mirror, and then, each should ask and answer this question:

“What is so horrible about a public charter school that I’m willing to spend an additional $600,000 to stop one at Palm Lane Elementary?”

Posted in Anaheim City School District | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Education Revolution in Orange County: Part I of III

Posted by Chris Nguyen on July 23, 2015

An education revolution has been brewing in Orange County.  We’re seeing massive change in Orange County thanks to charter schools, the Parent Trigger Law, and litigation against compulsory union dues by the California Teachers Association.  I’m going to do a three-part series on this.

Charter schools are a recognition that one-size-fits-all does not work for all students.  There needs to be competition because some students need a different kind of school, just like there are many different types of colleges and universities.

Despite Orange County’s conservatism, the education community has long known Orange County as an anti-charter school county.  It’s not the voters who were anti-charter school.  It was the school board members.

The 2007-2008 Grand Jury even issued a report where they recommended, “The chartering authorities should follow the intent of the legislature by encouraging the establishment of charter schools by granting more charter school petitions provided they meet the State requirements.”

At the time of the Grand Jury report, there were 11 charter schools in Orange County.  Over the next six years, just three new charters were approved.  Keep in mind there are 29 chartering authorities in Orange County: the Orange County Board of Education and the 28 local school districts.

Here’s what the state of charter schools looked like in May 2014.  This shows Orange County’s four neighboring counties, plus tiny Humboldt County.

County Number of Charter
Schools in 2014
Population
Orange 14 3,010,232
Humboldt 15 134,623
Riverside 26 2,189,641
San Bernardino 37 2,035,210
San Diego 120 3,095,313
Los Angeles 341 9,818,605

Then in June 2014, with assistance from the California Charter Schools Association, South County voters tossed the County Board of Education’s most virulent anti-charter school member, 32-year incumbent Liz Parker, who to the surprise of many, was a registered Republican.  By a 57%-43% margin, the voters sent in Linda Lindholm to replace Parker.

Things have changed significantly for charter schools in Orange County since Lindholm replaced Parker.  We have overtaken Humboldt County.  Local school districts got the message and approved two more charter schools in the latter half of 2014.  In the first half of 2015, the Orange County Board of Education approved another two charter schools.  Orange County has grown its charter schools to 19, still a bit behind Riverside and far behind San Bernardino, and way, way behind San Diego and Los Angeles Counties (even when adjusting for population).

 

As I noted in a post a month ago:

Trustee Ken Williams, elected in 1996, has a voting record generally supportive of charter schools.  Trustee Robert Hammond, elected in 2012, has a voting record consistently supportive of charter schools.  Between 2012-2014, Williams and Hammond often found themselves on the losing ends of 3-2 votes on charter school applications.  Lindholm’s victory in unseating Liz Parker shifted the Board to a pro-charter school majority.  To their credits, Trustees Jack Bedell and David Boyd, along with the Orange County Department of Education staff, recognized the sea change delivered by the voters.  Staff reports for both Vista Heritage and CCPA have recommended approval of the charter schools.  Bedell and Boyd joined a unanimous vote in favor of Vista Heritage’s application and are expected to join a unanimous vote for CCPA.

The Orange Unified School District provisionally approved a charter school in May by a 5-2 vote.  Unfortunately, due to absences, the OUSD Board’s vote on final approval was 3-2, one vote short of the necessary four votes.  That charter school, Unity Middle College High School, has appealed to the County Board of Education with a vote expected in August.  Considering OUSD’s rejection wasn’t a real rejection, and was more of a fluke, we should expect Orange County’s 20th charter school before the close of summer.

Next in the series: the Parent Trigger Law and Orange County’s 21st charter school…

Posted in Anaheim City School District, California, National, Orange County, Orange County Board of Education, Orange Unified School District | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Assembly Labor Chair Cuts Off Vice Chair Matt Harper’s Microphone

Posted by Chris Nguyen on July 9, 2015

I go on one vacation, and Fullerton agrees to election districts, the Governor signs SB 277 (Vaccination bill) into law, and the U.S. Supreme Court declares same-sex marriage a constitutional right, rules redistricting commissions constitutional, and accepts an Orange County case challenging the constitutionality of mandatory union dues.

More on those at a later date.  In a fun hearing yesterday on SB 3 by Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) to raise the minimum wage, a clearly irritated Assembly Labor Committee Chair Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) cut off the debate and forced a vote on the bill and even ordered the sergeant-at-arms to “please remove the mic” of Committee Vice Chair Matt Harper (R-Huntington Beach).

Here’s the 94-second video, with the mic removal toward the end:

On Facebook, Harper wrote:

Assemblyman Roger Hernandez, keep your hands off my microphone!  ‪#‎SB3‬ ‪#‎MinimumWage‬ ‪#‎CALEG‬ ‪#‎CAPolitics‬‪ #‎OffWithTheirMics‬

Here’s a more extensive statement from Harper’s office:

During a routine bill presentation today in front of the Assembly Labor and Employment committee, Chairman Roger Hernández (D-West Covina) used bullying tactics to stop any opposing comment from his Vice-Chairman and colleague, Assemblyman Matthew Harper (R-Huntington Beach).

The erratic behavior began when Hernandez first cut off a witness testifying mid-sentence. Although Hernández had already recognized Harper as the next speaker, instead, Hernández cut Harper off before he was able to say one word.

Hernandez then began frantically calling for a vote to quickly silence Harper. When Harper insisted to be heard, Hernandez physically reached over another person to personally turn off Harper’s microphone. The spastic behavior continued with Hernandez demanding capitol security to remove Assemblyman Harper’s microphone from the dais.

Assemblyman Hernández blocked discussion on a hot topic, SB 3 (Leno), a minimum wage increase bill that would have major implications to businesses and workers throughout the state of California.

From Assemblyman Matthew Harper:

“Blocking discussion in this manner is unfair, undemocratic and soils the decorum of the Assembly. I was sent here to represent the concerns of the voters of my district and chairman Hernández shut down my ability to speak for who I represent.

“Our state’s underemployment rate is overwhelming and the bill being rammed through our committee would make it harder to hire. We are sent here to debate policy that impacts the lives of Californians, not shut down dissenting points of view.

“The chair’s actions were offensive and disrespectful today, not just to me, but to Californians who want jobs and deserve to know the impacts policy will have on their chances of employment. The good people of the San Gabriel Valley deserve better from their representative and Californians as a whole deserve more from those who serve them.”

Hernandez won 54% of the vote in November against an underfunded Republican in the 48th Assembly District.

Posted in 74th Assembly District, California, State Assembly | Tagged: , | 8 Comments »

Breaking News: Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage Throughout U.S.

Posted by Chris Nguyen on June 26, 2015

In a 5-4 decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote a sweeping Supreme Court opinion legalizing same-sex marriage throughout the United States. He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.

Justice Kennedy wrote, “…the right to marry is a fundamental right inherent in the liberty of the person, and under the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment couples of the same-sex may not be deprived of that right and that liberty. The Court now holds that same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry…No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in this case demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right.”

Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, joined by Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas. Justice Scalia also wrote a separate concurring opinion, which Justice Thomas joined. Justice Thomas also wrote a separate concurring opinion, which Justice Scalia joined. Finally, Justice Samuel Alito wrote a fourth dissenting opinion, which Justices Scalia and Thomas joined.

Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “…the Court takes the extraordinary step of ordering every State to license and recognize same-sex marriage. Many people will rejoice at this decision, and I begrudge none their celebration. But for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority’s approach is deeply disheartening. Supporters of same-sex marriage have achieved considerable success persuading their fellow citizens – through the democratic process – to adopt their view. That ends today. Five lawyers have closed the debate and enacted their own vision of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept.”

The full text of the decision and the four dissents are available here.

Posted in National | Tagged: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Rohrabacher Accuses Wu of Embezzling $173,500

Posted by Chris Nguyen on June 25, 2015

In one of the most stunning allegations of the 2010s in Orange County politics, Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Huntington Beach) filed criminal complaints with the District Attorney and the State Department of Justice accusing his campaign treasurer Jack Wu of embezzling at least $173,500.

Rohrabacher fired Wu as his volunteer treasurer in May after it was discovered that Rohrabacher’s campaign account only had $187 when it was supposed to have approximately $185,000 or nearly 1,000 times that amount.

Rohrabacher sought full restitution, which Wu promised but has not provided.

According to the LA Times, Wu filed for personal bankruptcy in 1996.

He ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Irvine in 1998 as a Democrat and for Newport Beach City Council in 2006 as a Republican.

The web site for WuBell Services, the tax preparation and accounting firm Wu owns, appeared to be down this morning.

Wu does not appear to have a CPA license and serves on the Newport Beach City Finance Committee but had no direct access to city funds.

Wu served as interim CFO/Controller for Vista Paint in Fullerton from 2008-2013, Controller of Concept Studio in Costa Mesa from 2004-2007, Controller of Tait & Associates in Santa Ana from 2003-2004, a partner in CPA firm Channels, Graham & Roth in Costa Mesa from 2002-2003, and Vice President of Finance for Big Grub Entertainment in Irvine from 1995-1997.  Tait & Associates is the firm owned by the Tait family and led by Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait.

Wu graduated from UCI with a Bachelor’s degree in social ecology, with an emphasis in (ironically): criminology, law, and society.

Posted in 48th Congressional District | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Could Governor Brown Veto SB 277 Due to Missing Religious Exemption?

Posted by Chris Nguyen on June 18, 2015

So my post on Tuesday about the OC GOP opposing SB 277 has already cracked the top 10 posts of all time on OC Political, and it appears to be on pace to overtake #9 sometime this morning.  (For those of you wondering, #9 is Live from OCGOP Central Committee: Efforts to Remove Deborah Pauly as 1st Vice Chair from June 18, 2012. Note to self: June Central Committee meetings equal high readership.)

In light of this readership spike, I decided to do some more reading on SB 277, the bill by Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) to require vaccination of schoolchildren who do not have a medical exemption.  Existing law permits exemptions for medical reasons or personal belief.  In a nutshell, SB 277 would eliminate the personal belief exemption.

One of the most interesting items was AB 2109 of 2012 by then-Assemblyman Richard Pan (D-Sacramento).  AB 2109 required a health care practitioner to sign an attestation that they provided information regarding the benefits and risks of the immunization and the health risks of specified communicable diseases to a parent of the student in question.  AB 2109 also required a parent of the student to sign a statement that they received the information.

 

While Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2109 into law, he issued a signing message.  (Signing messages are an infrequent occurrence with just a handful of bills getting a signing message each year; the vast majority of bills are signed without such messages.)  The full text of the signing message follows:

This bill seeks to boost immunization rates for children in communities where vaccine rates are falling.

Current state law requires children to be vaccinated prior to enrollment in school or a child care facility, but allows a parent or guardian to opt out of this requirement based on a personal belief. This bill doesn’t change that.  Consistent with current law, AB 2109 allows parents with a personal belief to reject vaccination for their child.

This bill is about explaining the value of vaccinations – both the benefits and risks – for an individual child and the community. Whether these are simple “information exchanges” or more detailed discussions, they will be valuable even if a parent chooses not to vaccinate.

I am signing AB 2109 and am directing the Department of Public Health to oversee this policy so parents are not overly burdened by its implementation. Additionally, I will direct the department to allow for a separate religious exemption on the form. In this way, people whose religious beliefs preclude vaccinations will not be required to seek a health care practitioner’s signature.

In signing AB 2109, Brown spent half the second and fourth paragraphs discussing personal belief exemptions.  The fourth paragraph, the Governor, a former seminarian, issued his direction to the Department of Public Health to create a religious exemption on the form where they would not need to get a health care practitioner’s signature.  In other words, a religious exemption went around AB 2109.

This interesting post from a site called Science Blogs blasts Brown because they felt he “tried to water down the bill” and the he “blows it” for creating a religious exemption.

Putting aside the legality of the Governor’s direction to the Department of Public Health regarding AB 2109, this could be an opening for opponents of SB 277 to persuade Governor Brown to veto SB 277.

When SB 277 was introduced, Brown’s spokesman announced, “The governor believes that vaccinations are profoundly important and a major public health benefit and any bill that reaches his desk will be closely considered.”

Clearly, Brown wants to sign a bill that reduces exemptions, but it is entirely possible that he doesn’t want to eliminate the religious exemption.

According to this article and map by the National Conference of State Legislatures, 48 states allow religious exemptions (only Mississippi and West Virginia do not) but only 20 states allow philosophical exemptions (Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin).

It could be that Governor Brown would want to eliminate the philosophical exemption but not the religious exemption.  The lack of a religious exemption could be the Achilles’ heel for SB 277 supporters and the silver bullet for SB 277 opponents.  Only time will tell.

The bill still needs a vote on the Assembly Floor and then another vote on the Senate Floor concurring to amendments made in the Assembly, but SB 277 is expected to survive both floor votes, at which point it will arrive on the Governor’s desk.

Posted in State Assembly, State Senate | Tagged: , , , , , , | 16 Comments »

OC Board of Education to Consider Charter School Application

Posted by Chris Nguyen on June 17, 2015

OCBESealIn what should be a rather lengthy meeting, the Orange County Board of Education will be meeting today to consider a number of lengthy items.

First on their discussion calendar is Item J-1, which is the application of the College and Career Preparatory Academy (CCPA) for a charter school.  The staff report recommends approval of the charter school.  The CCPA charter school application is the second request and the first direct application to the Orange County Board of Education since the election of Trustee Linda Lindholm last year.  Four months ago, the Vista Heritage Charter Middle School won 5-0 approval from the Orange County Board of Education when it appealed a 4-1 denial by the Santa Ana Unified School District Board of education (Trustee Ceci Iglesias was the sole vote at SAUSD in favor of Vista Heritage).

Lindholm’s victory over eight-term incumbent Liz Parker marked a critical shift for the County Board of Education.  Parker who voted for charter school petitions once in a blue moon led a Board majority that rarely approved charter school petitions.  Orange County’s hostility to charter schools was bizarre considering our neighboring counties all had many times more charter schools (even when adjusting for population) and the pro-charter school stance of the majority of Orange County residents.

Trustee Ken Williams, elected in 1996, has a voting record generally supportive of charter schools.  Trustee Robert Hammond, elected in 2012, has a voting record consistently supportive of charter schools.  Between 2012-2014, Williams and Hammond often found themselves on the losing ends of 3-2 votes on charter school applications.  Lindholm’s victory in unseating Liz Parker shifted the Board to a pro-charter school majority.  To their credits, Trustees Jack Bedell and David Boyd, along with the Orange County Department of Education staff, recognized the sea change delivered by the voters.  Staff reports for both Vista Heritage and CCPA have recommended approval of the charter schools.  Bedell and Boyd joined a unanimous vote in favor of Vista Heritage’s application and are expected to join a unanimous vote for CCPA.

As the Orange County Register noted:

While California is a nationwide leader in both the number and growth of charter schools and students attending them, Orange County is lagging. The state, according to a recent National Alliance for Public Charter Schools study, welcomed in nearly 90 new charter schools this academic year, giving a total of 1,184 – an amount nearly double that of the next-closest state in line, Florida, home to only 653.

Statewide, the study puts estimated enrollment at almost 550,000 students.

Orange County has only 16 charters – two of them limited to what is called “nonclassroom based” study, where less than 80 percent of instruction is onsite. Los Angeles County, meanwhile, has 355 charter schools. The Inland Empire has 63.

We are, in other words, remarkably deficient in providing educational choice.

Item J-3 is a “Statement Regarding the Common Core Math Standards” drafted by Trustees Lindholm and Bedell.

At 12:30 PM, Item G-4 will be a public hearing regarding the Fiscal Year 2015-16 budget.  (Oddly, the actual text of the budget was not part of the agenda packet online.)

 

Posted in Orange County Board of Education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

OC GOP Opposes SB 277 (Pan) – Schoolchildren Vaccination Bill

Posted by Chris Nguyen on June 16, 2015

wpid-ocgop-logo-1_400x400.jpgLast night, the Republican Party of Orange County voted to approve a resolution opposing SB 277, the bill by Senator Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) on vaccination of schoolchildren.

Proposed by OC GOP Sergeant-at-Arms Tim Whitacre, the resolution passed after a short discussion with many SB 277 opponents in the audience.

OC GOP Chairman Fred Whitaker opened the discussion on the resolution by speaking about individual liberty, the overreach of government, and how many Democrats were re-registering as Republicans in light of SB 277.

OC GOP Second Vice Chair Mary Young spoke against the resolution, speaking of her experience as a young woman personally witnessing the effects of polio, with people being disabled and people needing to use iron lungs to breath.  She expressed her fear about the return of polio.

OC GOP Sergeant-at-Arms Tim Whitacre, the resolution’s author, echoed Chairman Whitaker’s points about the overreach of government and how many Democrats were re-registering as Republicans in light of SB 277.  Whitacre also spoke of individual liberty and the rights of parents.

OC GOP Secretary Peggy Huang was not present but instructed her alternate to vote against the resolution and to read a statement about the efficacy of vaccines and the declaration by Autism Speaks that vaccines are not linked to autism.  There were murmurs objecting to those statements from the SB 277 opponents who were in attendance at the meeting.

OC GOP Central Committee Member Robert Hammond spoke in favor of the resolution, noting his 14 years of experience as a public school teacher.  Neither he nor any of his colleagues had a single unvaccinated student in any of their classes.  He spoke of how he and other teachers would go into the community to encourage vaccinations and how every parent with an unvaccinated child in the community would choose to vaccinate their children when the teachers educated them on the issue.  Hammond explained that while he strongly supports vaccination, his opposition to SB 277 is on the basis that vaccination should be a personal responsibility, not coerced by the government.

The resolution passed by a voice vote.

Last week, the Assembly Health Committee approved SB 277 on a party-line vote of 12-6-1, with Assemblywoman Autumn Burke (D-Inglewood) not voting.

On May 14, the Senate passed SB 277 on a near-party-line vote of 25-11-3, with Republicans Anthony Cannella (D-Stanislaus County) and Jeff Stone (R-Riverside) in favor, Democrats Connie Levya (D-Chino) and Richard Roth (D-Riverside) against, and no votes recorded for Senators Tom Berryhill (R-Tuolumne County), Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), and Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove).

On April 28, SB 277 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a party-line vote of 5-1-1, with Senator John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) not voting.

On April 22, the Senate Education Committee approved SB 277 on a 7-2 vote with Senator Andy Vidak (R-Kings County) joining six Democrats in favor of the bill while Senators Connie Leyva (D-Chino) and Sharon Runner (R-Lancaster) were in opposition.

On April 8, SB 277 was approved by the Senate Health Committee on a 6-2-1 vote, with Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) joining five Democrats in favor, Senators Jim Nielsen (R-Tehama County) and Richard Roth (D-Riverside) in opposition, and no vote recorded for Senator Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina).

The full text of the OC GOP resolution reads:

A RESOLUTION OF THE REPUBLICAN PARTY OF ORANGE COUNTY
AFFIRMING ITS SUPPORT OF PARENT/INDIVIDUAL RIGHTS AND URGING ALL MEMBERS
OF THE CALIFORNIA ASSEMBLY TO OPPOSE SENATE BILL 277 (PAN)

Whereas, the Republican Party of Orange County affirms its strong support of the Republican Party Platform – that the rights of parents are sacrosanct with regard to their children and believes in restraining government that would encroach upon those rights;

Whereas, the Republican Party of Orange County understands the United States Constitution and the California Constitution were established to protect individual freedoms and the rights of the minority;

Whereas, it is embedded in both Constitutions that citizens have a right to practice their personal beliefs freely without discrimination from the state and be afforded due process;

Whereas, we uphold the rights of parents to be informed first, and then consent to medical treatment for their children free of coercion, manipulation or fear of governmental intrusion;

Whereas, the current voluntary vaccination program is already proven effective at protecting Californians against life threatening complications and death associated with vaccine preventable illnesses;

Whereas, there is no medically defined epidemic in or near California that warrants such legislation from the Democratic controlled California State Senate and State Assembly and Republicans do not believe in adding to laws and regulations when enforcement of current laws and regulations are sufficient;

Whereas, the language of SB 277 gives the government unlimited power to add vaccines to the currently mandated school entry immunization battery without hearing or oversight, and removes the right of parental objection based upon sincerely held religious beliefs, and personal beliefs; now,

Therefore, be it Resolved, that the Republican Party of Orange County:

opposes SB 277 in its entirety;

calls on all Members of the California Assembly – especially Republicans – to strongly oppose SB 277;

affirms its staunch support of California parental rights to make decisions as to what is best for their children – especially consent to medical treatment for those children, without fear of reprisal or backlash; and

invites disaffected registered California Democrats and their families to abandon the Party that has abandoned them and re-register as Republicans just as dozens did at the recent Democratic Party State Convention; since the Republican Party is traditionally and demonstrably committed to defending parental and individual rights.

Posted in Republican Central Committee, State Assembly, State Senate | Tagged: , , , , , , | 103 Comments »

Taxes Due Today, But California’s Tax Freedom Day Isn’t Until May 3

Posted by Chris Nguyen on April 15, 2015

Tax Freedom Day in Each State – California is 47th Latest on May 3 (Graphic Courtesy of the Tax Foundation)

So if you’re like me, you’ll be finishing filing your income taxes sometime tonight.  I’m glad e-file has existed since I started filing income taxes.  It’d probably be a disaster driving to one of those postmarking-until-midnight Post Offices if I had to mail in my income taxes.

In fact, there’s only one Post Office in all of Orange County that will still be postmarking mail until midnight tonight: 3101 Sunflower Ave. in Santa Ana (the retail portion closes at 7:00 PM, but they’re still postmarking mail received by midnight). For those in northwestern Orange County, you can drive into LA County before 10:00 PM because the Post Office at 2300 Redondo Blvd. in Long Beach will be postmarking mail until then.

While today is the day we literally pay our income taxes, the figurative day in which we finish paying our taxes is still nine days away nationally and eighteen days away for California.

The Tax Foundation annually calculates Tax Freedom Day, which is the day in which people have earned enough money to pay all their taxes (income, payroll, sales, property, etc.) for the year, assuming no change in income level during the course of the year.  Any income earned after Tax Freedom Day will belong to the taxpayer (again assuming no change in income level during the course of the year).

National Tax Freedom Day for 2015 is April 24, though Tax Freedom Day varies by state.

The earliest Tax Freedom Day is in Louisiana on April 2, followed by Mississippi (April 4), South Dakota (April 8), and Tennessee and Alabama (both April 9).

The latest Tax Freedom Day is in Connecticut and New Jersey (both on May 13), New York (May 8), California (May 3), and Massachusetts (May 2).

That’s right: not only is California 47th in the nation, we’re also worse than Taxachusetts.

To look at this another way, the average Louisianan celebrates Tax Freedom Day on April 2, which is 92 days into the year, or 25.2% of the way into the year.  In other words, the average Louisianan pays 25.2% of their annual income in taxes.

The average Californian celebrates Tax Freedom Day on May 3, which is 123 days into the year, or 33.7% of the way into the year.  In other words, the average Californian pays 33.7% of their annual income in taxes, 8.5% more than the average Louisianan.

All of California’s neighbors celebrate Tax Freedom Day before California does: Arizona celebrates it today (17th in the country), Nevada on April 20 (26th in the country), and Oregon on April 22 (33rd in the country).

Posted in California, U.S. Politics | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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