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Voters want an answer for homelessness + Justice Chin retires + Mental health days for schools

Sacramento Bee - 1/16/2020

Jan. 16--Good morning and happy Thursday! Andrew Sheeler here, let's get into the news.


Via Brian Anderson...

Californians are increasingly concerned about the state's housing and homelessness crisis, according to a new poll released Wednesday night by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The poll finds a plurality of Democrats, Republicans and Independents likely to vote in the state's March 3, 2020, primary election in agreement that homelessness is the most important issue for Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers to work on in 2020. Twenty-one percent of Democrats and Independents called it the top issue, compared to 29 percent of Republicans.

Housing affordability and the environment were the next highest priorities for likely Democratic primary voters, while Republicans were more concerned about immigration and taxes.

Health care has become a lesser focus for Democrats, according to the poll. While policy differences surrounding the Affordable Care Act and Medicare for All have dominated the discussion at the Democratic presidential debates thus far, candidates visiting California will likely need to focus more of their energy on explaining how they'd tackle homelessness and work to make housing cheaper.

"When the candidates for president come out here in the coming weeks, they're gonna have to talk about homelessness and housing," said Mark Baldassare, president of PPIC. "To not mention (these topics) will seem like they're oblivious to what Californians now say they most care about. You're going to get questions from voters about this."

Read the full story from Bryan Anderson here.


The California Supreme Court's longest-serving justice is stepping down after nearly a quarter century on the bench.

Justice Ming W. Chin, who was appointed to the bench by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson in 1996, will retire Aug. 31, according to a statement from the California Courts. Chin is the court's first Chinese-American justice.

In his tenure, Chin authored more than 350 majority opinions and more than 100 separate opinions, including one decision which cleared the way for spousal abuse to be used as a defense in murder cases and another which struck down a requirement that minors get permission from their parents before getting an abortion.

"I've had the honor and privilege to serve with three very different but spectacular chief justices," Chin said in prepared remarks. "The judicial system has faced some major challenges in my time on the bench, but I believe the branch is now in a strong position. Justice Chuck Vogel once said my opinions are characterized by clarity and courage. If that is what is written about me in 50 years, I would be happy."

Chin first joined the bench as a judge in Alameda County Superior Court, and also served as an associate justice and presiding justice of the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco.


Should students be able to take time off from school for their mental health?

That's the thinking of lawmakers Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, Assemblyman Kansen Chu, D-San Jose, and Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, who have introduced a pair of bills that would allow students from kindergarten to 12th grade to take time off for mental or behavioral health reasons.

Currently, the state education code doesn't recognize that as a valid reason for an excused absence.

"We need to be bringing mental health out of the shadows so our children can get the care they need, not penalizing districts and families for a legitimate health issue," Portantino said in prepared remarks.

Approximately 4.5 million children ages 3 to 17 have a diagnosed behavior problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In a statement, Chu said that "breaking down stigma around mental health for the next generation is incredibly important," while Low said the legislation "will help to destigmatize discussions of anxiety, depression, and treatment so that students experiencing mental health crises feel less alone."


"If Gavin Newsom were to support repeal of AB 5, his approval rating would go up overnight. Not only for saving the livelihoods of countless Californians, but also for having the humility and courage to recognize he made a mistake." -- Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, R-Rocklin, via Twitter. (Newsom's approval rating is at 51 percent, according to the latest PPIC poll.)

Best of the Bee:


The State of California wants to spend $2 million to remind you that it is against the law to smoke in state parks and beaches, via Andrew Sheeler.


California Democrats blocked a contentious bill on Wednesday that would have required parents to sign permission slips for their younger kids to attend sex education classes in school, via Hannah Wiley.


Sen. Kamala Harris opposes the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. Sen. Dianne Feinstein supports it. The split between California's two Democratic senators mirrors the rift in the party as the Senate prepares to vote Thursday on the historic agreement, which aims to make trade smoother between the three countries, via David Lightman.


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