Tag Archives: California

Gun rights groups await judge’s ruling on California’s ‘microstamping’ law

second amendment3

Fox News: California’s gun laws are among the nation’s strictest, but a looming decision in a federal lawsuit could effectively ban handguns altogether in the Golden State, according to plaintiffs who want a judge to toss out a state law requiring all new handguns to be equipped with technology that “stamps” each shell casing with a traceable mark.

The problem with the “microstamping” law, which was signed into law by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007 but only took effect in 2013, is that it relies on an unworkable technology, according to gun manufacturers and attorneys for the Second Amendment Foundation and Calguns Foundation. If guns without the technology can’t be sold in California, and gun manufacturers can’t implement the technology, the law is, for practical purposes, a handgun ban that violates the Second Amendment, goes the argument.

“This is about the state trying to eliminate the handgun market,” said Alan Gura, the lead attorney in Pena v. Lindley, filed on behalf of the Second Amendment Foundation and Calguns Foundation against the Chief of the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms. “The evidence submitted by the manufacturers shows this is science fiction and there is not a practical way to implement the law. At some point gun sales will cease,” he added.

Judge Mueller

Judge Mueller

California Eastern District Judge Kimberly Mueller is considering Gura’s request for her to enjoin the state from imposing a ban on the sale of new handguns based on lack of compliance with the microstamping law while the case, first filed in 2009, until the technological challenges are resolved. Although Mueller has not said when she will issue a decision, Second Amendment Foundation officials believe it could come any day.

Since the law took effect in 2013, no manufacturer has made a new firearm that complies with the requirement. Two major manufacturers, Smith & Wesson and Sturm, Ruger & Co., announced last year they would stop selling new firearms in the California market, and blamed the microstamping law. The technology has been demonstrated, but gunmakers say requirements that each new model, or even modification, must be re-tested for compliance makes the entire scheme unworkable.

Mike Feuer

Mike Feuer

The microstamping bill was introduced by the state lawmaker and current Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer (Democrat), who insists the technology is not only workable, it will make it much easier to solve gun crimes.

“When we know who bought the crime gun, that’s a significant lead for law enforcement,” said Feuer co-founder of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence. If the law were expanded throughout the country, Feuer believes the technology could help solve the approximately 45 percent of gun crimes in the country that go unsolved.

Dr. Dallas Stout, president of the California Brady Chapters, also endorsed the law after pushing for its passage, saying it will “provide law enforcement with an important tool to track down armed criminals and help solve gun crimes.”

Both ballistic identification and microstamping systems help law enforcement investigate gun crimes because cartridge cases are much more likely to be recovered at the scene of a shooting than the gun itself, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence maintained.

However, the theory that the law will actually help solve crimes remains untested. A spokesperson for Long Beach’s Police Forensic Sciences Services Division said the department has no such statistics because there are no firearms that actually use the technology yet. And even law enforcement authorities have wavered on whether it will work: The California Police Chiefs Association, which originally supported the legislation in 2007, changed its position in 2009.

“Publicly available, peer-reviewed studies conducted by independent research organizations conclude that the technology does not function reliably and that criminals can remove the markings easily in mere seconds,” the California Police Chiefs Association said in a letter to then state Attorney General and current Gov. Jerry Brown.

Feuer blames the gun lobby for the change in position, saying it “has engaged in an outrageous, last ditch effort to try and thwart a law broadly supported by law enforcement.”

Without action by Mueller, there will be no way for a California resident to buy a new firearm until the case is ultimately decided, perhaps by the U.S. Supreme Court, said Gene Hoffman, co-founder of Calguns Foundation. “Any new semi-automatic gun that we want to carry for self defense or purchase as collectors will not be available to us at all,” Hoffman said.

If new guns can’t be purchased, older ones that are grandfathered in under the microstamping law will cost more, said John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center. That takes square aim at the Second Amendment rights of the poor, he said.

“The problem is the people who need guns the most and benefit the most from owning gun, poor individuals in high crime areas, are priced out of the market,” Lott said. “Who do they think they are disarming as a result of the law? It is minorities in poor crime areas, not some wealthy guy who can afford to purchase the firearms at a higher cost.”

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Why Are Californian Republicans Such Sniveling Cowards?

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There were two excellent candidates for governor in California’s June primary: Tim Donnely, a pro-family, pro-life, pro-Constitution, liberty-loving Tea Party Republican, and Robert Newman, a pro-family, pro-life, pro-Constitution independent.

So who did Californian Republicans vote for? Neel Kashkari, a Republican-in-name-only who supports Obamacare and admits he voted for aka-Obama, who once worked as a junior banker for Goldman Sachs, and who, in 2008, was given control of $700 billion of tax-payer money which he handed out to the banking industry, including his former employer, Goldman Sachs.

Ask Republicans why they voted for a such a candidate and their immediate response is, “We have to win in November.” And yet they keep losing.

Ever been to a Californian Republican meeting? I have, several times. Half the time is spent arguing over procedural matters, and the other half consists of members, who just happen to work for companies like Nation Builder, pitching their services, which just happen to be extremely expensive.

If someone has the temerity to suggest that the party embrace their conservative roots by coming out in strong support of the Constitution, the pro-life movement, traditional marriage, etc., they are applauded by most in attendance, but then told by the “leaders” that they are being “unrealistic.” “We have to win in November,” they say, and yet they keep losing.

Ever volunteered to work for the Republican Party? I have, several times. No one returned any of my phone calls or emails.

California Republicans loathe the Tea Party. They see the Tea Party as a threat to their established ways. They claim the Tea Party does not represent their members. And yet they keep losing.

In California there are numerous races in which the Republican Party does not even bother to run a candidate. “No chance to win,” they say. “We have to be realistic.” And yet they keep losing.

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Orly Taitz ran for Attorney General as an independent in the June primary. Possessed with infinite courage and wisdom, Taitz would have done everything she could to clean house and expose political corruption. Did Republicans vote for her? No, they didn’t have the guts.

If you voted for Neel Kashkari in California’s primary, I’m calling you out. Why did you betray your state, your country, your family, and yourself by voting for such a man? Why are you such a damn, sniveling coward?

http://fellowshipoftheminds.com/2011/07/02/the-gop-went-over-to-the-dark-side/

http://fellowshipoftheminds.com/2012/11/15/why-the-gop-will-not-do-anything-about-vote-fraud/

Bill Encourages Schools To Teach About Racial Significance Of Obama’s Presidency

barack-obama-halo

CBS Sacramento: A bill that passed the Assembly with unanimous bipartisan support Thursday encourages California schools to teach students about the racial significance of Barack Obama’s presidency.

The Assembly approved AB1912 with a 71-0 vote and no debate or discussion. It now heads to the state Senate.

The bill by Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena, asks state education officials to include Obama’s election in history and social studies standards laying out what students are expected to learn.

High school history students already learn about recent presidents. But Holden says lessons about Obama also should focus on what his election meant for racial equality and civil rights.

He said on the Assembly floor that the 2008 election “should not just be a mere footnote within textbooks, but rather focus on the significance of Americans overcoming our nation’s past and acknowledging that Americans are moving in the right direction.”

The bill says the election was a “historic step in the effort towards equality in the United States” and that previous elections in the nation involved intimidation and physical violence that prevented millions of African-Americans from voting. It also commends Obama for his work as a community organizer who registered voters after he graduated from Harvard Law School.

The state Board of Education is expected to update academic standards during the 2015-16 school year and does not have to follow lawmakers’ recommendations. Textbooks could be updated within five years, likely after Obama leaves office.

The state hasn’t updated its guidelines for teaching social studies classes since 2005. A 2009 effort was cancelled because of limited money.

The state education department must first finish guidelines for schools to implement rigorous new expectations for math and language arts under Common Core State Standards before addressing social studies.

I wonder if the new textbooks will cover these topics?

“What his election meant for racial equality”

black flash mob

“Americans are moving in the right direction”

How's that "hopeandchange" working out?

How’s that “hopeandchange” working out?

“Intimidation and physical violence that prevented millions of African-Americans from voting”

Billy cub-wielding Black Panthers at a Philadelphia polling station, 2008

Billy cub-wielding Black Panthers at a Philadelphia polling station, 2008

May I suggest a textbook cover?

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California State government errors give employees $6.3 million in unearned leave

Tax dollars at work...

Tax dollars at work…

Sacramento Bee: State agencies gave their employees nearly 200,000 hours of unearned leave credits worth almost $6.4 million over five years, and the self-inflicted taxpayer expense will only grow until the government fixes the errors, according to a new state audit.

Accounting mistakes, misinterpretations of labor contract requirements and a lack of accounting controls at state agencies and the California State University are to blame, State Auditor Elaine Howle said in the report. Meanwhile, it’s likely that some overpayments to departed employees can’t be recouped, she said, because the recovery law is vague.

Chiang

Chiang ranting about Hope and Change or something like that.

Most departments highlighted in the audit agreed to fix their leave-accounting systems. State Controller John Chiang’s office, which collects the leave data that auditors analyzed, embraced some fixes but said others were unworkable or redundant and questioned the audit methodology.

Chiang’s acting chief administrative officer Tom Yowell also said in a response to the audit that the number of problems is so small compared to the billions of dollars in leave credits tracked that Howle’s audit “suggests that the leave accounting process is operating at over 99.99% accuracy.” (Common Core math: $6.4 million waste + employees not reporting overpayments = excellent accuracy!)

Auditors found that from 2008 through 2012, employee holiday-leave mistakes in 79 agencies resulted in 127,000 hours of unearned leave credits with a value of $4.1 million as of last December. Wrongly applied furlough leave, sick time, floating holidays, vacation leave and annual leave (taken in lieu of vacation and sick time) accounted for another $2.2 million of unearned credits to employees.

The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, for example, gave one unnamed employee 516 hours of holiday credit for a single month in 2008. He was entitled to 16 hours. Officials didn’t catch the mistake until after the employee retired 11 months later and received $17,660 for the unearned credits on top of $12,200 he received for legitimately accrued leave. The Chula Vista Veterans Home incorrectly doubled some employees’ holiday credits.

The auditor said departments need guidance on applying leave balances, to improve accounting processes and suggested lawmakers need to clarify the law for recovering overpaid leave credits.

Fun fact about Chiang:

“California State Controller John Chiang became a hero to 200,000 state workers in 2008 when he defied Governor Schwarzenegger’s order to cut their paychecks to the federal minimum wage due to a budget impasse with the legislature had ended. (Brown later dropped the suit.)

Chiang called state workers at a Los Angeles rally the “innocent victims of a political struggle”.

Both the trial and appellate courts ruled that Chiang had violated the law in defying the Governor’s orders, but those rulings came down long after the budget impasse was over. On July 1, 2010 the state legislature again failed to pass a budget on time and Schwarzenegger again ordered Chiang to cut wages to the federal minimum. Chiang said he couldn’t carry out the order due to an antiquated payroll system.

“This is not a simple software problem,” he said. “Reducing pay and then restoring it in a timely manner once the budget is enacted cannot be done without gross violations of law unless and until the state completes its overhaul of the state payroll system and payroll laws are changed.”

Chiang became active in the Democratic Party after moving to Los Angeles in 1987 where he began his career as an IRS tax law specialist.

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CA lawmakers pass firearm safety, ammunition bill

second amendment3

KCRA.com: California lawmakers on Friday acted on bills that tackle firearm safety and add rules for ammunition sales.

The Senate unanimously passed SB505 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara. It would require officers to search the state’s database of gun purchases when checking on whether someone may be a danger to themselves or others. Jackson says searching the gun database could help prevent tragedies such as the May shooting rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Her bill now goes to the governor.

“This bill would help ensure that law enforcement agencies are using all the tools available to them to gather potentially life-saving information for themselves and others,” Jackson said in a statement.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office deputies were criticized for not searching Elliot Rodger’s apartment during a welfare check in April after his parents became concerned about his postings on YouTube. The 22-year-old community college student killed six university students and himself in Isla Vista weeks later.

A database search could have helped them better assess the danger Rodger posed to himself and others, Jackson said.

Separately, the Assembly approved a bill creating a way to better track ammunition. SB53 by Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, requires ammunition vendors to be licensed and people buying ammunition to pass background checks. According to his office, the state Department of Justice will be required to keep a list of all authorized ammunition purchasers to make sure ammunition will only be accessible to lawful gun owners and not dangerous criminals.

De Leon’s office stated that while California has enacted legislation to keep guns out of the hands of criminals; little has been done to prevent them from getting ammunition. Supporters estimated that millions of rounds of ammunition are being sold to criminals each year.

The bill passed 42-26 and returns to the Senate.

stoopid

DCG

California state departments play personnel shell game

shell game

Sacramento Bee: Lindsay Rains has worked steadily for the last few years as an environmental scientist at the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s offices in downtown Sacramento.

According to state personnel records for 2012 and 2013, however, she transferred 14 times through nine positions in one fiscal year. Her title never changed, but the serial numbers the state uses to identify her position changed repeatedly.

The maneuver is one state departments have used to pad their budgets with millions of tax dollars earmarked for employee salaries. By law, they are supposed to lose the money when a position goes unfilled for six months. Instead, they have simply altered the identifying numbers to make it appear that a job was filled with a transferred employee, thus avoiding a cut to their budgets.

The unspent salary money can then be used to cover other operating costs, such as leave balances, office rent, new equipment or employee raises.

The transfers don’t promote the employees, who may not even know about the numerical changes. Officials at the Department of Food and Agriculture declined to respond to inquiries.

Thousands of personnel transfers reviewed by The Sacramento Bee show similar patterns throughout state government.

shuffle

Mike Genest, former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s finance director, looked through some of the state transfer data and called the patterns he saw “smoking-gun stuff” that strongly suggests departments have gamed the law.

“If you think about it, people had to scheme to do this,” Genest said. Now outside government, he sees the practice as a problem, but he acknowledged he allowed it when he worked as a deputy director for the Department of Social Services and the Department of Health Services in the 1990s.

Genest said he tried to stamp it out during his tenure as finance director: “It constitutes a conspiracy, and it’s going on throughout state government,” he said.

The transfer data, obtained by The Bee through a Public Records Act request, covered more than 17,500 positions at about 110 departments.

Roughly 5,200 state employees shuttled between three or more job positions without changing departments or job titles, according to state Controller’s Office records for the last three fiscal years.

The transfers sometimes occurred within days of each other. Many employees, such as Rains, changed position numbers every few months. Other examples captured in the controller’s data include:

• A Department of General Services executive, Ricardo Martinez, was transferred 11 times between three positions over the course of 18 months.

• An analyst for the Department of Child Supportive Services, Tristina Thiel, moved seven times in a year, with one transfer lasting just two days.

• Daniel Kieselhorst, a Department of State Hospitals printing press operator, was moved back and forth between the same two positions 15 times in three years.

Illegally shuffled employees aren’t breaking the law, and the workers either declined comment or could not be reached. They may not know they’ve been used for an illegitimate transaction because their pay, duties and job titles remain the same.

And some transfers in the data appeared to be legitimate, such as when an employee moved between programs in the same agency.

The Bee sent employee transaction information to several departments that the data suggested may have engaged in suspicious transfers: the Department of State Hospitals, Department of Social Services, Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of General Services and Caltrans. Some did not return multiple phone messages and emails. Others said that they needed time to digest the numbers or referred The Bee to other Brown administration officials. None agreed to interviews.

Bee reporters also met two weeks ago with Lynda Gledhill, press secretary for the Government Operations Agency, and H.D. Palmer, a deputy director at the state Department of Finance, to show the Brown administration several examples of dubious employee transfers.

Palmer acknowledged the problem. “You can’t order a la carte,” he said. “You can’t pick and choose what law you’re going to follow.”

On May 16, responding to The Bee’s findings, the administration issued a memo reminding personnel officers about the job-vacancy law’s ban on such transfers. The memo also announced that finance officials are launching “a targeted audit” that will look for illegal transactions.

On Friday, Marybel Batjer, secretary of the Government Operations Agency, sent a letter to key lawmakers advising them that officials had “recently learned” that departments had taken “actions inconsistent with” the law. In addition to the audit, she said finance officials will also assess the law, noting that its effectiveness has long been questioned.

“However, while the law remains in effect, the Administration is fully committed to compliance,” she wrote.

‘Byzantine solution’

How much could the state have used for other purposes had the positions been abolished? It’s impossible to calculate an exact number, since some of the transactions were legitimate. At a minimum, though, the positions with three or more transfers in a given year had average total pay of more than $80 million.

Jon Coupal of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association said the transfers are another example of misplaced bureaucratic priorities. “If you defaulted to the private sector, you would hire people based on need,” he said, calling the state’s six-month law a “bizarre and byzantine solution.”

Departments manipulate the transfer system for several reasons, those familiar with the practice say. “There’s bureaucratic pressure to do this from midmanagers busting their asses to not lose the positions. They want to keep that money in the bank,” said a former high-level administration official who asked not to be named because he still interacts with state government.

Some state positions are difficult to fill within six months. The state’s hiring process can take much longer to process an applicant. Some jobs require special skill sets. The state’s pay isn’t competitive for many classifications, such as lawyers and scientists, which slows hiring.

Department administrators have long complained that they do not receive enough money from the Legislature for their operations, said Nick Schroeder, a state government workforce expert in the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office, “so a lot of departments are probably leaving positions open to pay for those costs.”

“To the extent that departments are underfunded for their basic operations, (it) creates pressure to hold positions vacant in order to use the funding for those positions to support their operations,” said Tim Gage, former Democratic Gov. Gray Davis’ finance director. “That said, the only way that the Legislature and the governor can manage the budget is to maintain control over the number of authorized positions.”

For many years, the state assumed that departments wouldn’t fill all of their jobs and automatically cut personnel budget requests. A department that said it needed 100 employees, for example, might be funded for just 95.

That policy, Genest said, created pressure for departments to inflate their personnel estimates and load up extra funded vacancies as a hedge against the inevitable funding cut. The state ended the so-called “salary savings” policy two years ago, hoping to gain a more realistic picture of staffing costs. That move wiped out nearly 12,000 vacant positions that departments were carrying on the books.

Genest described a government process that penalizes thrifty departments, since future budgets are based on current spending. Manipulating employee transactions was expected when he worked for the social services and health services departments, he said, and managers became upset if they lost money because a vacant position was swept out.

“It almost forces people to disobey the law,” he said. “I know. I played the game myself.”

The law relies on departments to be honest. There’s no watchdog that checks every transaction to determine whether employers are manufacturing personnel moves to keep vacant slots and the tax dollars budgeted for them.

Doing so would require diving into thousands of personnel records each year and matching them against tens of thousands of employee transfers executed by the state’s 150 or so agencies, departments, commissions and boards.

State officials had never collated data that might flag suspicious transfer trends statewide until The Bee requested employee transaction reports. The Controller’s Office had to write a special program to cull the data.

Few vacancies abolished

California lawmakers and bureaucrats have sparred over vacant positions for years.

A vacancy law enacted in 1983 sought to control a growing number of vacancies carried on departments’ books. The law originally axed slots that were empty for the last nine months of the July-through-June fiscal year. Departments could retain the positions if a hiring freeze prevented filling them. If lawmakers failed to enact a budget on time – a once-common occurrence that froze hiring – or if the position was truly hard to fill, employers could ask the Finance Department to re-establish the vacancy and the money tied to it.

The fiscal-year confines of the law meant that jobs that went vacant after October could go unfilled well over 12 months, and departments could easily manipulate vacancies to retain them. As a result, few vacant positions were abolished. For fiscal 1999-00, for example, the controller eliminated 94 of 227,000 state positions.

Lawmakers in 2000 shortened the time a job could remain vacant to six months in a fiscal year, but that still allowed positions first vacant after Jan. 1 to stay on a department’s books for nearly a year.

Two years later, a state audit noted that 536 vacant positions had been abolished the first year under the tighter law. But State Auditor Elaine Howle reported that nearly 90 percent of the employee transfers in five departments auditors closely scrutinized were intended to “avoid the abolishment of vacant positions.” One of the departments, the audit found, devoted 46 weeks of staff time to monitoring vacancies and manipulating transfers.

“(T)he law’s effectiveness,” Howle summed up in a 2002 letter to lawmakers, “is hindered by departments’ efforts to preserve positions.”

Over the next five years, the Legislature added several exemptions to the vacancy law, including jobs held open for employees on military or medical leave, or positions vital to public health and safety. The vacancy trigger was tweaked to abolish positions even if the six months straddled two fiscal years. But perhaps the most significant was this caution, added in 2002: “Departments shall not execute any personnel transactions for the purpose of circumventing the provisions of this (law).”

The state Legislative Analyst’s Office concluded in 2008 that so little savings were realized from the law that it should be eliminated.

“We believe that the wide variety of exemptions in the law, as well as an undetermined amount of departmental actions to evade its requirements, are the likely reasons for so few positions being eliminated,” it said.

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CalSTRS says pension funding gap has grown to $73.7 billion

cals

Sacramento Bee: CalSTRS said Thursday that its long-term funding shortfall has risen to $73.7 BILLION, a stark reminder of the financial issues facing the teachers’ pension fund.

The newest tally reflects CalSTRS’ financial condition as of last June 30. The pension fund said the shortfall grew by $2.7 BILLION in the 12 months since the previous valuation of June 30, 2012.

CalSTRS’ latest calculation comes as the Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown continue to debate how to fix the teachers’ retirement fund. Brown originally said the Legislature could enact a funding plan for CalSTRS in 2015, but he also supported the decision by Senate and Assembly committees to hold hearings last month on the issue.

Two months ago, CalPERS approved a plan to raise contribution rates from state and local agencies to deal with a long-term shortfall of around $100 billion. Unlike the public employees’ pension fund, however, the teachers’ fund needs the Legislature’s permission to implement a rate hike.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System has been struggling financially for some time and was badly wounded by the 2008 market crash. It has enjoyed recent investment gains, and the worsening of its long-term deficit has actually moderated; it had earlier forecast that the gap would grow by almost twice as much as it did.

Nonetheless, the fund insists the Legislature must act.

“Since at least 2006, we’ve said that CalSTRS cannot rely solely on healthy investment returns to make up the ground lost to the economic downturns and market volatility of the past 14 years,” said CalSTRS Chief Executive Jack Ehnes in a prepared statement.

Although CalSTRS has enough cash to deal with its obligations for the foreseeable future, it is only 66.9 percent funded for the long term. The pension fund said its shortfall grows by $15 MILLION a day. If the problem isn’t corrected, CalSTRS said it expects to run out of cash by 2046. That’s actually three years later than the last time CalSTRS issued a prediction, but the pension fund said the problem can’t wait much longer.

The latest calculation “reflects a reality, affirmed by the Legislature, the administration and stakeholders, that stabilizing CalSTRS funding will require contribution increases,” Ehnes said. “These can be gradual, predictable and fair to all parties, while meeting the long-term needs of the system.”

Considering the monetary drain on this system, I expect that CalSTRS will have no money left to spend on anybody’s future.

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