Lombard Street, San Francisco, California
The California Legislature is in session. Today’s schedule is here.
On to today’s California Headlines:
The Federal Election Commission on Thursday raised sharp questions but came to no firm conclusion over Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s bid for greater fundraising leeway in the wake of embezzlement by her former campaign treasurer.
The punt will give the FEC more time to consider whether California politicians ripped off by former treasurer Kinde Durkee can solicit additional funds from individuals who have already reached their contribution limit.
“We’re all sympathetic to your client,” FEC commissioner Ellen Weintraub told Feinstein’s attorneys Thursday morning, “but it’s still a hard question.”
Though the commission’s legal staff had recommended rejecting Feinstein’s request, the commissioners during a two-hour hearing indicated they thought it was a close call. Several voiced concern over the potential “implications” for other campaigns of granting Feinstein’s fundraising request.
“We have to do some special thinking,” Commissioner Steven Walther said. “We’re in a tight spot, and we need to think this one out.”
Feinstein wants contribution limits be lifted following revelations that Durkee had embezzled millions of dollars from dozens of campaign treasuries. Feinstein’s campaign alone reported losing at least $4.5 million under Durkee’s scheming. The FEC’s reasoning will apply to other former Durkee clients as well, and will also be closely attended to by the state’s Fair Political Practices Commission.
In a case that affects thousands of businesses and millions of workers, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that employers are under no obligation to ensure that workers take legally mandated lunch and rest breaks
The unanimous opinion came after workers’ attorneys argued that abuses are routine and widespread when companies aren’t required to issue direct orders to take the breaks. They claimed employers take advantage of workers who don’t want to leave colleagues during busy times.
The case was initially filed nine years ago against Brinker International, the parent company of Chili’s and other eateries, by restaurant workers complaining of missed breaks in violation of California labor law.
But the high court sided with businesses when it ruled that requiring companies to order breaks is unmanageable and those decisions should be left to workers.
The opinion written by Associate Justice Kathryn Werdegar explained that state law does not compel an employer to ensure employees cease all work during meal periods, instead saying the employee is at liberty to use the time as they choose.
“The employer is not obligated to police meal breaks and ensure no work thereafter is performed,” Werdegar wrote.
The court’s decision could greatly reduce the numerous class-action lawsuits surrounding the issue that cost companies millions of dollars in legal costs.
“The courts are making it clear that you have to create a system and a procedure that fully allows employees an opportunity to take breaks and meal periods, and if they do that they do not have to be Big Brother and individually monitor each employee to ensure that they’ve taken every bit of their breaks,” said Steve Hirschfeld, founder and CEO of the Employment Law Alliance, an employer-side legal trade group.
It started as a typical evening for Ming Qu and Ying Wu, two graduate students from China studying electrical engineering at USC.
After a night at the library, Qu drove Wu to the house where she was renting a room less than a mile from campus. He double parked in front of the home early Wednesday morning to continue talking.
At around 1 a.m., a gunman approach Qu’s BMW and opened fire, killing both students in an attack that shocked USC and rekindled long-held concerns about safety around the university.
Qu attempted to run for help after he was shot in the head and was found collapsed on a nearby porch, police said. Wu was found shot in the chest, slumped over in the passenger seat of the car parked on a tree-lined stretch of Raymond Avenue just south of Adams Boulevard.
The students, both 23, were close friends who spent evenings chatting on the front porch of the house where Wu lived, according to police sources, who requested anonymity because the investigation is ongoing. But on Wednesday, it was raining, so police believe the pair decided to stay in the car, which friends said was a 2003 model that Qu bought for about $10,000.
Police suspect a lone assailant of carrying out the killings, but LAPD Capt. Andrew Smith said investigators had little to go on and are examining all motives, including that the gunman was trying to rob the pair. More than a dozen Los Angeles Police Department homicide detectives canvassed the area Wednesday, going door-to-door to search for witnesses and reviewing intersection cameras for clues.
USC, south of downtown Los Angeles, has long dealt with worries about crime in the neighborhoods around the campus. But in recent years, some of those concerns have eased as crime plummeted, the university expanded and some of those neighborhoods, such as West Adams, gentrified.
California’s ranking Senate Republican and one of the GOP’s representatives on a special pension committee have fired off letters to Gov. Jerry Brown and their Democratic colleagues in the Legislature, calling for a key committee vote on the governor’s pension reform plan later this week.
Republicans have embraced Brown’s plan and put it word for word in two bills. Senate Republican Leader Bob Huff of Diamond Bar and Sen. Mimi Walters of Laguna Niguel on Tuesday signed the letters delivered to Brown and pension conference committee co-chairs Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, D-Chino, and Assemblyman Warren Furutani, D-Gardena, pushing for a vote Friday when the committee meets in Southern California.
They asked Brown to “join us to demand immediate legislative action on your twelve point pension plan, which we believe represents the first steps that must be enacted to get our runaway pension system under control.”
With just weeks left to gather the signatures needed to qualify for the November ballot, civil rights attorney Molly Munger has poured another $2.15 million into her proposal to raise income taxes to fund schools.
Munger, president of The Advancement Project, is the sole financier of the “Our Children, Our Future Measure.” The proposal would raise taxes on a sliding scale for almost all California earners, routing the revenues directly to school districts and early childhood development programs.
Supporters of Gov. Jerry Brown’s rival tax measure, which would temporarily raise income taxes on high earners and increase the state sales tax by a quarter percent, have tried to persuade Munger to drop her measure to avoid confusion and mixed messaging that could arise with more than one tax hike in front of voters in November.
The Munger camp must collect roughly 504,000 valid voter signatures by to make it on the ballot. They likely need to submit those petitions signatures to elections officials by mid-May to be certified in time for the 2012 election.
Enjoy your afternoon!
And, lastly, Dan Walters explains why the City of Los Angeles may have to declare bankruptcy.