Budget Subcommittee SPOTLIGHT: April 29, 2016

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Subcommittee #1 (Education)

Block (D-San Diego) Chair, Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa), & Allen (D-Santa Monica)

California Students First. The committee heard testimony from the California State Auditor’s staff, who recently found that the University of California (UC) has increased nonresident enrollment by 82 percent while increasing in-state enrollment by 1 percent. Senator Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) joined the committee to express his concern over this development and urge UC to serve Californians first. Consistent with the priority to build new career paths for today’s economy, Senate Republicans support funding for higher education at a level sufficient to ensure that every qualified California student is admitted and can access the coursework necessary to graduate in four years. 

Transparency and Ethical Standards for University Executives. In response to recent press reports that UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi had received $420,000 for serving on the board of a textbook company, the committee heard from both UC and the California State University about their policies on outside professional activities. Senator Nielsen urged the segments toward more transparency on these activities; Senator Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) acknowledged the value of such activities along with the need for balance. In keeping with the priority to respect the voters through responsible government, Senate Republicans support transparency and high ethical standards in our public universities. 

Subcommittee #2 (Resources, Energy, Agriculture & Transportation)

Wolk (D-Davis) Chair, Nielsen (R-Gerber), & Pavley (D- Agoura Hills)

Subcommittee #2 did not meet this week.

Subcommittee #3 (Health & Human Services)

Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) Chair, Monning (D-Carmel), & Stone (R-Temecula)

More Affordable Living Better Than Ever-More Spending. The hearing focused on the state's human services programs, including In-Home Supportive Services and Supplemental Security Income/State Supplementary Payment (SSI/SSP) cash assistance. Program advocates asked for substantial, on-going spending commitments that would increase annual state costs by more than $800 million. As Governor Brown previously pointed out, California is already among the most generous states in the nation when it comes to programs that support low-income populations. Additionally, the Governor has acknowledged that a $15 minimum wage, which the state recently enacted, would put California’s finances back into deficit. Other recent federal mandates are also forcing California to spend billions more on health and human services programs.  Senate Republicans agree that some targeted program adjustments are needed, such as the Governor’s proposal to provide a cost-of-living adjustment for people receiving SSI/SSP, but believe a better way to help lower-income families is to reform state policies that drive up the cost of living in California to extraordinary levels and make it harder for families to pay their bills or afford a home.

Subcommittee #4 (Housing, Veterans Affairs, & General Government)

Roth (D-Riverside) Chair, Nguyen (R-Garden Grove), Pan (D-Sacramento), & Glazer (D-Orinda)

Ensuring Fair and Uniform Elections. Senator Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) led a bipartisan effort to fund six previously suspended elections mandates. In general, these mandates ensure that local governments run elections in a uniform manner to avoid fraud. The subcommittee voted unanimously to approve $77 million to reimburse counties for costs they had incurred more than 5 years ago and to reactivate these laws to make sure every vote counts in the upcoming November Presidential election. This action came about an hour after Senate Republicans supported $16 million to assist counties with administering the June 7 primary election and verifying statewide initiative signatures. Senate Republicans support the uniform administration of elections across all 58 counties to preserve the availability, equality, and integrity of the election process for all Californians.

Additional Resources for Civil Rights Complaints. The Department of Fair Employment and Housing investigates about 12,000 housing and employment discrimination complaints annually, resulting in more than 200 cases per investigator each year. This workload makes it difficult for investigators to meet the one-year statutory time limit for filing civil complaints. The Subcommittee had previously directed state managers to return with performance metrics to better justify the budget request for $2.8 million and additional staff. Based on the newly presented metrics, the Subcommittee voted to approve the requested resources as well as to require future reports to allow the Legislature to monitor performance. Senate Republicans support efforts to improve the transparency and effectiveness of state programs in order to increase accountability to the voters. 

Subcommittee #5 (Revenue, Labor, PERS, STRS, Public Safety, & Judiciary)

Hancock (D-Berkeley) Chair, Anderson (R-San Diego), Beall (D-San Jose)

Auditor Finds State Hospital Employees Not Working Full Shifts. The Subcommittee heard testimony from the California State Auditor (Auditor) concerning a potentially pervasive problem related to employee attendance within the Department of State Hospitals (DSH). According to a recent Auditor report, four psychiatrists at Patton State Hospital regularly worked 22 to 29 hours per week during the audit period, rather than the required 40 hours, and may have engaged in outside employment during state time. The report also indicated that the problem is likely not restricted to just those four psychiatrists, but may be systemic and tied to a culture that has been developing since the 1990s. Beyond the almost $300,000 in compensation paid to those employees for time they did not work, the Auditor’s findings raise questions about the quality of care DSH is delivering, the safety of staff and patients in the absence of professional clinical oversight, and the culture that has developed within the State Hospital system. The patients in state hospitals suffer from serious mental illness, and caregivers’ failure to show up violates the most basic standard of performance. Senate Republicans believe the state should hold departments and employees accountable for actions such as these.