Support AB 857, Public Banking

By Sylvia Chi

Deadline: now and ongoing –

In recent years, a lot more people have started thinking about who’s running their banks, and who’s profiting – and whether they’re the ones who are losing. Now, California Assembly Bill 857 proposes to allow local governments to apply for a banking license from the state, so cities, counties, or regions could establish their own public banks. The legislation is sponsored by the California Public Banking Alliance (CPBA), a statewide coalition of grassroots advocates representing areas ranging from San Diego to Eureka, as well as Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, Beneficial State Foundation, and Friends of the Earth. The East Bay is home to CPBA member Public Bank East Bay (formerly Friends of the Public Bank of Oakland), one of the pioneers of the public banking movement in the United States, and we’re calling on our state legislators to sign on as co-authors of this bill. Scroll down to see what you can do to help!

In short, a public bank is one that’s owned by a government, accountable to the public, and managed by professional bankers. (For a longer description, check out Wikipedia.) In the US, the main example of a public bank is the Bank of North Dakota (BND), a state-owned institution founded in 1919 that holds state and other public deposits. BND functions mainly as a bankers’ bank, partnering with local community banks and credit unions to issue loans. It has few retail functions, but its partnership with local financial institutions makes North Dakota home to one of the most robust local banking sectors in the country.

AB 857 would allow local governments in California to create their own versions of BND, strengthening our local financial institutions and keeping our public money in the local economy. Currently, Wall Street banks are the only option for banking services for most local governments. These banks enjoy record profits and anticipate regulatory rollbacks. But why should our communities support them, since they profit from financing and enabling precisely the same fossil fuels, private prisons, destruction of communities, and other reprehensible activities that our communities are actively fighting? Public banks can be a much-needed alternative to the mega-banks, help counteract the risky trend towards bank consolidation, and serve as a source of strength for local economies. They can even help finance the projects proposed in the Green New Deal.

Public banking is possible right here in the East Bay. The city councils of Oakland, Berkeley, and Richmond, together with the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, authorized a feasibility study for a regional public bank, which reached positive conclusions. After reviewing the study, the Finance and Management Committee of Oakland City Council voted to forward the study to the full City Council, which accepted it. The next step toward creating a public bank for the East Bay is to develop a business plan and apply for a license – which doesn’t exist yet. We need AB 857 to pass so the East Bay can move forward on creating our own local public bank.

AB 857 is gaining support in the state legislature, but the East Bay’s representatives haven’t yet signed on. Let them know you want them to support and co-author AB 857!

What you can do:

Ask your state senator and assemblymember to commit to co-authoring and supporting AB 857. If you don’t know who your state representatives are, enter your address here to find out.

What to say:

My name is _______, I’m a constituent, and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I support public banking as a way to strengthen the local economy. We need to pass AB 857 so the East Bay can move forward on creating our own local public bank. A public bank can help the East Bay by providing low-interest loans for underserved small businesses and affordable-housing developers, and for building needed public infrastructure. Please co-author and support AB 857.

  • Senator Nancy Skinner (email) 510-286-1333 (district) or 916-651-4009 (Capitol)
  • Assemblymember Rob Bonta (email) 510-286-1670 (district) or 916-319-2018 (Capitol)
  • Assemblymember Buffy Wicks (email) 510-286-1400 (district) or 916-319-2015 (Capitol)

 

Sylvia Chi is a member of Public Bank East Bay and legislative chair of the California Public Banking Alliance.

Sign on! Petition and bills to reform charter school laws

By Emily Filloy

Deadline: Now and ongoing –

Are you sick and tired of billionaires backing charter schools, while public schools scramble to pay teachers a living wage?

The proliferation of charter schools and the disastrous effect they have on our public schools was brought to the public’s attention in the recent Los Angeles and Oakland teachers strikes. In the Oakland Unified School District alone, charters cost the district $57 million a year—plenty to give the teachers the raise they need. Now that former Governor Jerry Brown is no longer blocking the road to any charter law reform, legislators have proposed a package of reform bills that would give Oakland, LA, and other heavily charter-impacted districts some much-needed relief.

We need you to do two things:

  • First, contact your Assemblymember and State Senator in support of these four bills: AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508. Read on for more info, a call script and contact info.
  • Second, sign the CharterLawReform.com petition. This petition demands five fundamental changes to state charter law that would go a long way to leveling the playing field. Once the playing field gets leveled, the billionaires creep back under the rocks they crawled out from. When you sign, this petition will automatically send your state reps a notice that you want them to reform the Charter School Act.

Background:

Throughout Jerry Brown’s tenure as governor, he refused to sign almost all charter reform legislation, even bills requiring charter schools to follow the Brown Act and other sunshine and anti-conflict of interest legislation. Now, Governor Newsom has already signed SB 126, dealing with oversight of charter schools! We know that if we can get reform bills passed, Newsom will sign them; but to do that, we need to keep pressure on the legislature. The charter industry is rich and powerful – spending billions to elect pro-charter legislators and school boards and to fight reform legislation. We citizens need to let our reps know that selling out our public schools to privatizers is not okay.

Right now, this package of four bills would reform laws that currently favor charter schools over public schools throughout California:

  • AB 1505 would make the decision of a local school board to deny a charter petition final. Currently, if a local school board denies a charter petition, the operator may appeal first to the county and then to the state. Like bad parenting—if mom says no, try dad.
  • AB 1506 would impose a cap on the number of new charters, allowing a new charter to open only if an existing one closes.
  • AB 1507 would end the ability of a district to authorize a charter school and then place it in another district. Yes, that happens.
  • AB 1508, introduced by East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta and coauthored by Senator Nancy Skinner, expresses the intent to allow school districts to take into account the fiscal, academic, and facilities impacts of a proposed charter on the district schools where it is to be located. This means that a school board can say, “No, we can’t afford yet another charter school.” Combined with AB 1505, which eliminates appeals, this would allow local school districts to once again have control over the number and location of its schools.

What you can do:

 Sign the petition: CharterLawReform.com

 Contact your state representative in support of AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508.

Contact the members of the Assembly Education Committee, where these bills will be heard:

Spread the word!

What to say:

For your local representatives:

My name is___________. My zip code is_________. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m urging Assemblymember/Senator __________ to support AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508.  This package of bills will begin to hold charter schools accountable to local communities and ensure that charter proliferation won’t destabilize another school district. Can I count on Assemblymember/Senator ________ to support these bills?

For members of the Education Committee:

My name is ________. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I’m urging you, as a member of the Education Committee, to support AB 1505, 1506, 1507, and 1508. This package of bills will begin to hold charter schools accountable to local communities and ensure that charter proliferation won’t destabilize another school district. Can I count on Assemblymember/Senator ________ to support these bills?

 

Emily Filloy is a retired OUSD teacher whose grown children are graduates of Oakland Unified School District. She and other educators started Educators for Democratic Schools to fight for the survival of public education.

 

March 2019 meeting with Sen. Nancy Skinner

State Senator Nancy Skinner and her aide Margaret Hanlon-Gradie met with six Indivisible East Bay members, including the founder of California StateStrong, on March 1, 2019, to talk about important bills in the current legislative session. The half-hour meeting was wide-ranging, including discussions of bills that Indivisible East Bay is prioritizing and bills that Sen. Skinner herself is introducing. Read our pre-meeting memo to Sen. Skinner here.

Police Use of force

Two bills this session deal with the issue of police use of force. We asked Sen. Skinner, who chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee, to support AB 392. Her support will be critical to the outcome of this bill – and to the defeat of SB 230, a competing, weaker bill supported by law enforcement agencies. In line with recommendations from policing and legal experts, including the California Attorney General, AB 392 updates California law so that police can use deadly force only when necessary to prevent death or serious injury, and requires them to use tactics to de-escalate a situation or use alternatives to deadly force when reasonable. Changing to this standard will mean that officers will be trained to use deadly force less often and will be held accountable when they shoot and kill unnecessarily. Read our article and action item on AB 392 and SB 230 here.

As Committee Chair, Skinner said she cannot signal anything now, but she noted that neither the Public Safety Committee membership nor the chair has changed since last year when they approved AB 931, a bill very similar to AB 392 that ultimately did not receive a vote in the CA Senate. Skinner urged us to make sure Indivisible groups up and down the state are clear on AB 392 and SB 230 and flood their legislators with communications about them. Also, it’s important to work to gain the support of groups and institutions that have personal and moral influence with legislators, particularly the faith community, including the Catholic, Jewish, and African-American congregations.

Criminal Justice Reform

IEB asked Sen. Skinner to support AB 32, which would abolish for-profit prisons. Sen. Skinner supports ending for-profit prisons and Skinner’s budget subcommittee will hold hearings on why we still have prisoners in Mississippi, but in her opinion this is the least of the issues since California only has two privately owned prisons, which are staffed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and which operate under CDCR rules. The main issue in her opinion is that we have way too many people in prison despite sentencing reforms. Skinner suggests the focus should be on bills from last year that didn’t make it through the legislature that would have eliminated various sentence enhancements. She also suggested focusing on Assemblymember Bonta’s AB 1793, which became law last fall; this deals, among other things, with resentencing for marijuana-related offenses whose legal status changed under Proposition 64.

Importantly, Sen. Skinner will also carry a parole reform bill to increase the chance of parole by changing the criteria for the parole board’s “risk assessment.”  Now, only 18 percent of people who come before the parole board are released. The current criteria mostly have nothing to do with the prisoner’s behavior, are not under the prisoner’s control, and are stacked against black and brown people—e.g., family history of incarceration. Senator Skinner urged as many Indivisible groups as possible to email and call their legislators to pass these bills.

Sen. Skinner beat IEB to the punch discussing Assembly Constitutional Amendment (ACA) 6, which if approved by voters in 2020 will amend the California Constitution to restore voting rights to Californians on parole. IEB will be working with the community co-sponsors of ACA 6, including our community partner Open Gate, which supports people leaving prison and pursuing their education. Sen. Skinner told us she is a strong supporter of restoring rights to people returning to the community after incarceration. To our request that she co-sponsor ACA 6 when it comes to the Senate, she responded that voting rights are “very important.”

Anti-Poverty

We thanked Sen. Skinner for introducing SB 18, the Keep Californians Housed Act, co-authored by two other East Bay representatives, Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Buffy Wicks. Among other things, this bill establishes a Homelessness Prevention and Legal Aid Fund in the State Treasury.

IEB asked Sen. Skinner to fund the CalFood Program at $24.5 million, to enable food banks to meet emergency needs. We asked her to support the following bills:

  • AB 1022 (Wicks), a top priority of our community partner the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB), addresses the need to end hunger for adults (Able-Bodied Adults without Children) who are harmed by the federal 3-month time limit to SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Senator Skinner said this bill should not be a problem, depending on the appropriations amount.
  • SB 285, co-sponsored by the ACCFB, would ensure all eligible Californians have access to CalFresh/SNAP by phone, online, and in-person through dignified means and within an integrated safety net that supports health and well-being. Senator Skinner said she is a strong supporter of making sure everyone who qualifies for SNAP gets it, and she has carried bills to this end in the past.  She thinks this will pass.
  • SB 499, Hunger-Free Schools, and AB 842, Hunger-Free Preschool and Child Care, would increase K-12 schools’ capacity to provide healthy school meals, and are spin-offs of legislation that Senator Skinner carried, so she is a strong supporter.

Finance

We asked for Sen. Skinner’s support of the public banking charter bill sponsored by the California Public Banking Alliance. This will create a new type of charter/license specifically tailored to public banks, which are defined as banks wholly owned by public entities (cities, counties, school or water districts, or combinations thereof). She replied that she is a strong supporter of work around public banks.  She will have to see the language before saying she will co-author.

Senator Skinner is carrying a corporate income tax bill, intended to make corporations share some of the huge savings they reaped from the Trump tax overhaul. Corporate income taxes used to supply about 30% of the state’s general fund; that is now down to less than 9%. Under Sen. Skinner’s bill, the higher the ratio between the corporation’s top officer’s pay and the median employee pay, the higher the tax rate.

We look forward to working with Senator Skinner in the current session.

Join the meetings! Indivisible East Bay meets with the staff of our Members of Congress frequently. Be part of our team! It’s a fascinating way to find out more about the things you care about. Meetings are announced in the IEB weekly newsletter; subscribe to the newsletter for this and more!

Terminate the tax on periods – period!

By Rosemary Jordan

Action deadline: March 8 and ongoing – Taxing period products is absurd and unjust. Under California law, health items like walkers, medical identification tags, and prescription medications – including Viagra! – are not taxed. But menstrual health products are not tax exempt in California, even though they are considered medical necessities by the Federal Drug Administration. This regressive tax harms women and girls living in deep poverty the most. It holds back our youth while they are already saddled with expenses. California state Assembly Bill 31 seeks to end this injustice.

Introduced by East Bay Assembly member Rob Bonta and co-authored by other East Bay lawmakers (Bauer-Kahen, Glazer, Quirk, Skinner, Wicks, and Wieckowski) and joined by over a dozen other co-authors and sponsors, AB 31 would make menstrual pads, tampons and reusable cups tax exempt. AB 31 has support in the Assembly and the Senate, from Republicans and from Democrats.  

But just like the last two times a similar bill was introduced, this is no slam dunk.  The legislature and the Governor need to hear loudly that it’s time to advance Menstrual Equity in California – not by compromise half-measures, but by a full exemption from sales tax for all period products.

Indivisible East Bay has joined a Support Letter that also includes California NOW, Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, CA State Strong, and over 70 other organizations and individuals. The American Academy of Pediatrics in California is sending their own letter of support, and cities and counties across California are taking up resolutions in support of AB 31. Now it’s your turn!

What You Can Do:

Take Action Now: Get Postcarding!

The best thing you can do now, as we await hearings in Sacramento in March: gather your friends together for a postcarding event. We need to tell our elected officials that we want this bill to pass! Download postcard templates, scripts and addresses here.

Tell your elected officials: Support AB 31!

Can’t put together a postcard party? Please take a moment to contact your Assemblymember and also the chair of Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation, which must pass AB 31 for it to proceed in the Assembly.

What to say:

My name is ____, I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay and I’m a California voter (for your own representative, include your zip code). I want AB 31 to pass in California. Menstrual equity begins with ending the Tampon Tax. Please vote YES on AB 31!

Get more involved!

You can add your name to the Support Letter, write letters to the editor, and/or get your city council to pass a support resolution. And you can join other supporters of AB 31 for hearings in Sacramento! To get involved, email endthetampontaxinca@gmail.com.

 

Graphic credit: Lynn LaRocca

Rosemary Jordan is Co-Founder of Alameda4Impeachment, a registered Indivisible group and a partner in the Citizens Impeachment Coalition, which includes representatives of cities, towns and counties nationwide (including four in the East Bay) that have passed local Impeachment resolutions. Rosemary also serves on the Steering Committee of All Rise Alameda and is co-leader of the End The Tampon Tax In California campaign. She has over 20 years of professional experience in healthcare and aging.

Who’s Behind That Curtain? Support AB 2188, Reveal Online Ad Funders

By the Indivisible East Bay Voter Rights and Election Integrity team

Updated May 26, 2018

The Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling eight years ago undermined our democracy by allowing those with unlimited money to use it to drown out the voices of the rest of us. While we would like to see Citizens United overturned, we should not wait for the Supreme Court to act – and we don’t have to. Here’s a good start: AB 2188, the Social Media DISCLOSE Act, currently pending in the California legislature, would lift the veil that lets big spenders influence politics while hiding their identities from us. (DISCLOSE is an acronym for Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections.)

The Social Media DISCLOSE Act isn’t the first piece of legislation to tackle this problem. As a 2017 California Clean Money Campaign (CCMC) press release explained, AB 249, the California DISCLOSE Act, requires television, radio, and print ads about ballot measures, and independent expenditures about candidates, to clearly list their top three funders. While AB 249 also has provisions relating to electronic media ads, the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) did not believe that it required social media platforms to comply. AB 2188 closes that loophole, requiring online social media platforms to disclose information regarding the funders of political advertisements and to keep a database of the political ads they run. AB 2188 specifically requires online platforms to display “Who funded this ad?” on each political ad, linking to the page of the paying committee.

The amounts of money involved in political races have always been high; they have now become stratospheric. According to Southern California Law Review, an estimated $1.4 billion was spent on online political advertising nationally in 2016 – nearly an eightfold increase from 2012! And if you think you’re seeing a lot of political ads on Facebook, you’re right – about 40% of that astonishing sum was spent there and on other social media ads. Virtually none of those ads disclosed who paid for them, so you never knew that $100,000 of those Facebook ads were bought by Russian entities. The federal Honest Ads Act, sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar and co-sponsored by Senator John McCain, was introduced in response to this threat, but – surprise! – it’s stuck in Congress.

A federal bill would be ideal, as would a Congress that would see it to conclusion. Things being less than ideal, a state like California should be able to stand up and defend itself from the influence of dark money, Super PACs and a handful of people who believe they have more right to be heard than everyone else in the country put together. In fact, AB 2188 is better than the federal bill in at least one way — it requires the web pages of the committees paying for online ads to clearly list the top three true funders – that way, individuals can’t hide behind nice-sounding committee names.

Updated May 26, 2018: AB 2188 awaits a critical vote on the floor of  the Assembly. Please call your Assemblymember before the end of May. What to say:

My name is ______, and my zip code is _____. I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay and a constituent of Assemblymember ______, I’m calling in support of AB 2188, the Social Media DISCLOSE ActPolitical ads on social media like Facebook should be required to disclose who pays for them.  We should never again have to wonder who is trying to influence our vote. I urge ______ to vote yes on AB 2188.

Are you interested in working with the IEB Voter Rights and Election Integrity team? Send us an email or join the voting-issues channel on IEB’s Slack.

Graphic © California Clean Money Action Fund