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State

ACA 25 – Oppose Unless Amended

Update: ACA 25 was pulled from the legislative process by the author’s office on June 18, 2020.

None of our work matters if we cannot participate in the legislative process.

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 25 (ACA 25) is a provision to allow for remote and proxy voting in case of an emergency. But ACA 25 was drafted quickly and lacks key specifications and protections to ensure that the democratic process is not compromised. Along with a coalition of organizations in the Green California and Building the California Dream Alliance, we oppose this bill unless amended.

Read the Bill Text Here.

Background and Requests of Advocates
Remote proceedings present significant obstacles to transparency and public engagement, two cornerstones for accountable democracy enshrined in our State Constitution. As such, remote participation should only be authorized in exceptional cases, when absolutely needed, and for only as long as needed. Unfortunately, ACA​ ​25 falls below that standard and incorporates related provisions, like unconstrained proxy voting and pro tempore appointments, which could be abused in a manner that undermines representative democracy.

The decision to amend the constitution is a momentous one that it is crucial to get right, so we respectfully request the following amendments:

Remove or Limit Proxy Voting: ​ACA 25 authorizes either House to use proxy voting, which is left undefined. Proxy voting is harmful to representative democracy because it diminishes the deliberative process and weakens the electorate’s ability to hold their officials accountable for votes they did not personally take.

1.

ACA 25’s authorization for legislators to vote remotely should render proxy voting largely unnecessary. If it is absolutely crucial to provide a proxy voting option, ACA 25 should ensure that it is only done as a last resort and in a way that makes clear legislators’ intent regarding specific votes or actions, using similar safeguards to those recently enacted by the House of Representatives and other states like Arkansas.

As currently drafted, nothing in ACA 25 would stop rules allowing a single person, who is not even required to be a legislator, to act as proxy for as many legislators as desired while being given carte blanche to vote however the proxy wants on any item. Moreover, neither the proxies nor the legislators would be

accountable to voters, because the proxy wouldn’t share an electorate with the legislator for whom they placed votes, and the legislator would be able to tell their electorate they did not instruct their proxy as to how to vote.

If ACA 25 is not amended to remove proxy voting, we believe it needs to be amended so that it is (1) allowed only when a legislator is unable to vote remotely because of the emergency, (2) allows only other legislators to be designated as proxies, (3) allows proxies to vote as instructed only on specifically-designated bills or actions, and (4) requires the proxy authorization and vote instructions to be recorded. The record of roll-call votes should also clearly indicate when and how a member has voted by proxy.

2.

Specify Rules for Pro Tempore Appointments in Emergencies​: In the catastrophic scenario where one-fifth of the members of a House are “deceased, disabled, or missing,” during a state of emergency, ACA 25 allows appointment of pro tempore members by a process to be determined by a majority-vote statute.

As unlikely as this situation will hopefully be, the openness of this provision invites abuse, which may be particularly tempting in an emergency situation. For example, in a future Legislature the majority party could pass a statute over the minority party’s objection allowing appointments of individuals that neither live in the district nor are even of the same party as the legislator they are replacing.

The simplest solution would be to incorporate provisions similar to Government Code Section 9004, which applies to pro tempore appointments during or following a war or enemy-caused disaster and states in relevant part:

“The appointments shall be so made that each assembly or senatorial district in which a vacancy exists shall be represented, if possible, by a pro tempore member who is a resident of that district and a registered elector of the same political party as of the date of the disaster as the last duly elected member from such district.”

The terms “disabled” and “missing” should also be more precisely defined or replaced with clearer terms, such as “incapacitated” and “presumed deceased.” Legislators with disabilities can and do cast votes on a regular basis. ACA 25 should not theoretically allow them to be replaced due to their being “disabled,” as may be implied to voters by the current language. And “missing” should be defined in a way that does not theoretically allow legislators to be replaced in circumstances where they are, for example, purposefully boycotting votes in protest as legislators have done in other states.

3.

Eliminate Quorum Reduction​: ACA 25 automatically lowers the quorum requirement, and presumably the vote threshold to pass bills, to a majority of members “able to attend” when more than one-fifth of a House’s members have been incapacitated. However, a small minority of the state should not be able to make laws of permanent duration affecting the whole state. For example, if an earthquake hits Southern California and Los Angeles County’s 24 Assembly member delegation was missing, this provision would allow the Assembly to pass any majority vote bill with just 29 votes – none of them representing Los Angeles County.

Representational concerns aside, this provision is also unnecessary if the pro tempore appointment power is enacted, which would at least give representation to residents of those areas. This provision is not justified and we believe should be removed, or at a minimum narrowed to only apply to votes regarding the state of emergency.

4.

Ensure Remote Voting and Proxy Voting Transparency​: ACA 25 does not require any approval of a member’s request to appear remotely or vote by proxy, any public findings of fact that the state of emergency prevents a particular member or members from safely attending the proceeding in person, or any notice to the public that such a request has been granted. Adding these basic requirements would provide a measure of public accountability to ensure that remote or proxy voting is truly necessary and not being abused as a matter of convenience or simply to avoid appearing in the Capitol. It should also be necessary that remote participation by a legislator occur in a public place or their district office, if possible, so that the public can both see and have access to their legislators, and to ensure that legislators are not influenced by the presence of lobbyists or others while they are conducting public business. This is consistent with current rules prohibiting lobbyists from being present on the floor of the chamber, as well as the Senate rule saying that to the extent practicable, a Senator participating remotely shall participate from the Senator’s district office. Finally, any remote technology employed should, so far as is possible, ensure that the public can not only view but participate in proceedings conducted by remote participation.

5.

Time-Limit Remote Voting and Proxy Voting​: ACA 25 appropriately revokes the authority to vote remotely or by proxy once an emergency declaration has ended. However, some emergency declarations may last for years, and may extend well past the point when the Legislature, for reasons of health or safety, is no longer able to meet. We believe ACA 25 should be amended to end any authorization to vote remotely once a legislator is able to safely appear in person or automatically after 30 days, whichever is sooner, unless the authorization is extended for up to another 30 days by majority vote of the affected House. Periodic re-examination of the need for remote proceedings will help ensure they are used no longer than necessary.

And lastly, ACA 25 specifies that the Legislature (or each house) adopt rules by resolution. Because these rules are critical to ensuring accountability and access to the public, we also request an amendment to guarantee that the rules only be adopted after being heard in committee with opportunity for public comment.

Although ACA 25 is important to ensure that the Legislature can function during future pandemics or other emergencies, without these amendments there is a serious risk of these procedures being abused or used without transparency by future Legislatures at the worst possible times. Although we understand there is now a narrow window for placing measures on the ballot, we believe the Senate should have the opportunity to review and address issues with ACA 25 before agreeing to propose such an enduring and permanent change to California’s constitution without the necessary safeguards.

 

Categories
State Updates

Bishop Eaton Addresses LOPPCA Followers

A message from Presiding Bishop of the ELCA, Elizabeth A. Eaton, to California advocates on what would have been our second annual Lobby Day today. We are grateful for her unwavering support of our work. This year’s Lobby Day has been postponed to September given the special circumstances of the legislative session during COVID-19.

In other news, we received approval for our permit to gather at the Capitol for Lutheran Lobby Day 2021. We are looking forward to gathering in person next year on May 19, 2020. You can mark your calendars!

Categories
State Updates

April 2020 Update

While COVID-19 has turned our world upside down in unprecedented ways, our advocacy work continues to be essential in developing coordinated and inclusive responses that support all Americans.

The California Legislature went on an extended recess beginning in mid-March which has been extended for the next month. Advocacy has therefore focused on urging the Governor to enact a true moratorium on evictions and mortgage protections, include Individual Taxpayer Identification Number filers in any relief at the state level, and more. Even so, we continue to support state bills related to COVID-19 relief, such as CalFresh, Simpler for Seniors and CalFresh, Prison Preenrollment and the Racial Justice Act for when the Legislature reconvenes. We are also assisting our partners in accessing federal CARES and Families First provisions and shifting our advocacy to the federal level when necessary.

The Lutheran Office of Public Policy – California instituted a new program to engage our Policy Council, pastors and members of Lutheran congregations in California. We call it Advocacy in Quarantine.

  • We set a weekly Wednesday Zoom meeting where LOPP-CA staff offer a roughly 25 minute overview of the federal government’s response to Covid-19, the State of California’s response, and pending state legislation we are following and sponsoring. We also highlight the work that our allies and ministry partners are doing in the state.
  • We then direct them to actions that would take them about 5 minutes to complete (I.e.; call or tweet the governor to release prisoners and ICE detainees on #FaithfulFridays)

We are grateful for an incredible response from our members, and we’re getting feedback from our ministry partners that the calls are already being noticed. We are seriously contemplating how this can become a part of our programing when we go back into session.

Categories
State Updates

January 2020 Update

The Lutheran Office of Public Policy begins the 2020 legislative year remaining committed to the principles of economic justice, human rights, accompaniment and responsible stewardship and sustainability in service of a more peaceful and compassionate California. Our legislative and executive priorities for the year are:

IMMIGRATION/MIGRATION POLICY: We are looking forward to living into the ELCA declaration of being a sanctuary denomination in California- a sanctuary state. Our foundation is to advocate for and accompany our siblings who are immigrating to and moving through California. Education, poverty and other healthcare and human services remain a challenge for this population and we are committed to walking with them to seek equity.

HOUSING RIGHTS AND HOMELESSNESS: California is in the midst of a housing crisis that is affecting every corner of the state and wide swaths of the economic scale. We here at LOPP-CA are committed to finding equitable funding streams to encourage sustainable building of housing throughout California. Additionally, we are seeking services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness.

FOOD AND FARMING: California’s role in agricultural leadership is unrivaled. This affords us great opportunity to be leaders in food and farming policies that ensure just stewardship of our state’s resources to feed ourselves and the nation. If we believe that food and water are human rights- and we do- care must be taken to see that food is grown, transported and distributed equitably and with maximal attention toward care of God’s creation. We here at LOPP-CA are committed to these goals.

We look forward to continuing fruitful partnerships with ministry partners and others in civil society toward these and other goals as they serve to help us live our gospel mandates to Love Our Neighbor.

Categories
State Updates

2020 Legislative Session Opens

The California Legislative Session begins today, January 6, 2020 and will run through August 31, 2020 with recesses throughout for members to meet with constituents in their districts.

We are looking forward to following bills in the California Senate and Assembly in four areas:

  • Hospitality: Immigration & Migration
  • Shelter: The Unhoused
  • Sustenance: Sustainable and Equitable Food & Farming Systems
  • Human Rights: Deep Childhood Poverty

We also look forward to Lutheran Lobby Day on May 20, 2020 at the Capitol building in Sacramento, where we will share our policy priorities and values as Lutherans with our representatives. All are welcome. Registration opens March 1, 2020.

This year, Director Regina Q. Banks and Hunger Fellow Nicole Newell will continue visiting and hosting advocacy trainings in congregations throughout the state. We are grateful for these partnerships and will continue to work with ELCA Advocacy, our Synod partners, CalLu, and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in building a more just California.

Categories
State Updates

October 2019 Update

by Regina Q. Banks, Director

POLICY COUNCIL MEETING AND PRIORITIES: The policy council of the Lutheran Office of Public Policy- CA met at the Luther Center in Glendale, CA on October 26, 2019 to discuss the legislative priorities of the ELCA and LOPP-CA, welcome new staff and plan FUNdraisers for the upcoming program year. It was a great meeting and much was decided. Look for updates soon. But set your calendars now for LUTHERAN LOBBY DAY 2020: Wednesday May 20, 2020. We will use this opportunity to again engage with legislators and staff on issues of concern to Lutherans across the state.

Our priorities for 2020 have shifted but continue to reflect a deep concern for the least and the last in our communities, and care for creation and justice in our golden state. We will continue to advocate for the elimination of Deep Childhood Poverty and accompany those who immigrate to and migrate within California. After listening to your concerns during our congregation visits and in consultation with our partners at Lutheran Social Services of Northern California, we are adding engagement with and for the unhoused to our portfolio of issues. And with the addition of Nicole Newell as our Hunger Advocacy Fellow, we are adding food and farming as a new policy priority for the 2020 legislative session. As the largest producer of food in the U.S., California is dominated by large farms relying on undercompensated migrant labor and extensive use of water throughout the driest of months. These farming systems are too often disconnected from the processing, distributing, eating and waste aspects of the cycle. In keeping with God’s call to care for creation and our neighbor, LOPP-CA seeks to promote equitable food and farming systems in California that support healthy communities, full bellies and the preservation of vital ecosystems. Our policy council has decided to continue to support our ministry and secular partners in the implementation of the Clean Safe Affordable Drinking Water Fund though take a less active role.

All of these issues and more will be discussed leading up to and during Lutheran Lobby Day 2020 on May 20, 2020. If these priorities are in your area of expertise or you are looking for ways to get involved with LOPP-CA, there are openings for synod representatives in Pacifica, Sierra Pacific and Southwest California synods. Contact us at regina.banks@elca.org to discuss your service.

SYNOD AND CONGREGATION VISITS: A sincere Thank You goes out to the pastors and members of Immanuel Lutheran Church, San Jose; Ascension Lutheran Church, Thousand Oaks; University AME Zion Church, Palo Alto; and Advent Lutheran Church, Morgan Hill for welcoming us into your worship experiences. We continue to delight in the varied ways that the Holy Spirit manifests in your families. Continue to invite us. We will continue to walk with you.

Thank you to Bishop Mark Holmerud and staff of Sierra Pacific Synod for their hospitality during the 2019 Professional Leaders Conference at Monterey Tides. LOPP-CA was offered primetime to talk about the church’s way forward through advocacy, and God is truly still working through contacts and connections made there. Similarly, a big thank you goes to Trinity Lutheran Women of the ELCA members for welcoming our Director Regina Q. Banks’ offer of the Sunday sermon on October 20th. This was her first sermon. She was humbled and blessed to take that journey with you.

Categories
State Updates

September 2019 Update

LEGISLATURE ADJOURNS:
September 13 marked the end of the 2019 legislative year. Governor Gavin Newsome has until October 13, 2019 to sign or veto legislation in his possession. LOPP-CA is eagerly awaiting the final disposition of legislation we have been following this session. Please standby for word on all of our legislative priorities.

CLIMATE EMERGENCY SUMMIT:
LOPP-CA had a unique opportunity to engage with faith leaders across the world and spanning numerous traditions at the Climate Emergency Summit hosted by ELCA Advocacy in New York, NY. The summit was an extension of the United Nations General Assembly and provided an opportunity to turn a faith-based lens to the work of climate justice in our world.

HUNGER FELLOW WELCOME:
LOPP-CA is pleased to welcome Ms. Nicole Newell to our office as the 2019-2020 California Hunger Advocacy Fellow. Nicole Newell joins this year’s ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellows with a background in non-profit work, advocacy and teaching, both domestically and abroad. Her focus on food justice has led her to work in kitchens and on small-scale farms to develop context for sustainable food practices. With a BA in Practicing Theology from St. Olaf College, Nicole has a love for Lutherans and served with Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Washington, DC from 2015-2016. She grew up in Des Moines, IA but was born in Sacramento. Nicole is eager to bring her passion for the intersections of faith and justice to effect policy-level change in California. Please look for ways to invite Nicole into your policy ministries.

SYNODICAL AND CONGREGATION VISIT THANK YOUS:
A sincere “Thank You” goes out to the pastors and members of Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran in Simi Valley for their warm welcome this month. This congregation made a special effort to include Advocacy in their “Gods Work. Our Hands.” Day of Service observance, and it was truly special. Please consider adding an advocacy component to this and other special occasions in your ministry.

Similarly, Sierra Pacific Women of the ELCA offered a warm and sisterly welcome to their annual retreat September 18-20 at the beautiful Bishop’s Ranch retreat center in Healdsburg, CA. The majestic scenery was a great backdrop for worship, work and rejuvenation. Congratulations to the new board of SPWELCA, and we at LOPP-CA look forward to working together closely.

Categories
State Updates

LOPP-CA Welcomes Nicole Newell As Our Hunger Fellow!

Nicole Newell joins this year’s ELCA Hunger Advocacy Fellows with a background in accompaniment, advocacy and teaching, both at home and abroad. She brings a background in food justice, having worked in kitchens and on small-scale farms to develop context for sustainable food practices. With a BA in Practicing Theology from St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN, Nicole has a love for Lutherans and served with Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Washington, DC from 2015-2016. She grew up in Des Moines, IA. Nicole is eager to bring her passion for the intersections of faith and justice to effect policy-level change in California.

Categories
State Updates

August 2019 Update

LEGISLATURE BACK IN SESSION:
Fiscal committees had until August 30 to hear and pass the remaining fiscal bills to the floors of the respective houses. The remaining two weeks of session, until September 13, are reserved for floor sessions. This first year of a two-year session adjourns at midnight on Friday, September 13, 2019. Please look out for time-sensitive alerts about ways to support our advocacy as measures move from the floor of the legislature to the governor’s desk for signature.

LOBBY DAY PARTICIPATION:
LOPP-CA has had an exciting month supporting our ministry partners and advocacy allies in their lobby days and advocacy actions. Just a couple of highlights:

On Wednesday, August 21st we participated in Building The California Dream Alliance (BCDA) lobby day. BCDA unites more than 60 organizations in a broad progressive coalition in an ambitious agenda to uplift families and expand opportunities for all Californians. We worked on stronger protections for striking and locked out workers, more robust safeguards for student borrowers, greater securities for our undocumented siblings and much more. Go to http://cadreambuilder.org to find out more about BCDA and our participation.

California Interfaith Power and Light (CIPL) envisions a stable climate where humans live in right and just relationship, interconnected with a healthy, thriving, natural world. They work toward this goal through education, advocacy, direct action and conservation. Their lobby day was Wednesday, August 28th and together we advocated for “Complete Streets” (safe use of our community streets for walkers, bikers, public transportation, and private vehicles), Smog Checks for Big Rigs, the protection of our state lands from would-be fossil fuel extractors, and plastics use abatement. LOPP-CA would be glad to help you register to become an IPL congregation.

PARTNERSHIP WITH FARMING HOPE:
LOPP-CA is excited to announce collaboration with Farming Hope, a non-profit community organization providing transitional employment and training in the culinary industry to unhoused and low-income people in our community. They are a recipient of an ELCA World Hunger grant and Executive Director Jamie Stark was well received at the hunger leaders gathering this summer in Minneapolis, Minn. Initial discussions were had over brunch on August 24th with representatives of Lutheran Social Services of Northern California, ELCA World Hunger and the office of Bishop Mark Holmerud, ELCA Sierra Pacific Synod. To find out more about Farming Hope visit them at https://farminghope.org and have a bite at their commercial kitchen site Manny’s at 3092 16th Street in San Francisco.

MISSION SUPPORT LETTER:
Be on the lookout for a letter going to congregations asking for additional mission support. The work we do here at LOPP-CA is dependent upon you and your congregation’s generosity. Please consider blessing our ministry with an additional gift today. Instructions can be found in the mail, or at our website: lutheranpublicpolicyca.org.

CONGREGATION VISIT THANK YOU: 
A sincere thank you goes out to congregations that have welcomed LOPP-CA into their Sunday worship experiences recently. They were truly blessed times in the Lord, and we look forward to coming back soon. Specifically, Faith Lutheran Church in Marysville, Calif.

Categories
State Updates

August 2019 Update

SUMMER RECESS:
The Legislature for the state of California is in Summer Recess and slated to return August 12. Fiscal Committees will have roughly 3 weeks, until August 30, to hear and pass the remaining fiscal bills to the floors of the respective houses. The remaining two weeks of session, until September 13, is reserved for floor sessions. This first year of a two-year session adjourns at Midnight on Friday, September 13, 2019.

SUMMER LEGISLATIVE VISITS:
Summer is an excellent time to meet with federal, state and local policy officials while they are back home in their districts. LOPP-CA would like to highlight just such an opportunity taken. Lutheran Church of the Master in Sacramento, CA hosted a beautiful community meeting with elected officials on the Sacramento City Council and command representatives from the Sacramento City Police Department and local social service agencies to address the homelessness issue in their South Land Park community. Pr. Linda Boston and Councilman Steve Hansen did a great job of engaging the nearly 100 participants who came out on a hot Wednesday evening on July 24th. It is a beginning to their local advocacy and LOPP-CA has vowed to walk with them. Is your congregation interested in beginning an advocacy project? Contact us and we would be proud to walk with you.

HUNGER LEADERS’ GATHERING 2019:
LOPP-CA participated with ministries across the country (and touching locations across the globe) in the Hunger Leaders’ Gathering hosted by Central Lutheran Church of Minneapolis, Minnesota July 18-21. The Hunger Leaders’ Gathering is a conference of ELCA World Hunger Grant recipients. ELCA World Hunger Grants amount to LOPP-CA’s single largest funding source and a source of ministry support and guidance. It was a blessing to get together with fellow recipients and World Hunger staff to share best practices and network. Standby for word on new initiatives from California!

MISSION SUPPORT LETTER:
Be on the lookout for a letter going to congregations asking for additional mission support. The work we do here at LOPP-CA is dependent upon you and your congregation’s generosity. Please consider blessing our ministry with an additional gift today. Instructions can be found in the mail, or at our website: www.lutheranpublicpolicyca.org

CONGREGATION VISIT THANK YOUS:
A sincere thank you goes out to congregations that have welcomed LOPP-CA into their Sunday worship experiences recently. They were truly blessed times in the Lord, and we look forward to coming back soon. Specifically, St. Mark’s Lutheran Church (Fairfield) Pr. Karen Stetins Sr. Pastor, Peace Lutheran Church (Grass Valley) Rev. Bill Wong Interim Pastor and Lutheran Church of the Master (Sacramento) Pr. Linda Boston Sr. Pastor.