September 05, 2013
City News Service
Assemblymember Chris Holden’s (D-Pasadena) bill to expand on the state’s iHub innovation network by creating economic opportunities for pioneering start-up companies has been approved by the state Legislature and now goes to the governor for signature.
“We want to put California in a position to cultivate and incubate young companies that are developing new technologies that will promote conservation and other public policy goals,” explained Holden.
“Establishing the iHub Accelerator Fund will allow the state to compete for grant funding from the federal government, private sector and foundations to encourage innovation.”
• Establishes the California Innovation Hub (iHub) Program into law.
• Creates the iHub Accelerator Fund in the state treasury to accept private sector funding to operate the program.
• AB 250 will expand the development of iHubs across California and develop more economic opportunities for start-up companies, promoting greater collaboration between innovators and venture capital investment within the state.
• AB 250 was passed with overwhelming, bi-partisan support in both the Senate and Assembly. Governor Brown now has 30 days to sign the measure.
August 15, 2013
By TOM VERDIN
California on Monday August 12 became the first state to enshrine certain rights for transgender K-12 students in state law, requiring public schools to allow those students access to whichever restroom and locker room they want.
Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown announced that he had signed AB1266, which also will allow transgender students to choose whether they want to play boys’ or girls’ sports. The new law gives students the right “to participate in sex-segregated programs, activities and facilities” based on their self-perception and regardless of their birth gender.
Supporters said it will help reduce bullying and discrimination against transgender students. It comes as the families of transgender students have been waging local battles with school districts across the country over what restrooms and locker rooms their children can use, disagreements that have sometimes landed in court.
The National Center for Lesbian Rights and the ACLU of California were among the bill's supporters. Detractors, including some Republican lawmakers, said allowing students of one gender to use facilities intended for the other could invade the other students' privacy.
Such fears are overblown, said Carlos Alcala, spokesman for the bill’s author, Democratic Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco. In general, he said, transgender students are trying to blend in and are not trying to call attention to themselves.
“They’re not interested in going into bathrooms and flaunting their physiology,” Alcala said.
He also noted that the state’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, has had such a policy for nearly a decade and reported no problems. San Francisco schools also have had a policy similar to the new law, and numerous other districts signed on in support of the legislation.
“Clearly, there are some parents who are not going to like it,” Alcala said. “We are hopeful school districts will work with them so no students are put in an uncomfortable position.”
Brown signed the bill, which amends the state Education Code, without comment. Assembly Speaker John Perez, D-Los Angeles, said the law “puts California at the forefront of leadership on transgender rights.”
The Gay-Straight Alliance Network said two states, Massachusetts and Connecticut, have statewide policies granting the same protections, but California is the first to put them into statute and require them in all school districts.
A Sacramento-based conservative organization that opposed the bill said previous state law was sufficient to address the concerns of transgender students and their families. Before Brown signed AB1266, state law already prohibited schools from discriminating against students based on their gender identity.
Karen England, executive director of Capitol Resource Institute, criticized the Legislature and governor for spreading “San Francisco values” throughout the state.
“The answer is not to force something this radical on every single grade in California,” she said.
She said the new law does not require students to prove they have a gender-identity issue, but rather requires school administrators to rely on students’ opinions of themselves. England also noted that there is no accurate way to gauge the effect of such policies because no uniform data on student or parent complaints is being collected.
“What about the right to privacy of a junior high school girl wanting to go to the bathroom and having some privacy, or after PE showering and having to worry about being in the locker room with a boy?” she said.
She predicted school districts will face lawsuits from parents of other children who feel their rights have been violated by the new law.
Hours after the governor’s signing was announced, a conservative legal group based in Sacramento issued a news release soliciting plaintiffs for a future lawsuit against the law, which will take effect Jan. 1. The Pacific Justice Institute says AB1266 has the potential to raise privacy questions and lead to a type of reverse discrimination if it prevents students from making a sports team “because someone from the opposite gender took their place.”
August 08, 2013
By Nisa Islam Muhammad
Special to the NNPA from The Final Call
“My name is Annette Smith. I am 69-years-old; I live in a small town outside of Sacramento, Calif., and am a long-time customer of Wells Fargo … I have been receiving Social Security as my only income for about 7 years. Today, my Social Security check is for about $1,200—that is the only income I have to pay all of my expenses,” she recently testified at the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging.
Ms. Smith said in 2007 she asked a teller at a local Wells Fargo branch about a small loan for car repairs. Staff explained the bank didn’t make small loans for under $5,000, and suggested she consider using a Wells Fargo Direct Deposit Advance instead.
“Getting the loan was easy—the bank just required me to sign into my account online and transfer over $500 from the bank. Unfortunately, paying it back has been almost impossible. It was tied into my bank account, so Wells Fargo repaid itself the $500 and $50 in fees at the beginning of each month (later it went to $37.50) when my Social Security Check of $1,200 was deposited,” she said.
“After Wells paid itself, that left me about half of my income, which wasn’t enough to pay all of my bills, so then I’d have to take another advance from the bank. The next month, the exact same thing would happen.”
Her $500 loan cost her $3,000 in fees because she could never repay it on her fixed income. The Senate hearing July 24 examined the impact payday and other short-term high-cost lending products have on seniors.
Cash-strapped older Americans are finding it easier than ever to opt for the expensive loans, whose annual interest rates can range from 225 percent to more than 500 percent.
According to the Center for Responsible Lending, Social Security recipients now account for more than a fourth of all bank payday loan borrowers. Banks are among the newest players to enter the payday loan marketplace by offering so-called deposit advances which seniors often secure through their pending monthly Social Security benefits.
“Payday loans—loans of around $350 averaging 300-400 percent annual percentage rate (APR) repaid from the borrower’s next paycheck or receipt of public benefits—are designed to create a long-term debt trap. Borrowers already struggling with regular expenses or facing an emergency expense with minimal savings are typically unable to repay the large payment of principal and fees due and meet their other expenses until their next payday,” testified Rebecca Borne, senior policy counsel, Center for Responsible Lending.
While the industry contends the loans are popular among users, consumer advocates worry that fees and overdrafts associated with the products are eroding seniors’ benefits and trapping them in a cycle of debt.
In April, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found these loans typically lead to a cycle of debt for consumers and indicated a willingness to exercise oversight over payday and short-term lending products.
That same month, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of Comptroller of the Currency released proposed guidance on deposit advances, requiring, among other things, that banks examine customers’ income and expenses to make sure that they can actually afford to pay off the loan and associated charges.
Andrea Luquetta, policy advocate with the California Reinvestment Coalition, has worked with Ms. Smith. “Annette’s story shows how destructive bank payday loans are for your average consumer. The banks pay themselves back by automatically deducting the money out of your bank account as soon as your income is deposited,” said Ms. Luquetta.
August 08, 2013
By Freddie Allen
NNPA Washington Correspondent
The unemployment rate for Blacks fell from 13.7 percent in June to 12.6 percent in July, the lowest jobless rate for Blacks since January 2009, according to the latest jobs report from the Labor Department.
Although economists warn against being too optimistic about one month’s jobs numbers, some economists found it unusual for the Black unemployment rate to fall more than a percentage point from June to July, as the jobless rate for Whites remained stagnant at 6.6 percent.
The unemployment rate for Black men over 20 was 13 percent in June and 12.5 percent in July. The jobless rate for White men over 20 was 6.2 percent in June and rose slightly to 6.3 percent in July.
The unemployment rate for Black women over 20 plummeted from 12 percent in June to 10.5 percent in July. The jobless rate for White women over 20 dipped from 6 percent to 5.8 percent over the same time period.
The national unemployment rate fell from 7.6 percent in June to 7.4 percent in July and the economy added 162,000 jobs. Analysts at the Economic Policy Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank focused on the needs of low- and middle-income workers, estimate that it will take at least six years to reach full employment at this rate of job creation.
Despite falling more than a percentage point, the jobless rate for Blacks is still nearly double the unemployment rate for Whites, a troubling statistic that has persisted for 50 years. According to EPI, “The average unemployment rate for blacks over the past 50 years, at 11.6 percent, is considerably higher than the average rate during recessions of 6.7 percent. In only one year (1969), did the black unemployment rate dip slightly below the recession average to 6.4 percent. Thus, over the last 50 years, the black unemployment rate has been at a level typical for a recession or higher.”
William Darity, a professor of economics and African and African American studies at Duke University in Durham, N.C. said, “The racial unemployment gap is a direct index of discrimination.”
In an effort to combat the inherent discrimination that exists in hiring and employment practices in the job market, Darity has long advocated for a federally-funded program called the “National Investment Employment Corps,” that guarantees a job for every American 18 years or older. Darity said that the federal job guarantee proposal doesn’t presume that the reason why so many Black people are out of work is because there is something wrong with them.
“The major reason that people are out of work is because there is not enough jobs out there,” said Darity. “If one group has the capacity to get privileged access to the available jobs, they will do it and that’s what is happening.”
Funding the job guarantee program would require shifting resources from other anti-poverty programs, programs that Darity and others believe won’t be as necessary as people start earning living wages on jobs that would address the “nation’s physical and human infrastructure, from building roads, bridges, dams and schools, to staffing high quality day care.”
Darity said that supporters for the National Investment Employment Corps drawing inspiration from American history. The Works Progress Administration, introduced during the Great Depression, provided more than 8 million jobs from 1935 to 1943, building bridges, parks, and schools across the nation.
“We know how to do this, we’ve done it before in the U.S.,” said Darity. The WPA program even funded jobs for music, media and literacy projects for artists. “Under circumstances where people are disturbed about the idea of paying people not to work, why don’t we introduce a program that pays people to work?”
According to Darity, the federally-funded job guarantee program has received support from both ends of the political spectrum and Rep. Jon Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced a bill that could jumpstart talks about the program in March 2013.
Darity said: “There is a potential appeal of this kind of policy that bridges the political divide, but people simply are not talking about it very much.”
August 01, 2013
LAWT News Service
The Minority Apartment Owners Association (MAOA) held its bi-monthly membership meeting on July 11, 2013. Ruth A. Hayles, Executive Director for the organization and General Manager for the parent company, International Realty & Investments, welcomed all attendees. Ms. Hayles provided an overview of the most recent meeting she attended for the industry held in San Diego sponsored by the National Apartment Association. Ms. Hayles also discussed the history of the MAOA and the fact the organization was founded in 1987 and will celebrate its 26th Anniversary in September.
The MAOA was founded in 1987 by its parent company International Realty & Investments. The purpose of the MAOA was to provide information for owners in predominately minority neighborhoods who were more negatively impacted by issues not experienced in other neighborhoods. The MAOA has grown to become a strong voice for rental property owners in the local, state, and national arena. Most recently the parent company formed a nonprofit arm known as Urban Housing, Inc. More information will be provided as how you can become involved in this organization
Ms. Hayles introduced Ms. Joy King of King and Associates who was the keynote speaker. Ms. King has years of experience in the field of property inspections, building plans, permits, and consulting owners who are experiencing problems with illegal construction and additions without permits. Ms. King provided several helpful hints as to how to avoid the pitfalls of unpermitted construction and other code violations. Ms. King provided helpful information as to how one can check the information as to square footage, certificates of occupancy, and other such necessary information owners should consider before buying any property.
Malcolm Bennett, Broker/CEO of International Realty & Investments and President of the MAOA, closed out the meeting with information related to the rise in lawsuits related to Proposition 8 signs that are required on certain types of property. Mr. Bennett provided an update on Assembly Bill 1229 (Atkins) which is without question the most important landlord real estate legislation since Costa Hawkins. The bill, if passed, would require price control of privately owned rental housing on newly built construction throughout the state. This bill, if passed, would seriously stifle new housing construction in California. Mr. Bennett provided a comparison chart of the difference between rent control and inclusionary zoning. Mr. Bennett indicated that all rental property owners need to get involved in these very important issues. It was stated that this piece of legislation will either fail or pass on a margin of one vote in the Senate. Please call or email for information as to what you can do regarding this legislation. Mr. Bennett thanked all attendees and indicated that additional information would be emailed to those in attendance regarding Assembly Bill 1229.