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Insights: Faith Coalition, New Leadership

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March 18, 2016

New Assembly Leadership – What Does It Mean for Advocates?

A criminal justice professor who also led an association devoted to conservation, Anthony Rendon has been sworn in as the 70th Speaker of the California Assembly.  Speaker Rendon represents the 63rd Assembly District, situated southeast of downtown Los Angeles.  He now joins fellow Angelino, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, in directing the course of the California Legislature.

In our shared advocacy it’s important to know the background of legislators, particularly the leaders. Knowing their interests, their likes and dislikes, integrity and character is important and helps us to understand them better. These factors shape the legislation that will emerge during their tenure and how advocacy groups frame their arguments as they work on legislation. 

For instance, because of a series of changes to term limit rules, Speaker Rendon can potentially serve in his new position much longer (eight years) than recent occupants.  This could allow him to build a significant power base and work toward long-term goals.   He is also able to appoint committee chairs and floor leadership giving him the ability to boost or quash the careers and influence of his fellow legislators. 

The Speaker has already appointed his team and advocates around the State are assessing their opportunities within the new structure.  Your representative in the Assembly may have more or less weight with these changes.   We recommend that you review the list of chairs and leaders in both the Senate and the Assembly to see if your legislator is on the list.  Knowing and appreciating where he or she stands in this structure will give you a boost when advocating for issues and bills in the future.

(Don’t know who your representatives are?  Find out here.)

Faith-Based Groups Join to Work on Sentencing Reform

More than a year ago, California faith leaders were urged by Gov. Brown to propose ideas on sentencing reform, a major issue facing the legislature this year.  The coalition -- comprised of grassroots organizing groups, church leaders and the California Catholic Conference -- sought to bring restorative justice practices into the penal code system. 

Assembly Member Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) agreed to assist them in their efforts and was very engaged in the entire process.  Working with the coalition, a bill was crafted and she became the author of AB 2590- Sentencing; restorative justice.

AB 2590 would accomplish four things:

First, it would change the purpose of sentencing.  Currently the emphasis is on punishment.  The coalition would like to see a greater focus on public safety through accountability, rehabilitation and restorative justice programs.

Secondly, the bill would give judges more discretion when it comes to sentencing.  Judges should be able to look back at the lives of the offender to take into account the larger picture when deciding the sentence.  Factors such as neighborhood and home environment could be considered in determining sentencing and rehabilitation strategies.

Currently inmates with life sentences and those on death row are not entitled to rehabilitation programs but many credit these programs for changing their lives for the better.  These programs, which are the third of the priorities, range from learning a trade to counseling.  They often allow an offender to come to terms with the impact that crime had on others.  

Lastly, the court and the judge would need to state on the record their sentencing choice and clarify the reasons behind their decision.

On April 13 Assembly Member Weber will hold an informational briefing on restorative justice for legislators and staff in Sacramento.

AB 2590 was referred to the Assembly Public Safety Committee and is awaiting a hearing. The deadline for bills to move out of the policy committee is April 22.  Stay tuned for updates on its progress.

Year of Mercy: Dioceses to Help with Naturalizations

A major naturalization initiative is underway in many dioceses across California. Responding to the Pope’s call to action during this Year of Mercy, a Catholic gathering sponsored by the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and dioceses of Orange, San Diego and San Bernardino recently attracted hundreds to the Christ Cathedral in downtown Garden Grove.

California now leads the nation with over 2.4 million legal permanent residents eligible to naturalize. To become a citizen of the United States is a long and complicated process. Many people do not have the resources or finances to cover the expenses associated with obtaining citizenship. Those that are low-income, seniors or limited English speakers are especially vulnerable.

Many of those who are eligible for naturalization are apprehensive to start the process. Whether it is a lack of trust or language barrier, some simply do not know where they can turn. The church is a safe haven for them, offering a comfortable and reliable place to obtain help and guidance.  Archbishop Jose Gomez from Los Angeles opened the gathering by praising those present for their commitment to immigration matters. He stressed that the focus has to remain on the people and their stories. He concluded by encouraging attendees to “keep making a positive difference in people’s lives.”

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Christian Genocide in the Middle East

On Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry said that the United States has determined that ISIS' action against the Yazidis, Christians and other minority groups in Iraq and Syria constitutes genocide.

Earlier in the week, the House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution labeling the ISIS atrocities against Christian groups in Syria and Iraq as "genocide," a term the State Department was reluctant to use about the attacks and mass murders by the terror group.

Thank you to those that signed the petition earlier this week that brought attention to this important issue.  By officially labeling this as “genocide,” it could place more pressure on the government to take more aggressive military action against ISIS.

Archbishop Wuerl of the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. said that "For some time, the world has witnessed the deliberate and organized effort by ISIS to eliminate Christians from the Middle East. For the U.S. government to call this savagery by its proper name -- genocide -- is a welcome step in what must now be a more committed effort at bringing peace and security to that beleaguered land," Wuerl said. "These words must now be translated into action.”

On the Web

Mother Teresa’s canonization was set by Pope Francis for Sept. 4 in Rome.  Founder of the Missionaries of Charity, she was born in Macedonia and died in 1997 at the age of 87.  Her complete biography is available on the Vatican website.

 

The California Primary and General Elections will be here before you know it.  Make sure you’re registered to vote.  Visit the DMV voter registration page for more information.

 

Due to Good Friday, Insights will not be published next week. We hope you have a very blessed Easter.

March 18, 2016                                                                                
Vol. 9, No. 9

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