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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Schipske Calls On Mayor Foster to Oppose AB 76 -- Will Damage Domestic Violence Victims and Public's Right to Records

Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske Urges Mayor Foster To Speak Out About Damage 
Assembly Bill 76 Would Do to Long Beach Domestic Violence Victims,
TB Prevention Efforts and Public Records Access

June 19, 2013 -- Councilwoman Gerrie Schipske today called on Mayor Bob Foster to speak out against Assembly Bill 76 which is on the desk of Governor Brown for signature. The bill is a complex collection of acts that amend, add or repeal over 100 laws spread over 14 different California Codes. The act is intended to reduce the number of mandates on local government. Among the provisions included in the bill are serious changes in the mandatory handling of domestic violence crimes, an elimination of funding the City’s Local Health Officer duties in tuberculosis reporting and elimination of the 10 day reporting requirement for Public Records requests.

 “I just read that the District Attorney of Sacramento Jan Scully has identified that buried in the bill are provisions that infringe on the rights of victims and seriously impact the fight against domestic violence,” says Schipske, who has served on the US Attorney General’s Violence Against Women Advisory Council.

 “Specifically, if approved the law would change from mandatory to discretionary the requirement that law enforcement keep complete records of domestic violence restraining orders. It would also change from mandatory to discretionary standards for police officer responses to domestic violence crime and the tracking of domestic violence calls. These changes would abandon the years of work undertaken in Long Beach to protect the rights of victims of domestic violence.”

Schipske also notes that AB 76 suspends current law that requires local government agencies to respond to requests for public records within 10 days, and to give the requestor a response if they need more time or have to reject the request.  “Transparency should not be optional,” says Schipske whose efforts to open up local government have won the praise of California Forward in its “State of Transparency Report.” The bill would also suspend the mandate that local government help members of the public frame their records requests to increase the chances they will obtain what they are seeking. The local government could also now opt to release records on paper rather than electronically. “This is an assault on the public’s right to know and should be opposed.”

Schipske says that what is less clear about AB 76 is whether or not it includes the Governor’s budget proposal to eliminate funding by the state to local public health officers for a LHO Review of Treatment Plans. Health facilities are required to submit treatment plans to local health officers and obtain approval prior to releasing Tuberculosis patients. Long Beach is one of three California cities with its own local health officer and the City has been hit with a high number of TB cases. “Elimination of this funding is short-sighted and should be opposed so that the health of our residents is not compromised.”

Schipske notes that the City Council did not receive any information concerning the serious impact of AB 76. “I had to find it on the internet when I was reading the State Legislative Analyst May 2013 report on ‘Newly Identified Mandates’ and then track down where the changes wound up in legislation. I would hope in the future the Council gets this information so it can take a position in a timely manner on legislation which would impact our residents.”
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