LA City Council Passes $9.9 Billion Budget for 2018-2019

The Los Angeles City Council approved a $9.9 billion spending plan for the next fiscal year recently, boosting contributions to the city’s cash reserves and funding for housing projects for the homeless.

In a 15-0 vote, the City Council approved a budget that will, among other things, increase staff at the 311 call center, spend over $260 million on repairs for the city’s most damaged streets and sidewalks, add 70 beds to domestic violence shelters, and fund Census 2020 outreach and educational efforts.

City lawmakers also approved a series of motions Monday to boost the budget stabilization fund to $107 million – above the $104 million proposed by Mayor Eric Garcetti – and the reserve fund to $351 million, $8 million above what the mayor requested.

An additional $6 million was approved by the council for a mid-year budget fund to make up for any potential shortfalls.

Garcetti’s proposed budget, unveiled on April 19, relies on a projected 5.6 percent increase in revenues from property, sales and hotel taxes.

Meanwhile, cannabis shops are expected to pump $10 million in additional revenue according to a May 15 report by the city’s chief legislative analyst.

Total revenue from legal pot is less that what the city estimated, however: In June 2017, City Controller Ron Galperin estimated the city could see $50 million in taxes from marijuana in 2018.

The proposed budget includes $2.3 million for staff to enforce laws against unlicensed cannabis businesses.

It includes $91 million for Vision Zero, a project to eliminate all traffic deaths by 2025, and other traffic and pedestrian safety projects.

The budget also commits $10 million to a fund for police overtime pay and $9 million to hire 195 firefighters.

Pension costs for the city’s public employees, meanwhile, are projected to increase by $91.8 million, bringing total spending to $1.2 billion over the next year.

Riding the wave of a strong state economy, Garcetti – a potential 2020 presidential candidate – proposed a 7.6 percent increase from last year’s budget.

In early May, California climbed the global rankings to become the fifth largest economy in the world. But not all residents are thriving in the state’s economic boom.

California leads the nation with both the highest number of people experiencing homelessness – about 134,000, or 24 percent of the nation’s total – and the highest proportion of unsheltered homeless people of any state at 68 percent, according to a California State Auditor report issued last month.

A report by Phil Ansell, director of Los Angeles County’s homeless initiatives, said nearly half of LA County residents pay more than 30 percent of their income on rent.

Over 80 percent of the lowest income residents who make under $15,000 annually pay more than half their income on rent, according to county data.

The City Council-approved budget would create a $20 million fund for emergency homeless shelters in districts across Los Angeles and spend $176 million on programs to address homelessness.

The bulk of financing for homelessness programs comes from Proposition HHH, a tax approved by Los Angeles voters in November 2017.

The next fiscal year will be the first full year of Proposition HHH funding. The parcel tax is expected to raise $1.2 billion in bonds for the construction of 10,000 housing units.

Garcetti’s proposed budget kicked off weeks of public hearings by lawmakers, analysis from city officials and comment from the public.

In a May 3 letter to city leaders, the Historic Highland Park Neighborhood Council said the issues of homelessness and lack of affordable housing have been “endlessly discussed but so far have lacked satisfactory resolution.”

The neighborhood council also took issue with the amount lawmakers allocated to the reserve fund, which they said is below state requirements.

“We want the fiscal resilience to feel confident about our future,” the letter said.

All 15 council members were elated once the final votes were tallied.

Councilmember Paul Krekorian said it was the fastest city budget process in recent memory.

“No one should think the speed at which this process was completed should indicate any kind of lack of vetting,” Krekorian said.

Sharon Gin, legislative assistant at the city clerk’s office, said the budget will now go to the mayor’s desk.

Garcetti can either sign the budget, veto it or decide to take no action.

Whatever he decides, a full budget must be in place by June 1, Gin said.

As locals rung in 2019, police warned about dangers of driving while intoxicated.

Police want to make sure everyone is staying safe.

We attended a big New Year’s Eve party at the Century Center. People said goodbye to 2018 and hello 2019.

Police say it’s okay to have a few drinks, but they just don’t want you driving afterwards.

The booze and the beer is flowing at O’Rourke’s Public House at Eddy Street Commons in South Bend.

Hundreds spent New year’s Eve in South Bend for the NHL Winter Classic between the Bruins and the Blackhawks — and this rivalry runs deep.

These fans are sworn enemies, but there is one thing they can agree on.

“Never drive drunk, never, there’s no reason.”

“Don’t drive, don’t drink and drive for sure, don’t do that.”

It happens every year, and police are cracking down.

Agencies throughout St. Joseph County and the Michiana area have had extra officers on hand looking for impaired and dangerous drivers.

“Bottom line is if we catch you, if you’re driving impaired, you’re going to go to jail,” said Lt. Williams, Mishawaka police.

Last year during the new year holiday, the St. Joseph County Traffic Safety Partnership reported 10 DUI arrests and NO fatal or alcohol-related crashes.

They are hoping to keep those numbers the same.

“Victims that you leave behind are your family and friends, because if you’re the one that died in that crash we’re going to notify them that you died and the reason why you died,” said Williams.

And if you head out and have a drink or two the Bruins and Blackhawks fans have a suggestion for how to get home.

“Uber, absolutely Uber,” said one fan.

Services like Uber and Lyft say they have tried to put extra drivers on the road because tonight is so busy.

Police also suggest taxis or relatives just to make sure that everyone gets home safe and sound.

2019 California Law looks to deter drunk driving

A California DUI prevention law went into effect on January 1st, 2019.

“The DMV has put together a law related to the new interlock device, and we will be enforcing that,” said Lt. Greg Klingenberg, of the California Highway Patrol.

In 2019, repeat offenders will be required to connect a breathalyzer to their vehicles. The device will prevent the ignition from starting unless they’re sober.

“Don’t drink and drive,” Klingenberg reiterated.

Convicted drunk drivers in California will also be responsible for the cost of the interlock device –about $3 a day. They’ll be required to use it for a period of 12 to 48 months.

First offenders who don’t cause any injuries can choose to install the breathalyzer for six months, or have a restricted license for one year.

Lt. Klingenberg explained other state DUI regulations remain the same.

“The law hasn’t changed related to what the level is. Anything over 0.08 is driving under the influence of alcohol. I’m aware that there are other states, like Utah, that has lowered their level to 0.05. But that hasn’t changed for California.”

The CHP spokesperson reminded residents his agency had been on the look out for drunk drivers on New Year’s Eve.

“We’ll have every available officer out enforcing all the laws to include DUI, and obviously there’s a special focus on that just because of the New Year’s Eve holiday.”

In 2019, Federal Judiciary Seeks Funding and Cost-Saving Successes.

Representatives of the Federal Judiciary recently asked Congress to provide $7.22 billion in 2019 to fund continued operations of the judicial branch. The request includes funding to sustain cybersecurity initiatives and ensure sufficient security at federal courthouses.

“We ask that you consider the Judiciary’s unique constitutional role in our system of government,” said Judge John W. Lungstrum, chair of the Judicial Conference Committee on the Budget. “In return, we commit to you that we will continue to be good fiscal stewards, cutting costs where possible, spending each dollar wisely, and making smart investments to achieve long-term savings.”

Lungstrum testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government. He was joined by James C. Duff, director of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts. They presented the Judiciary’s budget request for fiscal year 2019, which starts October 1, 2018.

“I would like to acknowledge the subcommittee for its generous and consistent support of the Judiciary’s needs,” Duff said. “We hope to maintain your confidence and support through another year of successful performance of our constitutional and statutory duties and efficient stewardship of taxpayer resources through the continuation of our longstanding cost containment program.” The fiscal year 2019 budget request reflects an overall increase of 3.2 percent to maintain current services and to fund priority initiatives.

Lungstrum said the Judiciary is requesting $95 million for cybersecurity, saying that the Judiciary has moved aggressively to upgrade IT protections since 2015 cyber attacks compromised Office of Personnel Management records. “Inevitably, Judiciary systems have and will continue to be targeted, like numerous government and commercial entities worldwide,” Lungstrum said.

The Judiciary also is seeking increases for the defender services program to handle projected caseload and other priorities; additional funding to improve courthouse security; and funding to update PACTS, a national integrated database that helps probation and pretrial services officers supervise criminal offenders and defendants under community supervision.

Lungstrum’s and Duff’s statements each highlighted Judiciary initiatives to save money.

Lungstrum said the Judiciary recently surpassed its national 3 percent space reduction goal set in 2013. To date, that initiative has saved the Judiciary $25 million in annual rent costs. When combined with new policies negotiated by the Judiciary with the General Services Administration on how GSA appraises and charges for certain types of rental space, federal courts have achieved annual rent savings of nearly $80 million.

In addition, the Judiciary has worked to cut costs by encouraging court units to share common administrative functions. “Over 90 percent of all courts report having formal or informal/temporary sharing arrangements of some kind,” he said.

Lungstrum expressed concern in written testimony that proposed cuts to non-defense federal spending in fiscal year 2019 could significantly impact the Judiciary. Such cuts “would come at a time in which the Administration intends to increase border security and law enforcement activities, which will increase our workload,” he said.

He also thanked Congress for Judiciary funding levels in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018. The recently passed law, which funds the federal government for fiscal year 2018, included funding to increase the daily juror attendance fee from $40 to $50, raised hourly fees for private lawyers appointed to represent criminal defendants, and included GSA funding to build three top-priority courthouses.


Couples seeking divorce amid changing laws in 2019

Droves of couples seeking divorce are flooding courthouses across the country, apparently agreeing on one thing: Make it official by the end of the year.

Divorce attorneys are reporting that their workloads have increased four-fold, all to help their clients end their marriage by 2019 when changes from President Donald Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will be felt. The new law makes significant changes to the that alimony payments are taxed, reducing tax savings by eliminating deductions.

One Florida Judge is even adding extra court time, citing the change in tax law as the reason, and is making herself available on Dec. 27 and Dec. 28, days when the court would otherwise typically be closed, CBS MoneyWatch reported.

IRS data shows that about 586,000 filers claimed alimony deduction for the 2016 tax year, and the move is estimated to bring in $6.9 billion over the course of nine years, The Hill reports.

By the end of the year, divorce filings may be up as much as 20 percent over 2017, President of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers Peter M. Walzer told CBS MoneyWatch.

A majority of matrimonial lawyers believe that the changes to the law would lead to more contentious settlement negotiations.

However, the new tax code may affect fewer people, as divorce rates overall have fallen over the past several years.

New Year’s Eve 2019: Free rides and other ways home safely

Austin’s New Year’s Eve 2019 offered free rides and other ways to get home in safety.

As we all know, drunken driving at any level is illegal, reprehensible, dangerous, and just plain bad form. That’s a fact the Austin Police Department will bring home for you at all times, but especially on New Year’s Eve, when it’s an unfortunately common occurrence.

The department’s “no refusal” period for the holiday ran from 9 p.m. every night through 5 a.m. every morning, ending on New Year’s Day.

If you are suspected of driving while intoxicated during the period, officers will have more legal resources for obtaining a blood alcohol sample, even if you refuse to submit one. That’s not to mention the life- and injury-threatening position you put yourself, your passengers, and others in when you attempt to drive while drunk.

Fortunately, there are many options—including free or reduced ride-hailing prices and other ways to get to your destination—for Austinites to ring in the new year without all that danger. Here are a few of them.

Free public transportation

Austin’s Capital Metro extended its MetroRail and MetroRapid service until 2:30 a.m. New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day as well as offering free rides on New Year’s Eve from 5 p.m. until the end of service. MetroBus lines are included in the free fares and operated on their regular weekday-service schedule.


RideAustin (a locally owned, nonprofit business), Lyft, and Uber currently operate in Austin.

From 8 a.m., Dec. 31, through 4 a.m., Jan. 1, Lyft riders got $5 off all rides in Texas. “NYEPLAN18” in the Lyft app.

The Lyft discount was part of the statewide “Plan Ahead, Ride Safe” initiative cosponsored by Lyft, AAA, TABC, Anheuser-Busch, and Silver Eagle Distributors


The four Austin cab companies, ATX Co Op, Austin Cab, Lone Star Cab, and Yellow Cab were out in force downtown and in nearby areas, including at taxi stands, via app in some cases, and (in theory) by telephone.

Way to go Austin for thinking of your inebriated citizens!!

4 laws that are bringing big changes to California in 2019

The new year means big changes for California’s criminal justice system. Several new laws that go into effect in 2019 have an emphasis on criminal and social justice reform. Here’s a look at four new laws that are changing the way things are done in California:


End of Cash Bail

California is getting rid of cash bail for suspects awaiting trial. Supporters contend it makes criminal justice fairer for people with little money, but bail agents are seeking a referendum to overturn the new law.

“We had to collect 365,000 signatures,” said Topo Padilla, president of the Golden State Bail Agents Association. “We collected 550,000. So, that’s 550,000 voters who signed a piece of paper saying, ‘Yes, let’s put this on the ballot and let us decide,’ rather than 120 legislators down there.”

The new law takes effect Oct. 1, 2019.

Judges will use a pretrial risk assessment to determine who should be released from jail. In most nonviolent misdemeanor cases, defendants would be out within 12 hours.

In other cases, defendants would be scored on the seriousness of crime – and how likely they are to show up for court.

The new law means up to 8,000 people working in the bail industry statewide will be out of work, according to Padilla.

“This is about public safety” Padilla said. “It’s not solely about saving our jobs. This is truly about public safety and getting rid of a constitutional right that people have.”


DUI Ignition Interlock Devices

In 2019, a new California law will impact drivers caught driving while intoxicated. The legislation aims to keep the roads safer, while still allowing those with DUI convictions to drive.

It all starts with a breathalyzer — a device that can be found on some 300,000 vehicles nationwide. The new law allows those convicted of DUI to keep their car and their license, but with an important safety restriction.

For Californians convicted of driving under the influence two times, there are now new rules of the road.

“Starting Jan. 1, individuals convicted of a DUI will only be able to regain their full driving privileges if they install an ignition interlock device in each of the vehicles they own,” said San Diego Assemblyman Todd Gloria.

Blowing into a breathalyzer measures the amount of alcohol in a driver’s system and prevents the car from starting unless the driver is sober.

The new law for ignition interlocks first began as a pilot program in Sacramento and three other counties. Industry experts said it showed a 74 percent reduction in repeat DUIs. Now, it’s getting rolled out statewide.

“Other states that have laws comparable to California indicate that a law like this should reduce around 15 percent of drunk driving fatalities,” said John Ulczycki, with the Coalition of Ignition Interlock Manufacturers.

Ulczycki projected that in California, the devices could save up to 100 lives a year.


Pot Convictions

The new year also means new liberties for thousands of Californians with pot convictions. Under a new law, the California Department of Justice must now review marijuana convictions that could be reduced or purged since voters approved Proposition 64.

It means a new beginning for many people convicted of possessing marijuana, something that is now legal under California law.

The new law is a follow up to Prop 64, passed by California voters in 2016, making recreational-use marijuana legal in California.

People with felonies or misdemeanors for cannabis-related offenses that were charged under Prop 64 can now petition the courts to reduce or remove those convictions.

“This is one of the reasons why we advocated for Proposition 64,” said Kimberly Cargile, executive director for A Therapeutic Alternative.

Cargile added that Prop 64 and the new law will “provide some reparations, some social justice, for the people that have been harmed by the war on drugs.”

The new law makes it easier for Californians with marijuana convictions to get housing and employment once those offenses are removed from their records.

Under the law, the DOJ must prepare a list of names by July 1 for submission to local district attorneys. The DA can challenge the findings, but if there’s no challenge, the courts can then remove or reduce the criminal conviction.


Prepaid Vote-By-Mail Ballots

There’s no denying that voting by mail is now much easier in California, thanks to a new law that allows ballots with prepaid postage.

It means you’ll never have to use a stamp. There’s one group that could especially benefit, according to Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data.

“If we eliminate postage for voting, you could potentially see more young people, who are mostly doing bills and paying things online, being able to return that ballot without having to worry about asking somebody where they can find a stamp,” Mitchell said.

Under the new law, counties can ask the state to reimburse them for the additional cost of paying for all the postage.

Kona, HI Courthouse Scheduled to Open Late Summer 2019

The Hawaii State Judiciary’s appropriations bill, including $5.8 million to get instrumentation and furnishings for the new Kona courthouse, passed final reading within the Senate and House of Representatives. The bill has been sent to Gov. David IgE for his review and thought.

“On behalf of the Hawaii State Judiciary, i would like to precise my deep appreciation to the Hawaii State general assembly for approving the funding required to outfit the new courthouse in Kona with instrumentation and furnishings,” aforesaid judge Mark E. Recktenwald. “We area unit happy to be ready to provide the West Hawaii community a full-service facility they can take care of all court-related matters in an exceedingly centralized, convenient, and secure setting.”

The facility is scheduled to open in late summer 2019. The general assembly previously approved a complete of $90 million for construction costswithin the 2014 and 2015 sessions. Groundbreaking for the project was in Gregorian calendar month 2016.

“The Judiciary is very grateful to any or all of the island legislators, particularly Rep. Nicole Lowen and subunit. Josh Green, still because the leadership of Senators Donovan Dela Cruz, Gil Keith-Agaran, and Brian Taniguchi, and Senate President Daffo Kouchi, and Representatives Sylvia Luke, Kyle Yamashita, Scott Nishimoto, and Speaker Scott Saiki,” said Chief Justice Recktenwald.

“I additionally wish to share my acknowledgment with the West Hawaii Bar Association, the Hawaii County Bar Association, and therefore the Hawaii State Bar Association for their ongoing support,” judge Recktenwald said. “Retired choose Daffo Ibarra, West Hawaii Bar President Payesko, and HSBA Representative from Kona Carol Kitaoka have been critical supporters.”

 “After years of conducting court business out of 3 separate locations, we are gratified that we will be better able to better serve the people of the west side by giving them the modern court facility they deserve ,” aforesaid Third Circuit Chief choose Greg Nakamura.

“The Kona community is looking forward to having a new courthouse, which is able to offer safety, efficiency and convenience that the existing three makeshift facilities cannot ,” said Rep. Nicole Lowen. “Securing this funding was essential to making sure the timely completion and opening of the Courthouse.”

“It was my honor to work hand-in-hand with the judge and the Judiciary to complete funding for this necessary project for the people of Kona,” said Sen. Josh Green. “This has been a priority for West Hawaii for a long time.”

“The West Hawaii Bar Association greatly appreciates the support of the general assembly, particularly our Big Island Caucus, in creating this required FF&E funding a reality,” Donna Payesko, president of the West Hawaii Bar Association.  “ The appropriation will ensure that the new courthouse will be fully furnished and ready to open next year. The Kona Judiciary complax are going to be an excellent asset to the West Hawaii Community and the West Hawaii Bar Association looks forward to its opening.”

The courthouse will be a three-story facility with five courtrooms, a law library and self-help center open to the community, conference rooms, holding cells, witness rooms, attorney interview rooms, and a grand jury meeting room. There will also be more than 250 parking stalls for the public.

A City with one New Years Drunk Driving Arrest.

Only one drunk driving arrest New Year’s Eve in Jackson County, MS records show.

With increased police presence on holidays and multiple ad campaigns warning motorists of the risks of impaired driving, maybe folks are finally getting down to get the message.

Only one driver was arrested for a suspected DUI on New Year’s Eve in Jackson County, Mississippi, consistent with the Jackson County Jail log.

The driver, a 23-year-old Blackman township man, was i was arrested and booked into the jail at 3:32 a.m., Jan. 1, by the Jackson local police department, records show.

Law enforcement throughout Jackson County told MLive/The Jackson Citizen Patriot it was a relatively quiet night.

Police throughout the state are cracking down on impaired driving following the national Law enforcement campaign “Drive Sober or Get pulled Over.”

The campaign emphasizes the dangers of impaired driving while aiming to drastically reduce crashes, fatalities and injuries on the roadways.

Indonesia Lombok Island Earthquake Death Toll Reaches 500

A terrific and horrible earthquake disaster hit off of Indonesia Lombok Island. This natural disaster has a death toll rate that is at 550 now. This earthquake hit Indonesia’s Lombok island as between July 29 and August 19.  This lead to more than 390,000 people displaced and 76,765 buildings were damaged.

The National Agency for Disaster Management spokesperson Sutopo Purwo Nugroho stated in a statement that majority of the fatalities, 466 people, were from the North Lombok municipality as the most affected area. The rest of the victims were from West Lombok, 40 as well as East Lombok, 31 from Central Lombok, and 29 in the provincial capital Mataram. Apart from it, almost seven people were killed on neighboring eastern Sumbawa island and two others on Bali island. It has been further stated that the agency’s main focus was distributing humanitarian aid to the hundreds of thousands of people that are currently in displacement camps. An Indonesian Armed Forces aircraft landed along with 100 assistance packages for families, and also 100 wheelchairs, 30,000 tents, and tarps. Camps are serving clean water, providing medical treatment and materials for shelter. Only helicopters and motorcycles have been able to access the steepest and most remote areas of the island, as landslides blocked most routes.

Lombok island did suffer hundreds of aftershocks since the 6.4-magnitude earthquake shook the region on July 29. Some of them are as strong as a magnitude-5.9. The most serious quake occurred on August 5 with a 6.9-magnitude, killing at least 460 people.

Indonesia sits on whats known as the “Pacific Ring of Fire”, as being an area of great seismic and volcanic activity where some 7,000 earthquakes that are mostly moderate, are recorded every year.