December 05, 2013

LAWT News Service


Jerome E. Horton, Chairman of the California State Board of Equalization (BOE), and his board colleagues, recently acted to help preserve some low-income housing projects across California. The Board approved legal annotation which clarifies that low-income housing properties subject to “payment in lieu of taxes” (PILOT) agreements may still be able to qualify for a property tax exemption. PILOT agreements are made between developers of low-income housing and local governments.

“Hundreds of low income developments were at risk of losing their finances and millions in back property taxes.” Chairman Horton said. “Without the welfare exemption, affordable housing would virtually be halted in California. Our action will preserve affordable housing for seniors and others who need the help the most.”

The Board concluded that the developers can enter into a PILOT agreement as long as the fees associated with the Pilot agreement serves to further the intended purpose of the affordable housing program.  Chairman Horton added “If this fee is found to be a tax and not benefiting the Affordable Housing community and residents, the welfare exemption can be revoked.”

The Board of Equalization is responsible for determining if the nonprofit organization is eligible under one of the four qualifying purposes (religious, scientific, hospital, or charitable) to receive an Organizational Clearance Certifi­cate. This certificate allows the nonprofit to apply for property tax exemption. Then, a county assessor decides if that organization’s property qualifies for the exemption based on the property’s specific use.

California is among the nation's most expensive, especially due to the high cost of housing, which trails only Hawaii and New York. While California's poverty rate was just 18th highest among the 50 states, poverty remains an issue. When extending poverty measures to take into account families and individuals that are not reflected in standard poverty rates, California had the nation's highest "supplemental poverty measure" from 2010 and 2012, at 23.8% versus 16% nationally, according to a recent report from the Census Bureau.

“Protecting low-income housing for qualified California’s residents is ultimately beneficial for all of us.” Horton concluded.

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November 28, 2013

LAWT News Service


SAN FRANCISCO – Attorney General Kamala D. Harris today issued the following statement in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s announcement that it will hear Kathleen Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc.:

“Under the Affordable Care Act, all Americans have the right to access affordable, quality healthcare, including contraception,” Attorney General Harris said. “For profit companies should not be able to deny women access to healthcare based on the religious beliefs of the company’s owners. The 10th circuit ruling should be reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court.”

In October, Attorney General Harris filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to take up this case and was joined by ten states including Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Washington.

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November 21, 2013

By Zenitha Prince

Special to the NNPA from the Afro-American Newspaper


President Obama’s Nov. 14 nomination of an African-American man to become the government’s top civil rights lawyer has been applauded by many in the Black and civil rights communities.

Debo P. Adegbile, who has served as senior counsel to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee since July, is the nominee for the Department of Justice’s assistant attorney general for civil rights.

Adegbile is one of the premier civil rights attorneys and would serve admirably in the role if his nomination is approved by the U.S. Senate, said his former colleagues at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, where he worked since 2001.

“Debo has precisely the type of broad civil rights experience that is required at this pivotal moment in our country,” said Sherrilyn Ifill, president and director-counsel of the Legal Defense Fund, a separate entity from the NAACP, in a statement.

“Our country needs someone like Debo with significant experience in voting rights to protect the deeply held American value that each person has the right to a voice in our democracy. Debo has worked tirelessly to ensure that our nation lives up to its promise of equality for all Americans,” Ifill continued.

In his years-long tenure at the Legal Defense Fund, Adegbile served in various roles including as special counsel, acting president and director-counsel, associate director-counsel and director of litigation, associate director of litigation, and assistant counsel.

While there, he also made two appearances before the U.S. Supreme Court to defend the Voting Rights Act in Shelby County v. Holder and Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District No. 1 v. Holder. He also represented evacuees from Hurricane Katrina in the first post-Katrina federal voting rights lawsuit.

Prior to joining the NAACP, he was an associate at Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison from 1994 to 2001. This is the same law firm that Jeh Johnson, recently appointed secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, was a partner.

“As we navigate the new Civil Rights-era, Debo offers precisely the type of leadership necessary,” Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) said in a statement Nov. 15. “From reforming America’s criminal justice system to expanding equality for all Americans, Debo has the civil rights experience and expertise needed to head the Division. Debo’s integrity, professionalism and respectable reputation as a legal practitioner and litigator are evidence that he is the right person for this incredibly important role.”

“Members of the Con­gressional Black Caucus strongly support President Obama’s nomination of Debo Adegbile and encourage our colleagues in the Senate to confirm him for this position without delay,” Fudge said.

The son of immigrants from Ireland and Nigeria, Adegbile’s success came after growing up in abject poverty, including periods of homelessness, in New York City. Through scholarships, loans, and the sweat of his brow, Adegbile worked his way through college and law school, eventually obtaining a bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College and a law degree from New York University School of Law.

Peers say his upbringing has informed his commitment to defending and upholding the rights of the most vulnerable in our society.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights said Adegbile is in “a class of his own when it comes to understanding the application and enforcement of complex civil rights issues.”

“Millions of Americans rely on the Civil Rights Division to enforce housing, education, and employment discrimination laws, hate crime laws, the Violence Against Women Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the core civil rights statutes that allow all of us to take part in the fullness of American life,” Henderson said in a statement.

“Adegbile’s skill set, talents, and experience make him the perfect choice to head the Civil Rights Division,” he added. “We call on the Senate to swiftly confirm him.”

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November 21, 2013

LAWT News Service


As the Dec. 3 special election nears for the 54th Assembly District, leading candidate Sebastain Ridley-Thomas has increased his support base by adding community faith based leaders this week.

Pastor Xavier L. Thompson, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California hailed Ridley-Thomas as, “The new face of leadership for residents of the 54th Assembly District. He has energy, intelligence and brings a wealth of new ideas to politics that he gained at important places such as working for Marian Wright Edelman at the Children Defense Fund and serving as policy director in the State Capitol for former state Senator and current L.A. City Councilmember Curren Price.”

The Rev. Thompson continued, “We know the Ridley-Thomas name. It’s a name we trust and respect for good reason. Avis and Mark Ridley Thomas have done their work well in raising both of their twin sons – Sebastian and Sinclair – but it is Sebastian who has answered the Ridley-Thomas call to public service and performed the foundational work needed to prepare himself for a position of leadership.”

 “My experience working on policy issues at the state level and working on affordable healthcare issues in Washington, D.C. have helped form my commitment to help people striving to get through tough times and simply do better than they did yesterday,” said Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.

“But my parents imbued in me, and my brother, the dedication to our community, an inner strength borne from faith and a willingness to work hard to serve the public good.

“People want someone who will fight for them, be they unskilled workers seeking job training for a career as a tradesperson in construction or a small business owner toiling day-in and day-out to meet the needs of their customers. People want to be successful. They want to see positive results from their efforts. They want the opportunity to succeed. That is why it is so important for our state representatives to create new jobs and contracting opportunities for small businesses in our community.”

Rev. Norman Johnson, pastor of First New Christian Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, also said he will also support the young Ridley-Thomas.

“With high unemployment still staggering residents of our community and foreclosures still threatening our homeowners, this is a time for new leadership that will be in our corner to fight for jobs and economic development that will lift our community and put our residents to work,” he said.

“I believe strongly that the new leader we need is Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.”

Thompson and Johnson join other prominent faith based leaders such as Bishop Charles E. Blake of West Angeles Church of God in Christ; Bishop Kenneth C. Ulmer, Ph.D., Faithful Central Bible Church; Rev. LeSean Tarkington, St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church; Rev. J. Benjamin Hardwick, president, Western Baptist Church; Rev. Robert Habersham, Hamilton United Methodist Church; and Rev. J. Edgar Boyd, senior pastor at First AME Church in their approval of the candidacy of Sebastian Ridley-Thomas.

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November 21, 2013

City New Service


Thousands of University of California health care workers alleging unfair labor practices took part in a one-day strike today at hospitals in Westwood, Santa Monica, Irvine and across the state — a job action UC officials said reduces patients to “bargaining chips” in a work dispute.

Patient care technical workers and service workers represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3299 planned to picket throughout the day at hospitals, including Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, UC Irvine Medical Center and UCLA Medical Center Santa Monica. The union represents more than 22,000 UC hospital workers across the state.

Labor rallies were held on the UC Irvine campus and at UCI Medical Center in Orange.

“They went really well,” said Ebony Meeks of AFSCME, who participated in the Orange County rallies. “And they were well-attended.”

About 250 union members participated in the rally at UCI and another 250 rallied at the hospital in Orange, Meeks said.

“We’ve been marching since 6 a.m. and we’ll be marching until 6 p.m. We’re energized and ready to go,” Meeks said.

Union officials accuse hospital administrators of harassing and intimidating workers who advocated for “safe staffing standards” by taking part in a two-day walkout in May.

AFSCME 3299 President Kathryn Lybarger said union members have “both the legal right and more responsibility” to stand up for the safety of students and other patients.

“By attempting to silence workers, UC hasn’t just repeatedly broken the law — it has willfully endangered all who come to UC to learn, to heal and to build a better life for their families,” she said.

Dr. John Stobo, senior vice president for UC Health Sciences and Services, countered that money is at the heart of the dispute, not concern for patients.

“By calling for a strike for a second time in seven months, AFSCME leaders again are putting patients at UC medical centers and student health centers in the middle of a labor dispute,” Stobo said. “This is completely inappropriate and unfair to the people we are here to serve. Our patients and students are not bargaining chips. They deserve better.”

Stobo said the university made updated offers to the union earlier this month “and showed significant movement on wages pensions, health care benefits and other issues. AFSCME rejected all of our offers.”

“We have the highest standards of excellence and we will continue delivering care that meets those standards during this strike,” he said. “Still, this strike by AFSCME will hurt the very patients the union claims to be protecting, which makes us believe it can only be about one thing — money.”

Stobo noted that more than 100 patients have had elective surgeries canceled due to the strike, and one patient will have a planned kidney transplant delayed.

Union officials said they were committed to patient protection, saying they have formed a task force to handle emergency needs at the hospitals during the strike and have exempted dozens of critical care workers from taking part in the walkout.

Members of the California Nurses Association had been scheduled to join the walkout in a show of solidarity, but it an­nounced over the weekend it had reached a tentative contract deal with the UC system and would not be taking part in the strike.

Patient care technical workers include technicians for ultrasounds, X-rays, MRIs, mammograms and other tests, radiation therapists for cancer patients, pharmacy technicians and respiratory therapists, according to UC.

On Tuesday, a judge in Sacramento issued an injunction limiting the number of workers who can take part in the strike to ensure employees who perform essential functions remain on the job.

UCLA Health officials said the hospitals in Westwood and Santa Monica were open, although 20 percent of elective surgeries scheduled for the day have been postponed. About 325 replacement workers and “redeployed” administrative staff filled in for striking workers, according to UCLA.

The striking union represents about 3,800 employees in the UCLA Health System.

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