SACRAMENTO -- Thousands of mentally ill Californians are not being reported to the state Department of Justice so that they can be considered for a list of those prohibited from possessing firearms, a state audit said Tuesday.
More than 20,000 people have been identified as possessing guns even though they are prohibited from doing so because of criminal records, restraining orders or severe mental illness, and the state is working to clear the backlog by sending agents out to confiscate weapons.
But, the audit said, insufficient effort from the Department of Justice and poor reporting from the state's Superior Courts, which issue orders determining mental illness, have limited the identification of thousands of more people with mental illness.
“This report concludes that the Department of Justice has not sufficiently reached out to Superior Courts or mental health facilities to remind them of firearm prohibition reporting requirements in state law,” State Auditor Elaine Howle wrote to Gov. Jerry Brown.
Auditors surveyed 34 courts that did not appear to be submitting firearm prohibition reports to the Department of Justice’s mental health unit from 2010 through 2012, and learned that most of them were unaware of the reporting requirements. Those courts said they had not reported about 2,300 mental health determinations to the department over the three-year period.
The audit also looked at courts in Los Angeles, San Bernardino and Santa Clara counties and found they filed reports but they were incomplete.
"For example, we found that the Mental Health Courthouse at the Los Angeles Superior Court was unaware of several court determinations it was required to report. Among these were those that determined that individuals were mentally incompetent to stand trial or that an individual is a danger to others," the audit said.
The Justice Department also sometimes made bad decisions about which of the referred mentally ill should be included on the list of persons prohibited from possessing guns, auditors said.
The audit’s findings are “very troubling,” according to Assemblyman Allan R. Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa), who requested the review. He said legislation will be introduced to make the system work.
“After reviewing the report’s findings, it’s clear that the Attorney General’s office must do a better job in coordinating the reporting and processing of this information,” Mansoor said.
Read the full LA Times story here.
It wasn't that long ago that state parks were closing because there wasn't enough money in the budget. Later, we learned that park officials hid more than $50 million in secret, off-the-book accounts.
Then we learned that CalFire also had a hidden, off-the-books reserve fund containing millions of dollars, even though they pushed for (and received) an annual fire fee imposed on Californians living in rural areas that depend on CalFire for fire service.
More recently, CNN reported that drug and alcohol rehab facilities are billing the state for services that were never provided for clients that didn't exist. Worse yet, there is evidence that state oversight employees knew about the problems, but did nothing.
As a member of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, I strongly support and encourage efforts to discover what happened, fix the problem, and punish those in and out of government who participated in or enabled this fraud to occur.
Looking at the bigger picture, I'm concerned that these are not isolated incidents. Fraud and abuse and neglect seem to be an institutional problem in Sacramento. None of the state's bureaucratic establishment seems to care – perhaps because it's not their money.
We need to make them care. The problem is that an organization's culture is defined at the top. People at all levels of the organizational chart, from front-line workers, to middle managers, to department heads, generally act in a manner consistent with the behavior of their superiors.
It's not surprising then that state department heads thought it was ok to move money from one fund to another. The Governor and Legislature have been doing this for years, using for the general fund (or other purposes) money that was earmarked by voters for a specific purpose through one ballot initiative or another, the most important of which is probably Prop 98, which requires a minimum amount of education funding.
But this is more than state bureaucrats mimicking Legislative actions by interpreting accounting standards very loosely. The problems arise from the very core of the Legislature's culture. How can anyone take the idea of oversight seriously when the Legislature votes on a budget hours after it is first presented or members are expected to approve legislation and figure out what it does later. If this is how the Legislature acts, why should anyone take oversight seriously?
If we want the rest of state employees to care, then members of the Legislature have to show that they care. This is why the most important reforms are those that bring oversight and transparency to the Legislature.
While reform from within the Legislature is the beginning, it is not the end. Next year, in addition to supporting reforms that address the legislative process, I plan on introducing legislation aimed at reducing fraud in California. Right now, I'm brainstorming ideas to see what is the best approach. I'd like your input. What do you think? Send me your comments by email to Assemblymember.Mansoor@assembly.ca.gov. My door is always open.
The Legislature adjourned for the year in the very early morning hours of Friday, September 13, after a marathon session that began at 10:00 a.m. the previous day. Now we watch and wait to see what the Governor will do with all of the bills that are on his desk. The Governor has 30 days to sign or veto a bill, which means that by October 13, we will know the fate of every bill passed in the Legislature this year. Those he signs become law on January 1.Every day, the Governor is signing and, in few cases, vetoing bills. I've been watching this process with great interest. Of the approximately 30 bills signed in the last week, I could only find news reports about two of them.
- AB 10 – Of the 38 job-killer bills identified by the California Chamber of Commerce, this was the only one that passed. The Governor signed AB 10 on September 25, increasing California's minimum wage to $10 per hour. I voted no.
- AB 60 – Grants drivers licenses to those who come into the country illegally. This bill was signed by the Governor on September 16. I voted no.
Most of the bills receive such little attention because, really, they aren't that important. In some cases, they're downright ridiculous. One striking example is SB 250, which created the California Olive Oil Commission to engage in olive oil quality and nutritional research. The Governor signed this bill on September 25. I did not vote for this unnecessary legislation, but it passed with minimal opposition.Even the most cursory review of the 1,430 bills introduced in the Assembly and 826 bills introduced in the Senate (not to mention the countless resolutions and other “legislation”) will show with overwhelming certainty that the Legislature spends way too much time in Sacramento.Considering that almost of all of the real work done in Sacramento is saved for the last possible minute, it's clear to me that California would survive just fine with a part time Legislature.Most of the Governor's activity is yet to come, so I'll continue monitoring his actions to see which bills are signed and which are vetoed. I'm hopeful that we'll see a lot more vetoes coming our way. Some of the bills I'm watching include:
- AB 8, a bill extending the “temporary” increase in the car tax for another eight years. I voted no.
- AB 530, a bill allowing people to apply for absentee ballots by telephone, without a signature or even anything in writing. I voted no.
- AB 218, a bill that limits government agencies (including school districts) ability to consider criminal convictions during the hiring process. I voted no.
If you have questions about these or any other bills that were introduced this year, please let me know. Now that the session is over, I'm happy to be back in the district, meeting with residents. If there is anything you would like to discuss with me, please call my office at (714) 668-2100 to setup a meeting. My door is always open.
Yesterday, Governor Brown signed AB 10, a bill raising the minimum hourly wage in California to $10. This bill is an example of good-intentioned legislation that will cause more harm than good.
Those who supported this bill think it will make a huge difference by helping millions of Californians provide for their families. This type of mentality completely misses the point of what a minimum wage job is supposed to be and fails to consider the cascading effect it will have on California's job market.
There was a time when minimum wage jobs were entry level positions. Young workers, students, and recent grads worked in these jobs to learn a skill, gain experience, and work toward a better job.
The fact that today, many low-skilled workers are “stuck” at minimum wage does not reflect on the wages those jobs pay. Instead, it points to the bigger problem; the exodus of high-paying skilled jobs from California as a result of the increasing cost of doing business in our state.
As high-paying jobs leave California, the percentage of minimum-wage jobs left in the state increases. Those working in minimum-wage jobs are stuck because there are fewer opportunities to advance and the higher cost of doing business means that companies cannot afford to pay more.
Artificially inflating the minimum wage causes many problems. Many companies will be forced to increase their prices to offset the new, higher cost of labor. As prices increase, the buying power of the new, higher wage will decrease. In the end, there will be no net change. Except perhaps for those making slightly more than minimum wage who will see their purchasing power decrease over the next few years.
Companies that can't offset their higher labor costs by increasing prices will be forced to lay people off. Unemployment will increase and the remaining workers will have heavier work-loads. In the short term, their “raise” will give them greater purchasing power, but as prices equalize, they will end up doing more work for less pay, and there is one less entry-level job for a Californian in need.
The higher minimum wage will eliminate job opportunities for high school students. Without these opportunities, many students are unable to learn some of the most basic skills that are necessary to succeed over the course of their career. As a result, the unemployment rate for high school students, which is the highest it has ever been, will continue to rise.
However, despite the passage of this bill, things are surprisingly looking better in Sacramento. This year, the California Chamber of Commerce identified 38 job-killer bills. This was the only one that passed. Last year, the Legislature passed six job-killer bills. While this bill, which passed only at the last minute with significant arm-twisting, is a major obstacle on our road to recovery, I'm hopeful that Sacramento's overall improvement with respect to business issues is a sign that the majority party is ready to start working together on solutions that will help improve California's business climate.