Battle is brewing over Brown’s prisoner transfer plan; Fast food workers urged to skip work; Teacher ratings

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n 2006, California prisons were forced to house inmates using double and triple bunking in gyms and day rooms. Since then, overcrowding has been reduced by 43,000 inmates, from 200 to 150 percent of capacity. Photo: California Department of Corrections

todaysnewsbanner2Prison overcrowding. Gov. Jerry Brown has another fight on his hands over the state’s overcrowded prison system.

The governor and some leaders of the state Legislature announced a $315 million plan yesterday to transfer thousands of prisoners to private facilities and city lockups. The plan could cost billions over several years.

The move comes after Brown lost a legal battle with federal officials over thinning the state’s prison population.

The governor and his allies – including state Republican Leaders and Assembly Speaker John Perez – acknowledge that transferring prisoners will be expensive. But they say it’s a better alternative than releasing dangerous inmates. The money would likely come from a $1.1 billion reserve fund in the state budget.

Not everyone is on board. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg was noticeably absent from the governor’s press conference yesterday. He says the governor’s plan has “no promise and no hope.” Opponents of the governor’s plan say public safety would be better served by spending the money on drug treatment and mental health services.

The opposition by Steinberg and others could prove to be a major roadblock to getting a deal done quickly. And the clock is ticking. The state has been given until the end of the year to cut its prison population by 9,600 inmates.

Steinberg, meanwhile, has vowed to seek a delay in the court-ordered deadline. Sacramento Bee

Fast food strike. An influential labor union is urging local fast food workers to walk off the job tomorrow as part of a nationwide day of protests to demand a higher minimum wage. Similar protests have been held around the country in recent months but this would be a first for L.A. The Service Employee International Union is leading the L.A. strike. The union is backing the workers’ demand for an increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour. It’s currently $8 an hour in California, and $7.25 nationwide. A state Senate committee is scheduled to consider a bill Friday that would gradually increase the minimum wage in California to $10 an hour by 2018. Daily Breeze

Teacher ratings. A judge says that the performance ratings of individual LAUSD teachers must be kept secret until a legal battle over their release is settled. L.A. Superior Court Judge James Chalifant ruled earlier this month that district must honor a public records request by the L.A. Times and release information. The district and the teacher’s union appealed – and yesterday Chalifant agreed that the ratings should remain secret until the appeal is heard. The school district and United Teachers Los Angeles say releasing the information would violate the privacy rights of individual teachers. The ratings were compiled by the district using a complex formula that includes student test scores, as well as such factors as poverty, race and English ability. L.A. Times

Shark protection.
A federal appeals court has refused to stop the state of California from banning the practice of cutting off a shark’s fin to use in soup. It’s a law that’s been in the books for a couple of years, but it only took effect last month. Chinese restaurants and their suppliers are pursuing a lawsuit to stop the ban. Their lawyers contend that the Chinese community – where shark fins are a cultural delicacy – is being singled out and discriminated against. Environmentalists say 73 million sharks are killed every year around the world for their fins. This is the second federal court challenge to the California law. San Francisco Chronicle.

Disney north.
L.A. County Supervisors have approved the construction of a new Disney television and film facility near Santa Clarita. The vote allows Walt Disney Co.’s Disney/ABC arm to develop 58 acres of the 890 acre Golden Oak Ranch in Placerita Canyon. The project calls for half-a-million square feet of production space, including multiple sound stages and office bungalows. L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, who represents the area, says the facility will generate more than $500 million dollars in annual economic activity and create thousands of jobs. Some nearby residents worry about the project’s affect on local air and water quality. There’s also concern about plans to cut down more than 150 oak trees. L.A. Daily News