Governor and Senate Democrats reach prison accord; Broadway streetcar line loses traction; School testing

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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 plan. There’s agreement in Sacramento on how California will respond to the federal court order requiring the state to reduce prison overcrowding. The deal comes between Governor Jerry Brown and California legislative leaders, who have been at odds over how to proceed.

Brown’s original plan was to increase capacity by leasing additional beds.

But Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg balked at spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year on new prison space. He and other Senate Democrats came up with their own plan: hoping the federal court would delay its end-of-year deadline for the state to reduce its prison population by nearly 10,000 inmates.

Now, the governor and Senate Democrats have agreed that if the court is willing to delay that deadline, the state would put the savings toward rehabilitation and recidivism programs.

Assembly Speaker John Perez said he was hopeful the court will agree to the plan.

“All of us believe that if the court is thoughtful and reevaluates their original order, there is a way to do all that we are talking about for less money than originally outlined in the governor’s proposal,” Perez said.

An attorney for the prison inmate plaintiffs says he’d rather see the money spent on rehabilitation than renting extra beds. But he says the new agreement is too vague for him to support. And he’s hoping the federal court will reject it. Sacramento Bee

Three strikes. More than 1,000 California inmates sentenced to life in prison have been freed since voters approved changes to the state’s sentencing laws last year. And most of those former prisoners are staying out of trouble, according to a new report from the Stanford Law School Three Strikes Project and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund. The authors also helped write and campaign for Proposition 36, the November ballot initiative that made significant changes to the state’s Three Strikes law. They say that fewer than two percent of the people released as a result of Proposition 36 have been charged with new crimes – a rate much lower than the prison population as a whole. The authors expressed concern that L.A. is lagging behind other counties when it comes to clearing its backlog of cases in which inmates are being released as a result of Prop. 36. San Jose Mercury News

Broadway streetcar. A proposed streetcar line that would run down Broadway in downtown L.A. will be delayed – or may not be built at all. That’s the takeaway after new projections show the project could cost more than twice as much as originally thought. The original $125 million estimate did not take into account the expense of moving utility lines along Broadway. The L.A. Times reports that could add up to $166 million to the overall cost, depending on what crews find underground when construction starts. Meanwhile, city staffers say the price of building the line and buying streetcars could rise by $30 million dollars or more. The proposed line would run 10 blocks down Broadway and would also reach L.A. Live and Walt Disney Concert Hall. L.A. Times

School testing.
The nation’s top education official has a message for California lawmakers: pass a proposed law revamping the state’s standardized testing system and you’ll put federal funding for California students at risk! U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan says he’s concerned about a component of the proposed law that would suspend test scores for a year, and maybe longer. AB 484 is heading to a full vote this week in the Assembly and the Senate. If it passes, it would replace the standardized exams used in California schools since 1999 with a computerized system. Duncan says test results are crucial to gauge how students are progressing. He says the federal government would tack action if the proposed law is passed and could withhold some funding. EdSource

McCourt split. Former Dodgers President Jamie McCourt is going to have to make due with her $131-million-dollar divorce settlement. An L.A. judge has ruled that McCourt has no right to share in the profits her ex-husband, Frank McCourt, reaped when he sold the team for a record $2.1 billion last year. Jamie McCourt wanted the divorce settlement thrown out. She said her ex-husband misled her about the value of the team and its assets but the judge concluded there was no evidence to support that claim. Her attorney says she plans to appeal. L.A. Times