Children and Families
By Miriam Rotkin-Ellman
Natural Resouces Defense Council
Science has long known that the developing fetus is sensitive to experiences of the mother – alcohol consumption, dietary factors, and mercury exposure are some of the more well-known examples. This sensitivity makes newborn babies an early indicator of something going wrong in the environment of the mother. Unfortunately, a team of researchers found preliminary evidence of something gone wrong when they looked at the patterns of birth defects in newborn babies in Colorado. The researchers found that babies whose mothers lived in close proximity to multiple oil and gas wells were 30% more likely to be born with defects in their heart than babies born to mothers who did not live close to oil and gas wells.
By Brian Goldstein
Center for Juvenile & Criminal Justice
2013 proved to be a significant year for criminal and juvenile justice reform in California. Landmark legislation was passed in SB 260 (Hancock), allowing individuals to petition for a resentencing hearing after serving at least 15 years of a life sentence for an offense committed while a youth. The state also passed AB 218 (Dickinson) that addressed employment discrimination for justice-involved individuals. This policy provides formerly incarcerated individuals a second chance at success during reentry. With the beginning of 2014 just around the corner, it is important to reflect on these successes and the need for continued work in the New Year.
By Bruce Pomer
Health Officers Association of California
Vaccines are one of the greatest and most successful tools ever developed for preventing disease and protecting public health. Governor Brown and the California Department of Public Health, however, are on the verge of taking action that could violate California law, undermine the statewide effort to get more children immunized and threaten the health of all California communities.
California, like every other state, requires school-age children to obtain various vaccinations against childhood diseases. However, California also currently has a mechanism called a “personal belief exemption,” or PBE, that allows parents to opt their children out of mandatory vaccines simply by printing out a form and signing it.
By Liana Molina and Kyra Kazantzis
Coalition Against Payday Predators
In the face of the state legislature’s inaction on payday reform and growing national visibility on the issue, cities across California are taking steps to rein in payday and other high cost lenders. Earlier this week, the City Council of Sunnyvale voted to restrict the growth of payday lenders by enacting a “cap” on the number of lenders, creating “buffer zones” between lenders, allowing payday lending only in designated areas, and establishing operational standards.
By Lizzie Buchen
Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice
At the turn of the 20th Century, Lucy Flower, my grandmother’s great grandmother, established the world’s first juvenile court inside the Cook County courthouse in central Chicago.
Flower, who had been orphaned, was horrified by the misery and bleak futures of the city’s poorest children, and believed their criminal behaviors should be handled differently than that of adults. She and the other early “child-savers” viewed children and young teenagers as victims, neglected by their parents and by society, who still had the potential to get their lives on track. After finding success in Chicago, separate courts for young people, which focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment, were soon established nationwide.
By Mary Kay Henry
Service Employees International Union
If 2012 was the year of the woman, 2013 is the year of the working mom. And that's why I'm headed to California.
Last week, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi along with Reps. DeLauro, Matsui and other women leaders announced a new Women's Economic Agenda, built on three key pillars for driving women's economic advancement: 1) equal pay for equal work, 2) work-family balance, including paid sick leave and a livable minimum wage, and 3) access to quality, affordable child care.
By Brian Goldstein
Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice
On December 14, 2012 Adam Lanza killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. Six months later, this incident remains seared in the nation’s consciousness. The tragedy at Sandy Hook joined the unfortunate list of other school shootings, like those at Virginia Tech and Columbine High School.
As Americans struggled to make sense of the tragedy, advocacy groups and policymakers in all levels of government developed political solutions they thought necessary to prevent this from happening again.
By Martin J. Bennett
The New York Times recently characterized the economic recovery that officially began in 2009 as a "golden era for corporate profits." Indeed, corporate profits doubled between 2008 and 2011 and reached a record high.
However, these increased profits have fueled inequality and come at the expense of worker compensation. Profits are now a larger share of total national income, and wages and benefits are a smaller share than at any time since the 1960s.
Over the last four decades productivity gains have overwhelmingly accrued to business and not labor. The Economic Policy Institute calculates that between 1973-2011 productivity increased by 80 percent, but median hourly compensation by only 11 percent.
By Anthony Wright
Yesterday, calling it a "big day for school kids, and a big day for Californians who don't have health care," Governor Jerry Brown signed the 2013-14 state budget along with historic legislation to expand Medi-Cal to over one million Californians, as well as key budget trailer bills that restore many dental services to over three million Californians and other key improvements in Medi-Cal.
By Steve Smith
When AB 880 comes up for a vote this week in the California Assembly, lawmakers will be given a rare (and dare we say golden) opportunity. California has the chance to lead the nation in ensuring that large corporations like Walmart pay their fair share of health care costs under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Because of what's known as the "Walmart Loophole," large corporations are able to skirt their responsibility by pushing workers onto taxpayer-funded Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California). Walmart's army of accountants knows exactly how to reduce the company's costs by violating the spirit of the ACA: just cut workers' hours and wages low enough, and taxpayers pick up the tab for health care - while Walmart gets off scot-free.