August 2012 Newsletter

August 17, 2012

EDUCATION

California's public schools are at a crossroads. After four years of cuts, our schools have lost $20 billion in funding and 38,000 full-time teachers while student enrollment tops more than 6 million.

What can we do to improve our embattled schools and how can California restore revenues that that have been slashed?

To get the facts out to families and to answer their questions, I am sponsoring a free pancake breakfast featuring a special guest, California's top school official: Tom Torlakson, State Superintendent of Public Instruction.

"State of Education in California"
Saturday, Aug. 25
9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.
Campbell Community Center
Orchard City Banquet Hall
1 W. Campbell Ave., Campbell

Click here to RSVP. For more information contact Assembly District 24 Field Representative Hope Cahan, (408) 282-8920.

PENSION REFORM

This month, the Legislature is scheduled to tackle the issue of pension reform. A joint committee of Assemblymembers and Senators has held five meetings up and down the state to gather information and opinions from the public and experts to fashion a package of bills.

The committee's recommendations are being reviewed by the legislative leadership and the Governor's office. There are no details yet because the exact savings won't be calculated until there is a firm agreement on the final pension reform package. The package will be presented to legislators any day now for an anticipated vote by the end of this month.

I'm eager to see what will be proposed. During past sessions, I have cast votes on bills that will save the state $600 million. In addition, I was among the first lawmakers to endorse Gov. Brown's 12-point pension reform plan.

Stay tuned: I plan to discuss the pension reform package in greater depth in my next newsletter.

CONSERVATORSHIP FEES

My office has received many calls and letters in the aftermath of news stories that questioned the fees charged by some private professional fiduciaries or conservators in who manage the estates of dependent adults in Santa Clara County. I was quoted in one of the stories, expressing my concerns.

I am now working with the supervising judges of the Santa Clara County Superior Court who are taking action to stop excessive conservator fees.

Recently, I attended the first meeting of a task force of interested stakeholders and made my concerns known to all: Clients who are unable to take care of themselves must be protected from unethical practices and they must also have a voice in how new policies or reforms are fashioned.

Because there is always the potential the sensitive details of confidential conservatorship cases may have to be discussed in detail, the task force has, so far, kept its meetings closed.

But, I am glad to report task force members do acknowledge the system must be improved. The task force meets again this month. Its solutions may very well solve the problems at the local level. My office will be monitoring its final recommendations.

But while the Santa Clara County Superior Court is taking action, I am concerned that more counties may be encountering the same problems we have seen here. I will be evaluating the task force's strategies to determine if they should be made into statutes so that every Californian is protected.

The issue of fees has long been a concern of the Legislature. In 2006, the Legislature passed four bills in response to lack of oversight of conservator cases and fiduciary abuses.

The bills had two important outcomes. First, the state created the Department of Consumer Affairs' Professional Fiduciaries Bureau to investigate complaints that involve a private professional fiduciary. The bureau is funded via fees on fiduciary professionals. Click here to learn more about filing a complaint.

Second, a mechanism was created for courts to receive ex parte complaints against a guardian or conservator. The legislation allows an exception to the general ban on ex parte complaints.

In the aftermath of the news stories, many people have called my office seeking help. However, the separation of powers clause in the state constitution prohibits legislators from intervening in judicial proceedings.

CAMBRIAN CELEBRATION

The public is invited to the 7th Annual Cambrian Community Festival on Sunday, August 26, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Camden Community Center, 3369 Union Ave., in San Jose.

This free festival brings together neighbors for a safe, healthy, and fun event for adults and kids. There will be live music, bounce houses, a resource fair, and water slide.