Capitol Alert: AM Alert: New Steinberg legislation to address mentally ill criminal offenders

akoseff@sacbee.comDecember 19, 2013 

Funding for mental health services has long been a cause for Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. Last spring, he advocated increasing community resources and crisis support for those dealing with mental illness to help reduce the burdens they place on the state's prisons and hospitals. The plan passed as part of the June budget package.

Yet major issues remain with caring for the mentally ill in California and across the nation. As The Bee reported last Sunday, some of the patients bused out-of-state by a Nevada mental hospital later committed crimes in California and elsewhere.

In the wake of that news, Steinberg will be in Room 211 of the State Capitol today at 11 a.m. to announce a new program aimed at reducing crime committed by mentally ill offenders. Steinberg's office said the legislation, which Steinberg plans to introduce in January, will address both "the dearth of services for mental health and substance abuse treatment" and issues of realignment related to prison overcrowding.

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DIVIDE AND CONQUER: It didn't get too far in 2012, but San Diego businessman John Cox is once again pursuing his idea of changing the structure of the California Legislature to bring citizens closer to their representatives. His plan divides each of the state's legislative districts into a hundred neighborhoods, which would each elect their own representative and then caucus to send one of them to Sacramento. Cox filed a proposed ballot initiative with the Attorney General's office Wednesday, but will have to collect more than 800,000 signatures to get it on the November 2014 ballot.

SCHOOL SELF-IMPROVEMENT: Last year's passage of Prop. 39 generated money for school energy-efficiency projects, including $464 million for projects in the 2013-14 fiscal year. The California Energy Commission, which meets today at 10 a.m. at its Ninth Street headquarters, is expected to approve guidelines that will clear the way for the agency to begin accepting funding applications early next year.

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