U.S. Reaches Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement
On Oct. 5, The White House announced the completion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement— an agreement 10 years in the making. Described by the White House as a new an improved NAFTA, only it includes several more countries in the Pacific Rim and great deal more labor and environmental protections, this agreement will intensify the nation’s gaze towards the East and serving as check on China’s growing power in the region.
The agreement, which includes Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, and Japan, eliminated tens of thousands of tariffs on American made products and open more of Asia’s markets to American agricultural products.
The White House in their released fact sheet said the agreement is “the largest expansion of fully-enforceable labor rights in history.”
According to the White House, the TPP will result in “the largest expansion of fully-enforceable labor rights in history” by renegotiating NAFTA and including the freedom to form unions and bargain collectively. They claim that the agreement will prohibit child labor and forced labor and set requirements for acceptable work conditions such as minimum wage, hours of work, and safe workplace conditions.
They also said that the TPP will have “the highest environmental standards of any trade agreement in history…” by upgrading NAFTA standards by “putting environmental concerns at the core of the agreement and making those obligations fully enforceable,” by cracking down on ozone depletion and improving energy efficiency. Among their projected goals is to combat illegal wildlife trafficking, logging, hunting and fishing.
The TPP will include new rules for internet commerce, claiming lower costs, less spam and cybercrime. The agreement bans “forced localization” which had required U.S. businesses to place their data, servers, research facilities and other necessities in other countries in order to access those markets.
Also, the TPP will discipline state-owned companies in other countries, which are often given preferential treatment, to ensure that they compete on a commercial basis and that the advantages they receive do not have an adverse impact on American workers and businesses.
Construction Alert: Month-Long Nightly Lane Restrictions on Wilmington Ave. & 223rd St.
Starting Oct. 8, contractors are scheduled to have nightly lane restrictions surrounding Wilmington Ave. and 223rd St. intersection, due to construction. The construction will take place week nights starting Oct. 8 and is anticipated to finish at the end of the month (tentatively Oct. 31). Traffic signals will be on flashing mode during the more severe lane restrictions. This way, traffic will continue through the intersection as well as make left or right turns without the need of detouring traffic.
During construction businesses and local resident access will be maintained at all times. The public can expect noise and vibrations from back-up alarms, work crews and other construction related equipment and activities. Flaggers will be on site when necessary to allow access to traffic. Water trucks will be used to minimize dust. Construction activity schedules and closures are subject to change.
Governor Signs Plan to Reduce Recidivism of Mentally Ill Offenders into Law
On Oct. 3, Gov. Brown signed bill Senate Bill 621, which aims to reduce recidivism by providing diversion programs to non-violent mentally ill offenders.
The bill clarifies how the money in the state’s mentally ill offender crime reduction grant is spent, allowing it to be used by counties to use on said diversion programs.
“Too many people with mental health needs are taken to jail as a first option,” said Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, who sponsored the bill. “This bill will help make clear that counties can apply for special grants to pay for diversion programs for the mentally ill. This will save tax dollars and help those in need become more self-sufficient and stay out of jail.”
The bill did not receive a single no vote in the legislature.
Every year, more than two million adults with serious mental illnesses are sent to jail. They are more prone to have longer stays in jail, and are three times more expensive to incarcerate and are at a higher risk of being incarcerated again than those without mental illnesses.
Governor Signs Law To Encourage Public-Interest Legal Practice
Gov. Brown signed into law a plan that will use unclaimed funds in lawyer trust accounts to encourage lawyers to pursue jobs in the public sector, allowing low-income Californians to have greater access to equal justice.
Senate Bill 134 will fund the Public Interest Attorney Loan Repayment Program, which uses unclaimed funds that have been transferred to the state general fund after being held for three years. It encourages newly graduated lawyers with student debt to pursue work in the public interest, as the pay is often lower than in private practice.
Lawmakers of both parties have described the new law as an innovative revenue source. A similar program in Oregon has collected more than $500,000 since 2010.
“Every year, thousands of young lawyers graduate from law school with a desire to launch their careers performing public service,” said Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, who authored the bill. “Faced with skyrocketing education costs, however, more and more of our finest legal minds are opting to instead go straight into private practice.”
The repayment program was created years ago to help repay the student loans of attorneys who agreed to practice in certain public-interest areas, but the program had gone unfunded. The Student Aid Commission will administer the program by establishing eligibility and selecting participants eligible up to $11,000 for four years of service.
“Too often we grant rights without providing the tools to make those rights real. Here is a creative way to ensure those rights,” Hertzberg said.
POLA and POLB to Update Clean Air Action Plan
Environmental teams from both the Port of Los Angeles and Port of Long Beach will hold a joint community workshop open to the public on Oct. 14 to gather input on the next update of the Clean Air Action Plan, also known as CAAP.
The workshop will be held from 3-5 p.m. at Banning’s Landing Community Center in Wilmington. The workshop will include a presentation outlining the scope and timeline of the update, as well as an interactive dialogue with attendees. The plan is considered by the port a “living document” and has since been receiving input from their stakeholders.
The CAAP, adopted in 2006 and has since been updated in 2010, has reduced air pollution from ships, trains, trucks, terminal equipment and harbor craft that operate in and around the ports.
Since adoption, levels of diesel particulate have dropped 82 percent, oxides of nitrogen have dropped 54 percent and oxides of sulfur have declined 90 percent.
California Passes Law Which Protects Elephants, Rhinos
On Oct. 4, Gov. Brown signed Assembly Bill 96 into law, banning all trade of elephant ivory and rhino horn in the state.
California joins two other states, New York and New Jersey, in passing a statewide ban on ivory and rhino horn. New York and California respectively hold the first and second highest amounts of trade in ivory.
“Californians have fired a warning shot across the bow of all those who knowingly sell, buy or traffic in illicit ivory and rhino horn in the state,” said David Thomson, who is a chairman from the African Wildlife Foundation. “The protection of elephants, rhinos and other wildlife cannot and should not be the sole domain of field-based conservationists and rangers… we need our courageous leaders in Washington, and Beijing, in Dar es Salaam, as well as Sacramento, to take ownership of this issue and give rangers and conservationists much needed support.”
According to the African Wildlife Foundation, as many as 35,000 African elephants and 1,215 rhinos were illegally killed each year due to a growing demand in countries such as China, Thailand, and the United States for use in statues, art, and jewelry.