News and analysis on California politics
Gov. Jerry Brown approves bills to expand bike trails

Gov. Jerry Brown on Saturday signed two measures aimed at helping cities and counties expand and improve bike paths and trails, including one allowing local ballot measures to pay for the work.

One bill allows local agencies including cities and park districts to ask voters to approve, with a two-thirds vote, a motor vehicle registration surcharge of up to $5, with the money going to developing bikeway networks and maintenance.

"The governor signed SB 1183 to give local communities another way to provide safe, interconnected trail infrastructure for cyclists," said Jim Evans, a spokesman for Brown.

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) said his bill would allow communities to provide a transportation alternative to driving automobiles on congested streets. He cited a study that found that for every mile of bike lane per square mile in a city, an additional 1% of the commuting workforce used bicycles.

"Upgrading bike infrastructure will help public safety, the environment and the quality of...

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Governor disposes of mandating diaper changing stations in men's rooms

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday issued identical vetoes to twin bills that would have required many businesses to provide diaper changing stations in men’s restrooms.

“This may be a good business practice, but not one that I am inclined to legislate,” Brown wrote in his veto messages.

The so-called “potty parity” measures would have required businesses that build or substantially modify restrooms to provide a baby changing station in the men’s room if one is provided in the women’s room. Businesses also could build one changing station in a restroom available to men and women.

The bills by Democratic Sens. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens and Lois Wolk of Davis would have applied to businesses in frequently visited public areas, such as restaurants and department stores.

Brown made it clear he did not like the smell of the diaper changing bills.

“At a time when so many have raised concerns about the number of regulations in California, I believe it would be more prudent to leave the matter of...

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Lawmakers deride Kashkari's call for them to be drug-tested

Republican gubernatorial candidate Neel Kashkari’s proposal Friday to require state legislators and other elected officials to undergo annual drug tests was met with derision from lawmakers.

“If the architect of George W. Bush’s Wall Street bailouts thinks he has any credibility on this or any other legislative issue, then he must be the one smoking something,” said Senate President Pro Tem–elect Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles).

Kashkari was guest host of the Mark Larson radio show on KCBQ-AM (1170) in San Diego on Friday when he raised the issue.

 “I think we should drug-test the legislators,” he said. “Why don’t we, everybody, every statewide officeholder, and everyone at the Assembly and Senate, why don’t we just have an annual mandatory drug test?”

Kashkari sought to link the proposal to current criminal charges facing four state senators, adding: “Given how many are getting in more and more trouble, mostly Democrats, more and more trouble every week, it seems, I can’t imagine how...

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Democratic Assemblyman Steve Fox sued by former employee

A former employee has sued Assemblyman Steve Fox (D-Palmdale), according to court documents filed this week, alleging the freshman legislator created a hostile work environment and made her perform work for his private law practice.

Nancy Finnigan, who served as Fox's legislative director for six months, also alleged in a complaint filed Monday that Fox once indecently exposed himself to her, when she went to his apartment to bring him to a required Assembly session. Finnigan said Fox answered the door "half-naked holding a pair of pants around his waist."

Finnigan was fired in May 2013; she says in the complaint the termination was in retaliation for voicing concerns about Fox and his employees' misconduct. 

Lisa Gasperoni, campaign manager for Fox, said the allegations are "without merit."

"The timing on this thing is really interesting because we're right in the middle of one of the most contested campaigns in the state," she said, noting skeptically that "six weeks before the...

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Gov. Brown signs bill giving cities control over massage businesses

Cities will have more authority to crack down on illicit massage parlors under a new law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday.

Local government officials have complained that under current law, it is too difficult to regulate massage businesses or shut down parlors with suspected links to prostitution or human trafficking.

Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), one of three authors of the measure, said such bad actors "hijacked the massage industry and overwhelmed smaller cities who felt their hands were tied when dealing with the proliferation of these businesses." 

The newly signed measure will give local governments more authority over zoning and regulation of these businesses, allowing them to close down bad actors. It also establishes more training requirements for individuals applying for a license to be a massage practitioner.

Tony Ferrara, president of the League of California Cities, cheered the new law.

"Our cities once again have the power to regulate massage businesses just...

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New wording approved on driver's licenses for those in U.S. illegally

Federal officials have approved new wording on California driver's licenses that would be issued to immigrants in the country illegally, according to a letter from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The letter is a key step toward implementing legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year.

"We are moving forward with this design," said Jessica Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

The approved wording says "federal limits apply" on the front of the card, an indication that the license cannot be used for federally regulated purposes like boarding an airplane.

Federal officials had rejected an earlier proposed design, which only had a subtle mark on the front and a disclaimer on the back saying, "This card is not acceptable for official federal purposes."

California is scheduled to begin issuing the new licenses Jan. 1, and the debate over designing the cards has been an ongoing issue. Federal law requires the licenses to be distinguishable...

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Democrat drops his endorsement of GOP's Knight in congressional race

Adding to events that have buffeted state Sen. Stephen Knight's campaign for Congress in recent days, the former rival Democrat who had endorsed him pulled his support on Thursday.

Lee Rogers finished third in the June primary behind former state legislator Tony Strickland and Knight, of Palmdale, leaving the two Republicans to compete this fall to succeed retiring Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita). 

Under the state's top-two election system, only the first- and second-place primary finishers, regardless of party affiliation, can advance to the general election. And Rogers, a podiatrist who had challenged McKeon in 2012, threw his support to Knight soon after the spring election. He said that Knight was "honest" and had "integrity."

But on Thursday Rogers said "recent actions" caused him to change his mind.

"I consider Steve a friend," Rogers said in a statement, "but I'm just appalled at what appears to be his tone-deafness in regard to what our neighbors find appropriate."


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Knight tells Donnelly not to walk precincts for him

State Sen. Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale) said Wednesday he has told controversial GOP Assemblyman Tim Donnelly not to walk precincts for him in Santa Clarita this weekend.

 Donnelly, of Twin Peaks, arguably the Legislature's most outspoken conservative, emailed supporters earlier this week and urged them to "join me this Saturday in walking door-to-door for Steve."

After running through a list of reasons he supports Knight and urging others to contribute to the state senator's campaign, Donnelly promised to meet walkers at Republican headquarters in Santa Clarita on Saturday morning.

Knight is competing with former state legislator Tony Strickland, also a Republican, to succeed retiring Rep. Howard P. (Buck) McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) in the Nov. 4 election. 

Republicans still hold an edge in the district but registration and voting patterns have been changing along with demographics in recent years and both candidates have been courting Democrats in addition to voters of their own party.


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At GOP convention, Swearengin says she's undecided on Kashkari

The state Republican Party’s fall convention opened on a sour note Friday when the night’s keynote speaker acknowledged she might vote to reelect Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown.

Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, the star of the evening’s tribute to Republican women and a candidate for state controller, told reporters she still hadn’t made up her mind whether to vote for Brown or Neel Kashkari, his GOP opponent in the Nov. 4 election.

“I’m looking at the two candidates like other Californians are,” she said.

Swearengin’s refusal to publicly support the leader of the Republican ticket – an extraordinary event for a party gathering just weeks before voting by mail begins – could prove an asset in a state that has strongly favored Democrats over the last two decades.

But it could also embarrass Kashkari, who conceded earlier Friday in remarks to a GOP veterans group that he had “a tough mountain to climb” in his campaign to unseat the popular 76-year-old incumbent governor. Kashkari is far...

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California Republicans kick off convention in Los Angeles

Just weeks before California voters begin casting mail ballots, about 1,000 of the state’s Republicans will gather in Los Angeles this weekend at their biannual convention. This year’s theme: “Reclaim California.”

It’s a tall order for a party that is struggling -- California Republicans remain at a historic low in voter registration, are vastly outgunned financially by their Democratic rivals and are unlikely to elect a statewide candidate in November.

But the state remains critical in national politics, as reflected by the top speakers at the three-day gathering at the Marriott near Los Angeles International Airport.

Sen. Rand Paul, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, will address delegates and guests at a luncheon on Saturday. The Kentucky senator has been spending a lot of time in California, connecting with traditional donors as well libertarian-leaning constituencies as he seeks to plant a flag in the crowded GOP presidential field.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of...

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Gov. Jerry Brown vetoes anti-discrimination measure for unemployed

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a measure Wednesday that would have barred employers from discriminating against unemployed job seekers.

The bill by Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) would have prohibited employers, including the state government, from indicating that only people currently employed would be eligible for a job posting.

They would also have been banned from asking about an applicant's current employment status before determining whether that person met the minimum qualifications for a job.

In his veto message, Brown said he supported the intent of the bill, but said it could end up impeding the state programs to connect unemployed workers with employers.

"The problems facing our state's long term unemployed are great," Brown wrote. "There is no doubt that those Californians want to get back to work and I want to help them get there -- unfortunately this bill does not provide the proper path to address this problem."

Calderon said in a statement that he was "deeply...

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Tim Donnelly to walk precincts for Knight in congressional race

 GOP Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, perhaps the most outspoken conservative in the Legislature, plans to campaign this weekend  for state Sen. Stephen Knight, one of two Republicans battling to succeed a retiring congressman this fall.

Knight, of Palmdale, is competing with former state legislator Tony Strickland for the seat being vacated by Rep. Howard P. (Buck) McKeon (R-Santa Clarita).

Donnelly, an unsuccessful candidate for governor in the June primary, sent email to supporters announcing that he would be walking precincts with Knight in Santa Clarita on Saturday morning.  He urged volunteers to meet him and Knight at Republican headquarters in Santa Clarita.

"Steve and I have fought shoulder-to-shoulder to defend our 2nd Amendment Constitutional Civil Rights," Donnelly said in the email addressed "Dear Patriots."

"In contrast, Steve's opponent left the state Senate with the distinction of being one of the most anti-hunting Republican [sic] to ever serve that body,"...

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