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  • State government
  • California Legislature
  • California Democrats
Gov. Jerry Brown signs the state budget surrounded by legislative leaders on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Gov. Jerry Brown signs the state budget surrounded by legislative leaders on Wednesday in Los Angeles. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

California schools, healthcare and social services programs will see spending increases under the state budget signed Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The $201.4-billion plan, which takes effect next week, is the final budget of Brown's eight-year tenure. It is also the third consecutive blueprint that includes notably higher-than-expected tax revenue, a sizable portion of which lawmakers are diverting into the largest cash reserve in California history.

“This budget is a milestone,” Brown said at an event in Los Angeles. “We’re not trying to tear down, we’re not trying to blame. We’re trying to do something.”

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  • Ballot measures
  • 2018 election
Gov. Jerry Brown at a June 27 budget-signing announcement in Los Angeles
Gov. Jerry Brown at a June 27 budget-signing announcement in Los Angeles (Gary Coronado)

Californians will decide in November whether to borrow $2 billion to fund new housing for homeless residents.

Gov. Jerry Brown authorized the ballot measure Wednesday when he signed the state’s annual budget and related legislation. The measure would draw funding from dollars generated by Proposition 63, a 1% income tax surcharge on millionaires passed in 2004 that funds mental health services. Housing built or rehabilitated under the plan would be designated for mentally ill residents living on the streets.

This is the second try at a spending plan for Brown and state lawmakers, who first tried to approve the money without a public vote in 2016. But a Sacramento attorney and mental health advocates challenged the effort in court, arguing that the money shouldn’t be diverted from treatment programs and that legislators needed a vote of the people to authorize the funds. That case is still in litigation and the November ballot measure, if successful, would free up the money.

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  • State government
  • California Legislature
  • California Democrats

California’s public employee unions, for decades some of the state’s towering political giants, knew this day was coming.

  • Ballot measures
  • 2018 election
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

State senators advanced a proposal Tuesday that would ban local governments from approving new taxes on sodas and other sugary drinks until 2031, a bill aimed at spiking an industry-sponsored initiative that would limit the ability of cities and counties to raise any taxes.

The bill, AB 1838, is moving quickly through the Legislature in advance of a Thursday deadline for proponents of initiatives to withdraw their measures from the November statewide ballot. The beverage industry is expected to have collected enough signatures for an initiative that would prohibit local governments from increasing taxes without two-thirds support from the public, which significantly raises the current threshold.

Over the weekend, legislators introduced a bill that includes the temporary soda tax ban in an effort to stave off the initiative. Local soda taxes have become popular in recent years with public health advocates arguing that they are necessary to reduce obesity and diabetes risks.

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Electronic billboards at the Citadel Outlets shopping center in Commerce at the I-5 are part of a near tripling of such signs in the state.
Electronic billboards at the Citadel Outlets shopping center in Commerce at the I-5 are part of a near tripling of such signs in the state. (Christine Cotter / Los Angeles Times)

Faced with opposition from California counties and cities, lawmakers on Tuesday shelved a proposal that would have replaced 25 digital signs operated by the state along freeways with electronic billboards running commercial ads in addition to traffic warnings.

Lacking the votes for passage, Assemblymen Kevin Mullin of South San Francisco and Rob Bonta of Alameda pulled their bill from the Senate Transportation Committee, which needed to act on it Tuesday for it to meet deadlines for approval. 

“AB 1405 is no longer an active bill for this legislative year and Mr. Mullin does not plan to pursue the goals in AB 1405 through any other means in 2018,” Susan Kennedy, a spokeswoman for the assemblyman, said late Tuesday. “Future pursuit of this legislation would be determined only after discussions with all the involved stakeholders to make sure any and all concerns are addressed.”

  • State government
Proponents of net neutrality protest against Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai in Washington on May 5.
Proponents of net neutrality protest against Federal Communication Commission Chairman Ajit Pai in Washington on May 5. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

State Sen. Scott Wiener allowed his net neutrality bill to advance out of a committee Tuesday, but warned he is prepared to shelve the legislation if negotiations with other lawmakers fail to restore consumer protections he said were gutted from the bill last week.

The bill by the San Francisco Democrat was approved Tuesday by the Assembly Privacy and Consumer Protection Committee in order to keep it alive ahead of deadlines for legislative action on bills. But Wiener said the bill, as amended by the Assembly communications committee last week, is not acceptable and must be changed.

“To be clear, if the bill ultimately remains in its current form, I will withdraw it, as I have no desire to pass a fake net neutrality bill,” Wiener said. “But my sincere hope is that we will be able to amend it in the near future back into a strong form. For today’s hearing, I simply want the current version to move forward in order to continue working on it.” 

  • Ballot measures
  • 2018 election
Assemblyman Tim Grayson (D-Concord), left, says paint companies need to offer more dollars to clean up lead paint.
Assemblyman Tim Grayson (D-Concord), left, says paint companies need to offer more dollars to clean up lead paint. (Rich Pedroncelli)

Less than 72 hours before the deadline for voter initiatives to get on the ballot in November, major national paint companies and the California Legislature remain far apart on a deal that could jettison an initiative sponsored by the companies.

The initiative, which is expected to have gained enough signatures to go before voters in the fall, would overturn a recent state appeals court ruling that puts the companies, Sherwin-Williams and ConAgra, on the hook for potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in lead paint cleanup in homes. In its place, the initiative would authorize a $2-billion loan so that taxpayers, not the companies, would pay to clean up lead and other environmental hazards.

The companies have long said they would prefer lawmakers pass legislation that would address their concerns about the court ruling. On Monday, the two companies released a proposed bill that would overturn the court ruling, require paint manufacturers to pay $500 million for lead cleanup over the next decade and shield the companies from liability. They said Assemblyman Tim Grayson (D-Concord) would write the bill.

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  • California Legislature
  • California Republicans
Ling Ling Chang is sworn in to the California Senate by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, as Chang's husband, Andrew Wong, looks on.
Ling Ling Chang is sworn in to the California Senate by Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, as Chang's husband, Andrew Wong, looks on. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The final chapter in the removal of an incumbent California state senator — the first since 1914 — played out in Sacramento on Monday, as Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) filled the sudden vacancy by taking the oath of office.

Chang was selected by voters in the state’s 29th Senate District to replace Josh Newman, a Fullerton Democrat who was recalled from office in the same election. Newman had narrowly defeated Chang in 2016 and was only two years into his four-year term when voters removed him on June 5.

Newman became the face of GOP anger over California’s new gas tax increase, passed by the Legislature last year to fund transportation projects. He was a key vote for the plan, and lost the recall election by 58% to 42%.

  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment
The statuary, "Columbus' Last Appeal to Queen Isabella," greets visitors to the rotunda at the Capitol building in Sacramento.
The statuary, "Columbus' Last Appeal to Queen Isabella," greets visitors to the rotunda at the Capitol building in Sacramento. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Employees of the California Legislature will have a new way to register workplace harassment complaints against lawmakers, legislative staff, lobbyists and the public under a revamped policy approved by a key panel on Monday.

The Joint Rules Committee, which governs both houses of the Legislature, approved recommendations that would significantly change how sexual harassment and other complaints are investigated and adjudicated. The overhaul was prompted by a string of sexual misconduct investigations that led to the resignation of several lawmakers.

Assemblywoman Laura Friedman (D-Glendale), who chaired the committee that created the proposal, said the plan was a “radical departure” from how the Legislature had handled internal complaints in the past.