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(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown offered a high-stakes assessment on Wednesday of fears that California’s utilities might buckle under the weight of billions of dollars in fire-related payments. And he urged lawmakers to take action to revamp liability law when they return to work next week.

“There is concern that we could lose our utilities,” Brown said of possible investor-owned utility company bankruptcies during a news conference at an emergency operations headquarters in Sacramento. “And if we do that, our whole program, of trying to deal with renewable energy and mitigate climate change, would be adversely affected.”

The governor offered a draft proposal to lawmakers last week that would loosen the strict liability that utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric Co. now bear following fires like the deadly blazes that swept through Napa and Sonoma counties last year.

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  • California Legislature
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Legislative officials said Wednesday that they had closed the case on sexual harassment complaints against a former high-ranking Assembly staff member, six months after disclosing earlier allegations against him and other top staffers.

The investigation into the conduct of Pedro Reyes, who left his job last December as chief consultant to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, concluded he had violated sexual harassment policy. The documents, which were redacted to keep his accuser’s identity private, outlined allegations that Reyes had “forcibly kissed her on the lips” and had given her unwelcome hugs over a period of time spanning more than a year.

“Although you are no longer an Assembly employee, you were subject to the provisions of the Assembly’s policy when you were working for the Assembly,” said the July 12 letter signed by Debra Gravert, the Assembly’s chief administrative officer.

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The activists behind the “Calexit” proposal to cleave California are scrapping their old plans in favor a new secessionist proposal, one that would create what organizers call an “autonomous native nation” within a new independent state.

  • Ballot measures
  • 2018 election
Renters facing eviction confront anti-rent-control advocates at the offices of Beachfront Property Management in Long Beach in June
Renters facing eviction confront anti-rent-control advocates at the offices of Beachfront Property Management in Long Beach in June (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times)

Opponents of expanding rent control in California raised nearly $10 million through the first half of this year, the beginning of what’s expected to be one of the costliest fights on the state’s November ballot.

Top donors to the campaign include apartment developers Essex Property Trust of San Mateo and Equity Residential of Chicago, which gave $2.3 million and $1.7 million respectively, according to state campaign finance reports released this week. The California Apartment Assn. has estimated its members will raise approximately $60 million to defeat the initiative, Proposition 10.

Rent control proponents raised $2.4 million in the first half of the year with almost all of it coming from the Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation. The campaign spent the lion’s share of that money on signature gathering to ensure Proposition 10 qualified for the ballot. Supporters of expanding rent control have said they expect to run a well-funded campaign, but that the opposition will outspend them.

  • State government
  • 2018 election
Shown is the design for a roadway sign mentioning funds from California's new gas tax increase.
Shown is the design for a roadway sign mentioning funds from California's new gas tax increase. (Caltrans)

An Orange County state senator, who won a special election in June that was triggered by California’s recent gas tax increase, wants transportation officials to remove the signs that point out road repairs paid for with the funds.

Sen. Ling Ling Chang (R-Diamond Bar) wrote to California Department of Transportation officials last week to protest the signs as “inappropriate,” given voters might repeal the tax hike in November with Proposition 6.

“No matter what the issue, it is not the job of taxpayer-funded state departments to influence public opinion on matters considered on the ballot,” Chang wrote in a letter to Laurie Berman, the director of Caltrans.

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  • Governor's race
  • 2018 election
  • California Republicans
Former gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen, left, has endorsed fellow Republican John Cox in the race.
Former gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen, left, has endorsed fellow Republican John Cox in the race.

Nearly two months after the primary, former gubernatorial candidate Travis Allen has endorsed fellow Republican John Cox in the race.

“It's time we put the Primary past us and UNITE to WIN IN NOVEMBER,” Allen tweeted on Sunday to back his onetime rival. “Join TODAY, and together let’s TAKE BACK CALIFORNIA!!”

Cox responded by complimenting Allen.

Seattle's skyline
Seattle's skyline (Robert E. Klein / Associated Press)

Seattle is booming. 

It’s seen some of the highest growth among large cities in recent years, as Amazon and other tech-fueled job gains has added pressure to boost housing production. Home prices have grown about $200,000 in the past two years, but rents are starting to level off and prices remain below those in the Bay Area.

On this episode of Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Pod, we speak with Seattle Times reporter Mike Rosenberg about how Seattle approaches housing issues compared with California. Rosenberg, who has one of the most widely followed Twitter accounts on housing issues, also talks about how he spots trends in political debates across the country.

  • State government
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown will keep his imprint on the state’s powerful climate change agency beyond his time in office following an agency vote Thursday.

The California Air Resources Board, the state’s climate change and air quality regulator, granted 11 of its 14 members terms beyond the end of this year. The decision ensures that the next governor — either Democrat Gavin Newsom or Republican John Cox — won’t be able to appoint a majority of the board’s leadership for the entirety of his first term in office unless existing positions become vacant.

“I’m sure the next governor will be OK with a few of the folks here remaining on the board,” member Hector De La Torre said during debate on the measure.

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(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein leads fellow Democrat and state Sen. Kevin de León by 46% to 24% among likely voters in the race for the seat she’s held since 1992, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Just 9% of likely voters reported being undecided, leaving De León with little room to close the gap in the roughly 100 days left until the election.

The poll found that 47% of Republicans and 24% of independents say they don’t plan to vote in the Senate race at all.

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, left, and Democratic rival Gavin Newsom.
Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, left, and Democratic rival Gavin Newsom. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times; Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has a dominant lead over the wealthy Rancho Santa Fe businessman John Cox in the race for California governor, according to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Opportunities for Cox to pick up support before the November election also appear to be limited, with just 9% of likely voters saying they were undecided.

“The electorate is very polarized today. For Republicans it’s hard to imagine voting for a Democrat. For Democrats, it’s hard to imagine voting for a Republican,” institute President Mark Baldassare said.