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Welcome to Essential Politics, our in-the-moment look at California political and government news. 

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458 posts

Democrats have yet to win a House majority and Nancy Pelosi’s return as speaker is by no means certain, but already she has one eye on the exits.

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Republican Reps. Mimi Walters of Laguna Beach and Steve Knight of Palmdale are both staunch allies of President Trump. But only Walters is getting trashed for it in Democratic attack ads.

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Cities and law enforcement leaders say a state proposal to allow pot delivery to homes would increase crime.
Cities and law enforcement leaders say a state proposal to allow pot delivery to homes would increase crime. (Mathew Sumner / Associated Press)

Despite objections from cities and police chiefs, state officials on Friday declined to drop a proposal allowing marijuana firms to deliver to homes everywhere in California, including in areas that have banned pot shops.

The proposed rule, which was made public in July, was opposed by the League of California Cities, which represents the state’s 482 municipalities, and the California Police Chiefs Assn., which said it would jeopardize public safety.

But the state Bureau of Cannabis Control announced Friday that it is moving forward with the proposed rule after a series of public hearings and after weighing hundreds of comments from residents and interested parties.

  • State government
A row of houses in Santa Rosa, Calif., lies in ruins in October 2017 as fires swept through wine country.
A row of houses in Santa Rosa, Calif., lies in ruins in October 2017 as fires swept through wine country. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

It’s been a year since Sonoma County and other Northern California counties were hit with devastating wildfires that led to dozens of deaths and the destruction of thousands of homes.

On this episode of Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast, we speak with Santa Rosa Mayor Chris Coursey about rebuilding efforts in his city, and resident John Thill, who lost both his home and business in the fires. 

With less than three weeks before the election, we also break down how gubernatorial candidates Gavin Newsom and John Cox handled housing questions in their lone debate, and discuss the latest polling and fundraising for Proposition 10, the initiative that would expand rent control across the state.

  • 2018 election
Republican candidate for governor John Cox on tours skid row in downtown Los Angeles.
Republican candidate for governor John Cox on tours skid row in downtown Los Angeles. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

After months of criticizing his opponent for his record on homelessness as mayor of San Francisco, Republican John Cox took his campaign for governor to Los Angeles’ skid row on Tuesday, where he promised to provide more housing and services for Californians in need.

As he toured the downtown neighborhood, home to a large homeless population, Cox likened the area to a "third-world country.”

“It is absolutely not compassionate to let people live on this street,” Cox told reporters. “This is 21st century California. This is not Bangladesh.”

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  • State government
Envelopes addressed to the Franchise Tax Board arrive in Sacramento.
Envelopes addressed to the Franchise Tax Board arrive in Sacramento. (Laura Morton / For the Los Angeles Times)

Californians paid some $1 billion in taxes above official projections during the first three months of the state’s fiscal year, in what could be a major boost to the government’s bottom line once Gov. Jerry Brown leaves office in January.

A monthly report issued Tuesday by the state Department of Finance attributed most of the unexpected revenue — $990 million — from personal income taxes paid between July 1 and Sept. 30. Sales taxes were slightly below expectations written into the budget crafted by Brown and state lawmakers in June, while corporation tax revenues were slightly above forecasts.

The new tax windfall comes on the heels of successive years in which revenues have bested expectations, a streak that has allowed the state to push toward its largest long-term cash reserve ever — $13.8 billion by next summer. But the surprise cash from the state government’s first quarter could be erased by weaker revenue collections in the coming months.

An office tower in downtown Los Angeles
An office tower in downtown Los Angeles (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Californians could face a major decision two years from now about whether to increase property taxes for businesses after a ballot initiative qualified for the November 2020 ballot on Monday.

The initiative would tax commercial and industrial properties at their market values, resulting in the higher tax bills. Currently, all properties are taxed based on a value tied to when they were purchased, a system put in place under Proposition 13 in 1978. The initiative would leave those tax restrictions in place for homeowners. 

A coalition of education and social justice advocates is behind the 2020 initiative, noting that the effort could raise as much as $10 billion annually in new tax revenue, according to an analysis by the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.

  • Congressional races
  • 2018 election
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine)
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine) (Gregory Bull / Associated Press)

Rep. Duncan Hunter, the indicted Republican from Alpine, has doubled down on unfounded attacks on his opponent with a letter signed by three retired Marine Corps generals that accused the Democrat of being “a national security risk.”

Hunter, who has pleaded not guilty to federal fraud charges of misusing campaign contributions, has labeled Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar a security risk in a widely condemned ad and has sought to tie Campa-Najjar to radical Islamists. The ad said Campa-Najjar — whose Mexican American mother raised him after his Palestinian father left the family — was trying to “infiltrate Congress.” Campa-Najjar, 29, is Christian and held a security clearance while working in the Obama administration. Campa-Najjar responded to the letter calling Hunter’s attacks on him “pathological.”

Roger White, Hunter’s campaign manager, said the three retired generals wrote the letter independent of the campaign, but that the campaign paid to reprint and distribute it. A picture of the letter was posted online Sunday evening.

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Former state Sen. Roderick Wright at a court hearing in 2014.
Former state Sen. Roderick Wright at a court hearing in 2014. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

An attorney for Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday asked the state Supreme Court to recommend whether former state Sen. Rod Wright should be pardoned for his felony convictions in 2014 on charges of voter fraud and perjury for lying about living in his district.

The request by the governor’s legal secretary, Peter A. Krause, was the next formal step in a process that began when the California Board of Parole Hearings recommended a pardon last month.

“The crimes for which Sen. Wright was convicted —  … perjury, false declaration of candidacy, and fraudulent voting — were non-violent in nature,” Krause wrote to the Supreme Court. “Moreover, Sen. Wright has devoted much of his life to public service, including serving six years in the California State Senate and six years in the California Assembly. Since his conviction, Sen. Wright has been employed as a consultant on government affairs and is an adjunct professor.”

  • 2018 election
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. (Los Angeles Times)

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom didn’t mention Gov. Jerry Brown by name on Friday after he toured a facility for homeless veterans in San Diego. But the Democratic gubernatorial candidate had some not-so-subtle criticism of the governor.

On homelessness, California has to “have a governor that is actually focused on these issues, which has not been the case for decades in this state,” Newsom said. “Governors have not campaigned on homelessness, governors haven’t talked about homelessness, that’s about to change in 25 days.”

Brown has faced repeated criticism for not making homelessness a bigger priority. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti complained earlier this year about Brown’s last State of the State speech, saying “there wasn’t one mention of homelessness. We need the state to step up.”