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

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454 posts
  • 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.

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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.

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.”

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  • 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.”

A line of people stretches around the South L.A. location of a California Department of Motor Vehicles office on Aug. 7.
A line of people stretches around the South L.A. location of a California Department of Motor Vehicles office on Aug. 7. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has decided to implement new quality control on its voter registration process following Monday’s revelation of as many as 1,500 non-citizens being wrongly registered to vote.

“This will ensure that only those persons who have attested to their eligibility to vote under California law are transmitted to your office,” DMV Director Jean Shiomoto and California Department of Technology Director Amy Tong said in a letter on Friday to California Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

DMV officials said they will begin checking representative samples of voter registration documents to ensure accuracy before those applications are processed.

The Orange County Transportation Authority provides bus services and improvement projects, including a planned widening of the 405 Freeway.
The Orange County Transportation Authority provides bus services and improvement projects, including a planned widening of the 405 Freeway. (Los Angeles Times)

An initiative to repeal an increase in California’s fuel taxes and vehicle fees may force a reduction of bus service in Orange County and elimination of some transit jobs, officials and union leaders said Friday.

Members of Teamsters Union Local 952 rallied against Proposition 6 outside the headquarters of the Orange County Transportation Authority, saying repeal of transportation taxes approved by the Legislature in Senate Bill 1 could force an 11% cut in the budget for bus operations, jeopardizing nearly 200 jobs.

“We were able to avoid service cuts and job losses because of SB 1, but now if this goes through we’re going to have a bunch of job losses and we’re going to have a negative impact on the traffic,” said Patrick D. Kelly, the secretary-treasurer for the union local.

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For years, Rep. Devin Nunes and the Fresno Bee got along just fine. But now, facing his first serious election challenge in years, the Central Valley congressman is on the attack — not against his Democratic opponent, but his district’s largest newspaper and what he calls its “band of creeping correspondents.”