Politics ESSENTIAL POLITICS

This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Here's what we're watching right now:

  • California senators advanced three immigration-related bills Tuesday, including a proposal to fund legal aid for immigrants in the state who face deportation .
  • What has each member of California's congressional delegation said about President Trump's executive order on immigration? Find out your representative's position here .
  • California's congressional Democrats came out forcefully against Trump's immigration directives over the weekend, while Republican members of Congress held their fire .

You can find our December news feed archive here .

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In the 2018 governor's race, Gavin Newsom leads the pack in fundraising

Schwarzenegger: 'We're going through some difficult moments ... but I guarantee we will work our way out of this'

 (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Tuesday that the United States had faced trying times and political crises before, and has always persevered.

“Yes, we’re going through some difficult moments right now, as we have in the past, but I guarantee we will work our way out of this,” Schwarzenegger said, speaking at an electoral reform event at the University of Southern California.

He recalled immigrating to the United States and seeing the violent protests at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, Watergate and the economic troubles during President Jimmy Carter’s tenure.

“One thing you can count on in America is even though it falls every so often — as we all do — it dusts itself off, gets up and gets going again," Schwarzenegger said. "That is why … it’s the number one country in the world.”

Although Schwarzenegger did not mention President Donald Trump by name during his remarks, the comments appeared to be a reference to the turbulence since Trump took office less than two weeks ago.

Tensions between Schwarzenegger, who replaced Trump as the host of “Celebrity Apprentice,” and the new president and fellow Republican have been escalating. On Monday, Schwarzenegger called the implementation of Trump’s temporary ban on immigration from several Muslim-majority countries “crazy.” The previous week, Schwarzenegger slammed Trump’s pick to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma Atty. Gen. Scott Pruitt, as a hypocrite.

Earlier in January, Trump mocked Schwarzenegger for the first ratings of “Celebrity Apprentice” after the former governor took over as the host. During the presidential campaign, Schwarzenegger repeatedly made clear his disdain for Trump, pointedly casting his ballot in the California primary for Ohio Gov. John Kasich after he had dropped out.

On Tuesday, Schwarzenegger was headlining an event about redistricting reform at his namesake institute at USC. He did not respond to reporters’ questions after the event.

While governor, Schwarzenegger championed electoral reform, including an ultimately successful effort to take the redrawing of congressional and legislative districts away from politicians and give them instead to an independent commission.

Both political parties have long tried to use gerrymandering to create districts that favor their politicians.

But David Daley, author of “The True Story Behind the Secret Plan to Steal America’s Democracy,” argued that Republicans were able to make unprecedented changes in the 2010 redistricting that will have long-lasting effects on this nation’s politics because of a confluence of factors, including unprecedented technology such as mapping software, and a flood of anonymous money due to the Citizens United ruling.

“In 2010, gerrymandering enters its steroid era,” Daley said.

The end result, he said, was that while the nation remained relatively closely divided between the two parties, the GOP was able to exponentially expand its hold of statehouses, governor’s mansions and congressional seats.

Speakers urged Californians to take the lessons they had learned through the state’s redistricting reform and try to help voters apply them in other states, through the initiative, or legislative or legal systems.

“We are the model for the rest of the nation and that is why we in California have to do everything we can to pull together all the things that happen successfully in California and nationwide,” Schwarzenegger said. “Because the rest of the states are waiting for us.”

Top Democratic donor Tom Steyer is planning a larger role opposing President Trump

 (Los Angeles Times)
(Los Angeles Times)

On Sunday, Tom Steyer was holding a cardboard sign saying "not on my watch" at San Francisco's airport, one of thousands protesting President Trump's order preventing visitors from several predominantly Muslim countries.

“I went out there to participate, but also to listen," he said.

Like other liberal leaders, he's been hunting for the right approach to counter Trump. Now the deep-pocketed Democratic donor is launching a new effort that could expand the scope of NextGen Climate, the San Francisco-based organization he created and funded.

Although Steyer expects to stay active on environmental issues — the onetime hedge fund manager is best known for advocating stronger steps to fight climate change and support clean energy — he's looking to play a more expansive role in opposing Trump.

"The number of issues that have to be addressed are broader," he said in an interview, pointing to Trump's statements on issues such as voting that he considers to be a broader attack on "fundamental American rights." In a video posted on Tuesday night, Steyer says, "I promise to do everything in my power to stand up to Trump" and asks for the public's thoughts on what next steps should be taken.

Steyer spent $74 million in the 2014 midterm election, and then millions more last year to support Hillary Clinton and other Democrats. Although results have been mixed — Republicans gained ground in both years — Steyer said the experiences have positioned NextGen to educate and mobilize voters across the country.

“There are very few people who are set up organizationally to do what we’re trying to do," he said.

Steyer has already played a role in opposing Trump's nominees, running advertisements criticizing his choice for secretary of State, former Exxon Mobil Chief Executive Rex Tillerson.

Besides simply fighting Trump, Steyer also hopes to project an alternative view of the country — one that comes with a dose of California sunshine.

“America can pursue a much more optimistic, a much more prosperous, a much more equitable and a much healthier future," he said.

California in Congress

At CNN town hall, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calls Trump 'reckless' for refugee ban

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) called President Trump "reckless" and his administration "incompetent" Tuesday night for his executive order last week banning refugees and visa holders from seven countries from entering the United States.

Pelosi was participating in a CNN town hall and responding to a question from a Yemeni woman whose mother cannot enter the country, when she said, "Your family is suffering because our president is reckless."

You can see the full exchange below along with some other  highlights from the town hall.

Former aide is preparing to run for Rep. Grace Napolitano’s seat if she retires

Rep. Grace Napolitano (Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call) None
Rep. Grace Napolitano (Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk), who turned 80 last year, has not made plans to retire . But one San Gabriel Valley politician is raising funds to run in case Napolitano does decide to bow out after 10 terms in Congress.

Mary Ann Lutz, the former mayor of Monrovia and a former aide to Napolitano, reported having $101,000 in the bank to run for Napolitano's 32nd Congressional District seat, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission.

But Lutz says she will run only if Napolitano retires.

"I have enormous respect for my former boss, Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, and would never run against her for any office," Lutz said in a statement. "In the event that the 32nd Congressional District seat eventually opens up, I plan to run, and run aggressively."

Napolitano suffered a minor stroke last February that affected her ability to write and slightly slowed her walk.

She continued her reelection campaign and beat state Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina), who effectively ended his campaign in August after a judge granted his ex-wife’s request for a domestic violence restraining order against him.

During an interview with The Times a day before the November election, Napolitano said the health of her 90-year-old husband would be a key factor in her decision on whether to run for an 11th term in 2018.

"I would love to stay but it depends," she said. "I will be ready to hang it up when I am ready."

Lutz was elected in 2003 to the City Council in Monrovia, a city of 36,000 in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, and was elected mayor in 2009. She lost her reelection bid in 2015 and went on to work for Napolitano as an advisor on water issues.

Lutz raised $26,000 and loaned her campaign committee an additional $75,000. Napolitano has $144,692 in the bank if she wants to run again.

Congressional races

Repeat challenger to Xavier Becerra enters race to replace him in Congress

Villaraigosa raises a quick couple of million dollars for his gubernatorial campaign

State Senate committee votes in favor of funding legal aid for immigrants in California facing deportation

 (John Moore / Getty Images)
(John Moore / Getty Images)

A state legislative bill seeking to expand legal services for immigrants in the U.S. illegally moved out of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday on a 5-2 vote. The bill, introduced by state Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), would create a legal defense program funded with state money that would provide lawyers for immigrants caught in deportation or removal proceedings.

It comes roughly three years after the Unaccompanied Undocumented Minors program began providing state-funded legal services for young refugees fleeing gang violence in Central America.

Hueso said the measure faced new urgency given President Trump's executive orders last week on immigration.

"This is a bill protecting Californians, protecting their families,  but also protecting California's economic prominence," Hueso said. "I hope we can all stand united on this and say, 'Yes, we stand by our immigrant community in California.'"

Members of the committee raised concerns about whether it whittled away at defense services available for detainees convicted of certain crimes — and over how the state would be able to afford it amid a looming deficit and budget cuts from the federal government.

"It is well-meaning, but it is a whole different agency that we are setting up in an expedited way," Sen. Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) said.

John Chiang rakes in $4.2 million for his gubernatorial campaign, keeps spending to a minimum

First of several immigrant protection bills clears state Senate Public Safety Committee

 (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

As national debate and protests have taken place over President Donald Trump’s executive actions on immigration and refugees, the state Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday passed the first of several bills aimed at protecting immigrants in California.

Senate Bill 54 , introduced by Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), would prohibit state and local law enforcement agencies from using resources to investigate, detain, report or arrest persons for the purposes of immigration enforcement.

The proposal, dubbed the California Values Act, also aims to protect immigrants’ personal data, requiring state agencies to review their confidentiality policies and to ensure that they are only collecting information necessary to their departments.

It moved out of committee with a 5-2 vote.

The bill seeks to strengthen immigrant protections threatened under Trump’s executive actions. In orders signed last week, the president pledged to cut federal dollars from so-called sanctuary cities, which have policies limiting the cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities.

At a committee hearing Tuesday, De León said the proposal builds on the California Trust Act , which Gov. Jerry Brown signed in October 2013. The state law prevents law enforcement agencies from detaining immigrants longer than necessary for minor crimes so that federal immigration authorities can take them into custody.

A long line of immigrant advocates, lawyers and lobbyists rose in support of the bill, saying it would continue to help law enforcement officials build trust within immigrant communities and allow more victims and witnesses to report crime.

Democratic members in the committee urged their Republican colleagues to vote for the legislation and move away from Trump's rhetoric, which they said stereotyped immigrants as criminals. They pointed to low crime rates in immigrant communities and stressed that many police chiefs do not want to enforce immigration laws.

Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), chair of the committee, said people across California were under economic stress that could be manipulated into fear.

"All of us want hardened criminals prosecuted under the law," she said. "All of us. But what we are watching now is a pitting of people against each other, a targeting of immigrants."

Opponents were not swayed. They said the bill's language was too broad and could prevent communication among police agencies at different levels of government, allowing dangerous criminals to escape prosecution.

“I’m concerned that you are basically making the state of California a de facto sanctuary state,'" Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Murrieta) told De León.

California in Congress

Sen. Kamala Harris to vote no on Trump's pick to lead Education Department

State Senate committee weighs bill some say would turn California into a 'sanctuary state'

California Legislature

California lawmakers seek stricter enforcement, more transparency at state toxics control agency

Jose Gomez, at his home on South Hicks Avenue in East Los Angeles, is among thousands whose yards have been tested for contamination from the former Exide plant. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
Jose Gomez, at his home on South Hicks Avenue in East Los Angeles, is among thousands whose yards have been tested for contamination from the former Exide plant. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

Assembly Democrats unveiled a package of five bills Tuesday aimed at reforming the state agency tasked with regulating toxic substances.

The Department of Toxic Substances Control has been roundly criticized for its flat-footed response in regulating and cleaning up pollution from the now-closed Exide battery recycling plant in Vernon.

A Los Angeles Times review in 2015 found the department knew for years that the plant was violating environmental regulations but was slow to act on it.

“Too many communities, including communities I represent, have been harmed by toxic emissions that were released into their neighborhoods — emissions that could and should have been stopped," Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) said in a statement. "The goal of this legislative package is a more transparent, accountable, and responsive Department of Toxic Substances Control — and safer and healthier communities throughout California.”

The proposed legislation includes:

  • AB 245 by Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (D-Los Angeles), which would require hazardous waste facilities to comply with higher financial assurance requirements to make sure there are adequate funds for contamination cleanup.
  • AB 249 (Gomez), which would increase maximum penalties the department can assess to match what the federal government can assess in similar situations.
  • AB 248 by Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-San Bernardino), which would require hazardous waste facilities to submit permit renewals two years prior to the current permit's expiration to avoid lapses.
  • AB 246 by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago (D-Los Angeles), which would promote the use of fence line monitoring by facilities to better detect leaks.
  • AB 247 by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), which would create a statewide task force focused on reducing lead poisoning in the state.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein says she will vote 'no' on Jeff Sessions' nomination for U.S. attorney general

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced this morning that she will vote "no" on the nomination of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for U.S. attorney general. The statement comes after protestors visited Feinstein's home and office out of concern that she may vote in favor of the nomination.

“It is very difficult to reconcile for me the independence and objectivity necessary for the position of attorney general with the partisanship this nominee has demonstrated,” Feinstein said Tuesday. “We are being asked to determine whether this nominee’s record demonstrates that he will have the objectivity to enforce the law for all Americans and be an independent attorney general and not an arm of the White House."

Feinstein is the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, which votes today on the confirmation of Sessions to be President Trump's attorney general.

Feinstein pointed to former acting U.S. Atty. Gen. Sally Yates as an example of what she is looking for. Yates was fired Monday, just hours after she announced that the Justice Department would not defend Trump's controversial executive order banning refugees and travelers from certain countries.

"Yesterday, early in the evening, we clearly saw what a truly independent attorney general does…I have no confidence that Senator Sessions will do that," Feinstein said. "Instead, he has been the fiercest, most dedicated, and most loyal promoter in Congress of the Trump agenda, and has played a critical role as the clearinghouse for policy and philosophy to undergird the implementation of that agenda."

Protesters descend on Sen. Dianne Feinstein's home and office to urge 'no' vote on Sessions appointment

Dozens of protesters concerned that Sen. Dianne Feinstein could vote to confirm Sen. Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general gathered Monday evening outside her office in Santa Monica.

Several held signs bearing the familiar "No Ban, No Wall" slogan that Trump protesters have used in recent days. Others chanted, "Hey, Feinstein, hear us shout, if you don't we'll vote you out!"

Organizer Hannah Allison with Democratic Socialists for America said her group pulled together the protest over the last couple days. Word about the protest spread late Monday through social media, with many others pledging to call Feinstein's offices to register opposition to Sessions' appointment.

"People are so absolutely outraged about Sessions and they don't want to see a racist attorney general," Allison said.

Wesley Taylor, 30, said he heard about the protest through word of mouth.

"I came out here to make certain that she votes no," said Taylor, an actor.

The protest follows similar action over the weekend, when an estimated 200 protesters showed up at a park next to Feinstein's San Francisco home, urging her to vote against Sessions. Organizers of that protest told the San Francisco Chronicle that they were responding to what they felt was unresponsiveness from Feinstein's office.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Feinstein sits as the senior Democrat, is expected to vote Tuesday on Trump's appointment of Sessions. So far, Feinstein has voted with other Democrats to support Nikki Haley for the post of U.N. ambassador, James Mattis for secretary of Defense, Mike Pompeo as CIA director and John Kelly for secretary of Homeland Security.

Feinstein's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

California in Congress California politics

Where do California's members of Congress stand on President Trump's refugee order?

Noor Hindi, left, and Shah Najjar, middle, join the protest at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)
Noor Hindi, left, and Shah Najjar, middle, join the protest at the Tom Bradley International Terminal at Los Angeles International Airport on Monday. (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

Pres­id­ent Trump’s ex­ec­ut­ive or­der Fri­day, which blocked U.S. entry to refugees and na­tion­als of sev­en Muslim-ma­jor­ity na­tions, brought thou­sands of Amer­ic­ans to the na­tion’s air­ports in protest over the week­end.

Sev­er­al Demo­crats from Cali­for­nia’s 54-mem­ber con­gres­sion­al del­eg­a­tion joined con­stitu­ents at air­ports, and lob­bied cus­toms and Bor­der Patrol of­fi­cials to re­lease the de­tained visa hold­ers. Many of the state’s 14 Re­pub­lic­an rep­res­ent­at­ives were ini­tially si­lent on the ex­ec­ut­ive or­der. Sev­er­al have since voiced their sup­port, while oth­ers were crit­ic­al of the or­der’s rol­lout.

Here’s a look at what each mem­ber of the Cali­for­nia con­gres­sion­al del­eg­a­tion has said about the ex­ec­ut­ive or­der:

California state Senate passes resolution condemning President Trump's refugee ban

Protesters are held back by airport police on Sunday at LAX. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
Protesters are held back by airport police on Sunday at LAX. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

After nearly two hours of debate, the state Senate on Monday passed a resolution that condemned President Trump’s executive order banning immigrants and refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries, calling it "discriminatory overreach."

Democrats introduced the resolution after the president's order Friday spurred a weekend of protests and chaos at airports across the country. The resolution denounces Trump's actions and urges the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to comply with federal court orders permitting detainees to have timely access to counsel.

It cleared the Senate floor with a 26-11 vote largely along party lines, reflecting the national rift over Trump's immigration order. Two Republican members abstained.

On the Senate floor, Democrats called the executive order an affront on religious freedom that panders to fear and foments discrimination, and said it would not further public safety. Reaching to members across the aisle, they said the resolution was not about partisanship or opposing Trump, but about protecting American institutions.

In a fiery speech, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) said the order is unconstitutional and violates fundamental rights.

"You see this is how we end up with fascism and totalitarianism," she said.

Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles) said she did not want four more years of executive orders "crafted in the cover of darkness."

But Republican members said that President Obama had taken similar actions and that they had a duty to their constituents, who were worried about national security and a vetting process they said did not stop terrorists from entering the nation's borders. Obama has rejected comparisons of his policy to Trump's.

"We do not welcome those who have come here to harm us,"  Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said, urging a "no" vote. "We cannot ignore contemporary reality. Our enemies do not reside beyond our shores. They are within."

The resolution states that 134 million people are temporarily barred from entering or reentering the United States, including nationals with dual citizenship. Hundreds of thousands with visas are also blocked, it says.

The resolution also denounces the manner in which the executive order was executed, saying it was not fully vetted by the departments tasked with protecting the nation’s national security interests.

State attorneys general met in Florida to strategize on how to counter Trump, Becerra says

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra. (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

A joint statement by 15 attorneys general over the weekend condemning President Trump’s refugee order grew out of a meeting in Florida between California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra and some of his concerned counterparts, Becerra said Monday.

Becerra gathered Thursday in Fort Lauderdale with other attorneys general, including Washington Atty. Gen. Bob Ferguson, to strategize about responding to the Trump administration on various issues.

The meeting took place at the annual winter conference of the Democratic Attorneys General Assn.

“Several of the AGs have been in communication,” Becerra said in an interview with The Times. “We made it very clear in our joint statement that we are going to do everything we can to make sure that the unlawful, unconstitutional executive orders by the Trump administration don’t see the light of day.”

Officials who signed the joint statement included legal representatives from Washington, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont and Virginia.

On Monday, Ferguson announced he was suing Trump over the executive order that suspended refugee entries for 120 days and barred entry to the U.S. for 90 days for those traveling from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Becerra said that he had been in contact with Ferguson and that the option to pursue legal action is under consideration for California.

“That’s one of many avenues of how we are looking to approach this,” Becerra said.

As a result of the Florida meeting, Becerra said, the top lawyers from the 15 states are collaborating on how to address various Trump directives.

“Everyone is doing a little bit of something,” he said. “Everyone’s trying to figure out how best to address this.”

Florida Atty. Gen. Pam Bondi, a Republican, did not attend the meeting, Becerra said.

California congressional Democrats protest against Trump's travel ban from steps of Supreme Court

State senators debate resolution opposing Trump's immigration actions

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