This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Here's what we're watching right now:
- California lawmakers have tried for 50 years to stem the state's housing crisis. Here's why they've failed.
- Gov. Jerry Brown acted Tuesday to break up the scandal-plagued state Board of Equalization.
- Progressive activists are angry with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon who shelved a proposal to creates a single-payer healthcare system in California, calling it "woefully incomplete."
It’s not hard to understand why Faulconer didn’t want to be a sacrificial lamb for the National Republican Congressional Committee. He obviously knew what an uphill fight the campaign would be. It’s theoretically possible for a Republican to get elected governor in California next year but it’s not very likely. ... There’s no guarantee the landscape for Republicans will be better in 2022 than it will be next year, but it certainly couldn’t be much worse.
The partisan volleys have continued this week in the effort to recall state Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) over his vote to pass an increase in the gas tax. Those seeking to recall Newman submitted more than enough signatures needed to qualify the measure for the ballot, if they're all deemed valid.
Newman supporters looking to halt the recall filed a lawsuit Thursday, claiming signature gatherers had misled voters. And Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that makes changes to long-standing recall rules, an effort that Republicans have decried as an attempt by Democrats to "rig the system" to protect one of their own.
Brown seemed to double down on that measure Friday at a press conference at Cal State Dominguez Hills, where he discussed the new gas tax, calling the new recall process "eminently reasonable."
The measure allows voters up to 30 days to remove their signature from a recall petition and creates a new process to review costs associated with a recall election. Brown said the bill provides an opportunity for "people who have been hoodwinked" to change their mind.
"It's all about truth and giving people the opportunity to make sure that their vote and their signature is knowingly given," Brown. "The only people who would be against that are people who wanted to fool people and don't want to test it in court or in the light of day."
Brown's comments came after a roundtable discussion in which he and state Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Compton) spoke about the importance of directing transportation dollars raised by the gas tax increase to businesses owned by women, minorities and people who are disabled. Brown cast it as part of a larger question of equality and opportunity in America.
But the discussion took place even as Brown mused about efforts to repeal the controversial tax package, which is expected to raise $52 billion over 10 years for road repairs and other transportation projects.
"If people want to not fund the roads, then they can put something on the ballot and maybe change things," Brown said. "But I think most people in California want to fix the roads."
Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach), who is running for governor, has filed a ballot measure to repeal the gas tax.
Brown dismissed a recent poll by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, which said that a majority of registered voters oppose the gas tax increases Brown and legislators recently approved.
"That was a poll that said, 'Do you want to raise a tax?'" Brown said. "Of course people are going to say no."
Brown added that when voters are given "concrete situations" like education and roads, they're more likely to support tax increases.
"I think Californians are always leery of taxes. I'm leery of taxes," Brown said. "You want to drive around on gravel roads? I've got a gravel road out in front of my house in the country. It's not bad. But I don't think that's what people want. I think they want real, paved roads — and to have paved roads you've got to spend real money."
Times staff writer Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.
Republican San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who has been lobbied intensely by GOP leaders to run for California governor, on Friday rejected the idea and vowed to serve out his second term at city hall.
Both House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and state Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte had urged Faulconer to run.
A fiscal conservative and social moderate who has demonstrated crossover appeal by winning over Democrats, Faulconer has been seen as the GOP’s strongest potential gubernatorial candidate, and one who could help Republicans in down-ballot races if he was at the top of the ticket in 2018. But Falconer nixed the idea of a gubernatorial bid in a Facebook post Friday afternoon, saying he was "deeply honored" by "so many" encouraging him to run.
"It's a testament to the people of San Diego, and the progress we've made to create a fiscally responsible, prosperous city that is moving in the right direction. I made a pledge last year to serve out my second term as mayor, and that's exactly what I'm going to do,” Faulconer said in the post.
He was facing pressure to enter the race and GOP insiders who were familiar with his thinking believed he was leaning toward running.
Faulconer ultimately decided not to run because he did not see a certain path to victory, according to a top state party official who did not want to be identified because they were not authorized to speak for the San Diego mayor.
The last time a GOP candidate won a statewide race was in 2006.
The governor’s race already has attracted a handful of Republican candidates, but none with Faulconer's political stature. They include conservative Orange County Assemblyman Travis Allen and Rancho Santa Fe venture capitalist John Cox. Speculation is mounting that former state Assemblyman David Hadley plans to announce a run.
The Democratic heavyweights in the race include Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang.
A strong GOP top-of-the-ticket candidate would be expected to increase Republican turnout next fall. Faulconer’s decision not to run could impact some hotly contested congressional races in California, and potentially affect Republican efforts to retain control of the House of Representatives.
If a Republican gubernatorial candidate fails to make the general election, creating a Democrat-on-Democrat race in November 2018, that could depress GOP turnout and affect those targeted congressional races.
“It leaves the Republicans without an obvious front-runner that the donors would have confidence in,” said GOP strategist Rob Stutzman, who previously advised former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and 2010 GOP nominee Meg Whitman. But “it still depends on the nature of the race next November. It’s too early to say.”
Update 4:21 p.m.: This story was updated with reaction about Faulconer's decision and more information about the 2018 election.
This story was originally published at 3:30 p.m.
Gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom called on the National Rifle Assn. to take down a controversial new video that he argued villanizes political rivals and could lead to violence.
“Come after politicians. Come after policy makers. Come after ME,” Newsom wrote on his Facebook page Thursday. But “do not implicitly call for demonstrations of force against your fellow Americans in a country that is already reeling. You are powerful. People are listening to you. And your message could lead to tragedy.”
The NRA video, which urges people to join the organization, was posted earlier this month and features conservative commentator Dana Loesch talking about political rivals who she argues use the media, schools and Hollywood for sinister purposes.
The video features footage of police clashing with protesters and a bloodied Trump supporter, and flashes images such as the Hollywood sign, Disney Hall and the Los Angeles Times building as Loesch repeatedly invokes an unnamed opponent she refers to as "they."
Loesch’s concluding remarks in the minute-long video have drawn the most ire.
“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth,” Loesch said. “I’m the National Rifle Assn. of America, and I’m freedom’s safest place.”
Newsom is a longtime foe of the NRA. He was a primary sponsor of Proposition 63, a ballot measure voters approved in November that requires background checks to purchase ammunition, bans possession of high-capacity magazines and other gun-safety efforts.
On Thursday, the NRA claimed victory when a federal judge, at their attorney's request, granted a preliminary injunction blocking a related law that would have required Californians to get rid of large-capacity magazines by Saturday or face fines and potential jail time.
Newsom, the state's lieutenant governor, wrote that he felt a “chill down my spine” when he watched the video.
He said while he and the NRA have long disagreed, the video crosses the line of appropriate political debate. He described it as "dangerous" because it tells viewers “that our fellow Americans are to be feared … and even worse.”
“How does this video advance debate? How does it bring people together for common ideals? How does it do anything but cast Americans as ‘enemies’ to be defeated in a cynical ploy to sell as many weapons as possible?” he wrote.
California feeds the world with its bounty, fuels the economy with its innovation, fires the imagination with its creativity.
There is one export, though, that is far less celebrated: the unceasing torrent of outbound campaign cash.
For political fundraisers, California has long been the Big Rock Candy Mountain, excavated, mined and, ultimately, shafted by candidates of both parties who use the boodle to run for president in Iowa or New Hampshire, or Congress in East Podunk.
Now, Democratic efforts are underway to put California first, directing more campaign cash from whence it came by focusing on seven targeted House districts in the Central Valley and southern part of the state.
A federal judge Thursday granted a request by attorneys for the National Rifle Assn. to block a law that requires Californians to dispose of large-capacity ammunition magazines by Saturday or face fines and possible jail time.
U.S. District Judge Roger T. Benitez wrote in San Diego that the rights of voters who approved Proposition 63 in November have to be balanced against the rights of gun owners.
"If this injunction does not issue, hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of otherwise law-abiding citizens will have an untenable choice: become an outlaw or dispossess one’s self of lawfully acquired property," Benitez wrote. "That is a choice they should not have to make.”
C.D. Michel, an attorney for the NRA and state gun owners, welcomed the decision, which allows a lawsuit to be decided on its merits before the law takes effect.
"My clients are pleased the Court affirmed that the Second Amendment is not a second class right, and that law abiding gun owners have a right to choose to have these magazines to help them defend themselves and their families," Michel said in a statement.
There would be tougher penalties for people repeatedly caught crossing the border illegally, and millions of dollars less in federal funds for so-called sanctuary jurisdictions such as Los Angeles under two House immigration bills approved Thursday.
Both bills would fulfill President Trump’s campaign promises if they became law, but the Senate has killed similar legislation and is unlikely to be able to reach the 60-vote requirement to pass the bills.
The House voted 257 to 167, with 24 Democrats crossing party lines, to pass “Kate’s Law,” which would create harsher mandatory minimum prison sentences for people who repeatedly enter the U.S. illegally.
It is named after Kathryn Steinle, who allegedly was shot and killed in San Francisco in 2015 by Juan Francisco Lopez-Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant who had repeatedly entered the country illegally and was released from jail by sheriff’s officials despite a request by immigration officials to keep him behind bars.
Two California Democrats, Reps. Jackie Speier of Hillsborough and Eric Swalwell of Dublin, joined Republicans in voting for the bill.
Swalwell grew up with Steinle and is still in touch with her family, he said.
“This bill is not perfect, and it’s shameful that the Republicans did not allow any debate…. But it does improve our ability to punish individuals who repeatedly break the law and to deter those who may do so,” he Swalwell said in a statement.
In September 2001, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland) was the only member of Congress to object to an Authorization for the Use of Military Force, a resolution in response to the terrorist attacks that paved the way for the war in Afghanistan.
In the 16 years since, the resolution has been used by President George W. Bush, President Obama and now President Trump as justification for more than 35 military actions in nearly 20 countries around the world -- which means those presidents have not gone back to Congress for new permission to send troops into harm's way.
On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee opened the door to ending that 2001 authorization when it added Lee's amendment to a Defense Department measure. Congress would have 240 days to debate a new authorization. At the end of that time the 2001 authorization would be repealed.
Lee has lobbied hard just to get to this first step, which was approved by a voice vote in the Republican led committee.
"I've been working on this for years and years and years. I'm just really pleased that Republicans and Democrats today really understood what I've been saying and I've been explaining for the last 16 years, and that is, this resolution is a blank check for perpetual war," Lee said.
Committee members broke into applause after the unexpected vote.
Lee said Thursday she plans to personally call Speaker Paul Ryan and make the case for keeping her amendment in the bill when it gets to the House floor.
"The public wants to see a debate," Lee said. "Our young men and women in harm's way need to know their Congress is supporting them and backing them up, or not."
Supporters of state Sen. Josh Newman filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking to stop a recall campaign against the lawmaker, alleging that signature gatherers have misled voters and the petition contains false information.
The Democratic legislator from Fullerton faces a recall funded by the California Republican Party for voting with other lawmakers to increase the state’s gas tax and vehicle fees to raise $5.2 billion annually for road repairs.
On Tuesday, the state party announced it had submitted 84,988 signatures to election officials, some 20,000 more signatures than would be needed if officials determine they are valid.
The lawsuit against Secretary of State Alex Padilla was filed in Sacramento Superior Court by three residents of Newman's Senate district and paid for by the campaign against the recall. It alleges that signature gatherers misled voters to sign the petitions by saying they would repeal the car tax.
The “petition gathering campaign has misrepresented the nature of the petition by informing voters that it will ‘Stop the Gas Tax’ when it will not,” the lawsuit says. “These statements are intentionally misleading statements of fact that are false beyond dispute and mislead voters…”
The legal complaint, which also names several signature gatherers, alleges that the notice of intent to file the petition is inaccurate in saying that the tax bill provides billions of dollars for mass transit in Northern California without Newman's district benefiting from the revenue. The bill itself does not earmark where money will go, but the intent of lawmakers was that Newman’s district would benefit, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit asks that the circulation of the petition be stopped and the recall effort, using the petition as drafted, be halted.
“This suit is about nothing less than the integrity of our election process; a recall election simply should not be certified when signatures were gathered based on lies to voters,” said James Harrison, an attorney who filed the lawsuit.
Former San Diego City Councilman Carl DeMaio, an organizer of the recall, said the lawsuit is without merit.
“Josh Newman refuses to accept accountability for his disastrous vote to raise the car and gas tax and instead has chosen to blame others for the recall against him with lies and frivolous lawsuits," DeMaio said.
President Trump's voter fraud commission will not be getting the names and addresses of California's registered voters. The panel's request was denied on Thursday by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who said it would only "legitimize" false claims of massive election cheating last fall.
Padilla refused to hand over data, including the names, addresses, political party and voting history of California's 19.4 million voters. Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas who serves as vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, sent letters to all 50 states on Wednesday for information he said would help the group examine rules that either "enhance or undermine the American people’s confidence in the integrity of federal elections processes."
Padilla, though, suggested the effort is little more than a ruse.
"I will not provide sensitive voter information to a commission that has already inaccurately passed judgment that millions of Californians voted illegally," he said in a written statement. "California's participation would only serve to legitimize the false and already debunked claims of massive voter fraud made by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Kobach."
Last November, Trump tweeted that California was one of three states where "serious voter fraud" took place in the general election. No state or local elections official has found any evidence to back up the president's assertion.
Kobach's request says the panel seeks only "publicly available" information. Basic information about California voters is routinely shared with journalists, political campaigns and researchers after a written request and payment of a fee.
The letter asks for data including "information regarding any felony convictions, information regarding voter registration in another state, information regarding military status, and overseas citizen information."
Padilla also criticized the selection of Kobach to help lead Trump's commission, accusing the Kansas official of past efforts at racial profiling and suppressing voter turnout.
"His role as vice chair is proof that the ultimate goal of the commission is to enact policies that will result in the disenfranchisement of American citizens," Padilla said.
The presidential commission's first meeting is scheduled for July 19.
Volkswagen would build more electric vehicle charging stations in disadvantaged communities under an updated plan being submitted to state regulators on Thursday.
The company’s subsidiary, Electrify America, revised its proposal after an earlier version was rejected as inadequate by the California Air Resources Board.
The proposal is the first phase of an $800-million investment in the state, one piece of a much larger settlement over Volkswagen’s cheating on vehicle emission rules.
Although the money is expected to yield hundreds of new charging stations and boost California's efforts to foster the market for electric cars, it's also been a source of controversy.
State regulators want 35% of the money to be spent in disadvantaged communities, a target endorsed by the Legislature as well. Electrify America CEO Mark McNabb said, “We will strive hard to hit it.”
The updated plan adds Fresno to the list of metropolitan areas, which already included Los Angeles and Sacramento, where charging stations would be installed.
“It made sense to get out into the Central Valley,” McNabb said. “We thought that was an improvement we could make to the plan.”
The state Senate has approved payment of $2.96 million to settle three claims by men who were wrongly convicted for crimes in Los Angeles and served time in prison before they were exonerated.
The approval of the payments, amounting to $140 for each day served behind bars, next goes to Gov. Jerry Brown.
The largest payment — $1.7 million — goes to Kash Delano Register, who said he was wrongfully convicted of a 1979 murder because of a flawed LAPD investigation.
He served 34 years in prison. In 2013, the Los Angeles County Superior Court ordered that Register be released from prison after it found he had been denied due process of law and a fair trial because material exculpatory information and evidence was not disclosed.
The court acted after lawyers and students from Loyola Law School cast doubt on the testimony of a key prosecution witness.
The Los Angeles County district attorney’s office later dismissed the charges, and Register was found by the court to be factually innocent.
The Senate payment for 12,427 days served in custody is in addition to a $16.7-million settlement paid to Register by the city of Los Angeles.
The Senate also voted Thursday to pay $886,760 to Luis Vargas, who spent more than 17 years in custody before a court ruled him factually innocent of a 1998 rape.
In 2012, DNA evidence from one of the victims showed that a suspect known as the “Teardrop Rapist,” not Vargas, was the perpetrator of the rape.
The third payment, $340,620, goes to Reggie Cole, who was found factually innocent after serving time in prison for the shooting death of a man outside a South Los Angeles house of prostitution in 1995.
Los Angeles public affairs strategist Fiona Hutton is hosting a San Fernando Valley fundraiser for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Antonio Villaraigosa in July.
Hutton, who has worked on a number of statewide campaigns, also raised money for Villaraigosa during his successful campaign for mayor of Los Angeles in 2005.
The July 25 fundraiser is being held at Hutton’s office in Studio City. Tickets run $1,000 apiece. To be a “co-host,” it’ll cost $10,000.
Along with serving as president of her company, Fiona Hutton & Associates, Hutton sits on the board of directors of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.
A group of nine state attorneys general, including California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday seeking records that would clarify how the Trump administration is enforcing federal immigration law.
The request seeks the number of immigration detentions, deportations and detainer requests, and the rationale for each, as well as clarifying information on whether Trump is following through on comments that he will not target young people who were brought to the country illegally by their parents.
The attorneys general also want to know whether immigrants in the country illegally have been detained at schools, hospitals and places of worship, which the state officials feel should be off-limits for enforcement.
“Mixed messages from the Trump Administration on immigration enforcement are sowing confusion and increasing anxiety among immigrants,” Becerra said in a statement. “Today we ask the Administration to tell us what it is doing in this area.”
The data could be used in a barrage of legal challenges the states have filed against federal immigration policies.
Becerra noted that immigration-related arrests have increased nearly 40% since Trump became president, and there is concern that some of the arrests have included young people who were given a deferral from deportation under the Obama administration.
“The President’s Executive Orders, and the steps taken by the Department of Homeland Security to implement those orders, have generated new fears and uncertainties in immigrant communities across the country,” the attorneys general wrote in the request for information.
The other states represented in the request are New York, Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, Iowa, Maryland, Oregon and Hawaii.
For 50 years, California has had a law that aims to encourage developers to build housing.
But the law has failed at helping stem the statewide shortage of homes that drives California’s affordability problems. The reason? The law requires cities and counties to produce prodigious reports to plan for housing — but it doesn’t hold them accountable for any resulting home building.
Cities and counties resent the law. To avoid complying, they've asked the state to let prison beds count toward their low-income housing goals, among other things. And despite knowing about the law's weaknesses for decades, state lawmakers have provided no incentive, such as a greater share of tax dollars, for cities and counties to meet their housing goals.
Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra led a group of 10 states Wednesday in filing an court brief supporting San Francisco and other California communities that challenged President Trump’s executive order to withhold federal funds from “sanctuary jurisdictions.”
After the local governments won a preliminary injunction against the order, the Trump administration asked the courts to dismiss the cities’ lawsuit.
The brief filed by Becerra argues that public safety is improved when local law enforcement agencies focus on crime prevention instead of helping federal authorities enforce immigration laws.
“The Trump Administration does not have the right to coerce states, counties or municipalities to do the federal government's job,” Becerra said in a statement. “California’s state and local law enforcement officials are in the business of public safety, not of deportation. Threatening public safety funding to compel localities to do immigration work is a dangerous game that undermines public safety.”
After more than four years, a legal challenge to California's cap-and-trade program has reached an unsuccessful conclusion.
The end came on Wednesday when the California Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal from business groups who consider the program to be an unconstitutional tax.
The program requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gases, a system intended to provide a financial incentive to reduce emissions.
The law that provided the program's foundation was not passed with a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, the legal threshold for new taxes, sparking lawsuits from the California Chamber of Commerce and the Pacific Legal Foundation.
A state appeals court rejected their arguments in April, but they appealed. Business groups were also concerned the decision was too broad and could open the door to additional taxes.
Despite the state's victory in court, there are other legal questions around cap and trade. Gov. Jerry Brown is pushing lawmakers to extend the program past 2020 with new legislation.
“With this Supreme Court victory, now it’s up to us to take action extending California’s cap-and-trade system on a more permanent basis," Brown said in a statement.
This story has been updated with a statement from the governor.
Two months after a state audit found mismanagement at the University of California, Democratic state lawmakers on Wednesday blocked a Republican legislator’s proposal to have auditors go back in and look deeper at spending, this time with an eye for possible criminal activity.
Assemblyman Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita) said the follow-up examination was justified after an audit in April found the UC Office of the President had failed to disclose a $175-million budget surplus to the Board of Regents and the public, was paying excessive salaries and expenses and had inadequate financial safeguards in place to prevent abuse.
The lack of controls, the audit concluded, was “putting millions of dollars at risk of abuse.”
“I am fighting to return trust in the institution of the UC Office of the President for students, parents, faculty and staff,” Acosta said. “Only complete transparency can accomplish that goal.”
However, no Democratic lawmakers on the Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted to authorize a new audit, so the motion failed. Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) said the university administration should be given time to address the recommendations of its recent audit.
“I believe this request is premature,” he said.
State Auditor Elaine Howle said Wednesday in response to a legislator’s question that she did not find any evidence of misuse of funds. “We didn’t see anything nefarious,” Howle told the panel.
UC President Janet Napolitano said funds were not hidden, but she has agreed to adopt policies to make the budget process more transparent. Monica Lozano, chairwoman of the UC Board of Regents, told the legislative committee Wednesday that a new audit is “unnecessary” and may interfere with the system’s implementation of recommendations from the last audit, including the hiring of an accountant to look at UC spending.
Backers of a measure to establish a single-payer healthcare system in California rallied at the Capitol on Wednesday to renounce Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), who shelved the bill last week.
Several hundred demonstrators, many affiliated with the California Nurses Assn., the legislation's sponsor, convened in the Capitol rotunda, where they unfurled a banner that blared "Inaction = Death," before handing off signs with written complaints to a member of Rendon's staff.
The rally, on the heels of a smaller demonstration at Rendon's district office on Tuesday, is a sign of how single-payer backers continue to seethe after the bill, SB 562, stalled on Friday.
Patty Estefes, a retired nurse from San Jose, said the campaign for single-payer heathcare, in which the government would cover all residents' healthcare costs, was her passion.
"Rendon sabotaged SB 562 and we want to take the knife out," said Estefes, explaining her sign, which had an image of the California grizzly bear stabbed in the back with a blade labeled "Rendon."
The image has become popular among supporters of the bill, although other Democrats have said the violence of the image makes them uneasy.
Meanwhile, another union leader, Robbie Hunter of the powerful State Building and Construction Trades Council of California, chimed in Wednesday with support for the state Assembly speaker.
"Working people have real fights, and they are not with a labor champion like Anthony Rendon," said Hunter, who denounced the criticism from single-payer advocates as "unfair and unwarranted attacks."