This is Essential Politics for August 2017. Find our daily look at California political and government news over here.
A state Assemblywoman has shelved her bill to make "stealthing," or tampering with a condom during sex, a form of rape under California law, saying it did not have enough support to win approval this year.
In a statement, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) said she would commit to educating lawmakers on the issue and holding ongoing discussions to file a similar proposal next legislative session.
"I, and others, believe stealthing is a violation of informed consent, and sex without consent in California is rape," said Garcia, who last year helped expand the legal definition of rape in the state.
The latest version of the bill would have made it a crime of felony sexual battery to remove or tamper with a condom during sex. It also went further, making it a felony to lie about being on birth control or another form of contraception other than a condom.
"Some of the amendments I was asked to make are simply inconsistent with my beliefs on this issue," she said in her statement. "I don’t want the matter to die a legislative death, so I’ve opted to postpone hearings this year to address the concerns raised."
A section of the 5 Freeway in the northeast San Fernando Valley will be named after rock ’n’ roll icon Ritchie Valens, who grew up in the area and had a stellar career before he died in a plane crash.
Valens, whose hits included “La Bamba,” “Come On, Let’s Go” and “Donna,” will have his name put up on signs along a stretch of the interstate between the 170 and 118 freeways that will be named the Ritchie Valens Memorial Highway.
The state Legislature gave final approval to the honor last week, and Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), who authored the proposal, said Thursday that private funds are being raised, as required by state law, to pay for the signs.
“His music inspired and influenced a generation of Chicano artists in our community and throughout the world,” Bocanegra said. “It’s only fitting to name this segment of the I-5 after a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer who grew up right here in Pacoima.”
The honor was appreciated by the late star's sister Connie Valens, who said in a statement released by the legislator’s office that the singer was “not only a rock ’n’ roll pioneer, but a role model for artists and youth all over the world.”
Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled on Thursday his plan for spending cap-and-trade revenue, prioritizing cleaner vehicles and improving air quality.
Roughly $1.5 billion, all generated by the sale of permits required to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is available to be spent by the governor and lawmakers.
Brown wants the biggest chunk of the money, $607.5 million, to be used on financial incentives for cleaner cars, trucks, buses and farm vehicles.
Reducing pollution from transportation has been a stiff challenge for the state. Lawmakers have already proposed using even more cash than outlined in the governor's proposal to help replace diesel engines.
The governor also suggested spending $350 million to improve air quality in polluted communities. The money would help implement Assembly Bill 617, a companion measure to Assembly Bill 398, which extended the cap-and-trade program until 2030.
Some of the money would help pay for monitoring criteria air pollutants and toxic contaminants, and more would be available to support plans devised by local regulators to reduce air pollution.
Another significant sum would be used to help take care of the state's forests, including $200 million for fire prevention.
Gov. Jerry Brown is collecting more stamps on his passport this year.
After a trip to China in June, he's jetting to Russia next week, his office announced. Brown will speak to international government and business leaders about the need to combat climate change at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.
Brown said the forum on trade "isn’t just an occasion to promote investment, it’s an opportunity to strengthen our commitment to decarbonizing the economy."
The governor is scheduled to arrive in Russia on Tuesday and return to California on Friday. On his way to the conference, he's planning to stop in Alaska to meet with scientists and researchers studying climate change.
This won't be Brown's last international trip this year. He's also attending the next United Nations conference on climate change in Bonn, Germany, in November.
Supervised drug injection centers where users would be able to receive addiction treatment could be coming to California.
Legislation authored by Assemblyman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) would allow eight counties — Alameda, Fresno, Humboldt, Los Angeles, Mendocino, San Francisco, San Joaquin and Santa Cruz — to pilot supervised drug injection centers by 2022.
The bill, which has passed the Assembly, is awaiting a vote in the state Senate.
"Let's get needles out of the playground," Eggman said at a Thursday press conference at the Capitol. "Let's save some peoples' lives and get people into treatment."
There are no supervised injection centers in the U.S. Two safe-injection sites have been proposed in Washington state's King County, and opponents have qualified a ballot initiative to allow voters to determine whether the centers should be banned. A handful of cities in Washington have already moved to ban safe-injection sites.
Senate Republicans have expressed concerns that Eggman's bill would create "government-run drug dens" that support activity that violates federal law.
A coalition of Los Angeles-area law enforcement agencies including the California Narcotic Officers Assn., Peace Officers Assn. of Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles Police Protective League also opposes the legislation.
There were 2,375 opioid-related overdose deaths statewide in 2013, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.
"When we have an epidemic such as this ... It is time to do something different than we've been doing," Eggman said.
On the day that changed his life, Gregory Cheadle almost stayed in bed.
He was tired — he traveled a lot in his long-shot bid for Congress — but asked himself: How often does a candidate for president come to the far reaches of Northern California? And why pass up a crowd and the chance to hand out more fliers?
So Cheadle roused himself that June 2016 morning and secured a spot up close when Donald Trump swooped in for a rally at Redding’s municipal airport.
It was hot, the atmosphere was loose and Trump’s patter seeming more stand-up comedy than campaign spiel. He went into one of those sidelong digressions, about protesters and an African American — “great fan, great guy” — in the audience.
“Look at my African American over here!” he exclaimed. “Are you the greatest?”
Cheadle and those around him laughed; it was a hoot.
But many who saw that moment were not amused. They were angry and outraged. “My African American,” Trump said, as if Cheadle were his slave, and they turned their anger and outrage on Cheadle when he failed to respond in kind.
However, today Cheadle says he was unfairly portrayed and criticizes Trump's promise to help the African American community as empty rhetoric.
A proposal to fast-track a new arena in Inglewood for the Los Angeles Clippers remains on the table at the Capitol, said the state senator who represents the city.
“If it’s needed, we’re definitely going to introduce it,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena).
In recent years, state lawmakers have passed bills helping possible arenas and football stadiums up and down California. The measures have aimed, for the most part, to provide relief from potential lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act by speeding up court-decision deadlines or halting a judge’s ability to block construction, even if it found the project's environmental review didn't adequately study traffic problems or had other flaws.
Bradford has yet to formally propose a measure, but said his goal was to provide similar benefits to the planned Clippers arena. Currently, such projects can apply for speedier court review without special legislation. Bradford said he was weighing whether that process gave enough assistance to the Clippers.
“This is a major opportunity for the city of Inglewood, a city that has been written off for many years,” he said.
Bradford has until Sept. 12 to introduce the bill for passage before the Legislature adjourns for the year on Sept. 15.
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence might want to talk with Orange County Rep. Dana Rohrabacher about his meeting this month with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
CNN reported Thursday that two sources confirmed that the committee members are deciding if they will call on Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) to testify as part of its ongoing investigation into Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 election and what the Trump campaign might have known. It's one of several congressional investigations into the issue.
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times last week, Rohrabacher said that during his meeting with Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, the fugitive "emphatically stated that the Russians were not involved" in the theft of Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. The emails were published by WikiLeaks and put Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on the defensive for much of the campaign. The belief of the majority of U.S. intelligence agencies is that Russia played a role in stealing and leaking the emails.
Rohrabacher said on Sean Hannity's radio show earlier this week that a "rendezvous" is being set up with President Trump so the congressman can tell him more about what he learned from Assange.
Rohrabacher's spokesman, Ken Grubbs, said "he’s not yet been contacted by the Senate Intel Committee, but will be happy to talk with them after he’s talked with President Trump."
The House Democratic campaign arm jumped at the CNN report, with spokesman Tyler Law saying in a statement that Rohrabacher "has no business chairing the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee that oversees Russia." They called on House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) to strip his colleague of his subcommittee post.
Democrats are hoping to oust Rohrabacher and Royce in 2018.
Royce has given Rohrabacher, and his at-times-outside-of-the-Republican-mainstream views toward Russia, a lot of leeway over the years. He has stepped in occasionally, including halting a planned hearing over the Russia sanctions that led the country to ban adoptions to the United States, and squashing Rohrabacher's plans to visit Russia last spring as the House and Senate investigations heated up.
Rohrabacher's interest in improving relations with Russia has been long-known in Congress, and the Republican has previously told The Times that he sees his continued role leading the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats as proof his colleagues don't demean his view.
“I have no complaints that my colleagues have in any way shut me out of consideration of what I’m saying or belittled me for taking a position that is clearly not the position of the vast majority of the establishment of our country,” he said in a February interview. “If they wanted to be unfair to me, all they would have to say is, 'Well, we don’t like your point of view and this is an important job, you’re not going to be the chairman anymore,' and that’s not happened.”
I have not made any decision on that. I'm here to lobby for housing today.
Driving into a group of protesters could be considered domestic terrorism in California.
A measure by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) would consider the act an infringement on free speech and assembly.
Although it is already illegal to use a vehicle as a weapon, Lara said attacks against peaceful protesters need to be treated differently.
"California needs to be strong in defense of our constitutional rights and say there is no margin for error in a car vs. protester attack," he said in a statement. "Unless we act now these kinds of attacks could become more common."
The change is in response to the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va. She was killed this month when a man drove his car into a group of counter-protesters demonstrating against white supremacy.
In the last year in other countries there have been a number of terrorist attacks using vehicles.
Anyone who uses a motor vehicle to kill or injure a group expressing a political position could face two to four years in state prison, according to the California bill.
If someone dies or is seriously injured, the driver could face life in prison without the possibility of parole or 25 years to life in state jail.
People who drive away from violence “in reasonable fear” and officers who use a motor vehicle “in a safe and reasonable manner” to direct crowds and respond to emergencies are exempt from charges under the proposal.
Lara's bill is a late entrant in the legislative debate, quickly cobbled together two weeks before the year's session ends.
Legislators in Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas have introduced similar bills.
Sen. Kamala Harris will co-sponsor a Medicare-for-all plan proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), she told Californians at a town hall in Oakland on Wednesday.
The freshman Democratic senator from California has previously said she supports the concept of universal healthcare, but this is the first time she has explicitly said she would join Sanders when he files the bill. The House version of the measure, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), has 117 sponsors, including 27 California Democratic House members.
The idea of single-payer healthcare has grown in popularity among Democrats since the 2016 election, with some members of the so-called Sanders wing of the party urging Democrats to use support for it as a litmus test in 2018.
Such a program is unlikely to become law while Republicans control both chambers of Congress.
Sanders quickly jumped to thank Harris on Twitter on Wednesday.
Top lawmakers promised Wednesday to put a bond measure on the 2018 statewide ballot to fund parks and water improvements.
“More parks is not just a wish, it's not just a dream, it's not just an ideal, it is a real need,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) said at a rally outside the Capitol. “We see that all over the state.”
Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said they’re negotiating details of a measure that, if approved by voters next year, would spend billions to build and maintain parks and water infrastructure. Gov. Jerry Brown also has agreed to support a water and parks bond.
Among the issues left to be worked out is how much the bond would raise. Earlier this week, Brown, Rendon and De León announced their support for a $4-billion bond to fund the construction of low-income housing and provide home loans for California veterans.
De León said spending on housing would be greater than water and parks.
“The housing bond, given the real need that's out there, will be supreme,” De León said.
Two groups outside the Legislature also have pitched ballot initiatives for 2018 to fund water and parks improvements. Those measures, one backed principally by the Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund and similar groups and the other by other environmental and agriculture interests, would each authorize more than $7 billion in spending.
De León said negotiations involved trying to mollify those outside interests so they would abandon their efforts.
“We don't want several ballot initiatives working at odds with each other, confusing the voters,” he said.
The Trump administration is expected to ask Congress for billions of dollars to address the disaster caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. But after congressional Republicans' extremely public fight over an aid package for 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, attention is turning to GOP members who voted against it.
Eight Republicans currently in the California congressional delegation were among the 179 Republicans and one Democrat who voted against that bill.
Most of their offices did not return emails asking how the congressmen plan to vote on an expected, but not yet public, Harvey aid package.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher's spokesman, Ken Grubbs, said the Costa Mesa congressman's vote would depend on what's in the bill, including whether there is funding for non-emergency projects.
"He doesn’t want any boondoggly poison pills," he said.
It took Congress more than 60 days to approve the $50.5-billion relief package to help Sandy's victims rebuild in 2013. Republicans who voted against the bill said they opposed it because it was filled with unrelated, non-emergency projects. Others wanted the Sandy relief offset by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.
At the time, Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove said that “a tragedy like Hurricane Sandy shouldn’t be used for a grab-bag of spending."
Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik took a look Monday at the more than 20 members of the Texas congressional delegation who, along with their U.S. senators, voted against the Sandy relief bill, and whether East Coast Republicans might punish Texans in retaliation. (Some members from the areas affected by Sandy have hinted they don't plan to do so.)
Here's the breakdown of how the California Republicans who are still in Congress voted on Sandy relief:
- Rep. Doug LaMalfa of Richvale: No
- Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove: No
- Rep. Paul Cook of Yucca Valley: No
- Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock: Yes
- Rep. David Valadao of Hanford: Yes
- Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare: Did not vote
- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield: Yes
- Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton: No
- Rep. Ken Calvert of Corona: No
- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa: No
- Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista: No
- Rep. Duncan Hunter of Alpine: No
Republican Reps. Steve Knight of Palmdale and Mimi Walters of Irvine were not yet elected to Congress when the vote was taken.
Several of the Republicans who voted against the Sandy bill represent areas Democrats are targeting in the 2018 election.
All the California Democrats who voted on the Sandy bill voted in favor of the aid. Reps. Jackie Speier of Hillsborough and Grace Napolitano of Norwalk did not vote.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that California’s next governor must do more than simply build upon Gov. Jerry Brown’s legacy because of the massive economic transformation and uncertainty the state will face in coming years.
“There are certain trend lines that are not yet headlines that to me require a different kind of engagement,” Newsom said, pointing to demographic changes, worker skills shortages, debt and workers being displaced by automation. “Short-term-ism has got to be replaced with some long-term thinking on these issues. And the governor’s just been brilliant at solvency and triage and getting the state back on its feet, but the next governor, I think, is going to really need to lean in on these deeper, bigger issues.”
Newsom made the remarks in an interview with the Times after addressing a breakfast gathering of the Orange County Forum, which hosts conversations about public policy issues. During his speech, Newsom said the state and the nation are at critical points in their history because of the impending economic changes.
“Something big is happening here,” he said. “We’re at a hinge moment.”
Newsom said he is focusing on the threat of automation, which he said will replace millions of jobs for fast-food workers, cashiers and truck drivers. Newsom said the next governor must be prepared to confront what this means for the state's workforce and education system, likely during another recession.
“This isn’t a time to be timid. I’m not running for governor to play in the margins. I have no interest in doing a little bit more, a little bit less,” he said. “What we need is leadership, not stewardship.”
Assembly Republicans said Wednesday they will introduce a constitutional amendment that would close what they call a potential loophole making it easier to enact local tax measures.
The announcement comes on the heels of a California Supreme Court ruling on Monday that local ballot initiatives imposing new taxes for specific purposes may need only a simple majority of voters to approve.
The new proposal would prevent influential interest groups from using initiatives to pass "pet projects and programs," Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) said at a state Capitol news conference.
The effort would change the California Constitution to make clear that a supermajority of voters must approve any local tax increase that's placed on the ballot by citizen groups.
Under California's landmark tax law, Proposition 13, local taxes for specific needs are subject to approval by two-thirds of voters. A second ballot measure in 1996, Proposition 218, expanded voter approval to nearly all local taxes.
Mayes hopes the amendment, which must be placed on the ballot by the Legislature, will go before voters next June.
Keeping the supermajority requirement on local tax measures protects taxpayers, said Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon), by forcing tax proponents to build a much broader consensus of voters.
"That two-thirds threshold that is so critical is difficult to reach," she said. "But it works."
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and mayors from other large cities in the state urged state lawmakers Wednesday morning to pass major legislation to address California’s housing problems.
“For us, the biggest problem we all face is our housing crisis,” Garcetti said at a news conference outside the Capitol. “Too many people can't afford the housing that they're in. And too many people aren't in housing at all.”
Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers are trying to finalize a package of legislation to increase funding to build low-income housing and ease local regulations on home building. Legislators could vote on a series of bills as early as this week, and face a Sept. 15 deadline before they depart for the year.
But among the major measures in play, Senate Bill 2, which would add a $75 fee on mortgage refinances and many other real estate transactions to fund low-income housing, is the most uncertain. It remains a few votes short of passage in the Assembly.
“That's the one that we're really going to have to go in there and lobby hard for,” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said.
Garcetti said the group of mayors, which included Steinberg, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, planned to meet Wednesday with Brown and other lawmakers to push for the housing bills.
Concerned about low voter participation in local elections, state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada-Flintridge) proposed Wednesday that the order of future ballots be flipped so that local contests would be first and presidential or gubernatorial races would be last.
The state recently mandated that most cities and school districts hold their elections during statewide and national election dates.
Portantino said that in the November election, many people voted for president because that contest was it at the top of the ballot and state offices and ballot measures came next. Only some make it through the end of the long ballot, where there are elections for city councils and school boards.
“I think more people would be apt to go down through the ballot with the president at the end,” Portantino said. “There is a drop off of people who vote for president and then close the books.”
The senator said the idea was suggested to him by Glendale City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian, who ran for a Glendale Assembly seat in 2016 and lost to fellow Democrat Laura Friedman. The seat previously was held by former Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Democrat who termed out.
“Given this new state mandate, it is the right thing to do to feature our local offices and local civic issues first,” Kassakhian said in a statement.