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Judge rules state used misleading language in summary of ballot measure to repeal California gas tax

GOP Assemblyman Travis Allen, in red tie, with Democratic state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, left, and Charles Munger Jr., far right, in 2014. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
GOP Assemblyman Travis Allen, in red tie, with Democratic state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, left, and Charles Munger Jr., far right, in 2014. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A judge tentatively ruled Tuesday that the state-written title and summary of an initiative to repeal the recent gas-tax increases were misleading and should be rewritten by the state attorney general’s office.

The ruling by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley, scheduled to be finalized at a court hearing on Friday, was welcomed by the initiative’s lead proponent, Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach).

“This preliminary ruling is a major victory for Californians,” Allen, a candidate for governor, said in a statement. “This brings us one step closer to repealing Jerry Brown’s hugely unpopular gas tax. I look forward to the final ruling on Friday, and ensuring that the Repeal the Gas Tax Initiative receives the straightforward ballot title and summary that it deserves.”  

Judge Frawley agreed with Allen’s legal claims that the title and summary drafted by Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra’s office is “confusing, misleading, and likely to create prejudice against the proposed measure.”

The judge said the initiative would repeal taxes and fees approved by the Legislature this year, but the title and summary issued by the state makes it sound like it would eliminate transportation funding without using the words “taxes and “fees” in the title.

He ordered state officials to come to Friday’s hearing prepared to discuss alternate language for the ballot measure.

“To avoid misleading the voters and creating prejudice against the measure, the Attorney General must prepare a 'true and impartial statement’ that reasonably informs voters of the character and real purpose of the proposed initiative in clear and understandable language,” the ruling says. “The existing circulating title and summary fails this test.”

If the judge finalizes the order after hearing arguments Friday, Allen can use the new title and summary to circulate a petition. Allen needs to collect  365,000 signatures from registered voters in 150 days to put the measure on the November 2018 ballot.

California Democrats

Gov. Jerry Brown: Trump's rhetoric about North Korea adds to "non-rational bluster"

 (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California Gov. Jerry Brown said President Trump's name calling and threats at the United Nations can get in the way of diplomacy and statesmanship. 

Earlier Tuesday, Trump called North Korean leader Kim Jong Un a "Rocket Man on a suicide mission" and said the United States may have no choice but to "totally destroy North Korea."

"It just raises the temperature and the exchange of non-rational bluster back and forth," Brown said in a interview with CNN's Jake Tapper. "I don't think that's positive." 

Brown is in New York for some climate meetings related to the United Nations General Assembly.  

2018 election

Villaraigosa to address PAC that typically supports GOP candidates

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

Antonio Villaraigosa, one of the top Democrats running for governor, will address a group Wednesday that typically supports Republican candidates.

Tickets to see the gubernatorial candidate speak at a breakfast meeting hosted by the Fresno Chamber of Commerce’s Political Action Committee cost $40, money that supports the group’s mission of electing pro-business candidates.

“We need the right people making decisions for the community. The PAC endorses the most business-friendly candidate and raises money to get them elected. Donations to the PAC are used for candidate contributions, independent expenditures, or for the promotion of the endorsed candidates,” according to the group’s website.

The PAC has made $31,350 in political donations since 2006, according to the financial disclosure documents filed with the secretary of state’s office. Of that, all but $1,500 was donated to Republican candidates. Among the recipients were Chuck Poochigian, who received $1,000 in his unsuccessful run for attorney general in 2006 against now-Gov. Jerry Brown; then-Fresno Mayor Ashley Swearengin, who received $3,000 for her unsuccessful 2014 state controller bid, and state Sen. Andy Vidak, who received $6,100 over multiple election cycles.

Nathan Ahle, president and chief executive of the PAC, said that all of the major gubernatorial candidates will be invited to address the group.

Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, has spent a notable amount of time campaigning in the Central Valley, once a GOP stronghold that is now more politically mixed and a region where Democrats are not as rigidly liberal on economic and environmental issues as coastal and Bay Area voters. The economic recovery has also not taken hold as strongly in the Central Valley as it has in other parts of the state, an inequity frequently raised by Villaraigosa on the campaign trail.

"The mayor is taking his campaign for economic opportunity and economic equality to every corner of California," campaign spokeperson Michelle Jenny said.

Updated at 7:45 p.m.: This post was updated with a response from the Villaraigosa campaign.

Yes, 'dahlink': Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, widower of Zsa Zsa Gabor, is running for California governor

Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, widower of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, outside of the couple's Bel-Air mansion in 2011. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)
Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, widower of actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, outside of the couple's Bel-Air mansion in 2011. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, widower of the whimsical celebrity and actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, is back.

Von Anhalt has filed to run for governor of California — his second attempt after a short-lived campaign in 2010 — saying he’s fed up with seeing roads falling apart, people struggling to afford rent and an explosion of homelessness in the state.

“I’ve lived in this city for 36 years. I’ve never seen so many people eating out of a trash can in the Western world,” Von Anhalt said Tuesday. “We talk about Hollywood, and this being the entertainment center of the world. How is this possible?"

Von Anhalt, Garbor’s ninth and last husband, is running as an independent. He filed an official “Candidate Intention Statement” with the California Secretary of State’s office Monday, the first step in launching an official campaign.

The 74-year-old Bel-Air resident, a German immigrant, said he has enough money to help support his own campaign. He said he dropped out of the 2010 governor’s race only because his wife became seriously ill. She died in December.

“She was the one …  who wanted me run,” Von Anhalt said.

Von Anhalt also flirted briefly with a run for Los Angeles mayor in 2013, a race eventually won by Eric Garcetti.


5:33 p.m.: An earlier of this post said Von Anhalt was age 71. He is 74.

California Legislature

Assemblyman urges other legislatures to join California in censuring President Trump

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) speaks with Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) speaks with Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A California lawmaker who authored a resolution to support a censure of President Trump sent letters to 49 other state legislatures Tuesday to urge them to join the effort. 

Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, a Richmond Democrat, sent the letters days after the Assembly became the first state legislative body to support a congressional censure of the president. 

“California has spoken and we look to the rest of the nation to join us,” Thurmond said in a statement. “It’s important that all our states unite and show that the United States of America stands against hate."

California in Congress

California's attorney general asks Senate for more tools to fight online sex trafficking

 (Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra pleaded with a U.S. Senate committee on Tuesday to change a decades-old Internet freedom law in order to give states more power to go after online sex traffickers.

“We’re losing the fight against sex trafficking, which means we’re losing our children,” Becerra said.

Some in Silicon Valley have pushed back on the idea for years, saying that it would be a disaster for a free and open Internet to change the 1996 Communications Decency Act so websites can be held liable by states and victims if criminal material is posted on their sites.

The Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act would allow states and victims to sue websites that “knowingly” assist or benefit from sex trafficking. The federal government currently can pursue criminal charges against sites, but Becerra argued that the Department of Justice doesn’t have the resources to pursue every incident.

California’s U.S. senators have been walking a fine line with the California-centered tech industry over the issue, and neither is among the 28 co-sponsors of the bill. Spokespersons for Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris indicated the senators want more tweaks to the bill’s language, but haven’t said what changes they’d need in order to support the bill.

Harris’ lack of support was noted during Tuesday’s hearing, with several senators saying they were working with her to address her concerns. Harris championed changing the Communications Decency Act when she was California’s attorney general, and brought a suit against Backpage.com executives on charges of pimping, money laundering and conspiracy.

Becerra left Congress to replace Harris as attorney general and has continued the state’s suit against the classified advertising giant.

Late last month, a Sacramento Superior Court judge threw out the pimping charges, citing the exemption written into the Communications Decency Act.

“The Internet has become an easy way to make money in this criminal enterprise, and we need the tools to go after these folks,” Becerra said. “We’re fighting with two hands tied behind our back.”

After the hearing, he indicated that he understands his former congressional colleagues have had to balance Silicon Valley interests with the fight against sex traffickers, and said, “Everyone has got to get there in their own way.”

5:05 p.m.: This post was updated to clarify that Harris is working with the committee on a change to the bill's language.

It was originally posted at 2:40 p.m.

California in Congress

Feinstein criticizes Trump for using U.N. speech 'as a stage to threaten war'

 (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)
(Jeff Chiu / Associated Press)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) criticized President Trump for using his speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday "as a stage to threaten war."

It's the second time this week Feinstein has been harshly critical of Trump. On Monday, she said he needed to "grow up" and stop obsessing over former rival Hillary Clinton.

Feinstein got flak from some progressive Californians last month when she called for “patience” in dealing with the president, saying that Trump could be a good president if he learned and changed.

2018 electionCalifornia Legislature

After cap-and-trade vote, Assemblyman Chad Mayes faces a second Republican challenger for reelection

Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley leaves the Assembly floor before resigning as Assembly Republican leader on Aug. 24. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley leaves the Assembly floor before resigning as Assembly Republican leader on Aug. 24. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Former Palm Springs Police Chief Gary Jeandron on Tuesday became the second Republican to announce plans to challenge Assemblyman Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) in the 2018 election.

Jeandron, a La Quinta resident, said he was angered over Mayes’ vote as Assembly Republican leader to support an extension of the state’s controversial cap-and-trade program, which requires businesses to buy permits to release greenhouse gas emissions. Jeandron saw the action as continuing a “wrongful tax increase” and said he is signing a no-tax pledge.

“I just don’t believe [Mayes] has held Republican values,” Jeandron told The Times. “He has been blinded by ambition. He has been seduced by the governor.”

Mayes’ vote led to an outcry by Republican leaders, and he eventually succumbed to pressure to step down as leader of the Assembly Republicans.

Mayes defended his position, telling colleagues during the floor debate, “many of us believe that climate change is real and … we have to work to address it.”

Jeandron, who lost to Mayes in the 2014 election, joins San Jacinto City Councilman Andrew Kotyuk in planning to challenge Mayes for the 42nd Assembly District seat.

Republican John Cox tasted political defeat many times before launching his bid for California governor

Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox speaks to the Lincoln Club of Riverside County in June. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)
Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox speaks to the Lincoln Club of Riverside County in June. (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles Times)

Candidate for California governor John Cox is relatively new to the state's politics, but Cox has run for office multiple times, and even tangled with Barack Obama on the debate stage when the pair ran in the 2004 Illinois U.S. Senate race.

Neither candidate was considered their party’s favorite. But things began looking up for Obama, of course, who won the Senate race and then the presidency. Cox dropped out before the GOP primary election. It was his third try for elected office in Illinois and his third defeat.

Now he’s back, this time in his new home of California, running for governor against a trio of Democratic heavyweights. Once again, Cox is a practical unknown. Once again, the Republican is in a left-leaning state reaching for a coveted political office. Once again, Cox’s campaign is being fed by cash from his own bank account.

California Legislature

After she was confronted by protesters, Pelosi says Democrats want a 'clean' Dream Act — with no border wall

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday said she understood the fear in young protesters who shouted her down at a San Francisco news conference, asking for a legal path to citizenship for themselves and their parents.

Speaking at Sacramento State hours after the disruption, Pelosi said she agreed with the protesters, pointing to the Dream Act as only the first step to broader immigration reform.

“We are all disrupters ourselves,” she said, standing next to fellow congressional Democrats. “So we recognize it and respect it in others.”

Both press events were scheduled by Pelosi to discuss a legislative fix to help thousands of young people affected by President Trump's decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Obama-era policy provided temporary status for some people brought to the country illegally as children.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York met with Trump last week after the termination of DACA was announced.

In Sacramento, Pelosi said they had come to an agreement to a "clean" Dream Act, which would provide a path to permanent status for citizens who work, study or serve in the military, without tougher border enforcement or increased deportations.

Meanwhile, Democrats are fighting with the president over the construction of a wall along the U.S-Mexico border. And House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin "has made it clear he wants some kind of border security," Pelosi said.

"That is not under discussion," she said. "We can discuss other issues, but we are not going to discuss how we protect the Dreamers."

2018 electionCalifornia in Congress

Feinstein, who called for patience with Trump, lashes out over his attacks on Clinton

 (Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)
(Michael Reynolds / European Pressphoto Agency)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said it was "appalling and disgusting" to see President Trump retweet a video edited to look like he hit former rival Hillary Clinton in the head with a golf ball.

“He continues to obsessively lash out at her — at his rallies, with his words and now through social media — in a manner that is utterly unbecoming of the president of the United States," Feinstein said in a statement Monday. “Every one of us should be offended by the vindictive and candidly dangerous messages the president sends that demean not only Secretary Clinton, but all women. Grow up and do your job.”

Clinton is out with a new book about the campaign, and Trump has repeatedly used Twitter to deride her as a sore loser. He retweeted the animated GIF Sunday which shows him hitting a golf ball that then knocks down Clinton.

Feinstein, who has yet to say whether she'll run again in 2018, has walked a fine line with Trump in recent months. She's criticized him at times, but drew ire from some progressive Californians last month when she called for “patience” in dealing with the president, saying that Trump could be a good president if he learned and changed.

California in Congress

Democrats want to replace DACA with the Dream Act, a bill this L.A. member of Congress has been pushing for 16 years

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) speaks at a news conference on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Capitol Hill. (Tasos Katopodis / EPA)
Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) speaks at a news conference on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Capitol Hill. (Tasos Katopodis / EPA)

Sixteen years ago, Downey Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard helped file legislation that would have allowed people brought to the country illegally as children to stay in the United States.

That bill became the Dream Act. Its failure to pass Congress led to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which President Trump this month decided to end as he urged Congress to find a replacement.

If Democrats have their way, DACA’s replacement will look a lot like what Roybal-Allard proposed in 2001. Democratic leaders emerged from a meeting with Trump last week saying Roybal-Allard’s bill, which includes a path to citizenship for some immigrants in the country illegally, must be part of Congress’ plan to protect DACA recipients.

2018 electionBallot measures

Bigger tax breaks for homeowners and renters could be on California's 2018 ballot

Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., left, in 2009 (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Jon Coupal, president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., left, in 2009 (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California homeowners and renters could receive more tax breaks under a proposed initiative for the November 2018 state ballot.

The measure would increase a state tax credit for homeowners and renters to $500 a year, which would continue to go up as housing costs rise. The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., the anti-tax group behind Proposition 13’s property tax restrictions, is sponsoring the initiative.

Currently, homeowners receive a $70 annual credit and renters $60. Neither figure has increased in more than 25 years, according to the association.

Jon Coupal, the association’s president, contrasted its approach to rising housing costs with the recent package of bills passed by the Legislature to spend more on low-income housing construction and ease local home building regulations.

“While the government seeks to address the housing crisis with more regulations, more government costs and more debt, we believe this is the most efficient way to provide immediate tax relief for every Californian who has to pay for a roof over their head,” he said.

Coupal said his organization plans to conduct polls to test the initiative’s viability before deciding if it will finance a signature-gathering campaign. The association also is considering an effort to repeal the gas tax hike that lawmakers approved in the spring.

The proposal is one of many housing-related measures that could appear on the November 2018 ballot. The California Assn. of Realtors is considering an effort to expand Proposition 13’s property tax breaks. And Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to place on the ballot a $4-billion bond to finance low-income housing construction and provide home loans for veterans after lawmakers approved it last week.

2018 electionCalifornia in Congress

San Diego members of Congress team up for Tijuana sewage spill fix

California DemocratsCalifornia Legislature

California lawmakers are building a wall against President Trump's policies

State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), left, Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount). None
State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), left, Gov. Jerry Brown and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount).

California state legislators ended their annual session the way they began it — building a wall to protect undocumented immigrants from President Trump.

Not an iron wall, as Trump promised to erect along the U.S.-Mexico border, but a legal barrier to prevent local police and sheriffs from teaming with the president’s agents to enforce federal immigration law.

The legislators did a lot of other things, too, before adjourning early Saturday until January.

They sent Gov. Jerry Brown bills to address California’s dearth of affordable housing, to borrow $4 billion for parks and waterworks, to spend $1.5 billion in greenhouse-gas pollution fees, to provide tuition-free community college for first-year students and to lift some secrecy from prescription drug pricing.

Earlier in the session, the heavily Democratic Legislature passed its boldest, most controversial bill of the year: A $5.2-billion annual increase in fuel taxes and vehicle fees to finance transportation infrastructure, especially to repair crumbling highways. Republicans will attempt to repeal the bill at the ballot box in 2018. Brown says that “borders on insanity.”

California Democrats

Trump is 'riding a very dead horse' on climate change, Gov. Brown says at New York conference

 (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)
(Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday touted steps California has taken toward a healthier climate, but warned that powerful forces he called “climate deniers” are resisting technologies and policies designed to improve conditions.

“I like all the optimism around here, but I don’t want to minimize the steep hill that we have to climb,” Brown said at the start of a gathering of international leaders called Climate Week NYC. “Decarbonizing the economy when the economy depends so totally on carbon is not child’s play. It’s quite daunting.”

Hosted by the Climate Group, an international nonprofit organization that works with business and government to promote clean technologies and policies, the event was scheduled to bring together high-profile governors, executives of Fortune 500 companies and leaders of multinational businesses for a week to share their strategies in tackling climate change.

The discussions come amid concerns about global warming and after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma caused devastation in Houston, Florida and across parts of the Caribbean. Some scientists believe that warmer ocean waters caused by climate change are creating stronger storms.

California in Congress

Nancy Pelosi shouted down at DACA news conference for working with Trump

More than four dozen immigration activists upset with Democrats for negotiating with President Trump shouted down House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at a San Francisco news conference Monday.

"We are not your bargaining chip," the crowd chanted at one point, according to KCBS News political reporter Doug Sovern.

San Francisco Chronicle reporter Evan Sernoffsky said on Twitter that some in the group were yelling, "All of us or none of us." Other reporters said the group chanted, "Shut down ICE."

Pelosi held the news conference to advocate for speedy passage of a legislative fix to the legal status of hundreds of thousands of people brought to the country illegally as children.

Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York met with Trump last week after he announced an end to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The Obama-era program deferred deportation for some people brought to the country illegally as children.

Pelosi and Schumer said their discussion with the president included the possibility of adding more immigration enforcement — which some immigration advocates are against — to legislation to address DACA.

At the news conference, Pelosi first made remarks and introduced an  immigrant in the country illegally, at which point the shouting began, according to a Pelosi aide. The group surrounded Pelosi, with some gesturing close to her face. She attempted to calm the crowd for about half an hour before leaving the news conference. The aide said the group was made up of local DACA beneficiaries.

"We need to have a conversation, but that was completely one-sided; they don’t want any answers," Pelosi told reporters afterward, according to a transcript.

Pelosi said the activists should be focused on Republican members of Congress, not Democrats.

"I understand their frustration, I’m excited by it as a matter of fact, but the fact is they’re completely wrong. The Democrats are the ones who stopped their assault on 'sanctuary cities,' stopped the wall, the increased deportations in our last bill that was at the end of April, and we are determined to get Republicans votes to pass the clean Dream Act. Is it possible to pass a bill without some border security? Well we’ll have to see. We didn’t agree to anything in that regard, except to listen," Pelosi said.

1:06 p.m.
This post was updated with more details throughout and quotes from Pelosi.

This post was originally published at 12:12 p.m.

Politics newsletter

Today's newsletter: California's nasty gram to Trump

Today's Essential Politics newsletter catches you up real quick on everything that happened at the close of the legislative session. It had a whole lot to do with President Trump.

The newsletter comes out Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

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State government

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2018 electionCongressional races

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