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California in Congress

McCarthy trolls Feinstein over her 2013 shutdown position

As Democrats and Republicans each try to blame the other party (and President Trump) over what looks likely to be a government shutdown, look no further than California’s delegation for the split. 

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) retweeted a critical post from Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein in 2013, when Republicans led a 16-day shutdown in their failed bid to repeal Obamacare.

Fourth Republican enters race to succeed Rep. Darrell Issa

Another Republican has entered the race to fill Rep. Darrell Issa’s seat in Congress, the latest to join a growing fray to win a rare open seat.

San Juan Capistrano City Councilman Brian Maryott announced his candidacy Wednesday morning, joining three other Republican candidates.

State government

California weighs in on Supreme Court case over mandatory union fees for public employees

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra filed a friend-of-the-court brief Friday to support mandatory union fees for public employees.

The brief was filed in opposition to the case of Mark Janus, an Illinois state employee who objects to paying fees to a union that supports collective bargaining that affects him. His case is being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Becerra’s brief asserts that collective bargaining serves important state interests and that cost-sharing among employees represented by the union is an integral part of the collective bargaining system.

“Our public employees — whether teachers, firefighters, peace officers, nurses — provide critical services to Californians,” Becerra said in a statement. “We all benefit from their professional services. And these employees all benefit from union representation, regardless of whether or not they join the union.”

The state argued that the current collective bargaining system helps resolve personnel issues, and avoids inefficiency and disruption in the workplace. 

“Everyone who benefits from representation should share the cost,” Becerra said. “The fees at issue … play an integral role in supporting state workplaces all across the country.”

Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) disagreed with Becerra’s position, but said the attorney general probably felt he had to take the stand “because this is a union controlled state.”

Moorlach said public employee unions often raise campaign contributions to support the city council member, school board member or state elected official with power over pay raises.

“Collective bargaining doesn’t belong in the government sector,” Moorlach said. “The members of the bargaining unit contribute to the person that they negotiate with. That’s why it’s all messed up. It’s the biggest conflict of interest in the United States.”

2018 electionCongressional races

San Diego congressman endorses Democrat Sara Jacobs in Issa race

Governor's race

State firefighters' union endorses Gavin Newsom for governor

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (Jenna Schoenefeld / For The Times)
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (Jenna Schoenefeld / For The Times)

The California Professional Firefighters on Friday endorsed Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for governor, praising Newsom’s support for firefighters while he served as mayor of San Francisco.

The union, which represents 30,000 first responders in California, also took a subtle shot at one of Newsom’s Democratic rivals in the governor’s race, Antonio Villaraigosa. While Villaraigosa served as mayor of Los Angeles, the city fire department underwent a period of steep budget cuts and staff reductions as the city struggled financially during the recession, drawing criticism from the city’s firefighters union.

“At a time when California faces a grave and growing threat from fire and other natural disaster, it’s essential that the next governor offer more than lip service to public safety,” Lou Paulson, president of California Professional Firefighters, said in a statement released Friday. “Throughout his public life, Gavin Newsom has built a record of standing up for public safety and the men and women on the front lines, even in tough times. He has earned our endorsement.”

The endorsement for Newsom comes a week after Villaraigosa received the endorsement of the Peace Officers Research Assn. of California, the largest law enforcement organization in California, with 70,000 members.

California in Congress

Feinstein's office says she's a 'no' on spending bill without 'Dreamer' fix

State government

State panel to examine taxes on California's newly licensed marijuana industry

A customer test sniffs the cannabis at the MedMen dispensary in West Hollywood this month. (Eugene Garcia/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)
A customer test sniffs the cannabis at the MedMen dispensary in West Hollywood this month. (Eugene Garcia/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

A citizens panel that is helping to set rules for the marijuana industry in California has agreed to examine the impact of taxes that some growers and sellers have complained are too high.

The state Cannabis Advisory Committee, after lengthy debate, also decided Thursday to create a subcommittee to look into how legalized marijuana affects public health and young people.

Three weeks after the state began permitting medical and recreational marijuana firms, some 710 licenses have been issued by the state Bureau of Cannabis Control for distribution and sale, and 2,036 other applications are pending.

Some members of the panel voiced concern that high taxes may drive some buyers back to the illegal market. The state is charging a 15% excise tax on retail sales, and cultivation taxes including a $2.75 levy per dry-weight ounce of cannabis leaves. In addition, local sales taxes can go up to 8.5%.

Chairman Matt Rahn, mayor of Temecula, said the panel’s request for a briefing on taxation indicated that it is seen as a key to the success of the new licensing system.

“From my perspective, taxation is a fundamentally important component of the cannabis industry and has significant implications for all levels of that industry,” he said. “Our committee should understand the nuisances of how state and local taxation influences issues such as regulatory programs, public safety, and illicit markets.” 

California in Congress

Feinstein gives conflicting statements on spending bill: 'I don't know how I would vote right now'

 (Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)
(Pablo Martinez Monsivais / Associated Press)

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein gave conflicting signals Thursday about how she will vote on a short-term spending bill to keep the government open.

The bill passed the house Thursday evening but will face a tighter margin in the Senate, where Republicans need at least some Democrats’ votes to get the 60 needed to pass the bill.

On Tuesday, Feinstein’s staff said she planned to vote “no” unless Congress reaches a deal to address the legal status of people brought to the country illegally as children. And Thursday morning, Feinstein’s office released a statement affirming that position.

I said in December that I wouldn’t vote for [the spending bill] without the Dream Act, and I won’t do so now,” she said in the statement.

But hours later, Feinstein told CNN in an interview that she had not made her mind up about whether to vote for the measure, saying: “Shutting down the government is a very serious thing. People die, accidents happen. You don’t know. Necessary functions can cease.” She didn’t seem aware of her office’s earlier statement.

“I don’t know if we did today,” Feinstein said, looking toward an aide when asked about the news release.

“I don’t know how I would vote right now on a CR [continuing resolution], OK?” she added, ending the interview.

Feinstein’s staff didn’t respond to requests for clarity from CNN or The Times.

Her most prominent opponent in her bid for reelection, fellow Democrat and state Senate leader Kevin de León, urged her not to waver Thursday.

Ballot measures

Expect an expensive campaign over rent control in California on the November ballot

California in Congress

Rep. Jackie Speier 'couldn't be happier' with bipartisan proposal to change how sexual harassment is handled on Capitol Hill

 (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Hillsborough) “couldn’t be happier” with a comprehensive rewrite of the law governing how Capitol Hill handles sexual harassment complaints.

Under the bipartisan proposal unveiled Thursday, taxpayers would not pay to settle lawmakers’ sexual harassment complaints.

Responding to a series of high-profile accusations last fall, Congress is fast-tracking legislation to simplify the convoluted process Capitol Hill staffers are required to go through to report sexual harassment.

Speier, a co-sponsor of the measure, called the Congressional Accountability Act of 1995 Reform Act a “seismic change” of the current reporting process, which she’s pushed to change for years.

Gone would be the up to 30 days of counseling and 30 days of mediation that victims had to undergo before they could seek an investigation or take the issue to court. Victims would get the same access to legal counsel that the person being accused gets. And accusers won’t have to sign a nondisclosure agreement, but will have to make their claims under oath.

Under the proposal, members of Congress who settle claims brought against them will have to repay that money to the U.S. Treasury, and their wages or Social Security could be garnished if they don’t pay the settlement within 90 days.

“So, if there ever was an incentive not to harass, it’s become pretty clear that there is a financial risk if you do,” Speier said.

The bill would also increase public reporting of harassment claims and require an ethics committee review when a lawmaker settles a claim.

Speier became a public face of the push for new harassment policies when she disclosed her own experience with sexual harassment as a Hill staffer in the 1970s.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) praised the bill Thursday, and it’s expected to move easily through the House. Speier said the House Administration Committee could consider it as soon as members return from next week’s scheduled recess. After it passes the House, it would go to the Senate, where there is no known resistance to the proposal.

California Legislature

California Democrats pitch business tax hike following Trump's tax cut

Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) speaks at the Capitol in 2017. (Rich Pedroncelli)
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) speaks at the Capitol in 2017. (Rich Pedroncelli)

Two Democratic state assemblymen want to raise the state’s business taxes in response to President Trump’s federal tax overhaul.

Assemblymen Kevin McCarty of Sacramento and Phil Ting of San Francisco introduced Assembly Constitutional Amendment 22 Thursday that would raise corporate taxes on California companies with revenues higher than $1 million. The state tax hike would be for an amount equivalent to half what they received from the federal tax cut.

“I’ve seen enough billionaire justice in the first 11 months of this presidency to last my lifetime,” McCarty said in a statement. “At a time when reckless federal tax policy favors billionaires over middle-class workers, ACA 22 will help ensure that California can continue to grow and support middle-class families throughout the state.”

McCarty and Ting’s proposal faces long odds. It requires supermajority support in both houses of the Legislature and, if passed, would also need voter approval on the November 2018 ballot.

California in Congress

California 'Dreamers' arrested outside House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office

With less than 36 hours to go before the federal government could shut down, seven Californians who were brought to the country illegally as children sat down in a U.S. Capitol hallway and began to scream.

“McCarthy! Where is your heart?” they yelled as they waved red banners. Capitol police officers quickly swarmed outside the office of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and escorted the still-shouting “Dreamers” out of the building.

Time is ticking down to when the government’s legal authority to spend money runs out at midnight Friday. And there is less and less of a chance that Congress will include a legislative fix for the so-called Dreamers in whatever stopgap measure lawmakers try to pass to stave off a shutdown.

Trump announced last year he would phase out the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, known as DACA, and asked Congress to come up with a legislative replacement for the program, which grants recipients the right to work and gives them protection from deportation. An estimated 122 recipients lose protections each day, and Democrats, as well as some Republicans, have pushed for a fix as quickly as possible. They also have tried to get it included in must-pass legislation like the spending bill.

The stopgap funding measure from Republican congressional leaders does not include a fix for Dreamers. McCarthy and others are actively negotiating a separate solution.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) has urged Democrats to oppose the bill — she says for a variety of reasons, not just the Dreamers — but House Republicans can potentially pass it themselves. At greater issue is the bill’s chances in the Senate, where it needs 60 votes to pass. Multiple Democrats and some Republicans have said they won’t support it.

The seven arrested Dreamers are among dozens of Californians who gathered on Capitol Hill this week to pressure lawmakers to find a solution for their immigration status.

Capitol Police said the seven protesters were charged with crowding, obstructing or incommoding — a misdemeanor violation in the District of Columbia.

They also caused a disruption in McCarthy’s other Capitol Hill office Thursday, but left after multiple warnings from police.

California Legislature

Effort to make tampons tax-free in California fails again

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

For at least the third time in recent years, an effort to exempt tampons from sales taxes in California has failed.

Assembly Bill 9 was killed in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday morning. 

Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens), who sponsored the bill, said she’d try another time.

In 2016, Garcia’s legislation passed the Legislature, but Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed it, saying the sales tax exemption was too expensive.

Last year, AB 9 didn’t advance, and neither did a proposal that would have exempted tampons and diapers from sales tax and paid for the lost revenue with an increase in the alcohol tax.

State government

California attorney general threatens $10,000 fine for businesses that share employee information with immigration agents

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra warned businesses Thursday that they cannot voluntarily give information on employees to immigration agents. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra warned businesses Thursday that they cannot voluntarily give information on employees to immigration agents. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Concerned about “rumors” of an imminent immigration enforcement sweep in California, state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra on Thursday warned employers he is prepared to seek fines if they violate a new state law that prohibits them from giving information on employees to federal authorities.

Becerra said rumblings of possible sweeps compelled him to remind Californians that there are new laws restricting local law enforcement cooperation with federal agents and that bar businesses from voluntarily allowing immigration officers to access or obtain employee records without a court order or subpoena.

“It’s important, given these rumors out there, to let people and more specifically employers know that if they voluntarily start giving up information about their employees in ways that contradict our new California laws they subject themselves to actions by my office … enforcing AB 450,” he said at a news conference.

He said employers who violate the new law face fines of up to $10,000.

Becerra said his office is preparing to issue guidance to local agencies about the new state immigration laws, while also seeking to communicate with federal officials about their intent. He acknowledged that the federal government has jurisdiction to enforce immigration laws, but said the new state law seeks to protect the privacy of workers.

Becerra said his office has not been given advanced notice of any new raids and did not know ahead of time of enforcement actions recently at 7-Eleven stores.

California LegislatureSexual harassment

Victims of harassment would have up to three years to file claim under proposed California bill

California in Congress

Californians join effort to censure President Trump for his 'shithole' comment

 (Evan Vucci / Associated Press)
(Evan Vucci / Associated Press)

Thirty California Democrats joined colleagues Thursday in introducing a resolution to censure President Trump for using the term “shithole” to describe Haiti and African countries.

“The president is the leader of the United States and he just made some remarks that are being perceived, I think accurately, as discriminatory against people who are of African American descent and people who are Latino, and we can’t just stand by and allow that to be what the country is for. It is not what we’re for,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose).

This centers around a recent White House meeting where Trump reportedly questioned why the U.S. has to accept immigrants from “shithole” African countries. At least two Republican senators dispute that he used the term, and the blowback has roiled discussions about immigration reform for more than a week.

The censure resolution was filed by the Congressional Black Caucus and the Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee Thursday. More than 130 Democrats have co-sponsored it; no Republicans have signed on.

It is incredibly unlikely a censure resolution would be considered, much less approved, by the Republican-controlled House.

CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) said the group will ask House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) to bring the bill up and will look at ways to force a vote if he does not.

“We will be as creative as it takes,” Richmond said.

Lofgren called it a character test for Ryan.

“The speaker has a decision to make as to whether he’s going to associate himself with the bigoted remarks of the president or separate himself from those remarks.”

Candidate for lieutenant governor drops out to join race for state insurance commissioner

Nancy Pelosi to judge a different kind of race

California Legislature

How California state lawmakers hope to bridge the digital divide in rural areas left behind

Esperanza Hernandez, left, and Teagan Garcia use Chromebooks at Waggoner Elementary School in Winters, Calif. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
Esperanza Hernandez, left, and Teagan Garcia use Chromebooks at Waggoner Elementary School in Winters, Calif. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Until a few years ago, most students in Winters — a farming community of 7,000 west of Sacramento — did not have computers at home. So the city’s then-mayor, Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, pushed for a program that enabled the school district’s sixth-graders to check out laptops along with their textbooks.

Their parents were required to learn how to use the computers as well. For some, it was their first time surfing the web or sending an email.

“Now they could be a voice for their child,” said Aguiar-Curry, who grew up in Winters. She recalled that some parents were moved to tears. “Now they could work in the fields during the day, and at night they could come home and get on their child’s tablet and find out how they were doing in school.”

Over the last decade, California’s urban centers have become technology hubs, cities where free Wi-Fi and fiber optic lines are ubiquitous. But in low-income neighborhoods, across the state’s inland regions and in rural communities — often home to large migrant populations — families struggle to connect at all.

2018 electionCalifornia DemocratsGovernor's race

Villaraigosa slaps at Newsom's education record while campaigning in L.A. County

Candidate for California governor Antonio Villaraigosa slapped at front-runner Gavin Newsom’s education record on Wednesday by pointing to racial disparities in San Francisco’s schools.

“In the debate the other day, one of the candidates talked about how great his county had done on education, on test scores and the like,” the former Los Angeles mayor said during a campaign stop at Mexican restaurant in Bell. “And he goes on and on about his county, San Francisco County. When he was finished, I had to jump in and [say], ‘You know what he didn’t say? It’s the worst county for African-American students in the entire state.’ We’ve got to stand up for the notion that every kid deserves a fair shot. Every kid.”

Newsom, who was San Francisco’s mayor before becoming lieutenant governor, acknowledged an academic achievement gap among minorities in San Francisco schools during Saturday’s gubernatorial debate.

Newsom’s campaign hit back by pointing to Villaraigosa’s broken relationship with teachers unions, and tried to link him to President Trump’s controversial education secretary, Betsy DeVos.

“At the same time Antonio Villaraigosa was waging a war on educators that would make Betsy DeVos proud, every group of San Francisco students  — including African American and Latino students — saw increased academic achievement during Gavin’s mayorship,” spokesman Nathan Click said. “San Francisco got that done by working collaboratively with — not attacking — teachers, and it's why teachers and education leaders across the state have endorsed Gavin's campaign.”

Villaraigosa’s remarks about education were part of his broader argument that while California has thrived since the recession, that success has been unequal. He noted that the state would have one of the largest economies in the world if it were a nation, yet it has the highest effective poverty rate in the U.S.

“We can’t revel in how great we are as a state when we’re leaving so many people behind,” he said. “The challenge before us is what are we going to do about that to grow our economy, to grow good middle-class jobs with a wage they can live on, that they can maintain their families on? The key to that is education.”

Villaraigosa appeared in the heavily Latino city in southeastern Los Angeles County the same a day a poll showed him leading among Latino voters even as a significant portion remain undecided.

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