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  • California in Congress
(Michael Reynolds / EPA / Shutterstock)

After years of tangling with California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, civil liberties activists seemed to have her onboard with their fight to curtail the vast warrantless surveillance program exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

They were optimistic Tuesday when she headed into a major vote over whether to impose new restrictions on the government monitoring.

But after a spirited nail-biter of a floor fight, Feinstein broke with privacy advocates from the right and left to cast a crucial vote in favor of leaving the program largely unchanged for the next six years.

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  • Governor's race
  • 2018 election
  • California Democrats

Latino voters in California strongly support Antonio Villaraigosa in the governor’s race, but a significant number remain undecided, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

Villaraigosa, the former mayor of Los Angeles, was backed by 31% of Latino registered voters in a Latino Community Foundation poll, while Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was backed by 14%. The rest of the candidates polled in the low single digits. The greatest number of respondents, 36%, said they were undecided.

The poll of 900 Latino registered voters was conducted by landline and cellphone calls and online between Jan. 6-14, and has a margin of error of 3.3 points in either direction. Conducted by the consulting group Latino Decisions, the survey will be released publicly later Wednesday.

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  • California Legislature
Several hundred people in Sacramento marched in support of a single-payer healthcare system on May 19, 2017.
Several hundred people in Sacramento marched in support of a single-payer healthcare system on May 19, 2017. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

The political battle lines over single-payer healthcare in California are growing starker, with an alliance of doctors, dentists, nurse practitioners and other health providers ramping up their opposition to the proposal.

In a letter to legislators, the coalition, unveiled Wednesday, blasted Senate Bill 562 as a proposal that “would dismantle the healthcare marketplace and destabilize California’s economy.”

The emergence of heavy-hitting healthcare groups such as the California Medical Assn., the California Dental Assn. and the California Pharmacists Assn. signals an escalation in the opposition to the legislation, under which the state would foot the bill for nearly all medical expenses of its residents. Up until now, the measure was primarily opposed by health plans and business groups. One member of the new coalition, Kaiser Permanente, has been vocal in its opposition to the bill for months, but the group’s other members have so far been muted in their criticism.

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

At the start of what’s expected to be a contentious week in Congress, dozens of Californians brought to the country illegally as children gathered on Capitol Hill to pressure lawmakers to find a solution for their immigration status.

Joining them was state Senate leader Kevin de León. He plans to meet with the state’s House members and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, whom De León is challenging in this year’s election.

“Time is running out and our patience is long gone,” De León said at a news conference Tuesday morning. “If you truly reject the bigotry of this administration and want what’s best for this country ... secure the future of these Americans.”

  • California in Congress

Congress is considering a handful of deals to address the legal status of people brought to the country illegally as children. Some include money for a wall along the Southern border, others would rewrite major chunks of immigration law.

With the backing of California members, a bipartisan group of House members said its latest proposal doesn’t make a deal for so-called Dreamers harder than it needs to be.

The proposal sponsored Tuesday by Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) is significantly slimmed down. It would grant conditional permanent resident status to people brought to the country illegally as children, and provide money for technology to monitor the border and additional immigration judges. It avoids issues like a physical wall or changes to the visa lottery system, which have complicated the negotiations. 

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Colorful straws on the bar counter at a restaurant in Los Angeles on June 28, 2016.
Colorful straws on the bar counter at a restaurant in Los Angeles on June 28, 2016. (Los Angeles Times)

For Assemblyman Ian Calderon, it was apparently the last straw.

The Democratic legislator from Whittier read reports by environmental groups that up to 500 million plastic beverage straws are used every day in the United States and then immediately discarded, adding to the flow of trash to landfills and litter polluting lakes and beaches.

Calderon said Tuesday he plans to introduce legislation this week that would prohibit sit-down restaurants in California from providing straws to customers unless they are requested. The measure would exclude fast-food restaurants.

  • Governor's race
  • 2018 election
  • California Democrats
(Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

The twitter account belonging to gubernatorial candidate John Chiang tweeted and then deleted a snarky comment about fellow Democrat and front-runner Gavin Newsom.

On Sunday, Newsom took part in a town hall in Lincoln Heights that was disrupted by anti-immigration protesters.

A Newsom intern that evening tweeted Times video of the event with the title “What a day on Team @GavinNewsom.” Later Sunday night, Chiang’s Twitter account responded, “Is it because no one actually believes #newsomforgov is a good idea?” in response to the intern, Newsom and The Times photographer.

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  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment
Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) awaits floor session on Jan. 3, before agreeing to a leave of absence during an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations.
Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) awaits floor session on Jan. 3, before agreeing to a leave of absence during an investigation into sexual misconduct allegations. (Steve Yeater / Associated Press)

Both the leader of the California Senate and the chair of the Legislative Women’s Caucus have clashed with state Sen. Tony Mendoza in recent days over the Southern California Democrat’s behavior while on leave during an investigation of sexual misconduct allegations. 

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) called Mendoza to voice concern about reports the Artesia lawmaker was in and around the state Capitol building while on leave. More recently, aides to De León told Mendoza to drop an advertising campaign seeking new office interns. The dispute was first reported by the Sacramento Bee.

“The recruitment of interns was a part of an annual senate program and you will find similar recruitment efforts posted on other senate member’s websites,” said Robert Alaniz, a spokesman for Mendoza. “The recruitment effort from Senator Mendoza has since been withdrawn.”

  • Governor's race

A small group of protesters gathered outside a Gavin Newsom town hall event in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday where they banged on a door and demanded to be let in.

Arthur Schaper, a well-known agitator who frequently leads pro-Trump protests outside the speaking engagements of Democratic elected officials, was among the protesters. The Los Angeles Police Department was called to control the crowd.

Newsom campaign spokesman Nathan Click said the event, which was hosted by several area Democratic clubs, was not organized by the lieutenant governor’s gubernatorial campaign. Campaign volunteers at the event said the protesters had bullhorns and were criticizing those inside for aiding immigrants who entered the country illegally, he said.