This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Here's what we're watching right now:
- Gov. Jerry Brown told the Times Wednesday that a decision by President Trump to withdraw from the Paris Accord on climate change would be "tragic."
- Legislators at the state Capitol will winnow down the hundreds of bills pending by Friday afternoon, quietly killing some of them which have been sitting in what's called the "suspense file."
- African Americans in the California Democratic Party want an apology made to Rep. Maxine Water (D-Los Angeles) after her microphone was cut off at last weekend's convention.
Following months of accusations about mistakes and improper use of power by its elected members, the state Board of Equalization could lose substantial power and gain an independent overseer under legislation introduced in the state Assembly.
The bill by Assemblyman Sebastian Ridley-Thomas (D-Los Angeles) would shift much of the power over staff and spending authority away from the independent tax board and create a new inspector general to watch over its actions.
"What we're trying to do is make sure that the reform is transparent," Ridley-Thomas said. "That's what I think the moment demands."
The plan, introduced as an amended bill just before the Memorial Day holiday, comes in the wake of audits alleging the tax agency made multimillion dollar miscalculations on revenue allocations and that some of its elected members improperly used staff members who were supposed to be focused on tax collection. Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown called the situation a "mess" and in April asked for an investigation by the state Department of Justice.
Four members of the Board of Equalization are directly elected by voters. The fifth, state Controller Betty Yee, serves in an ex officio capacity.
The Assembly bill would transfer significant staff decisions to the agency's executive director and would require the Board of Equalization's members to have their operations funded in detailed line items included in the state budget. It would also create an inspector general office and would require the board's members to disclose all ex parte communications with those seeking action by the agency.
"I think that these issues can be addressed if we keep them in the sunlight," said Ridley-Thomas.