With President Trump pledging $1 trillion for infrastructure, California officials on Wednesday took a break from their feud with the new administration to propose a list of $100 billion in projects for possible federal funding to help rebuild the Golden State’s system of crumbling roads and bridges and improve transit and water storage.
Any federal money for the 51 projects would be in addition to money California is hoping to raise for its aging infrastructure, wrote Nancy McFadden, the governor’s executive secretary, in a letter to the National Governors Assn.
“In the short-term, these projects will benefit businesses up and down the state and put thousands to work — many in communities with the highest rates of unemployment,” McFadden wrote. “Long-term, this investment will have lasting, expansive economic benefits by moving goods and people faster, protecting vulnerable communities from flooding, bolstering emergency response capabilities, saving and storing more water and improving energy reliability.”
Former President George W. Bush on Wednesday pushed back at the notion that his recent remarks about the media were criticisms of President Trump.
“I’m asked the question, ‘Do I believe in free press?’ and the answer is absolutely, I believe in free press … because the press holds people to account,” he said. “Power is very addictive and it's corrosive if it becomes central to your life and therefore there needs to be an independent group of people who hold you to account. And so I answered that question and of course the headlines were, ‘Bush criticizes Trump.’ And so therefore I needed to say, ‘There should be a free and independent press, but it ought to be accurate.’”
Bush made the remarks at the Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley during an hourlong question-and-answer session promoting “Portraits of Courage," his new book that features his paintings of veterans. While doing media interviews about the book in recent days, he has raised eyebrows by making comments about the media, immigrants and allegations of Russian interference in the November presidential election that were widely viewed as criticisms of the new president.
The California Legislature’s four top leaders accepted $60,000 in gifts last year, including sports tickets, expensive meals, golf games and travel to foreign countries, according the annual reports they were required to file Wednesday.
Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) accepted 60 gifts worth $24,381, the largest amount of the four lawmakers, including travel expenses to Morocco, El Salvador, Mexico and Puerto Rico.
He received $3,100 in expenses at the Pebble Beach golf resort from the Assn. of California Life and Health Insurance Cos. and the Governor’s Cup Foundation in exchange for speeches. He also accepted free tickets to SeaWorld, the Monterey Bay Aquarium and a soccer game at the Rose Bowl. The gifts were topped off with a $50 cigar from the Sacramento County Labor Council.
Gov. Jerry Brown accepted 27 gifts worth about $4,500 last year, including dinners and travel expenses, a cellphone, bottles of wine and a ticket to a basketball game from the Sacramento Kings, according to his annual filing of an economic interest form.
The amount is down significantly from 2015, when Brown accepted gifts valued at $22,136, including money from the California State Protocol Foundation to attend a climate change conference in Paris.
Last year’s biggest gift was $1,883 in travel expenses from his alma mater, Yale Law School, for a speech he gave at the New Haven, Conn., institution during reunion week. The event included him receiving the school’s prestigious Award of Merit.
Senate Republican Leader Jean Fuller of Bakersfield has begun talking to colleagues about eventually stepping down and passing the torch to another member given that she is termed out of office next year, but so far nobody has publicly agreed to take over the job, officials say.
An attempt by the 13-member Senate Republican Caucus to discuss a possible transition Tuesday was interrupted by a fire alarm drill, so the subject was put off at least until the next weekly caucus meeting, March 7.
“[Fuller] has been calling all of us to say, 'Hey, are you interested,'” Sen. John Moorlach (R-Costa Mesa) said. “The question is, who is willing to take it and when do we do it?”
A state senator plans to amend a bill that would create a legal defense program for immigrants, making all people facing deportation in California eligible to apply for services regardless of criminal background.
As concerns mount over prescription drug abuse, a California legislator wants to impose a tax on addictive opioid medications and use the funds to expand prevention and rehabilitation services.
Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) has introduced a bill that would impose a one-cent-per-milligram surcharge on prescription opioids sold in California. The tax would be imposed on wholesalers who import the medication into the state, not at the point of sale, and it would require a two-thirds approval vote in the Legislature.
“California’s opioid epidemic has cost state taxpayers millions and the lives of too many of our sons and daughters,” McCarty said in a statement. “We must do more to help these individuals find hope and sobriety. This plan will provide counties with critical resources needed to curb the deadly cycle of opioid and heroin addiction in California.”
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said Wednesday that he is setting up an office in Washington, an unusual move for a state attorney general. Opening the new office is reflective of the fact that much of his attention will be devoted to Trump administration actions that might conflict with California policies, Becerra said.
Becerra, who has already filed three amicus briefings in lawsuits challenging Trump immigration orders, said the office will help him collaborate with members of California's congressional delegation on policies that affect the Golden State.
“Decisions that are going to affect California are going to be played out in Washington, D.C., and I think it’s important for my office to have a presence here,” Becerra said.