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California Gov. Jerry Brown gave a forceful defense of one of his signature projects Monday night, responding to critics of the escalating costs of the state's high-speed rail program.

"That's bullshit," Brown said, at the outset of a 15-minute speech to California labor leaders at a Sacramento hotel.

Brown said the high-speed rail effort, with a newly escalated cost estimate of $77.3 billion to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco, was a small investment when compared with the scale of the California economy. Other countries such as Spain with much smaller economies, Brown said, have already built major high-speed rail lines.

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  • California Legislature
  • California Democrats
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles)
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) (Rich Pedroncelli/Associated Press)

In his final floor session before stepping aside for a new leader, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León urged his colleagues on Monday to reject the suggestion that lawmakers should be “measured” in their approach to governing.

“This moment is fleeting,” De León said of the term limits era of legislating in Sacramento. “Take advantage of this moment and seize it.”

On Wednesday, state Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) will take over as leader of the upper house of the California Legislature. De León, who will leave his post in Sacramento at the end of the year due to term limits, had led the Senate since October 2014. He is the first Latino in California history to hold the position.

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  • California Legislature
A lot in the 400 block of East Florence Avenue in Los Angeles was slated for a homeless housing project.
A lot in the 400 block of East Florence Avenue in Los Angeles was slated for a homeless housing project. (Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

A California lawmaker wants to make it easier to build homeless housing across the state and is taking aim at Los Angeles.

Legislation from Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would require cities and counties to approve permanent supportive housing projects for homeless residents anywhere housing is allowed under that local government’s zoning rules.

Assembly Bill 2162 is necessary to remove barriers to housing California’s growing homeless population, which now tops 134,000 people, Chiu said. He’s also planning to make changes to the bill that would block policies, like those in Los Angeles, that allow local elected officials to spike homeless housing in their districts if those officials don’t provide explicit support prior to a vote.

There are fewer than 80 days until the California midterm primaries that might set up Democrats to reclaim control of the House.

  • State government
State Treasurer John Chiang
State Treasurer John Chiang (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Despite pleas from relatives of those killed in the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino, the state retirement board on Monday rejected a proposal by California Treasurer John Chiang to consider divesting from retailers who sell assault weapons.

Chiang’s motion was defeated by the Board of Administration for the California Public Employees' Retirement System, or CalPERS, with nine members voting in opposition and three in support. Opponents of the motion said divestment would take away their ability as major investors in retail firms to affect store policies on the sale of assault rifles.

“We obviously have a significant problem in this country,” said board member Bill Slaton. But, he added. “We have found engagement is a better alternative in order for us to accomplish something in this arena.”

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President Trump’s new attacks over the weekend against the man leading the Russia probe put renewed pressure on California House Republicans already facing a tough reelection campaign.

(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

The very mention of Conor Lamb’s name got the crowd of Democrats packed into a Palmdale community center for a congressional debate Thursday night hooting and clapping.

The Pennsylvania Democrat’s apparent upset victory in a U.S. House district that President Trump carried by a large margin in 2016 is giving liberal activists fever dreams of a blue wave that could flip dozens of seats currently held by Republicans. 

So the question was posed to the three Democratic candidates looking to oust Republican Rep. Steve Knight this November in a district that Hillary Clinton won in 2016: What lessons does Lamb’s victory offer Democrats?

Althea Krim, 62, watched from the front row as the three top Democrats trying to defeat Republican Rep. Steve Knight squared off at a debate Thursday night.

It was the first political debate Krim, a recently retired audio visual installation manager from Palmdale, had attended. She didn’t follow politics until Donald Trump was elected president in 2016.

Now, the 32-year Antelope Valley resident is a bona fide political agent: She is knocking on doors trying to boost turnout to oust Knight from the Democratic majority district.

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  • California Legislature
Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco)
Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A Bay Area legislator is unveiling new legislation to provide major state funding for cities and counties to finance low-income housing, transit and other infrastructure.

Assembly Bill 3037 from Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) would re-create a version of a program known as redevelopment that set aside billions of dollars in property taxes each year for local economic development and affordable housing. Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers eliminated that program in 2011 during the depths of the state’s budget crisis, arguing the effort was too costly and rife with abuses, such as money financing upgrades to luxury golf courses.

Chiu said lawmakers have learned from the previous program’s failures and that the new version will provide enough money to help local governments meet key state housing affordability and climate change goals while also adding greater accountability to the spending.

In theory, Democrats hoping to win back congressional control have two of their best shots in California, where two Republicans are retiring from racially diverse districts that have been trending against the GOP.