(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

State Senate leader Kevin de León said Thursday he has “strongly suggested” that Sen. Tony Mendoza take a leave of absence until the completion of an investigation by outside attorneys into allegations that Mendoza sexually harassed three former aides.

“Given the severity of the allegations against Senator Mendoza I do not believe he can perform the duties in Sacramento right now while the investigation is being conducted,” De León told a packed news conference in his Capitol office. “I believe It’s the right thing to do, it’s the fair thing to do,” to take a leave, he said.

The Senate leader also said the outside attorneys have been asked to investigate complaints by former Assemblywoman Linda Halderman that Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Los Angeles) inappropriately hugged her on multiple occasions in a way that made her uncomfortable, even after she asked him to stop.

  • California Legislature
Demonstrators rally in support of net neutrality outside a Verizon store in New York on Dec. 7.
Demonstrators rally in support of net neutrality outside a Verizon store in New York on Dec. 7. (Mary Altaffer / Associated Press)

Moments after the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday voted to roll back net neutrality regulations, a state senator pledged to introduce legislation that would preserve open internet protections for consumers in California.

“Net neutrality is essential to our 21st century democracy, and we need to be sure that people can access websites and information freely and fairly,” Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said in a statement. “If the FCC is going to destroy net neutrality and create a system that favors certain websites just because they can pay more money, California must step in and ensure open internet access.”

The announcement of the proposal came shortly after the FCC voted to repeal net neutrality in an expected 3-2 party-line vote, with Republicans calling for an end to the utility-like oversight of internet service providers.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León discusses sexual misconduct issues at state Capitol. Dec. 14, 2017.

Posted by California Politics: John Myers on Thursday, December 14, 2017
  • California Legislature
  • California Republicans
  • California Democrats
  • Sexual harassment

Over the past decade, California lawmakers have worked to help curb sexual violence in the workplace and other spheres of public life. They have pushed college campuses to keep better track of incident reports, created whistleblower protections for military officers who file claims and established sexual harassment training for farmworkers and janitors.

Now, as more than 140 women have come forward in an open letter to denounce a "pervasive" culture of sexual harassment in the California Legislature, activists and employment lawyers say lawmakers have not held colleagues and staffers to the same standards demanded of those in other fields.

A political group that has brought professional political organizers into the campaign against Rep. Darrell Issa has received its most significant contributions to date — from actress Jane Fonda and other celebrities.

Fonda gave $100,000 to Flip the 49th! Neighbors in Action, which recently registered as a political committee to get Issa, R-Vista, out of office. Comedian Bill Maher gave $15,000 to the group, a rebuke of a politician who has twice appeared on his talk show. Former California Sen. Barbara Boxer gave $2,500, as did Academy Award recipient Leonardo DiCaprio. Actor Ted Danson gave $1,500.

  • California Legislature
  • California Republicans
State Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel)
State Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) (Mark Boster)

California Senate Republican leader Patricia Bates is wading into the sexual harassment debate that has swept up the Capitol and is calling on her Democratic colleagues to allow whistleblowers to speak out by releasing them from non-disclosure agreements.

Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) wrote in a letter to the Democratic legislative leaders — Senate Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) — that Senate Republicans are calling for the Legislature to allow victims or witnesses who may have signed such agreements to share their experiences publicly.

“This release from NDAs would empower victims of sexual harassment, create a new atmosphere for resolving sexual harassment or discrimination concerns, increase public awareness and transparency, and ensure that both the Senate and the Assembly fulfill their obligations to the public and their employees for providing a safe and welcoming workplace environment,” Bates wrote in the letter, dated Dec. 12.

Patrons shop at Bud and Bloom, a Santa Ana marijuana dispensary, last year.
Patrons shop at Bud and Bloom, a Santa Ana marijuana dispensary, last year. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

California officials said Wednesday they plan to use email before the new year to send out some licenses to sell marijuana to speed up the transition to a regulated market. The licenses will not go into effect until Jan. 1.

Proposition 64, which legalized the sale of marijuana for recreational use, required the state to begin issuing licenses by Jan. 1. Because that date is a state holiday, the bureau originally planned to begin sending them out on Jan. 2. That has changed.

“Much of the date discussion — Jan. 1 versus Jan. 2 — was based on whether or not we’d be able to be open on a state holiday,” said Alex Traverso, a bureau spokesman. “The solution to that issue was to issue licenses with an effective date of Jan. 1 since licenses will be issued electronically. That eliminates the need to have the office open on Jan. 1.”

  • California in Congress
House Republicans hold a news conference after the House passed the GOP tax bill.
House Republicans hold a news conference after the House passed the GOP tax bill. (Jacquelyn Martin / Associated Press)

As closed-door negotiations over the final tax bill come to an end, the head of the California Department of Finance is making a last-ditch effort to convince Republicans in the state’s congressional delegation to vote against the plan.

In a letter to the entire delegation Wednesday, Finance Department Director Michael Cohen detailed 10 issues in the current tax proposals about which the state is worried.

Some of Cohen’s concerns may be addressed in the deal that House and Senate leaders said they reached Wednesday morning. Details of the agreement are not yet public.

  • California in Congress

A handful of California representatives discussed the federal response to their state’s wildfires Tuesday with Vice President Mike Pence.

Attending the West Wing meeting were House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Reps. Ken Calvert (R-Corona), Darrell Issa (R-Vista), Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village), Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) and Salud Carbajal (D-Santa Barbara).

“It was a very bipartisan-spirited meeting. He clearly understood the significance of the fires and the impacts,” Brownley said after the meeting. She said Pence offered federal assistance and “recognized that recovery was going to be very important and that we want to work together to make sure that we can get the resources needed.”