California politics archives from April

Welcome to our archived feed of Essential Politics from April. We covered the California Republican Party convention here.

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Federal Election Commission dings Senate, House candidates for failing to file financial reports

The financial reports detailed campaign contributions and spending within the first three months of 2016.

Wyman, a Tehachapi businessman who along with 23 others is running to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer, did not return calls and emails to his campaign Friday.

Picus, a San Francisco teacher challenging House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said his campaign received a lot of donations right before the filing deadline and had trouble completing the report. He said it would be filed Friday evening.

"We had trouble keeping up with it with our largely volunteer staff," Picus said.

According to the Commission, both campaigns were notified March 22 of the filing deadline and were sent a notification on April 22 that their reports were not received. It's up to the commission to decide what happens next — whether to issue fines for missed reports is decided on a case-by-case basis.

'We're there': Lt. Gov. Newsom says he has enough signatures for gun control initiative

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom says he plans to turn in signatures Friday that will qualify an initiative on gun control. (Nick Ut / Associated Press)
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom says he plans to turn in signatures Friday that will qualify an initiative on gun control. (Nick Ut / Associated Press)

Citing the failure of the state Legislature to act, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that he has collected 600,000 signatures of California voters to qualify a gun control initiative for the November ballot.

“We’re there. This is going to be on the November ballot,” Newsom said Thursday. “Over 600,000 registered voters want to take some bold action on gun safety.”

Newsom’s campaign plans to begin delivering signatures tomorrow to county clerks for verification. If at least 365,880 signatures are found to be valid, the measure will qualify for the ballot.

Newsom said most of the proposals in the initiative “have one thing in common, that over the past number of years they have suffered the fate of either being watered down or rejected by the Legislature. We’re hopeful and confident that the voters of California will overwhelmingly support the initiative.”

The broad measure would require background checks for purchasers of ammunition; ban possession of  ammunition magazine clips holding more than 10 rounds; provide a process for felons and other disqualified persons to relinquish firearms and require owners to report when their guns are lost or stolen.

The initiative would also address an issue caused by the previous adoption of Proposition 47, which made thefts of guns worth less than $1,000 a misdemeanor. The ballot measure would make all gun thefts a felony.

Last week, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) said key provisions of the initiative, including the ban on large-capacity magazines, are addressed by legislation this year, but that bills could be harmed by the initiative going forward.

A campaign committee including gun groups and law enforcement is being formed to defeat the initiative, according to one member, Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California. He noted that the measure has already been opposed by the California State Sheriffs’ Assn., which said it would put restrictions on law-abiding people without taking guns from criminals.

“it’s an initiative that carries multiple proposals that were either killed by the Legislature as not workable or vetoed by the governor,” Paredes said. “Newsom has collected failed policy issues from the Legislature and put them up as an initiative. It's going to be a massive effort to defeat him.”

Paredes said the initiative is a cynical attempt by Newsom to gain higher office.

“We know he’s doing this to pump himself up for his gubernatorial run,” Paredes said.

Newsom said his campaign for governor is secondary to his effort to enact gun safety laws.

He said he has been active in the gun safety movement going back 15 years when he was mayor of San Francisco and a founding member of the group Mayors Against Guns. The National Rifle Assn. was so upset, they protested at his wedding in Montana, he said.

“I expect a good challenge from them,” Newsom said of the NRA. “They have been very aggressive to date. But we are very enthusiastic to be getting to this next phase.”

He cited internal polls indicating more than 70% of California voters support the initiative, and a Field poll that found greater support for provisions of the measure, including the ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Mayer Hawthorne, Reggie Watts, Holychild to headline 'Bernie Bash' show in L.A.

A "Bernie Bash" concert will be held at Los Angeles' Teragram Ballroom on Sunday. Tickets are $20 and $35. All proceeds will go to Bernie Sanders.

Members of Congress want fix for Covered California glitch dropping coverage for pregnant women

 (Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)
(Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Ami Bera and 15 members of the California delegation are pushing the heads of California Health and Human Services and the California Health Benefit Exchange in a letter to address a computer glitch that is terminating Covered California Care for pregnant women.

California Healthline/Kaiser Health News reported April 18 that about 1,900 women across the state have been automatically transferred from the Covered California health insurance exchange to Medi-Cal since October, even though they were supposed to have the option to stay with Covered California. The article appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

Amy Palmer, the agency’s director of communications, told the Bee that the problem was caused by a computer glitch that will not be fixed until September.

Bera and the letter signers say that isn’t acceptable.

“While we appreciate your efforts to ensure women can switch between plans, we remain concerned that until the problem is fixed in late 2016, women will continue to be unenrolled from their Covered California plans and lose access to their current medical providers,” the letter states.

Bera said in an interview that as a doctor he is worried about pregnant women losing healthcare access for any time. Bera practiced medicine in the Sacramento area and was a dean at UC Davis.

“When someone is pregnant, you want them to get continuous prenatal care,” Bera said. “We’re just trying to put a little pressure on Covered California. There’s no reason we should have to wait until September.”

1 p.m. This post has been updated to reflect that the April 18 article was written by California Healthline/Kaiser Health News. It appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

Assembly approves moratorium on injecting gas into Aliso Canyon wells

The entrance to the site of the Aliso Canyon gas leak. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)
The entrance to the site of the Aliso Canyon gas leak. (Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Amid concern over the months-long leaking of natural gas in Aliso Canyon near Los Angeles, the Assembly on Thursday formally approved strict rules preventing injection of new gas into old wells until experts determine the operations are safe.

Assembly members approved a bill that sets specific tests that must be conducted before such work can be undertaken.

The move comes in response to the leak that began in October at the Southern California Gas Co. facility in the area.

Residents complained at the time of headaches, nosebleeds and nausea, and about 8,000 families were relocated, including 2,000 who are still away from their homes even though the leak was plugged in February.

“Certainty about safety and energy reliability must be provided to the community and the entire L.A. region,” Assemblyman Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) told his colleagues in arguing for the bill.

Wilk noted that some of the people who have moved back to their homes are still complaining of health issues.

Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) called the bill a “measured response” to the problem.

“This testing regime is proactive and helps make sure that aging wells, some over 80 years old, are safe to use or are shut down,” Williams said during the floor debate. “We can’t afford the risk to the public health or the environment with another uncontrolled leak at Aliso Canyon or somewhere else.”

Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) voiced concern about the possibility of blackouts and brownouts if sufficient natural gas is not available to keep the electric power grid working.

“The potential for significant service interruptions is real,” Patterson told his colleagues.

Wilk said Gov. Jerry Brown retains the power to declare a state of emergency and order use of natural gas wells to avoid electricity interruptions.

California billionaire Tom Steyer takes aim at Donald Trump, Ted Cruz in TV ad

Calling Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz “wildly extreme and dangerous,” billionaire activist Tom Steyer is launching a weekend blitz of TV advertising that uses the presidential candidates’ views on climate change as an incentive for voter registration.

“These are two of the most dangerous men in America,” Steyer said in an interview Thursday, as his 30-second commercial hit the airwaves.

The ad, being run on televisions stations around the state, features clips of Cruz and Trump as they have taken aim at the scientific evidence pointing to climate change and those who have called for urgent efforts to combat it.

Both men, along with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are scheduled to make appearances at this weekend’s California Republican Party convention in Burlingame. Trump arrives in California first, with a rally in Costa Mesa on Thursday night.

Steyer, one of the most prominent wealthy donors to Democratic causes, launched a $25-million campaign earlier this week aimed at increasing the ranks of millennial registered voters. The ad builds on that effort, and the San Francisco activist says it includes those who wish to vote Republican.

“Republican voters agree with us,” Steyer told The Times. “Trump and Cruz are not out of step just with Californians; they are out of step with their own party.”

Steyer, long seen as a potential candidate for office in California, said he will continue to spend money in 2016 on efforts to defeat Trump or Cruz, should they become the GOP nominee.

“We think this is going to be a generation-defining election,” he said.

Lawmakers approve emergency election cash

This company spent almost $43,000 to support a candidate but can't spell his name right

The congressional campaign of state Sen. Isadore Hall (D-Compton) got some help from Long Beach billboard company Bulletin Displays earlier this month. 

The company reported an independent expenditure of $42,875 to pay for billboards supporting Hall's candidacy. 

Too bad they misspelled Hall's name on the federal filing reporting the expense, referring to him as "Isahore."

It is not the first time the company has put up billboards bearing Hall's image. 

Company President Mark A. Kudler asked the state's ethics agency for advice in 2011 after his company put up a billboard reading, “Thank You from Assemblymember Isadore Hall to those that help make our community safe!" 

Kudler wanted to know if he needed to disclose the costs of the billboard ad to the ethics agency. The agency told Kudler that he did not have to disclose the cost because the advertisement was taken down more than 45 days before an election. 

Internet poker inches closer to legalization in California

An online poker demonstration at a gambling industry conference in Las Vegas. (Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)
An online poker demonstration at a gambling industry conference in Las Vegas. (Julie Jacobson / Associated Press)

After years of gridlock, a bill that would help legalize Internet poker in California advanced out of a legislative committee on Wednesday after its author said there has been “serious progress toward consensus” between many competing interests in the gambling industry.

The measure by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) would allow Internet poker websites to be operated by Native American tribes that operate casinos in partnerships with card clubs. Federal approval would also be required.

It would give at least $60 million annually to the horse-racing industry to compensate it for being excluded from Internet poker and for losing revenue to tribal gambling casinos. The provision on subsidizing the horse-race industry removes one stumbling block that has prevented an agreement in the past.

Gray estimated that more than one million Californians are playing poker on Internet websites that are run by offshore companies without regulation by U.S authorities.

“These poker players are at the mercy of unscrupulous operators who may cheat them out of their money with absolutely no recourse or protections,” Gray told the committee. “It is time we pass a sensible I-Poker framework in California and allow consumers who want to play to do so in a safe, fair and regulated environment.”

The Assembly Governmental Organization Committee approved the bill on an 18-0 vote, sending it to another panel for fiscal analysis, even though it is not yet supported by a group of six Native American tribes that operate casinos. Those tribes are neutral, but warned they may oppose the bill unless more is done to exclude Internet companies that have operated in the past without legal authority.

“We are allowing [the bill] to go forward to continue negotiations," said David Quintana, a spokesman for the group that includes the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and Barona Band of Mission Indians.

The bill is backed by another coalition that includes the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Commerce Casino and Bicycle Casino.

The firm Morgan Stanley estimates that California’s online poker market could reach $1.1 billion annually.

Can the U.S. fight climate change with Treasury bonds?

Care about the effects of climate change? Sen. Barbara Boxer wants you to be able to help get the country ready.

On Wednesday, the senator from California introduced legislation that would allow the Treasury Department to issue up to $200 million annually in "Climate Change Bonds." Money raised by the bonds would fund infrastructure projects such as desalinization projects and flood control to prepare the country for the results of climate change.

“It gives the people a chance to show us that they really care about this,” Boxer said. “We have to fight to lessen the ravages, and that we’ve been doing through the Clean Air Act, fuel economy, energy efficiency, but we’re still going to have these problems. We’re already seeing that."

The bonds are modeled after the World War II-era U.S. War Bonds program.

“I think it captures the imagination of the people, it gives them a way to help meet the challenges of climate change,” Boxer said.

Boxer said she remembers as a child looking forward to her $18 war bond maturing in 10 years.

“I remember as a little kid when my mother said 'Oh, when you’re older you can get these $25 war bonds, you can cash them in,'” Boxer said. “Think if we could get the children very excited.”

An 11-member commission would recommend proposed infrastructure projects to the Commerce Department.

Boxer said she envisions flood control projects in the Gulf States and protection for the East Coast from rising ocean levels. On the West Coast, there could be programs to deal with wildfires and drought, she said.

Locals would have to pitch in 25% of a project’s cost in order to get funding.

“It appeals to patriotism in a way, because if you love this country, and we all do, you have to preserve it. And the way to preserve it is to step up on these issues,” she said.

Boxer said having a dedicated funding source for the large-scale projects would increase their chance of getting built.

“We don’t have enough to take care of just normal infrastructure problems that we have, let alone hardening that infrastructure and making it resilient,” she said. “This might be a way to take it off the budget, but do it in a way that is fiscally responsible and can capture the imaginations of the people.”

The bill is one of many on Boxer’s list of things to accomplish before she leaves Washington in January. She said she’s glad to have Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) as co-sponsor on the bill.

“He’s committed to carry on after I leave,” she said.

Push to legalize renting cars to drive for Uber and Lyft moves forward

Assemblymembers wear jeans for a cause

Support L.A.'s 2024 Olympic bid, California members ask Congress

Members of California’s congressional delegation are asking House colleagues to support Los Angeles’ bid to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Democratic Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Janice Hahn, Alan Lowenthal and Adam Schiff announced Wednesday they will file a resolution stating that Congress supports holding the Games in California.

“Los Angeles' bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games is a bid for the entire nation, and this resolution reflects that,” Roybal-Allard said in a statement. “Our country knows from experience that hosting the world’s greatest sports event can have profound and positive sporting, social, and economic impact. I urge my congressional colleagues to follow the sun to L.A., and help us bring the Olympic Games back to the City of Angels.”

The LA 2024 Olympic bid committee has been drumming up support for the city's application for months. Los Angeles is competing with Paris, Rome and Budapest, Hungary. The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to choose a host in September 2017.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman and LA 2024 Vice Chair Janet Evans also attended the Capitol Hill news conference.

Garcetti praised the California members for the resolution.

“L.A. is a city with the Olympics in its DNA, and we are honored to have been selected as the U.S. bid to bring the Games back to our country for the first time in 28 years,” he said in a statement.

Legislators reject an effort to allow locals to re-order their ballot

 (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

A proposal that would have shifted the order of ballot measures in some communities — allowing local proposals to be at the top of the page — was rejected on Wednesday by an Assembly committee.

The bill by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) reflected the widely held belief that the more prominent the placement of a ballot measure, the better its chances for passage. But California election law requires statewide ballot measures be listed before those proposed by local communities.

Gray's push for quick passage would have allowed Merced County to place a transportation tax at the top of the Nov. 8 ballot, a local tax measure that would also trigger matching funds from the federal government.

"While your communities have drawn down those federal dollars, my community has not," Gray said to members of the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee.

And he was quick to point out that legislators re-order statewide ballot measures anytime they like, pointing out how a water bond (Proposition 1) and state budget measure (Proposition 2) were both boosted to the top of the November ballot in 2014.

Committee members rejected the idea, though some suggested a special exemption could have been made for Gray's Central Valley community.

"There's so many other folks who also want their stuff at the top" of the ballot, said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), the committee's chairwoman.

A proposal to help taxis compete with Uber and Lyft

Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) (Los Angeles Times)
Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) (Los Angeles Times)

With the taxi industry withering thanks to the rise of Uber, Lyft and the ride-sharing economy, Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) wants to make it easier for taxis to compete.

He's proposing legislation to deregulate the taxi industry statewide, allowing taxis to set their own prices among other changes.

Low's bill falls in line with a growing line of thinking at the Capitol: Rather than add regulations to Uber and Lyft, lower them for taxis.

California GOP is rethinking term limits -- for the party chairman

California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte addresses the group's fall convention in Anaheim in September 2015. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)
California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte addresses the group's fall convention in Anaheim in September 2015. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Lost in the excitement over the top three GOP presidential candidates dropping by this weekend’s California Republican Party convention in Northern California is a proposed rules change that could have a big impact on the party’s leadership.

Republican delegates will consider proposals to extend or remove the term limits for the post of state party chairman.

If approved, the current chairman, Jim Brulte, would be eligible to serve at least another two-year term.

Brulte, a former state Senate Republican leader from Rancho Cucamonga, took over as chairman in 2013 at a time when the party was in disarray and in massive debt. He is largely credited with helping turn around the party’s finances and plotting a course for the depleted GOP to become relevant again in California. Brulte was reelected as chairman in 2015.

“He’s done an absolutely great job,” said Michael Osborn, chairman of the Ventura County Republican Party. “It’s always been my opinion that the worst reason to get a rid of someone is because they’ve done too good a job for too long.”

Under the party’s current rules, the chairman is limited to two, two-year terms.

The state GOP’s County Chairman’s Assn., which Osborn heads, has proposed scrapping term limits outright. Another party leadership group has another proposal to expand the limit to three terms.

Osborn expects a compromise to be reached, and said a final version come up for a vote Sunday morning.

If Brulte is elected to a third term as chairman, he still has a lot of work to do. California voters have not elected a Republican to statewide office since 2006, and Democrats hold a 15-percentage point advantage over the GOP in voter registration.

Still, the GOP managed to prevent the Democrats from winning a powerful supermajority in the state Legislature in 2014, and the party is hoping to build on that in 2016. 

"This would give him time to finish what he started," Osborn said.

Andy Cohen talks with 'favorite politician' Gavin Newsom on Bravo's 'Watch What Happens Live'

A block of episodes from "The Real Housewives" franchise was the opening act for California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's Tuesday night appearance on Bravo TV's "Watch What Happens Live," where he appeared alongside "Scandal" actress Bellamy Young for a half-hour of reality TV trivia and saucy questions from callers watching at home.

Newsom, who host Andy Cohen introduced as his "favorite politician," discussed everything from his tie to "Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" star Erika Girardi — her husband, millionaire plaintiff's attorney Tom Girardi, "has been extraordinarily generous" to Newsom's campaign, he said — to whether he has "taken a dip in the man pond." (The answer is no, said a blushing Newsom: "My gosh, what a question!")

Newsom played coy about whether he'd accept a call to be vice president if it was offered to him, but fielded several other quick-fire questions on the show that allowed him to tout his work in Sacramento.

When a caller asked Newsom when he thought recreational marijuana use would be legalized, the lieutenant governor pointed out the California ballot initiative he's backing. 

"There is only one statewide Democrat that has come out in support of that ballot initiative and is working to lead the charge," a grinning Newsom told Cohen as he shrugged and pointed to himself. "This person sitting right here, I'm just saying."

Newsom also plugged the gun control initiative he hopes to take to the ballot box this fall

"The idea that we don't do background checks on ammunition is something in California we're going to fix this November," Newsom said.

For more banter, political shop talk and a tribute to Newsom's "great hair" by an adoring, American flag-waving Cohen, watch clips from the episode and its aftershow

Laura Capps skipped a run for Congress. Now she is seeking a seat on the school board

When Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) announced her retirement last year, all eyes turned to her daughter Laura, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton and aide to Edward M. Kennedy.

But the younger Capps decided against a campaign to succeed her mother in Congress, saying it wasn't the right time for her and her family, including her young son Oscar. 

A year later, with her son ready to start kindergarten, Capps has found a different public office to seek: a seat on the Santa Barbara school board. 

Capps announced her candidacy Tuesday with a snazzy video recounting her life story.

“I’m a Santa Barbara kid,” she told the Santa Barbara Independent. “As my (4-year-old) son starts kindergarten in the fall, I want to strengthen our schools for his generation and beyond.”

Capps is something of Santa Barbara political royalty. 

Her father, Walter Capps, a UC Santa Barbara religion professor, was elected to Congress in 1996. He died unexpectedly less than a year later, and Lois Capps won a special election for the seat.

Laura Capps and her husband, Bill Burton, both national campaign veterans, moved back from Washington three years ago. Burton was deputy White House Press Secretary during President Obama's first term. 

Capps serves on the boards of a number of local nonprofits and was appointed to Santa Barbara County’s Commission for Women by Supervisor Salud Carbajal, a candidate for the congressional seat who has earned the congresswoman's blessing. 

Should she win the school board seat, the commute will certainly beat the two-flight commute she would have made as a member of Congress. Capps told The Times' Cathleen Decker last year that the school board's offices are half a mile from her house.

Boxer's chief of staff heads to Clinton campaign

 (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Laura Schiller, chief of staff to Sen. Barbara Boxer, is leaving next week to work for Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, the senator's office confirmed Tuesday.

Schiller has been with Boxer's staff for more than a decade. Boxer, a longtime Clinton supporter, is retiring in January after more than two decades in Washington.

Politico reported that Schiller will replace Maura Keefe, who has been Clinton's congressional liaison since November.

Before joining Boxer's staff, Schiller worked as a special assistant to President Clinton and as a speechwriter for Hillary Clinton when she was first lady.

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