Newsletter

Essential Politics: The Georgia special election Rorschach test

In Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, it was an election result that both major parties proclaimed was good for them and bad for the other guy.

So perhaps we should call Tuesday night’s result a political Rorschach test.

Good morning from the state capital, where it’s income taxes and not election results that were the big focus of the last few hours. I’m Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers, and we’ll get to the state’s fiscal health in a moment.

But first, the entire country seems to have had Georgia on its mind. (Cue the legendary Ray Charles.)

A RUNOFF FOR OSSOFF

Democrat Jon Ossoff, a 30-year-old filmmaker and former congressional aide, came out on top in the race to succeed the Republican that President Trump plucked out of the House, Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price.

But Ossoff failed to win 50% plus one -- the threshold to avoid a June runoff -- and will now face Republican Karen Handel.

Still, the district in the Atlanta suburbs has a strong GOP registration and Democrats believed Ossoff heads into Round 2 in good shape. The president, on the other hand, took to Twitter to call it a “BIG ‘R’ win.”

Millions of dollars in outside money was poured into the battle and with good reason, as Cathleen Decker pointed out on Tuesday: It was what everyone thought would be a referendum on Trump.

As she noted, “partisan politics and Democratic rage define today’s political environment.” The question this morning is whether that holds true for another two months.

A BILLION-DOLLAR DAY IN SACRAMENTO?

Closer to home, these last two weeks are full of drama inside the offices of California’s Franchise Tax Board. It began with last night’s deadline for 2016 personal income taxes, and the expected take -- for a single day -- of as much as $1 billion in tax revenues.

No month is more consequential for the fate of this spring’s state budget negotiations between Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders than April. The spending plan proposed by Brown in January assumed $14 billion in income taxes collected this month alone.

BUDGET FIGHTS CONTINUE OVER IN-HOME CARE

California’s signature program to provide in-home care for the elderly and disabled often finds itself at the heart of budget battles. This year is no exception, as Brown tussles with counties over funding.

Melanie Mason walks through the history of the In-Home Supportive Services program and how it’s becoming increasingly relevant as California’s population ages.

A ‘DREAMER’ DEPORTED?

Keep an eye on the lawsuit filed Tuesday by a 23-year-old man who may be the first person with protected status under former President Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) to be deported under the Trump administration.

The lawsuit by Juan Manuel Montes, a Mexican national who has lived in the U.S. since he was 9, demands that federal officials release information about why he was deported.

Montes has learning disabilities after suffering a traumatic brain injury when he was young. He worked in California’s agricultural fields to help support his family and studied welding at a community college before being deported on Feb. 17.

TRUMP TACKLES VISAS

Meanwhile, the president ordered a review on Tuesday of a visa program that he said has undercut American workers, declaring his move a “powerful signal” of his administration’s commitment to “finally put America first.”

Administration officials said a review of the H-1B program would be a “transitional step” toward a revamped immigration system. The announcement came as the president made a campaign-style stop in Wisconsin, a trip he said was to thank voters who supported him last November.

SESSIONS AGAIN BLAMES ‘SANCTUARY CITIES’

A planned speech to an organized crime task force on Tuesday gave U.S. Atty. Gen. Jeff Sessions a chance to again criticize “sanctuary cities” and their approach toward illegal immigration.

The impetus was a discussion of the international gang known as MS-13.

“Because of an open border and years of lax immigration enforcement, MS-13 has been sending both recruiters and members to regenerate gangs that previously had been decimated, and smuggling members across the border as unaccompanied minors,” Sessions said.

TOWN HALLS DRAW BIG CALIFORNIA CROWDS

It’s been a fascinating few days watching California’s members of Congress head home and sort out these tumultuous times with their constituents.

On Monday morning, Sen. Dianne Feinstein faced a grumpy crowd in her hometown of San Francisco. Booed over her stance on single-payer healthcare, the state’s senior senator also suggested more efforts were coming on Capitol Hill in sorting out the president’s entangled business dealings. Feinstein heads to Los Angeles on Thursday.

Healthcare was also a big topic in the Central Valley district of Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) on Monday night. Denham, who represents a district that’s frequently targeted by Democrats, also said he wouldn’t support Republican healthcare legislation unless significant parts of the Affordable Care Act were left intact. He also slogged through hours of questions from restless voters who challenged him to acknowledge that climate change is real (he did) and urge President Trump to release his taxes (he didn’t).

And on Tuesday night, Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) was grilled on healthcare, among other things. In an hour of testy exchanges with the crowd, Knight was put through his paces. One of his more interesting comments came on the president’s possible conflicts of interest and violations of the U.S. Constitution.

"There has to be either an investigation or some sort of a committee looking into this,” he said.

AN EARLY EXIT FOR ‘CALEXIT’

It certainly isn’t what the national political conversation wanted to hear: The much talked about effort to make California an independent country is over. For now, at least.

On Monday, the official author of the “Calexit” proposed ballot measure formally withdrew his plan from consideration. The decision followed months of squabbling among the various factions of pro-secessionists, and thus adds another chapter to more than a century and a half of efforts to carve up California or carve it out of the United States.

The proponent, Marcus Ruiz Evans, said that he hopes to try again with a new group of activists later this year.

NO TRANSPORTATION VOTE, NO CHAIRMANSHIP

Anyone who needed a reminder that politics can be a rough-and-tumble world only had to look as far as the demotion given to Assemblyman Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield).

Salas was one of only two Democrats in the Legislature to vote against last week’s historic $52-billion transportation tax and fee plan in Sacramento. On Monday, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) stripped the Valley Democrat of his post as chairman of the Assembly’s Business and Professions Committee.

By the way, we’re still waiting for the governor to sign the transportation plan into law. One of the big side deals that helped pull in the final legislative support was approved on Monday by the state Senate.

MAKING IT HARDER TO FIND POLICE OFFICERS HAVE LIED

Backers of a bill to make it harder for police departments to discipline officers for making false statements say the current process ensnares officers who make simple mistakes.

But opponents of the legislation argue that building trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve requires greater accountability. The bill cleared its first committee hurdle Tuesday.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- Trump said last week that Navy ships were headed toward North Korea. Instead, they were going the other way.

-- A new state audit concludes that California's DMV isn't making sure people who have disabled parking permits are the same people that actually should have them.

-- The White House is doing its best to deflect criticism on new secrecy for visitor logs and a continued refusal by Trump to release his tax returns.

-- Assembly Democrats re-committed this week to addressing the state’s housing affordability crisis as their top priority, but many hurdles still remain for any major deal to pass this year.

-- The star of “Dog the Bounty Hunter” joined opponents in Sacramento to protest a legislative effort at bail reform in California.

-- A confident Justice Neil M. Gorsuch took his seat on the Supreme Court on Monday and quickly joined his colleagues in firing questions at the lawyers in three highly procedural disputes.

-- State Treasurer John Chiang, a contender for governor in 2018, is stepping into the college affordability fray with a proposal to help those holding private student loans refinance their debt.

-- Should pet shops be required to only sell rescue animals? Some furry visitors to the state Capitol weighed in on Tuesday.

LOGISTICS

We’ve shifted to a Monday, Wednesday and Friday newsletter schedule. You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

Miss Monday’s newsletter? Here you go.

Please send thoughts, concerns and news tips to politics@latimes.com.

Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox.

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
70°