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Essential Politics: The return and the reckoning in Sacramento

Seventy-eight days ago, a group of women involved in California politics went public with their allegations of a “pervasive" culture of sexual harassment in and around Sacramento.

But the state Capitol, at the time, was almost empty. Lawmakers had adjourned for the year. Now they return to consider the changed political landscape.

SACRAMENTO GAVELS IN

Efforts to address sexual misconduct are just one of many items on the to-do list for 2018, as the two houses of the California Legislature convene this afternoon.

Already, we’re seeing how the broad national conversation on workplace abuse will change the debate: One state lawmaker said Tuesday he will introduce a bill requiring panic buttons for hotel workers so they can summon help if abused by a guest.

Next week, the focus moves to money, when lawmakers get a budget plan from Gov. Jerry Brown. And then there are dozens of bills left over from 2017 that face a live-or-die deadline by month’s end.

Our team will be covering all of this on our Essential Politics news feed.

TRUMP’S TWEETS: THE 2018 EDITION

Not that anyone suspected President Trump’s list of New Year’s resolutions would be to tweet less. But the past 24-hours have made it clear: He’s in no mood to back off one of the most unusual, and caustic, parts of his presidency.

From the dilemma facing some young immigrants to the size of his “nuclear button" and beyond, the president reminded everyone that he sees himself as the nation’s commenter-in-chief.

Trump kicked off the new year with a series of Tuesday tweets about efforts to keep from deportation people brought to the country illegally as children.

“Democrats are doing nothing for DACA — just interested in politics," he wrote in a tweet, referring to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by its acronym.

Later, he threatened to cut off U.S. foreign aid to the Palestinians. He also muddied the waters about his administration’s position on the protests in Iran.

NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND

-- The end of an era in Utah and Washington: The state’s senior senator, Sen. Orrin Hatch, announced Tuesday that he won’t seek re-election. And now the question is whether Mitt Romney, the 2012 presidential nominee and former Massachusetts governor who is a frequent Trump critic, will run for the seat. Cathleen Decker writes that if Romney does run, as is widely expected, he would start as a prohibitive favorite in a state where he is far more popular than the president.

-- White House officials head to Capitol Hill on Wednesday for budget talks as Congress faces a mid-January deadline to avert a federal shutdown.

-- Lupe Valdez is a gay Latina sheriff running for Texas governor, and she could win even if she loses. For Texas Democrats, boosting registration and turnout could ultimately lead to victory.

-- The president may have tweeted about his own role in the good news, but the fact that nobody died in a U.S. commercial jet crash last year is a trend that predates Trump.

CALIFORNIA POT SELLERS ARE LINING UP

Monday’s kickoff of recreational pot sales in California looks to have been only the tip of the iceberg, as state officials say license applications are flooding in.

While dispensaries like this one in West Hollywood saw brisk business, the number of shops actually open statewide was relatively small. The state has issued 104 licenses for retail stores to sell marijuana for recreational use in California and 239 other applications for those permits are pending, officials said Tuesday.

An official with the state’s Bureau of Cannabis Control added that the agency is prepared to begin taking enforcement action against pot shops that are not properly licensed.

IS LOS ANGELES THE BIG PRIZE IN THE GOVERNOR’S RACE?

Could Los Angeles County be the determining battleground for the governor’s race? It’s home to 1 in 4 of the state’s voters.

It’s diverse, sprawling, expensive to advertise in and voters often don’t show up, especially compared with the Bay Area. That’s why anyone hoping to topple Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has to win the county. For two hometown Democratic candidates especially — former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang of Torrance — doing well in L.A. County is essential. Yet this overwhelmingly Democratic stronghold continually bedevils even the most adept campaigns.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- More California workers say their bosses are threatening to have them deported, according to the state Labor Commissioner’s Office.

-- Ads thanking four California Republicans for their votes to pass the GOP tax plan start airing today.

-- The San Francisco Unified School District has acknowledged a state of educational emergency for low-income black students. As the city grows wealthier and better-off parents send their children to private schools, it has become one of the worst places in California for black students to learn.

-- UC Santa Cruz is redoubling efforts to draw more transfer students in a push to meet state requirements for release of $50 million to the University of California. Why aren't more students lured by the university's top-ranked researchers or surrounding paradise of beaches and redwoods?

-- Two possible instances of discrimination were reported after California issued driver's licenses to immigrants without legal status, a new state report concludes.

LOGISTICS

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