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Easing wildfire liability rules for utilities is off the table in Sacramento

Easing wildfire liability rules for utilities is off the table in Sacramento
Essential Politics (LAT)

Bill Dodd is a longtime Napa County politician, who served as a local supervisor for 14 years before coming to Sacramento, where he now serves in the state Senate.

And so he knew when enough was enough: No matter how hard he and others might see the need to loosen the wildfire liability rules for electric utility companies, it wasn’t in the cards.

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“It clearly became a distraction,” Dodd told me on Saturday.

NO CHANGES ON WILDFIRE LIABILITY

Dodd, the co-chairman of the joint legislative conference committee examining wildfire prevention policies this month, said lawmakers will continue to look at other issues — including vegetation management requirements to keep flammable material away from power lines — but they won’t revamp the system known as “inverse condemnation.”

“It just felt like it was the ultimate bailout of the utilities,” Dodd said, echoing complaints that any loosening of the existing standards would come at the expense of local communities who would need the money to rebuild.

We’ll keep an eye on the developments this week on our Essential Politics news feed.

MAJOR BAIL OVERHAUL ONE OF MANY TO ADVANCE

The next two weeks are the final days of the 2018 legislative session in Sacramento, and scores of major bills are still in the mix. That includes an effort to revamp California’s cash bail system.

Last week, lawmakers made a sweeping decision: Amend the bill to eliminate cash bail as we know it.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers kept alive a closely watched bill to limit the legal standard for an officer-involved shooting and gave an initial green light to expand access to law enforcement personnel records. The records bill is especially noteworthy, given California has the most restrictive rules in the nation for public access to policing records.

Lots of other bills, though, failed to pass the crucial “suspense file” deadline in the appropriations committees of the state Senate and Assembly. That included an effort to increase banking opportunities for legal marijuana and the creation of a panic button for hotel cleaning crews threatened with sexual assault.

INVESTIGATION: INHERITING MOM AND DAD’S PROPERTY TAX

For more than 30 years, California families have enjoyed a tax benefit unlike any in America: Adult children inherit not only their parents’ home, but also the property tax obligation that could be thousands of dollars lower than what otherwise would be collected.

Liam Dillon and Ben Poston spent months gathering property tax data from those who have inherited property and conclude it means less money for local governments and serves as a reminder of the generational inequities many see in California’s tax system.

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NATIONAL POLITICS LIGHTNING ROUND

-- President Trump insisted Sunday that he’s unconcerned by reports that White House Counsel Don McGahn has cooperated extensively with special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe into possible Russian collusion and obstruction of justice. The president said on Twitter that McGahn was not a “rat” and added, “I have nothing to hide.”

-- Michael Avenatti, who soared to fame as legal counsel for porn actress Stormy Daniels and a ubiquitous tormentor of Trump, brought his possible White House campaign to New Hampshire last weekend.

-- The jury in the fraud trial of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign chairman, ended last week without reaching a verdict yet.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- This week’s California Politics Podcast takes an in-depth look at Sacramento action on the cash bail system and policing, as well as news on the sexual misconduct front.

-- Gov. Jerry Brown issued pardons to 36 people on Friday, including three immigrants with criminal records who face possible deportation.

-- A conservative super PAC trying to help the GOP hold onto its majority in the House burst onto Southern California’s pricey airwaves last week with more than $2.5 million worth of buys across four congressional districts.

-- School boards across California have filed a lawsuit that seeks to overturn a California budget decision from last summer that is another chapter in the long saga over how to interpret what voters meant in 1988 when they promised more money for education.

-- A proponent of an initiative to allow sports betting in California received approval to begin collecting signatures to put the measure on the 2020 ballot, but key players in the gambling industry have distanced themselves from the idea.

-- Almost two dozen protesters interrupted an appearance by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in Sacramento last week, accusing him of not doing enough to keep immigrant families from being separated.

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-- No one needs to tell Kevin de León that his campaign to unseat Sen. Dianne Feinstein is a long shot. He’s reminded all the time.

LOGISTICS

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