Essential California: Tobacco lobby wins in Sacramento

Good morning. It is Thursday, July 9. The Little Tokyo confectionery that first created delicious mochi ice cream just sold to a Los Angeles-based private equity firm. That means the chocolate, strawberry and green tea treats could be coming to a store near you. Here's what else is happening in the Golden State:


Political representation 

Latinos are now the largest ethnic group in California, according to the U.S. Census, but they're still not equally represented in state politics. That's partly because some are in the country illegally and cannot vote. The Latino population also tends to be younger than the general population and therefore not as likely to turn out for elections. "By any measure, Latinos are very underrepresented at every level of government in California," said the spokesman for the California Latino Legislative Caucus. Los Angeles Times 

Crime surge

Crime rates are increasing in the city of Los Angeles for the first time in more than a decade. Aside from homicide, all categories of violent and property crime were up in the first six months of the year. Officials aren't sure why there's more violence, although they cite Proposition 47, an uptick in homelessness and an increase in gang activity as contributing factors. "This is bad news. Let me be clear: Any uptick in crime is unacceptable," said Mayor Eric Garcetti. Los Angeles Times 



DWP rates: Los Angeles is trying to do two things -- save water and fix broken water pipes. The Department of Water and Power is proposing to do both through a new tiered pricing structure. Heavy water users could see their bills increase 30% over five years. The plan will now go through a 120-day public review period. It ultimately would need the approval of the L.A. City Council to take effect. Los Angeles Times

Celebrity drought-shaming: Did "Magnum, P.I.” star Tom Selleck steal water from a fire hydrant near his Hidden Valley ranch? That's what a real private investigator found after the Calleguas Municipal Water District found after they put him on the case, according to court documents. A representative for Selleck has not responded to the allegations. Los Angeles Times

Natural beauty: Despite the drought, Yosemite National Park is as beautiful as ever, as these 11 photos show. Business Insider (photo gallery)

Drought fee: State water officials are considering whether to sign off on hefty fines for water-wasters. Members of the State Water Resources Control Board, however, seem inclined to leave the fees and fines up to local water agencies. Daily News



Bring cash: Buying a modest house in Southern California is more competitive than ever, writes columnist Steve Lopez. Homes are routinely going for well over the asking price, and sellers favor buyers with all-cash offers. "The field is more sharply tilted than ever when some people pay for houses the way most people pay for groceries," he writes. Los Angeles Times

Rising rents: Why would a landlord rent an apartment to a tenant when he can rent to lots of short-term renters, like tourists, and charge more money? That’s the question in the Los Angeles housing market, especially now that new figures show landlords could make nearly twice as much money by taking perfectly good apartments off the market and treating them more like hotel rooms. Curbed LA

New bugs: When a board trustee at the Natural History Museum challenged curator Brian Brown to find a new species of insect, he did -- in her backyard. That spurred a three-year program called Biodiversity Science: City and Nature, and tents popped up in backyards throughout Los Angeles. New Yorker



Smoking section: The tobacco lobby had a good day Wednesday in Sacramento. A state senator dropped his bill to regulate e-cigarettes after it was gutted by the Assembly. And a second bill that would have increased the smoking age from 18 to 21 failed to get enough votes in committee. Los Angeles Times

Historical figures: Two elementary schools in Long Beach and San Diego would have to change their names under a proposed state bill. State Sen. Steve Glazer wants to prohibit California properties from being named after Confederate leaders, like Robert E. Lee, whose name is on both of those schools. Los Angeles Times

Environmental policy: Gov. Jerry Brown's word of the day is "troglodytes." That’s how he described people who deny the threat of climate change. "We're on a Titanic unless we turn," he said in a speech in Toronto. Los Angeles Times

Political loophole: An aide to the leader of the state Senate accepted a vaporizer and some edibles from a medical marijuana lobbyist that exceeded the limits of the state's Political Reform Act. However, it turns out he did not actually violate the law. That's because even though Josh Drayton presented himself as an aide to Kevin De Leon -- and possessed business cards with the state Senate seal -- he actually works for the Democratic Party. Buzzfeed

No contest: There is not one Democrat who has raised his or her hand to challenge San Diego's Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer. One challenge is that Democrats there have a difficult time winning in June primaries. KPBS (audio)



Smaller, faster: L.A.'s Metro agency is considering more frequent bus service. But it would mean more crowded buses, fewer bus stops and the elimination of routes in low-ridership neighborhoods. Essentially, a smaller but faster bus network. City Lab

Got change? The coin purse is about to make a comeback in San Francisco. In 30 days, the city will charge a fee any time a driver uses a credit card or smartphone to pay for a parking meter. For the last five years, a federal grant covered that fee. SF Gate



Tax exemption: It was just after 1 a.m. when the Anaheim City Council agreed not to collect an admissions tax on Disneyland tickets for the next 30 years. In exchange, the theme park will spend $1 billion on a theme park expansion. Last year Disney, which is the largest employer in Orange County, paid the city $56 million in property, sales and hotel taxes. Los Angeles Times



Ick factor: You may want to put down your coffee for this story. Surveillance footage from a doughnut shop in Riverside County shows pop singer Ariana Grande licking the tasty treats that were left on a tray unattended. And yes, all of those doughnuts were sold to customers later that night. Los Angeles Times

Military jail: A 22-year-old man from West L.A. always wanted to serve in the military. When he graduated high school, he signed up for the Israeli Defense Forces. So, how did this lone soldier, who traveled to Israel to serve, wind up in jail on terrorism charges? LA Weekly



San Francisco has a chance of thunderstorms with a high of 64. San Diego could have drizzle in the morning, then clouds and 70 degrees. Drizzle and fog in Los Angeles this morning. Temperatures will reach 71. Riverside will be cloudy, possibly rainy, and 75 degrees.



The L.A. Unified School District is the latest organization to cut ties with Donald Trump after he called Mexican immigrants rapists and drug dealers. The district was scheduled to host a fundraiser at the Trump National Golf Course in November. Moving the event to a different venue will cost LAUSD $7,500 -- because the billionaire businessman says he won’t refund the district’s deposit.


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