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Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, has filed paperwork to establish a legal expense fund amid an ongoing federal criminal investigation into misused campaign cash.

  • California in Congress
(Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)

California Sen. Kamala Harris says she will no longer accept money from corporate political action committees.

In an interview with WWPM-FM's "The Breakfast Club," in New York that aired Monday, the senator said she wasn’t expecting a question at a town hall this month about whether she would accept money for corporations or corporate lobbyists.

At the time, Harris said "it depends," but she said on Monday that she had reflected on the matter and changed her mind.

  • Ballot measures
  • California Legislature
  • 2018 election
A man sleeps on the sidewalk in front of the Union Rescue Mission in the skid row neighborhood of Los Angeles.
A man sleeps on the sidewalk in front of the Union Rescue Mission in the skid row neighborhood of Los Angeles. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

A measure to spend $2 billion on housing homeless Californians could be on the November statewide ballot.

State Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) is pushing the idea to deal with what he said was a “burgeoning humanitarian crisis whose epicenter is here in California.”

De León’s new measure is a do-over for a 2016 plan passed by the Legislature to redirect $2 billion toward building homeless housing from a voter-approved 1% income tax surcharge on millionaires that funds mental health services. A Sacramento attorney sued over that decision, arguing that the move violated constitutional rules on approving loans without a public vote and that lawmakers shouldn’t take money away from mental health treatment. The case remains active in Sacramento Superior Court and it’s unclear when, or if, the state will be able to spend the $2 billion.

  • State government
  • California Legislature
Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) along with supporters of bills to allow more former felons to receive professional licenses.
Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) along with supporters of bills to allow more former felons to receive professional licenses. (John Myers/Los Angeles Times)

A trio of California Assembly members urged colleagues on Monday to pass legislation that would prohibit state commissions and agencies from rejecting a professional license for those who were once convicted of less serious crimes.

“We can’t say we want to rehabilitate people, and then block them from getting the jobs that they need when they’re released,” said Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco). “That leads to more recidivism and to more crime.”

The bills, scheduled to be heard in Assembly committees Tuesday, would ban the use of arrest or conviction records as the reason for denying a professional license. The bill would not apply to Californians who served time for any of the offenses on the state’s list of “violent crimes.”

  • Governor's race
  • 2018 election
  • California Democrats

Gubernatorial front-runner Gavin Newsom released his first television ad of the race on Monday, days after a well-funded effort to boost fellow Democratic candidate Antonio Villaraigosa went on the air with its own spot.

The 30-second ad, being aired statewide on broadcast and cable, highlights Newsom’s record on same-sex marriage, universal healthcare and gun control.

“The one candidate with the record of bold leadership and bold results,” a narrator says over images of Newsom looking serious and making a speech. It also mentioned endorsements he has received from Sen. Kamala Harris and various unions, and included the slogan, “Courage for a change.”

(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The decision by a politically powerful labor group to openly campaign against an embattled Los Angeles-area lawmaker drew a sharp rebuke on Friday from Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon.

The Lakewood Democrat lashed out hours after the State Building and Construction Trades Council of California filed paperwork for a political action committee to defeat Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). Garcia, who’s seeking her fourth term, took an unpaid leave of absence in February following allegations of sexual misconduct. She has denied the reports and an Assembly investigation remains underway.

Rendon didn’t criticize the labor group by name, insisting instead that the decision was driven by oil and gas industry interests.

"This is a thinly veiled attempt by Big Oil and polluters to intimidate me and my members. It is an affront to my speakership,” Rendon said in a statement. “We are proud of the work that the Assembly has done to increase jobs and wages while defending our environment. We will vigorously defend the members of our caucus from any ill-advised political attack."

A statement from the labor group, which sparred with Garcia last year on her effort to link new climate change policies with a crackdown on air pollution, said it had decided to “reverse” past support for her.

“The Trades have thousands of hard working members in Garcia’s district, and we look forward to lifting up another Democrat in the 58th Assembly to better represent them and their families,” said the statement.

The political action committee’s campaign finance filing on Friday listed nonmonetary “in kind” contributions from Erin Lehane, a public affairs consultant aligned with the building labor group. Lehane said she had begun “researching” Garcia in November. In January, a former legislative staffer accused her of groping him in 2014.

Lehane, who identified herself as a spokesperson for the labor group’s political action committee, said on Friday that she believed Garcia’s “hypocrisy threatened a movement that will dictate how much harassment and abuse my daughter will face in her work life.”

Garcia, who has been an outspoken advocate for women in the #MeToo movement, has complained that her political opponents helped fan the flames of the accusations. Through a campaign consultant, she declined to comment on Friday.

Rendon’s critique came on the heels of a full-page ad in The Times on Friday, partly paid for by the Trades Council, that criticized “well-funded ivory tower elites” who push proposals that hurt the oil and gas industry.

“We are the real jobs that fuel the real California economy,” read the advertisement.

Times journalists at the 2017 Festival of Books
Times journalists at the 2017 Festival of Books

For anyone interested in politics, this weekend’s L.A. Times Festival of Books at USC will be the place for you.

It’s a great event — the biggest book festival in the country and a showcase for ideas and literature in California.

Members of the Times’ California politics team and the Washington bureau will be there in force. We’ll talk about the contest for governor and the midterm elections on Sunday at 1:20 p.m. There also are a number of panels on the Trump administration and politics, moderated by Times journalists.

Here’s the full schedule. To see where we’ll be, filter the list by Politics & History. Also, don’t miss the Ask a Reporter booth on campus.

An attorney representing Gavin Newsom’s campaign for governor is demanding that California television stations cease airing an ad by an independent political committee supporting his Democratic rival Antonio Villaraigosa.

Attorney Thomas A. Willis, in a letter to the stations, said the ad is “false and misleading and violates California law” because it uses snippets of video footage from Villaraigosa’s own campaign ads. Willis called that illegal coordination between the campaign and PAC.

“Under California law, advertisements made by entities other than a candidate are presumed to be ‘coordinated’ — and thus not independent expenditures —  when the advertisement replicates, reproduces or disseminates substantial parts of a communication, including video footage, created and paid for by the candidate,” the letter states.

Armand Werden, a 29-year-old community college student who works the taps at Dust Bowl Brewery in Turlock, said the state is on the upswing.
Armand Werden, a 29-year-old community college student who works the taps at Dust Bowl Brewery in Turlock, said the state is on the upswing. (Phil Willon / Los Angeles Times)

As California chooses a new governor — one of just a handful in the last 40 years not named Jerry Brown — the state seems to be enjoying something unusual in these tumultuous political times: a feeling of relative contentment.

Not to say things are perfect.

Still, more than 100 random interviews conducted over the length and breadth of the state — from Redding in the north to Santee in the south, from the Pacific coastline to the edge of the Sierra Nevada — found most saying things are looking up, at least so far as California’s direction is concerned.

  • California Legislature
Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco)
Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

Earlier this week, state senators killed legislation that would have boosted the number of homes that could be built near transit stops across Los Angeles and the rest of the California.

The measure, SB 827, attracted national attention because it aimed to address both California’s housing shortage and environmental goals. But SB 827’s author, Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), failed to garner enough support from his colleagues at the bill’s initial committee hearing. 

On this episode of Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Pod, we break down why the bill failed and explain what might come next.