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A California state senator has revived a major effort to boost homebuilding near transit, a proposal he says is necessary to address the state’s housing affordability and climate change challenges that have only deepened since his initial bill failed earlier this year.


A California state legislator is reviving an effort to require public universities to provide abortion pills on college campuses after Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar measure earlier this year. 

Sen. Connie Leyva (D-Chino) said she believes the proposal has a better shot at becoming law next year under Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, who publicly supported the idea on the campaign trail. 

“I would have reintroduced it even if we still had Gov. Brown [in office] because I think the issue is that important,” Leyva said. “Women should always have access to abortion. That’s their constitutional protected right and it’s woman’s choice.” 

State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), right, and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) co-wrote legislation to end money bail.
State Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), right, and Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) co-wrote legislation to end money bail. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

With California’s move to end the cash bail system in limbo, Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys) says he is looking for other ways to ensure courts are fair in determining whether criminal defendants are fit for release before trial. 

On the first day of the 2019 legislative session, Hertzberg introduced a bill that would require the state to collect data and evaluate any so-called “risk assessment tools” already employed by as many as 49 counties across the state. The tools, or tech analyses, are used to evaluate people who have been arrested to determine whether, and under what conditions, they should be released.

But judges and court officials can insert data into the systems that can lead the software to draw improper, biased conclusions if not properly monitored, advocates say. Hertzberg’s new proposal, Senate Bill 36, would require counties to report how they use the systems in an attempt to prevent that from happening. 

  • California Legislature
Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) condemns a federal proposal to restrict green cards for immigrants in need of public services.
Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) condemns a federal proposal to restrict green cards for immigrants in need of public services. (Jazmine Ulloa/Los Angeles Times)

California lawmakers on Monday denounced a federal proposal that would restrict green cards for those likely to receive public assistance, calling it a “xenophobic,” “classist” and “racist” plan to target the state’s most vulnerable immigrant families.

Immigrants who rely on public benefits for food, housing and medical care could be denied green cards under the new rules put forth this fall by the Trump administration in an attempt to limit family-based “chain migration.” The proposal was part of wider efforts by the Trump administration to further restrict legal immigration.

“Trump’s latest anti-immigrant move shows again how heartless and un-American this administration has been; a move that forces immigrant families to make impossible choices,”  said Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), chairman of the Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus.

  • Ballot measures
  • California Legislature
State Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica)
State Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

A Los Angeles-area lawmaker is proposing a 2020 ballot measure that would remove from the California Constitution a provision that makes it harder to build low-income housing.

Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica) wants to eliminate Article 34 of the state Constitution, which requires a citywide public vote before new low-income housing projects that receive public funding are built. The provision was added to the Constitution through a ballot initiative in 1950, and Allen said it was a relic in need of repeal.

“The fact that this particular type of housing was subject to this additional requirement really does look pretty nefarious,” Allen said. “I think it’s reflective of old-school values that we’ve moved past.”


A political transformation of the California Legislature takes an important leap forward this week, one that feels a little like a blast from the past: The era of long-tenured lawmakers is back.

  • California Legislature
California State Capitol
California State Capitol (Los Angeles Times)

The new state Legislative session will see a change in the upper house’s top executive position, with Capitol veteran Erika Contreras nominated Friday to become secretary of the state Senate.

Contreras has been the chief of staff for Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) since 2010 and fills a post being vacated at the end of December by Daniel Alvarez, who is retiring after more than 32 years in state government.

“Erika is deeply familiar with the inner workings of the Senate and has a profound appreciation for our traditions,” said Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego), who introduced a resolution expected to be approved next week by the Senate. “I’m confident she has the skills and temperament to guide this chamber into the future.”

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

In the past few years, homeless populations across California have risen dramatically and nowhere more so than in the state’s largest cities. 

On this episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast,” we play excerpts from a forum held earlier this month with big city mayors talking about how they’re addressing the issue and what else needs to be done. On the panel, which was moderated by CALMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall, was Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg.

We also talk to former Houston Mayor Annise Parker about her widely praised efforts to reduce homelessness in her city during her tenure and how Houston’s different laws for home building — the city has no zoning rules — affects housing affordability there.

A conceptual rendering of the California high-speed rail project.
A conceptual rendering of the California high-speed rail project. (California High-Speed Rail Authority)

The group behind the failed gas-tax repeal effort was given state approval Thursday to begin collecting signatures for a new initiative to cancel the high-speed rail project and revamp state transportation funding.

The initiative was proposed by former San Diego City Council member and radio host Carl DeMaio before the November election as an answer to opponents of Proposition 6, which would have repealed an increase in the state gas tax but was rejected by voters.

The  new initiative would shift about $10 billion in state revenues from state and local non-transportation programs to local transportation funds, resulting in potential deep cuts to general fund revenue used for other state services, according to an analysis released Thursday by state Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor.

California lawmakers are proposing to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products including those used in electronic cigarettes.
California lawmakers are proposing to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products including those used in electronic cigarettes. (Nam Y. Huh / Associated Press)

Six California legislators proposed Thursday to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products — including those used in electronic cigarettes — in retail stores and vending machines in the state, citing concern over a steep increase in nicotine use among youths.

The lawmakers said they would introduce such a measure when the Legislature convenes next week, and that it would also impose age verification requirements for online sales of tobacco products.

“We must stop the appalling epidemic of e-cigarette use by youths,” said Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo), who is co-authoring the bill with others including Democratic Sens. Anthony Portantino of La Cañada Flintridge and Connie Leyva of Chino.