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594 posts
  • California Legislature
A California DMV office in South L.A.
A California DMV office in South L.A. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Long wait times at the Department of Motor Vehicles were the subject of continued controversy Wednesday at a Capitol hearing and at a campaign event where Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox said the problem has been mishandled.

The Assembly Budget Committee voted 15 to 10 Wednesday on a budget bill that allows the DMV to pursue an additional $26 million to speed up the processing of licenses at field offices. But the agency must justify any request in writing and provide a monthly report on how money is being spent.

“It’s absolutely appropriate that we continue to follow up and understand how these resources are deployed so that these wait times, which are a statewide issue, can be addressed across the board,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the committee’s chairman.

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  • California in Congress
  • California Republicans
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) speaks to guests before his appearance in Sacramento on Aug. 15.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) speaks to guests before his appearance in Sacramento on Aug. 15. (John Myers/Los Angeles Times)

Almost two dozen protesters interrupted an otherwise low-key appearance by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy in Sacramento on Wednesday, accusing the Bakersfield Republican of not doing enough to keep immigrant families from being separated.

“McCarthy, where’s your heart?” protesters chanted as they unfurled small banners that said “No justice, no peace” at the event sponsored by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

The demonstration was part of a series of protests and rallies held Wednesday that targeted the homes and district offices of California House Republicans for what immigrant rights organizers called their complicity in the Trump administration’s rigid immigration policies and separation of migrant families. The protesters briefly stopped the event before leaving the room. McCarthy sat quietly on stage during the interruption.

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Former Assemblyman Matt Dababneh filed a defamation lawsuit Tuesday in Sacramento County Superior Court against a lobbyist who accused him of forcing her into a bathroom and masturbating in front of her. The suit comes nearly two months after a legislative investigator reported in a letter newly obtained by The Times that preliminary findings substantiated the woman's claim.

In the 1970s, Los Angeles police officers were furious that past complaints against them increasingly were making their way into court cases.

California lawmakers haven’t released the details of landmark legislation meant to overhaul the way judges assign bail, but the bill’s former supporters are raising alarm over possible changes that could give judges more power to incarcerate a wide array of people.

An Aug. 6 version of the amended bill obtained by the Los Angeles Times shows that judges would have greater discretion over “preventive detention,” a practice that allows them to decide which people to hold without the possibility of release. The changes to Senate Bill 10 also would narrow the number of low-level, nonviolent criminal defendants automatically eligible for release after their arrest.

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  • California Legislature
Firefighters ignite a backfire to stop the Loma fire in September 2016 near Morgan Hill, Calif.
Firefighters ignite a backfire to stop the Loma fire in September 2016 near Morgan Hill, Calif. (Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Fire and forestry officials told California lawmakers on Tuesday that any new statewide strategy to lessen the risk of deadly wildfires depends on reducing the timber and brush that fuel the blazes.

Jim Branham, executive director of the California Sierra Nevada Conservancy, told a special legislative committee that wooded or brush-heavy terrain covers some 60% of the state.

“At some point every year, they become flammable,” Branham said.

Alicia Silverstone speaks in support of SB 1249.
Alicia Silverstone speaks in support of SB 1249. (Mini Racker / Los Angeles Times)

Alicia Silverstone, the actress best known for the film “Clueless,” visited the Capitol in Sacramento on Tuesday to advocate for a bill that would ban the sale of most animal-tested cosmetics in California, an effort cosmetics giants oppose.

State law already bans unnecessary animal testing in California, but retailers can still sell products that are tested on animals elsewhere. The bill Silverstone is pushing, Senate Bill 1249, would make those sales illegal in the coming years. The proposal includes exemptions when the Federal Drug Administration requires animal testing and, until 2023, when foreign governments mandate it.

That provision is meant to ease the transition for cosmetics companies that operate in countries like China, where manufacturers must test all cosmetics on animals. But the bill’s supporters expect Chinese law to loosen in the coming years.

Flames burn near power lines in Montecito in December 2017.
Flames burn near power lines in Montecito in December 2017. (Mike Eliason / Associated Press)

With negotiations intensifying over how California’s electric utilities should help pay to fight wildfires, a prominent Republican lawmaker says the companies should contribute to a new multibillion-dollar fund that would help mitigate those expenses.

The proposal by Assemblyman Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) would create the California Wildfire Insurance Fund, a pool of money collected from utility companies that could be used to cover some of the “extraordinary costs arising from wildfires,” according to the draft legislation.

The plan would help utilities that act prudently, while reducing the impact from future fires on utility ratepayers, Mayes said.

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  • Ballot measures
The fountain inside the Grove mall in Los Angeles lights up in June.
The fountain inside the Grove mall in Los Angeles lights up in June. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

A big battle over property taxes in California is shaping up for the 2020 ballot.

Supporters of a bid to increase taxes on commercial land announced Tuesday they’ve collected more than 860,000 signatures to force a vote on the issue in two years.

“This is a defining moment for California,” Fred Blackwell, CEO of the San Francisco Foundation, said in a statement. “Closing the commercial property tax loopholes is important to our state.”

  • California Legislature
A river controlled by the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy
A river controlled by the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (Los Angeles Times)

State lawmakers agreed Monday to pay $321,000 to settle a discrimination complaint from the executive secretary of a state conservancy agency in Los Angeles County.

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved the settlement with Valerie Thompson, a 57-year-old African American woman who sued the conservancy, alleging she was mistreated by the staff of the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, including executive director Mark Stanley.

Thompson’s lawsuit alleged that Stanley, who is also African American, spoke to her in a “demeaning and derogatory tone,” denied her promotional opportunities and time-off requests, failed to accommodate a disability, and sought to downgrade her job to a part-time position. The lawsuit also alleged that Stanley brought his ex-wife, who is Latina, to the office, and afterward favored Latina staff members over Thompson.