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Gubernatorial candidate John Cox speaks to delegates at the California Republican Party convention in San Diego in May.
Gubernatorial candidate John Cox speaks to delegates at the California Republican Party convention in San Diego in May. (Kent Nishimura)

Financial regulators fined Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox and his firm $15,000 in 2004 for mishandling investors’ funds in a housing deal, according to records filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Along with the fine, which was first reported by the Sacramento Bee, Cox was also censured by the National Assn. of Securities Dealers, which regulates the securities industry. The agency is now known as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Records show that Cox did not admit to or deny the allegations at the time. He was fined $2,500 and his firm, Financial Equity Associates, was fined $12,500.

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  • State government
  • California Legislature
A line of people stretches around a California Department of Motor Vehicles building in South L.A. last month.
A line of people stretches around a California Department of Motor Vehicles building in South L.A. last month. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Two months after the California Department of Motor Vehicles came under scrutiny for hours-long wait times, the agency said Wednesday that it has reduced lines by flooding offices with new workers but that continued delays are not acceptable.

Agency Director Jean Shiomoto wrote in a letter to legislators that the agency has provided “better, faster and more constituent services” in the last month by hiring an additional 468 employees and bringing back 112 retired workers, while expediting improvements to computer systems and processes.

The DMV has blamed the waits on the rollout of the federal Real ID, which was designed to enhance driver’s license and identification card security, and the Motor Voter Act, which made it easier for Californians to register to vote through the DMV.

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  • State government
(Salvador Rodriguez / Los Angeles Times)

Two new laws allowing Californians to legally change their gender went into effect over the Labor Day weekend, simplifying the process of obtaining state-issued documents and court orders for the identity designation.

Both bills were signed into law in 2017, but didn’t go into effect until Sept. 1.

“Mindful of all the people I know who are gender-nonconforming, and the families I know with transgender children, I wanted to make sure that California continued to be a leader in gender-identity equality,” the author of the bills, state Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said on Tuesday.

Civil engineer Praj White assesses a site in Humboldt County’s Eel River watershed that is home to a marijuana farm.
Civil engineer Praj White assesses a site in Humboldt County’s Eel River watershed that is home to a marijuana farm. (Humboldt County)

With counties facing large backlogs of applications for permits to grow marijuana, California lawmakers late Friday approved an urgency measure allowing the pot farmers to continue operating until their licenses are approved.

The bill sent to the governor would allow the state Department of Food and Agriculture to issue provisional licenses to businesses that have submitted an application for local approval.

“The growers have done what they were supposed to and this bill will ensure they can operate until the backlog is cleared,” Assemblyman Jim Wood (D-Healdsburg) said.

(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

A proposal that passed the California Legislature on Friday would impose the nation’s strictest laws on animal testing for cosmetics.  

Senate Bill 1249 would make California the first state to outlaw the sale of cosmetics tested on animals. The ban applies to animal testing of a cosmetic or its ingredients conducted after 2019, but would allow exceptions to comply with Food and Drug Administration or foreign agency requirements.

In the final days of the session, legislators amended SB 1249 to narrow the ban’s scope, focusing on animal testing conducted by the cosmetic manufacturer or suppliers. The earlier version, which met significant opposition, applied even when the group conducting the animal testing was unrelated to the cosmetics company. That version would have prevented companies from using ingredients where animal tests were required for non-cosmetic reasons, including testing to ensure a chemical does not cause cancer.

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In this Aug. 10 photo, a helicopter drops water to protect a home from the Holy Fire in Lake Elsinore.
In this Aug. 10 photo, a helicopter drops water to protect a home from the Holy Fire in Lake Elsinore. (Robyn Beck / AFP/Getty Images)

A new surcharge on landlines, cellphones and data plans meant to bolster 911 operations sputtered in the Legislature on Friday, even as lawmakers cited the need for an improved system in the wake of the state’s deadly wildfires.

“The current system is based on technology from the 1980s,” said state Sen. Holly Mitchell (D-Los Angeles), urging her colleagues to pass the bill. “Because of this outdated technology, the numbers of failures and response times continue to increase.”

The proposed charge would have been between $0.20 and $0.80 per month for each phone line. The bill would have also authorized a $0.75 monthly charge for prepaid mobile services.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

A two-year battle to set middle and high school start times at 8:30 a.m. or later was finally put to bed in the Legislature when the measure squeaked through Friday night. 

Last year, Senate Bill 328 by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) failed to pass the Assembly by 15 votes. Since then, the bill was amended to exempt rural school districts in order to accommodate farming needs.

Lawmakers enthusiastically affirmed the research the bill was based on, which shows that early start times combined with teenagers’ natural sleep schedules lead to sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep, in turn, increases risks of poor grades, mental illness and car accidents. One study found moving start times from 8 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. made students happier and more likely to show up for class.

  • California Legislature
Campers are having trouble getting reservations at state parks.
Campers are having trouble getting reservations at state parks. (Oscar Vasquez / California State Parks)

Californians hoping to reserve campsites at state parks may find them all booked up.

That’s because the electronic reservation system is being gamed by private operators who use computer software “bots” to snap up campsites for weeks in advance before selling them at a premium on the web.

On Friday, state lawmakers sent the governor a bill that bans using the state park service reservation system for profit without first getting approval from the Department of Parks and Recreation.

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Scott Slater, president and general counsel of Cadiz Inc. watches as water pours out into a spreading basin on April 18, 2012.
Scott Slater, president and general counsel of Cadiz Inc. watches as water pours out into a spreading basin on April 18, 2012. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

A last-ditch effort to impose additional environmental review on a controversial groundwater pumping project in the Mojave Desert sputtered Friday night after a key state Senate committee held the bill over concerns about legislative process.

The measure, Senate Bill 120, would have given the state Lands Commission and Department of Fish and Wildlife the authority to study the project by Cadiz Inc. to make sure the pumping would not harm surrounding lands.

A similar measure was shelved by the Senate last year. Sen. Richard Roth (D-Riverside) revived the proposal in recent days using a legislative maneuver called a gut-and-amend, or inserting a new policy into an existing, unrelated bill. 

  • California Legislature
Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles)
Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

State legislators approved a measure Friday that aims to help California taxpayers who face larger federal tax payments following the Trump administration’s recent overhaul.

The bill would allow taxpayers to claim a charitable deduction for state tax payments above the $10,000 limit set in the tax cuts passed by Congress last year. But the Internal Revenue Service announced last week that it believed such plans, which other states have passed, were tax dodges, and is working to pass a rule that would nullify them by the end of the year.

The author of the bill, state Sen. Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), said the passage of the measure was worth it for state taxpayers, even though it would lead to litigation between the state and federal government.