594 posts
  • Politics podcast

With fires burning across California and smoke lingering on the skyline of the state’s capital city, it’s no surprise that wildfire prevention is on the minds of lawmakers in the Legislature’s final month of session.

But no topic seems to loom larger than the liability rules that apply to electric utility companies whose equipment plays a role in starting a blaze.

On this week’s podcast, we discuss the complicated politics surrounding efforts to rethink those liability rules. We also discuss the sharp criticism being leveled by lawmakers against the state Department of Motor Vehicles, after complaints of long lines in field offices across California.

A house is listed for sale in Lake Forest.
A house is listed for sale in Lake Forest. (Patrick T. Fallon / Bloomberg)

In November, Californians will vote on four housing-related ballot measures. One of them, Proposition 5, is sponsored by the California Assn. of Realtors, and it gives homeowners 55 and older the ability to take part of their lower property tax base with them when they move to a new home.

On this episode of Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast, we debate the pros and cons of the statewide measure. It will provide incentives for older Californians to move out of larger, family-friendly homes into smaller places for empty nesters. At the same time, it gives even more state subsidies to a generation of homeowners who already have benefited from California’s property tax rules favoring those who have lived in their homes a long time. 

Also, don’t miss our explanation of Proposition 13, the 1978 initiative that set up the state’s property tax structure. 

Firefighters at the Mendocino Complex.
Firefighters at the Mendocino Complex. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order Thursday to expedite recovery efforts in areas hardest hit by California’s wildfires.

Assisting fire-ravaged communities in Lake, Siskiyou, Shasta, Mendocino and Napa counties, the order suspends regulations on clearing fire-related debris and eliminates limits on the number of hours emergency personnel can work. More than 13,000 firefighters are battling blazes across the state.

The order also suspends planning and zoning requirements and waives state fees for manufactured homes and mobile home parks, extends a state ban on price gouging during emergencies, and allows accelerated hiring of additional personnel for emergency and recovery operations.

Former State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) says he is considering a run for his old senate seat in the 2020 election.
Former State Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) says he is considering a run for his old senate seat in the 2020 election. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

A few months after state Sen. Josh Newman was recalled from office by voters, the Fullerton Democrat has scheduled a political fundraiser to collect money for a possible 2020 campaign to reclaim the seat.

In an invitation posted on a new website,, the ousted senator invites supporters to an Aug. 22 fundraiser at the Sacramento Masonic Temple.

“Josh Newman, everybody’s favorite recently recalled Senator, may be out — for now —  but he’s not down,” the invitation reads. “Got a little extra dough to help retire the Recall debt and pave the way for 2020? We’ll take it!”

Migrant families wait for immigration processing at a bus station in McAllen, Texas.
Migrant families wait for immigration processing at a bus station in McAllen, Texas. (Larry W. Smith / EPA/Shutterstock)

California officials asked the Trump administration on Wednesday to release documents indicating whether officials considered the potential psychological impact of the federal “zero tolerance” policy on children separated from their immigrant parents after crossing the border.

State Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Justice, Health and Human Services and Homeland Security departments requesting all records involving the agencies’ consideration of the separation policy’s effects on the mental and physical state of children.

Becerra said he took the action in response to information, detailed at a congressional hearing last week, indicating administration officials were made aware that the separation policy could traumatize children.

  • California Legislature
(Los Angeles County)

Six months after Tony Mendoza resigned his state Senate seat following allegations of sexual harassment, it looks likely that the seat will be filled by another Democrat – for the next three months.

In a special election held Tuesday for Senate District 32, Democratic Montebello Mayor Vanessa Delgado is leading with 52% over Republican attorney Rita Topalian, who has close to 48% with 100% of precincts reporting.

The term goes through the end of November, but Delgado would have only three weeks to make her voice heard, as the Legislature adjourns on Aug. 31.

Jennifer Newsom, Jane Fonda, and Juana Melara discuss workers' rights.
Jennifer Newsom, Jane Fonda, and Juana Melara discuss workers' rights. (Mini Racker / Los Angeles Times)

Actress Jane Fonda joined  Time Magazine “Silence Breakers” Juana Melara and Sandra Pezqueda for a panel discussion on Tuesday in Sacramento to support AB 3080, a bill intended to help victims of on-the-job harassment and discrimination.

The proposal would forbid employers from forcing employees to sign arbitration contracts to get or keep a job. Such contracts require workers to settle disputes out of court, which the bill’s supporters say disadvantages workers and hides wrongdoing.

“You don’t get a sense of pattern,” Fonda said, pointing out that arbitration could prevent the public from learning about serial offenders.

  • State government
California Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom poses with Laphonza Butler, president of SEIU Local 2015, at Greater Zion Church in Compton on June 3.
California Lt. Gov Gavin Newsom poses with Laphonza Butler, president of SEIU Local 2015, at Greater Zion Church in Compton on June 3. (Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

California Gov. Jerry Brown appointed a public employee union leader and his state budget director on Monday to serve as University of California regents, while also adding the state’s community colleges board president and a longtime education advocate to round out vacancies on the panel.

Laphonza Butler, who was president of the Service Employees International Union’s state council when Brown agreed to a union-backed effort to raise California’s minimum wage in 2016, was appointed to fill one of four vacancies on the Board of Regents. Butler has led the SEIU chapter for long-term care workers since 2010, and remains one of organized labor’s most visible leaders in California.

The governor also appointed Michael Cohen, director of the California Department of Finance and his top budget advisor, as a regent. Two others were chosen to serve on the panel for 12-year terms: Cecilia Estolano, the president of the California Community College Board of Governors, and Rich Leib, a member of the Solana Beach School District Board of Education.

  • Governor's race
  • 2018 election

Republican candidate for governor John Cox launched his first campaign ad for the general election Monday, blaming Democratic rival Gavin Newsom and California’s “political class” for a series of problems including water restrictions and the state’s high poverty rates.

In the two-minute digital ad, which will run on social media, Cox looks into the camera and tells viewers he’s the political outsider who can fix California’s ills. That’s been the theme of the Cox campaign since he announced his bid for governor in early 2017.

“This election is about the status quo versus change,” Cox says in the ad. “Gavin Newsom stands with the lobbyists and the corrupt insiders. It’s about time someone stands with the Californians he’s forgotten.”

  • State government
(Andrew Harnik / Associated Press)

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra announced Thursday that the state will join a lawsuit filed against the Trump administration to block the release of blueprints for 3-D-printed guns.

The announcement came weeks after Cody Wilson, known as the inventor of the 3-D-printed gun and founder of digital firearm blueprint developer Defense Distributed, reached a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department allowing him to publish the files online.

The suit, led by Washington state, was filed early this week. In addition to California, seven other states and the District of Columbia have signed on. On Tuesday, a Seattle federal judge issued an order temporarily preventing the public from accessing the blueprints.