A quick note of thanks to our readers, who have been with us through countless debates and protests, critical elections, legislative wrangling and major changes in the political power centers in the nearly three years since we started Essential Politics. I’ve appreciated your calls, emails, story tips and letters, and have been grateful for the interaction as we worked to tell political stories in new ways and get people more engaged in California politics.
I’ll be tackling a new adventure as a professor leading the student newsroom at USC Annenberg. We’ll continue to work with The Times in lots of ways, so stay tuned. And if we do it right, you might just see Annenberg’s work as the students hold politicians accountable and cover the biggest stories in Los Angeles.
California’s largest public-employee pension fund saw an upturn in profits generated from its investments in the last year, officials reported Thursday, a record that offered some improvement to its long-term fiscal stability.
Leaders of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System, CalPERS, reported preliminary numbers showing an 8.6% net return on investments for the 12-month period that ended in June. That is a higher rate of return than the pension fund expects to earn over the coming decades, but not necessarily reflective of a change in its long-term challenges.
“While it's important to note the portfolio's performance at the 12-month mark, I can't emphasize enough that we are long-term investors,” Ted Eliopoulos, CalPERS chief investment officer, said in a written statement. “We will pay pensions for decades, so we invest for a performance that will sustain the Fund for decades.”
Two weeks after lawmakers shelved a proposal to increase the number of electronic signs along California freeways, environmentalists have shifted their opposition to a bill that they say could also impact highways — even though its author says it would only allow replacement of existing billboards, not an expansion.
Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) has introduced a measure that would permit existing billboards to be relocated near highways and converted from static signs to electronic billboards that are taller, while expanding the area near highways where they would be allowed.
“This is a dangerous bill that would negatively impact California’s visual character,” Mark Falzone, president of Scenic America, said in a statement Thursday. “It would open up whole new swaths of the state’s freeways to bright, blinking digital billboards and completely undermine Caltrans’ efforts to promote safe and attractive roads.”
Gun owner groups filed a lawsuit Wednesday against state Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, alleging that state computer crashes prevented California owners of assault weapons from registering them by a June 30 deadline, after which they were required to dispose of the firearms.
During the week before the registration deadline, the state Department of Justice’s registration system “was largely inaccessible, and inoperable on a wide variety of ordinary web browsers across the state,” the lawsuit states.
The legal action was filed in Shasta County Superior Court on behalf of three gun owners and the Calguns Foundation, the Second Amendment Foundation, the Firearms Policy Foundation and the Firearms Policy Coalition.
A judge on Monday dismissed the federal government's claim that U.S. law trumps two California laws intended to protect immigrants who are in the country illegally, affirming his ruling last week that California was within its rights to pass two of its three so-called sanctuary laws.
U.S. District Judge John Mendez rejected the U.S. government's argument on two of the laws that the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government pre-eminent power over states to regulate immigration. The Trump administration argued that California is obstructing its immigration enforcement efforts.
As he did in last week's decision, Mendez ruled Monday that the federal government could proceed with its attempt to block part of a third California sanctuary law, which prohibits employers from allowing immigration officials on their property without warrants.
A prominent environmental group took legal action Monday to block Proposition 9, the proposal to split California into three states, from the fall ballot.
The challenge, filed with the California Supreme Court, asserts that the proposal is too sweeping in its nature to have been placed on the ballot under the same provisions used to enact traditional laws.
"In seeking to remove this initiative from the ballot, we are asking the court to protect the integrity of both the initiative process and our state constitution,” Carlyle Hall, an attorney representing the group, said in a written statement. “Proponents should not be able to evade the state constitution simply by qualifying a measure as one thing, when it is so clearly another."
California voters will decide whether to increase penalties for some crimes while expanding the collection of DNA from those convicted of nonviolent offenses under an initiative that earned a place Monday on the 2020 ballot.
The initiative by the group Crime Victims United of California was determined by the secretary of state’s office to have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
“This will make California safer,” said Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove), a key proponent of the initiative who spent 30 years with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department.
In the two weeks since an initiative qualified that would repeal an increase to the gas tax, construction companies, labor groups and civic organizations have poured $3.7 million into a campaign against Proposition 6, campaign records show.
Although the total raised by supporters of the gas tax is $11.8 million, backers of the repeal initiative on the November ballot say they have raised more than $1 million in recent months, bringing their total haul to $3.2 million.
“Unions and the highway construction industry have their own stake here, given the $50-plus billion in road building and repair costs, and they are not about to roll over,” said Larry Gerston, professor emeritus of political science at San Jose State University. He said a reasonable expectation is that $50 million to $75 million will be raised for the Nov. 6 election “given the self-interest on both sides and the amount raised to date.”
CA39 candidate @GilCisnerosCA reacting to @AP report that immigrant recruits are being quietly discharged by the military. Cisneros, a Navy veteran, calls it "shameful" to expose them to risk of deportation. pic.twitter.com/DuRs0Xgxek
Cisneros is the only Dem challenger who's a veteran in CA's competitive races. About 26,000 adults are veterans in CA39, not as high as CA49 or even CA45, but veteran status is something national groups continue to see as an asset in swing districts like this one pic.twitter.com/73x5XaThlw
Last week, the deadline passed for proponents of California initiatives to pull their measures off the state’s November ballot. But that hasn’t stopped one powerful interest group from hoping it can still strike a deal with lawmakers.
The California Assn. of Realtors collected enough signatures from voters to qualify an initiative that would allow homeowners older than 55 to take a portion of their Proposition 13 property tax benefits with them if they move to a new home. The measure will be listed as Proposition 5 on this November’s ballot.
The Realtors are still interested in having state legislators put forward an alternative measure instead, one that might help clear some of the opposition to their plan. The state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Office has estimated the change, should voters approve Proposition 5, would cost local governments and schools a combined $300 million a year, with that figure rising over time to $2 billion annually. Labor groups, including the California Professional Firefighters, are opposed over fears it’s too much money.