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Gov. Jerry Brown signs 15 housing laws in 2017 in San Francisco.
Gov. Jerry Brown signs 15 housing laws in 2017 in San Francisco. (Eric Risberg / Associated Press)

Earlier this week, the city of Cupertino approved a massive new housing, retail and office project on the site of a mostly empty mall.

The project had been stalled for years, and only moved forward with the help of new state legislation designed to force cities and counties to approve developments that met underlying zoning rules.

The decision in Cupertino, the home of Apple, is probably the biggest demonstrable effect so far of the package of 15 bills Gov. Jerry Brown signed in 2017, which were billed as the state Legislature’s most robust response to the state’s housing affordability problems in recent memory.

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To hear Katie Porter tell it, she’s just your average Orange County mom, clipping coupons, shopping specials at the supermarket and puttering about with three kids in a Toyota minivan that’s pushing 120,000 miles.

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  • State government
(David Paul Morris / Getty Images)

Restaurants in California that sell special meals for children will have to offer milk or water as the default drink option beginning in 2019, making sodas and sugary drinks available only by request.

The law, signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown, follows ordinances enacted in a number of cities and counties around the state in recent years. Some fast-food and dine-in restaurants have voluntarily changed their kids’ meals, and the new law had no formal opposition as it made its way through the California Legislature.

“Our state is in the midst of a public health crisis where rates of preventable health conditions like obesity and Type-2 Diabetes are skyrocketing, due in large part to increased consumption of sugary beverages,” state Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), the law’s author, said in a written statement.

  • State government
A bitcoin display at a computer conference in Taiwan earlier this year.
A bitcoin display at a computer conference in Taiwan earlier this year. (Ritchie B. Tongo / EPA-Shutterstock)

California’s campaign finance watchdog agency voted Thursday to prohibit the use of cryptocurrency including bitcoin for political contributions in the state amid concerns that the anonymity it provides would make it difficult to identify who is trying to influence elections.

The state Fair Political Practices Commission voted 3-1 against allowing use of the virtual currency, which is traded on the internet and not issued by a governmental entity.

The issue has drawn national attention. States that have allowed some use of cryptocurrency as campaign contributions include Colorado, Montana, Oregon and Tennessee, while the digital currency has been prohibited from political donors in Kansas, South Carolina and North Carolina.

  • Governor's race

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom offers his upbeat prescription for renewing the “California dream” in his first campaign ad of the general election season.

The tone of Newsom’s 30-second television spot is a sharp contrast to Republican rival John Cox’s efforts to lay the blame for all of California’s ills on Newsom and Democrats, offering a hint of the broad campaign themes voters may see in the weeks ahead.

Newsom’s ad begins with the candidate looking into the camera, and is peppered with shots of him reading to young children and talking with students and young adults.

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Road construction crews conduct repairs in San Francisco last year.
Road construction crews conduct repairs in San Francisco last year. (Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

A group working to repeal California’s recent increase in the gas tax argued Wednesday that the charges at the pump are disproportionately hurting the working poor, while the campaign against the ballot proposition countered that their opponents are exaggerating the financial impact.

Supporters of Proposition 6, the gas tax repeal measure, released an analysis that estimates the new taxes and fees have resulted in a family of four paying between $650 and $800 more in annual taxes and living expenses.

That cost is a heavier burden for low-income residents, according to the report co-authored by Reform California, a group headed by Republican Carl DeMaio, who is a leader of the drive that qualified Proposition 6 for the ballot.

Former state Sen. Roderick Wright at a court hearing in 2014.
Former state Sen. Roderick Wright at a court hearing in 2014. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

A state panel on Tuesday recommended that Gov. Jerry Brown grant a pardon to former state Sen. Roderick Wright for his 2014 conviction on eight felony counts after prosecutors said he lied about living in his Senate district.

The recommendation by the California Board of Parole Hearings next goes to the state Supreme Court, where four judges must concur in the recommendation before it can go to Brown for consideration.

Wright and Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), who now represents the Senate district, were among those who urged the parole board to recommend a pardon. The board later posted its decision online without providing a rationale.

Californians can now legally sell food made in their home kitchens.
Californians can now legally sell food made in their home kitchens. (Anne Cusack)

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill into law on Tuesday that would allow people to sell food they make themselves, a practice that was previously outlawed due to health concerns.

Assembly Bill 626, which will go into effect Jan. 1, imposes strict guidelines for what it labels “microenterprise home kitchens,” or MHKs. Californians operating MHKs will have to first apply for a permit. After receiving a permit, they can run their businesses if they sell no more than 60 meals per week, deal directly with their customers and consent to inspections if local officials receive complaints.

The law also exempts MHKs from rules that apply to commercial restaurants but don’t make sense at home. These include a prohibition on kitchens opening directly to living spaces and a regulation that requires a three-compartment sink.

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A gas flare at a natural gas processing facility near Williston, N.D.
A gas flare at a natural gas processing facility near Williston, N.D. (Matthew Brown / Associated Press)

California and New Mexico sued the Trump administration on Tuesday over its action to repeal requirements aimed at reducing methane leakage on federal and tribal lands, Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra said.

The lawsuit against the federal Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke was filed in San Francisco and argues that the 2016 Waste Prevention Rule facing repeal is needed to reduce waste of natural gas and air pollution.

The states argues that the agency’s action is “an abuse of discretion” that is “in excess of their statutory authority.” The court filing says the repeal of the rule violates federal laws requiring agencies to provide a “reasoned analysis for the change” and a detailed report on the environmental impacts.

  • California Legislature
  • 2018 election
(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

A California voter whose signature can’t be verified on an absentee ballot will have eight days to fix the problem under a law signed Monday that takes effect immediately.

It was one of two laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown to boost the rights of those who vote by mail. Brown also signed legislation requiring elections officials to create a system in which voters can track the status of their ballot, a service that wouldn’t be available until 2020.

The sloppy signature law comes some 13 months after state and local elections officials were sued for refusing to count Sonoma County resident Peter La Follette’s ballot because his signature didn’t appear to match the one on his official registration form. In all, the plaintiffs alleged, as many as 45,000 ballots weren’t counted in 2016 because local elections officials had no uniform rules for how to determine whether signatures matched.