California politics updates: Gov. Brown takes his transportation plan on the road, ‘sanctuary state’ bill amended
This is Essential Politics, our daily look at California political and government news. Here’s what we’re watching right now:
- Gov. Jerry Brown and Democratic legislators went to Concord Thursday to tout their transportation package, which they unveiled Wednesday at the state Capitol.
- Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León amended his “sanctuary state” bill Thursday morning to allow law enforcement to notify federal immigration officials about the release of violent felons.
- Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones hosted a community forum on immigration Tuesday, where the guest speaker was the acting director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio visits the state Capitol after seeking some California gold -- at a political fundraiser
Congressional candidate Arturo Carmona denies allegations of sexism leveled at him by former Sanders campaign staffers
Congressional candidate and former Bernie Sanders campaign staffer Arturo Carmona denied accusations of sexism leveled at him Friday by a former staffer and backed up by two prominent Sanders surrogates.
Masha Mendieta, a former Latino outreach strategist for the Sanders presidential campaign, made multiple allegations against Carmona in a Medium post Friday, saying Carmona didn’t adequately address a complaint of sexual harassment, treated female staffers unfairly and was a poor manager who used campaign funds inappropriately.
Mendieta wrote that though working on the Sanders presidential campaign “gave me genuine hope that good souls were out there who respected and valued women equally ... Arturo Carmona was not one of them.”
In a statement to The Times late Friday, Carmona said, “I categorically deny any accusations of sexual harassment or fiscal mismanagement made against me. I do not take this lightly.”
Carmona, who is running in Tuesday’s 34th Congressional District election, added that he managed a “large and diverse staff” on the Sanders campaign and dealt with questions and criticism as they emerged.
“I’ve never shied away from hiring, working with or working under strong and capable women,” the statement continued. “I have always taken issues of harassment and equity in the workplace with the seriousness and sensitivity that they deserve.”
Carmona, who ran the Sanders campaign’s Latino outreach division before becoming its deputy political director last year, is one of two dozen candidates running in the special election. Sanders has not endorsed anyone in the race, but Carmona often references the “Bernie family” he worked with during the presidential primary.
It now appears some members of that family are turning against him.
After Mendieta published the allegations, two of Sanders’ most visible supporters — former Nevada state legislator and Sanders surrogate Lucy Flores and prominent immigration rights activist and former Sanders campaign staffer Erika Andiola — backed up Mendieta’s claims. (At least one other former campaign staffer, Giulianna Di Lauro, also affirmed Mendieta’s allegation about Carmona’s handling of a sexual harassment complaint.)
In a Facebook post, Andiola said Mendieta’s stories “are true” and added that a “huge” culture of sexism existed in his division, but she did not elaborate. Flores, who said she worked only tangentially with Carmona during the Sanders campaign, said she experienced his “demeaning and sexist ways” after she worked with him at another organization.
“I didn’t stop to think of the misery he had already caused for so many other women and the misery he would cause in the future. I didn’t stop to think that it wasn’t enough to just speak privately, but to also speak openly,” wrote Flores, who serves on the board of Our Revolution, the political group that Sanders helped start and Andiola now works for.
Mendieta, who says she is a voter in the district, has endorsed Sara Hernandez in the race, while Flores is backing Wendy Carrillo.
Carmona chalked up the accusations to a last-minute “smear campaign” by people supporting his opponents.
“It is very unfortunate that such important issues are currently being subject to political maneuvering,” he said in a statement.
Javier Gonzalez, Carmona’s campaign manager and another former Sanders campaign staffer, said he had heard about some of the allegations Mendieta raised and has “great respect” for Andiola, but he wishes she hadn’t aired her feelings so close to the election.
He called the accusations “serious” but said, “I don’t know what Arturo’s role was in any of that.”
“If you’re brothers and sisters, you deal with it in a friendly fashion, and you do it with honey,” Gonzalez said. “To smear someone at the last minute with a little bit of ‘he said, she said’ is not the way to do it.”
10:53 p.m.: This post was updated with additional details from Mendieta’s Medium post.
This post was originally published at 9:30 p.m.
TV ads target lawmakers on the fence over Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to raise gas taxes to repair roads
With supporters of a road repair bill still counting votes, a coalition of business and labor leaders on Friday began running television and radio ads that target eight legislators who have not yet committed to vote for the measure.
The Fix Our Roads Coalition is spending $1 million on a statewide, week-long ad blitz that urges legislators to vote next week for Senate Bill 1. The bill would raise gas taxes and vehicle fees to generate $52 billion the first 10 years to repair crumbling roads, highways and bridges, and expand mass transit.
“We are closer than ever to finally passing a transportation funding package to fix our long-neglected and crumbling roads,” said Michael Quigley, executive director of the California Alliance for Jobs, which is co-funding the commercials. “These new ads are part of an all-out grassroots, earned media, advertising and social media campaign to support passage of this bill by next week.”
In addition to ads that call on legislators to support the bill, eight advertisements call on legislators by name to support the plan.
Those targeted include Sens. Steve Glazer (D-Concord) and Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres), and moderate Democratic Assembly members Adam Gray of Merced, Rudy Salas of Bakersfield, Sabrina Cervantes of Corona, Sharon Quirk-Silva of Buena Park and Al Muratsuchi of Torrance, as well as Republican Catharine Baker of San Ramon.
The bill needs a two-thirds vote in both houses, which would require all of the Democrats to support the measure. Cannella and Baker are being wooed by Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders to step in if one of the Democrats gets cold feet.
Representatives of Cannella and Glazer said earlier this week that they were still weighing the issue.
Brown and legislative leaders have called for the Legislature to act by Thursday, after which time the lawmakers head out on spring break.
Former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez’s views on the L.A. congressional race he dropped out of
Before he suddenly dropped out of the running citing health reasons, former Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez was widely considered the favorite to replace Xavier Becerra in the 34th Congressional District.
With Pérez out, the race is wide open and isn’t likely to be decided Tuesday, when 24 candidates compete in the primary. Instead, the top two vote-getters regardless of party are expected to advance to a June 6 election. (If any one candidate receives more than 50% of the vote Tuesday, it’s all over).
Pérez offered his thoughts on the race in an interview published Friday by Politico. Some of his major points:
- Pérez said he thinks state Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez is “significantly ahead of the pack” and will make the runoff.
- A “cluster” of candidates, including Alejandra Campoverdi, Wendy Carrillo, Arturo Carmona, Maria Cabildo and Robert Lee Ahn, are in a close enough race that “any one of them” could advance.
- If Carrillo were to move forward, Perez says, the narrative in the runoff would be about which candidate is more progressive and who’s an insider versus an outsider.
- Perez says if he were the front runner, Campoverdi is “the one I’d be most concerned about running against” due to her connections in Washington and her national profile, which could create a “new level of viability.”
To fight against human trafficking, this state senator wants to train motel employees to spot signs of abuse
State Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) wants to increase services for human trafficking survivors and make it easier in court to put away their abusers.
Flanked by prosecutors and hotel industry officials at a news conference Friday in San Diego, the former Assembly speaker announced new housing and mental health assistance for victims and introduced legislation that would require hotels and motels to train their employees to spot signs of human trafficking.
Another of her proposals would expand the character evidence that prosecutors can bring forth at trial against defendants charged with selling victims for sex or labor.
The bills are meant to attack a multibillion-dollar trade that has a wide sweep in California, home to three cities on the FBI’s list of 13 top human trafficking destinations: San Diego, San Francisco and Los Angeles. National human trafficking hotline calls across California generated 1,323 cases in 2016 — nearly twice as many as any other state.
Atkins is among lawmakers pushing the issue at the Capitol, where legislation has focused on targeting traffickers, protecting victims and addressing what advocates say is a law enforcement culture in which child survivors sometimes are treated like criminals.
But funding for victims’ services and programs has been an obstacle. A bill by Atkins to develop pilot projects in three counties to address the commercial sexual exploitation of youth sailed through the Legislature without opposition last year only to be vetoed by the governor. Her second bill for a statewide task force died in the Senate appropriations committee.
Atkins’ latest proposal to provide training for motel employees follows a similar bill by Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens). It failed in the last legislative session amid opposition over costs to businesses.
That hasn’t stopped Atkins from trying again.
“Hotels are ground zero for sex trafficking in this state,” she said in a statement. “Sex traffickers are exploiting some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including children. These victims are often hiding in plain sight, and traffickers take advantage of the fact that many hotel employees don’t recognize the signs.”
In L.A. congressional race, 75% of the money went to 5 candidates
The latest fundraising figures for the 34th Congressional District race are in, and they give a fuller picture of where the money has been flowing in the April 4 special election.
While there are 24 candidates in the crowded field, three-quarters of the campaign contributions have gone to just five candidates: Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez, Sara Hernandez, Robert Ahn, Alejandra Campoverdi and Yolie Flores.
And with so many hopefuls vying for donors in a district with a median household income of $35,181, a lot of the campaign cash came from outside the 34th District. More than 80% of contributions where a ZIP code was disclosed came from areas outside the district, which includes Koreatown, downtown Los Angeles, Chinatown, Highland Park, Eagle Rock and Boyle Heights.
State Controller Betty Yee says California’s tax collection agency has been mismanaged and needs a complete overhaul
Citing a review that found widespread mismanagement at the state Board of Equalization, State Controller Betty T. Yee on Friday called for stripping the panel of responsibilities for tax administration and audit and compliance functions so it can focus on handling taxpayer appeals.
Yee’s proposal came in response to an evaluation by the state Department of Finance that found board officials were improperly redirecting resources and employees to pet projects in their districts.
“In order to rebuild taxpayer trust, meaningful reform is essential,” said Yee, who serves as an ex-officio member of the board. “I urge the Legislature and the governor to strip the board members of all statutory functions and permanently move these duties and assigned staff to a separate new department under the governor.”
The Department of Finance review found the board “had difficulty providing complete and accurate documentation” in response to inquiries, and “various levels of management were not aware of and could not speak to” certain actions, including the informal establishment of a call center, creating an unofficial office location and inconsistent use of community liaisons.
The evaluation said personnel records showed workers assigned to administrative jobs that they were not doing, having been transferred to help board members in their districts.
Even though each elected board member has a $1.5-million budget to cover office costs, some members borrowed workers from the head office, taking them from jobs that involved bringing in tax money and having them instead reach out to board members’ constituents, the review found.
The redirection of workers violated state budget rules.
In addition, the reviewers said the board “provided 11 different versions of its proposed sales and use tax allocation adjustment” and the Department of Finance found errors and omissions throughout.
Sen. Kamala Harris has opened a gubernatorial fundraising account — but she has no plans to run for governor, aide says
Sen. Kamala Harris opened a campaign fundraising account to run for governor in 2026, but that does not mean California’s newest U.S. senator has any plans to seek the office.
Harris plans to use the account to store the $1 million in leftover funds from her successful 2014 reelection campaign for attorney general, said Sean Clegg, Harris’ political spokesman.
Harris left her post as state attorney general mid-term when she was elected in November to the Senate seat opening created by the retirement of Barbara Boxer.
She faced a March 31 deadline to shutter the attorney general account, and under election law cannot mingle money raised for state campaigns with funds raised to run for federal office.
“It’s purely political bookkeeping,” Clegg said.
The 2026 date could raise eyebrows because after the 2018 gubernatorial election, that will likely be the next time the governor’s office is open because its occupant is termed out.
But Clegg said Harris did not open an account for a lower office like lieutenant governor — as politicians in similar situations typically do — because, he said, “we weren’t interested in being cute about it.”
“So we designated the only potential future office one could conceivably contemplate, although we’re not contemplating it,” he said. “We’re focused on the job we’re doing.”
This California lawmaker wants to crack down on toys and electronics that pick up conversations and personal information
A California state senator wants to prevent companies from selling products that can listen in on conversations and collect personal information from unknowing consumers.
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) has filed legislation that would require manufacturers to equip their Internet-connected devices, including toys, clocks, kitchenware and electronics, with certain security and privacy features.
Dubbed the Teddy Bear and Toaster Act, Senate Bill 327 takes aim at the so-called “Internet of Things,” the inter-networking of everyday devices that some tech and privacy experts say amounts to a growing industry with little oversight.
“The more we know and the more we learn about the Internet connection of all sorts of devices, many are realizing that we don’t know the extent to which these devices are invading our lives,” Jackson said.
Under her proposal, companies would have to design their products so that they alert consumers — through visual, auditory or other cues — when they are gathering data. They would have to obtain user consent when they intend to transfer the information. And they would have to disclose at point of sale whether the devices are capable of sweeping up sensitive data, so that customers can take that into account while shopping.
Most states, including California, have privacy breach laws to protect personal information. The proposal, which would extend those provisions to consumer devices, could be the first of its kind nationwide. But it is expected to garner wide opposition from retailers and manufacturers.
Still, supporters point to growing privacy concerns. Some toys, like the My Friend Cayla doll banned in Germany, prompt children to give personal information, such as their parents’ names and their addresses, and their manufacturers reserve the right to target young buyers in direct marketing campaigns. Other “smart” devices lack the most basic security features that make them vulnerable to a hack or coordinated cyberattack.
In a statement, James P. Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Kids Action, which is sponsoring the bill, said such toys and electronics can put consumers at risk.
“These products get rushed out to the market without the privacy issues being addressed in advance, and then consumers end up paying the price,” he said.
President Jerry Brown? ‘Don’t rule it out,’ governor quips
In arguing for approval of a new transportation package on Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown appeared to enjoy himself in refusing to shoot down a supporter’s suggestion that he run for president — even as he noted his 79th birthday is next week.
Standing next to other elected officials and construction workers at the rally in in Concord, Brown argued that gas tax and vehicle fee increases are needed to address a backlog of much-needed repairs to California’s crumbling system of roads, highways and bridges.
“I’m telling you the truth because why would I lie to you?” Brown said. “I don’t think I’m running for office. All I’ve got left is lieutenant governor, treasurer and controller.”
“Or president,” someone in the crowd shouted.
Brown responded that he would be 82 when the next presidential election comes around.
“But you know, don’t rule it out,” he quipped, drawing laughter and applause.
Lest the comment turn into a national story, an aide later clarified the governor’s intentions: “He was joking.”
Rep. Jerry McNerney endorses Tracy Van Houten in 34th District
Gov. Jerry Brown is making appeals to legislators for votes on his new transportation plan — one district at a time
Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders on Thursday took their campaign for higher transportation taxes and fees to the Bay Area district of state Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Concord), one of the holdouts in the state Senate who has not yet committed to vote for the package.
Surrounded by dozens of construction workers, Brown warned that if the transportation bill unveiled on Wednesday isn’t approved this year, it may not happen in the foreseeable future.
“There is nothing more fundamental in the business of government than making sure the roads and bridges don’t fall apart, and they are falling apart,” Brown said.
Glazer recently withheld his vote from a bill proposing a similar plan for repairing state bridges, roads and highways, and on Wednesday, a spokesman said he had still not committed to any plan but wanted to review the detailed proposal before taking a position.
Construction workers at the rally held signs that pictured crumbling roads and said, “Senator Glazer Fix This Now. Vote for SB 1.”
Brown said Glazer, his former senior advisor, does not disagree with the intent of the bill.
“He loves this plan, but he has another idea on his mind and he wants to marry the two and see if he can get some outcomes that I don’t want to get into at this particular place,” Brown told reporters.
Sen. Jim Beall, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said Glazer wants the transportation funding bill to include a clause barring employees of Bay Area Rapid Transit from going on strike.
Beall said that is a labor-relations issue that cannot be included in the bill raising taxes.
“You can’t do that,” Beall said.
A spokesman for Glazer said the senator is still undecided on the bill. “The senator is continuing to have conversations with the principals,” said Steve Harmon, a spokesman for Glazer. He declined to comment on Beall’s statement.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) said there may be similar rallies in Los Angeles and Riverside in the coming days. Two other Democrats who have not yet committed to the plan are Riverside Sen. Richard Roth and Woodland Hills Sen. Henry Stern.
Brown acknowledged that there is work to do to secure the two-thirds vote needed in both houses of the Legislature to raise the base excise tax on gasoline by 12 cents per gallon, to a total of 30 cents per gallon, and to create a new annual vehicle fee that would average $51 based on the value of the car or truck.
Rendon said approval of the transportation bill would cost the average California motorist an extra $10 per month, which he said is a deal compared to the current cost of $720 in annual vehicle repair costs required because of running over potholes and other rough road conditions.
Hoping to force a Senate vote on the package early next week, Brown was accompanied to the Concord news conference by Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). They urged lawmakers to support the bill, which would generate $5.2 billion annually for the first 10 years for road and bridge repairs, mass transit improvements and other projects to reduce congestion.
Glazer, known as a maverick in the Legislature, was Brown’s campaign manager during the 2010 gubernatorial election and remained a senior advisor to the governor before running for the state Senate in a special election in 2015.
1:23 p.m.: This article was updated with a statement from a representative for state Sen. Steve Glazer.
This article was originally published at 12:42 p.m.
Who will be California’s next governor? New poll shows Newsom leads with 1 in 3 voters undecided
In the race to replace termed-out Gov. Jerry Brown, the largest number of voters in a new statewide poll does not favor a candidate in the race. About 1 in 3 voters said they were undecided, according to the survey by the UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies.
Among candidates who have entered the race, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a strong lead with 28% of the vote, followed by Republican businessman John Cox with 18%, according to the poll, which was released Wednesday. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa clocks in at 11%, state Treasurer John Chiang at 8% and former state schools chief Delaine Eastin at 3%.
Because the race is far away and public campaigning has not yet started in earnest, the poll could primarily be an indicator of name recognition. The field of candidates is also likely to grow.
Newsom has several natural advantages: He was the first person to enter the race in 2015 and has a large fundraising edge. He has perhaps been the candidate most in the spotlight among the Democrats running, notably for his support of the marijuana legalization measure on the November ballot.
Cox may have benefited from being the lone Republican in that version of the poll.
Pollsters conducted a second version of the poll with five additional potential candidates, none of whom have announced a run for governor in 2018 — San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer, California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and former state Controller Steve Westly.
Newsom still led the pack to come in at 24%. The two Republicans, Faulconer and Cox, tied at 11% each. Faulconer has said he does not plan to run for governor.
Garcetti, Villaraigosa, Chiang, Steyer, De León, Westly and Eastin all placed in the single digits.
Steyer and Westly have the personal wealth to self-fund a campaign, giving them time to decide whether to enter the race. Westly unsuccessfully ran for governor in 2006, losing in the Democratic primary to state Treasurer Phil Angelides.
In the 2018 contest, the two candidates who receive the most votes in the June primary will move onto the November general election.
The poll of 1,000 registered voters in California was conducted online in English and Spanish between March 13 and 20, and has a margin of error in either direction of 3.6%.
California legislators team up to expand John Muir National Historic Site
California’s senators and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) filed legislation Thursday to add 44 acres to the John Muir National Historic Site.
The John Muir Heritage Land Trust has offered to donate the additional land to the National Park Service, which operates the site, and the bill would authorize the agency to accept the parcel.
“The time John Muir spent with his daughters at their scenic home and its neighboring property played a major role in launching the national parks movement. Expanding the existing park to preserve more of this history and beauty is a fitting tribute to Muir’s legacy of protecting land for all to enjoy,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement.
Located about 30 miles east of San Francisco, the John Muir National Historic Site consists of Muir’s Alhambra Valley home and 325 acres outside of Martinez.
DeSaulnier said in a statement that expanding the property is a “fitting celebration of his legacy, and will offer nature-goers greater access to enjoy the beauty of the East Bay.”
DeSaulnier sponsored the same bill last year, which passed the House unanimously but was not considered by the Senate. Feinstein and former Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) carried the Senate version, which died after a committee hearing. Such bills often take a few attempts to pass, even without major opposition.
Muir’s writings helped inspire the creation of the National Park Service, starting with his lobbying of Congress to protect the Yosemite Valley from dams. He also was a founding member of the Sierra Club.
“Californians owe him a debt of gratitude,” Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) said in a statement.