State assemblywoman shelves legislation to make ‘stealthing’ punishable as rape in California
A state Assemblywoman has shelved her bill to make “stealthing,” or tampering with a condom during sex, a form of rape under California law, saying it did not have enough support to win approval this year.
In a statement, Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia (D-Bell Gardens) said she would commit to educating lawmakers on the issue and holding ongoing discussions to file a similar proposal next legislative session.
“I, and others, believe stealthing is a violation of informed consent, and sex without consent in California is rape,” said Garcia, who last year helped expand the legal definition of rape in the state.
The latest version of the bill would have made it a crime of felony sexual battery to remove or tamper with a condom during sex. It also went further, making it a felony to lie about being on birth control or another form of contraception other than a condom.
“Some of the amendments I was asked to make are simply inconsistent with my beliefs on this issue,” she said in her statement. “I don’t want the matter to die a legislative death, so I’ve opted to postpone hearings this year to address the concerns raised.”
Ritchie Valens, late rock star and local hero, gets a stretch of the 5 Freeway in the Valley named after him
A section of the 5 Freeway in the northeast San Fernando Valley will be named after rock ’n’ roll icon Ritchie Valens, who grew up in the area and had a stellar career before he died in a plane crash.
Valens, whose hits included “La Bamba,” “Come On, Let’s Go” and “Donna,” will have his name put up on signs along a stretch of the interstate between the 170 and 118 freeways that will be named the Ritchie Valens Memorial Highway.
The state Legislature gave final approval to the honor last week, and Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima), who authored the proposal, said Thursday that private funds are being raised, as required by state law, to pay for the signs.
“His music inspired and influenced a generation of Chicano artists in our community and throughout the world,” Bocanegra said. “It’s only fitting to name this segment of the I-5 after a Rock & Roll Hall of Famer who grew up right here in Pacoima.”
The honor was appreciated by the late star’s sister Connie Valens, who said in a statement released by the legislator’s office that the singer was “not only a rock ’n’ roll pioneer, but a role model for artists and youth all over the world.”
Gov. Jerry Brown lays out his plan for cap-and-trade spending
Gov. Jerry Brown unveiled on Thursday his plan for spending cap-and-trade revenue, prioritizing cleaner vehicles and improving air quality.
Roughly $1.5 billion, all generated by the sale of permits required to release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, is available to be spent by the governor and lawmakers.
Brown wants the biggest chunk of the money, $607.5 million, to be used on financial incentives for cleaner cars, trucks, buses and farm vehicles.
Reducing pollution from transportation has been a stiff challenge for the state. Lawmakers have already proposed using even more cash than outlined in the governor’s proposal to help replace diesel engines.
The governor also suggested spending $350 million to improve air quality in polluted communities. The money would help implement Assembly Bill 617, a companion measure to Assembly Bill 398, which extended the cap-and-trade program until 2030.
Some of the money would help pay for monitoring criteria air pollutants and toxic contaminants, and more would be available to support plans devised by local regulators to reduce air pollution.
Another significant sum would be used to help take care of the state’s forests, including $200 million for fire prevention.
California soon will have an official state dinosaur — that is, if Gov. Jerry Brown gives his approval
Gov. Jerry Brown will attend economic conference in Russia next week
Gov. Jerry Brown is collecting more stamps on his passport this year.
After a trip to China in June, he’s jetting to Russia next week, his office announced. Brown will speak to international government and business leaders about the need to combat climate change at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok.
Brown said the forum on trade “isn’t just an occasion to promote investment, it’s an opportunity to strengthen our commitment to decarbonizing the economy.”
The governor is scheduled to arrive in Russia on Tuesday and return to California on Friday. On his way to the conference, he’s planning to stop in Alaska to meet with scientists and researchers studying climate change.
This won’t be Brown’s last international trip this year. He’s also attending the next United Nations conference on climate change in Bonn, Germany, in November.
California lawmaker’s proposal would pave way for supervised drug-injection sites to ‘get needles out of the playground’
Supervised drug injection centers where users would be able to receive addiction treatment could be coming to California.
Legislation authored by Assemblyman Susan Eggman (D-Stockton) would allow eight counties — Alameda, Fresno, Humboldt, Los Angeles, Mendocino, San Francisco, San Joaquin and Santa Cruz — to pilot supervised drug injection centers by 2022.
The bill, which has passed the Assembly, is awaiting a vote in the state Senate.
“Let’s get needles out of the playground,” Eggman said at a Thursday press conference at the Capitol. “Let’s save some peoples’ lives and get people into treatment.”
There are no supervised injection centers in the U.S. Two safe-injection sites have been proposed in Washington state’s King County, and opponents have qualified a ballot initiative to allow voters to determine whether the centers should be banned. A handful of cities in Washington have already moved to ban safe-injection sites.
Senate Republicans have expressed concerns that Eggman’s bill would create “government-run drug dens” that support activity that violates federal law.
A coalition of Los Angeles-area law enforcement agencies including the California Narcotic Officers Assn., Peace Officers Assn. of Los Angeles County and the Los Angeles Police Protective League also opposes the legislation.
There were 2,375 opioid-related overdose deaths statewide in 2013, according to data from the California Department of Public Health.
“When we have an epidemic such as this ... It is time to do something different than we’ve been doing,” Eggman said.
Trump called him ‘my African American.’ But he condemns the president’s treatment of black America
On the day that changed his life, Gregory Cheadle almost stayed in bed.
He was tired — he traveled a lot in his long-shot bid for Congress — but asked himself: How often does a candidate for president come to the far reaches of Northern California? And why pass up a crowd and the chance to hand out more fliers?
So Cheadle roused himself that June 2016 morning and secured a spot up close when Donald Trump swooped in for a rally at Redding’s municipal airport.
It was hot, the atmosphere was loose and Trump’s patter seeming more stand-up comedy than campaign spiel. He went into one of those sidelong digressions, about protesters and an African American — “great fan, great guy” — in the audience.
“Look at my African American over here!” he exclaimed. “Are you the greatest?”
Cheadle and those around him laughed; it was a hoot.
But many who saw that moment were not amused. They were angry and outraged. “My African American,” Trump said, as if Cheadle were his slave, and they turned their anger and outrage on Cheadle when he failed to respond in kind.
However, today Cheadle says he was unfairly portrayed and criticizes Trump’s promise to help the African American community as empty rhetoric.
State help for planned Clippers arena still possible, senator says
A proposal to fast-track a new arena in Inglewood for the Los Angeles Clippers remains on the table at the Capitol, said the state senator who represents the city.
“If it’s needed, we’re definitely going to introduce it,” said Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena).
In recent years, state lawmakers have passed bills helping possible arenas and football stadiums up and down California. The measures have aimed, for the most part, to provide relief from potential lawsuits under the California Environmental Quality Act by speeding up court-decision deadlines or halting a judge’s ability to block construction, even if it found the project’s environmental review didn’t adequately study traffic problems or had other flaws.
Bradford has yet to formally propose a measure, but said his goal was to provide similar benefits to the planned Clippers arena. Currently, such projects can apply for speedier court review without special legislation. Bradford said he was weighing whether that process gave enough assistance to the Clippers.
“This is a major opportunity for the city of Inglewood, a city that has been written off for many years,” he said.
Bradford has until Sept. 12 to introduce the bill for passage before the Legislature adjourns for the year on Sept. 15.
Senate investigators may seek Rohrabacher testimony about his meeting with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange
The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence might want to talk with Orange County Rep. Dana Rohrabacher about his meeting this month with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
CNN reported Thursday that two sources confirmed that the committee members are deciding if they will call on Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) to testify as part of its ongoing investigation into Russian attempts to influence the outcome of the 2016 election and what the Trump campaign might have known. It’s one of several congressional investigations into the issue.
In a statement to the Los Angeles Times last week, Rohrabacher said that during his meeting with Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, the fugitive “emphatically stated that the Russians were not involved” in the theft of Democratic National Committee emails during the 2016 presidential campaign. The emails were published by WikiLeaks and put Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton on the defensive for much of the campaign. The belief of the majority of U.S. intelligence agencies is that Russia played a role in stealing and leaking the emails.
Rohrabacher said on Sean Hannity’s radio show earlier this week that a “rendezvous” is being set up with President Trump so the congressman can tell him more about what he learned from Assange.
Rohrabacher’s spokesman, Ken Grubbs, said “he’s not yet been contacted by the Senate Intel Committee, but will be happy to talk with them after he’s talked with President Trump.”
The House Democratic campaign arm jumped at the CNN report, with spokesman Tyler Law saying in a statement that Rohrabacher “has no business chairing the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee that oversees Russia.” They called on House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) to strip his colleague of his subcommittee post.
Democrats are hoping to oust Rohrabacher and Royce in 2018.
Royce has given Rohrabacher, and his at-times-outside-of-the-Republican-mainstream views toward Russia, a lot of leeway over the years. He has stepped in occasionally, including halting a planned hearing over the Russia sanctions that led the country to ban adoptions to the United States, and squashing Rohrabacher’s plans to visit Russia last spring as the House and Senate investigations heated up.
Rohrabacher’s interest in improving relations with Russia has been long-known in Congress, and the Republican has previously told The Times that he sees his continued role leading the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats as proof his colleagues don’t demean his view.
“I have no complaints that my colleagues have in any way shut me out of consideration of what I’m saying or belittled me for taking a position that is clearly not the position of the vast majority of the establishment of our country,” he said in a February interview. “If they wanted to be unfair to me, all they would have to say is, ‘Well, we don’t like your point of view and this is an important job, you’re not going to be the chairman anymore,’ and that’s not happened.”
Revamped bill deems driving into a group of protesters an act of domestic terrorism
Driving into a group of protesters could be considered domestic terrorism in California.
A measure by Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) would consider the act an infringement on free speech and assembly.
Although it is already illegal to use a vehicle as a weapon, Lara said attacks against peaceful protesters need to be treated differently.
“California needs to be strong in defense of our constitutional rights and say there is no margin for error in a car vs. protester attack,” he said in a statement. “Unless we act now these kinds of attacks could become more common.”
The change is in response to the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, Va. She was killed this month when a man drove his car into a group of counter-protesters demonstrating against white supremacy.
In the last year in other countries there have been a number of terrorist attacks using vehicles.
Anyone who uses a motor vehicle to kill or injure a group expressing a political position could face two to four years in state prison, according to the California bill.
If someone dies or is seriously injured, the driver could face life in prison without the possibility of parole or 25 years to life in state jail.
People who drive away from violence “in reasonable fear” and officers who use a motor vehicle “in a safe and reasonable manner” to direct crowds and respond to emergencies are exempt from charges under the proposal.
Lara’s bill is a late entrant in the legislative debate, quickly cobbled together two weeks before the year’s session ends.
Legislators in Florida, North Carolina, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas have introduced similar bills.
Voters could see a $4-billion bond measure on the 2018 ballot for water and parks upgrades, state Senate leader says
Sen. Kamala Harris plans to back Medicare-for-all legislation
Sen. Kamala Harris will co-sponsor a Medicare-for-all plan proposed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), she told Californians at a town hall in Oakland on Wednesday.
The freshman Democratic senator from California has previously said she supports the concept of universal healthcare, but this is the first time she has explicitly said she would join Sanders when he files the bill. The House version of the measure, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), has 117 sponsors, including 27 California Democratic House members.
The idea of single-payer healthcare has grown in popularity among Democrats since the 2016 election, with some members of the so-called Sanders wing of the party urging Democrats to use support for it as a litmus test in 2018.
Such a program is unlikely to become law while Republicans control both chambers of Congress.
Sanders quickly jumped to thank Harris on Twitter on Wednesday.
California legislative leaders pitch big spending for water and parks improvements for the 2018 ballot
Top lawmakers promised Wednesday to put a bond measure on the 2018 statewide ballot to fund parks and water improvements.
“More parks is not just a wish, it’s not just a dream, it’s not just an ideal, it is a real need,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) said at a rally outside the Capitol. “We see that all over the state.”
Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said they’re negotiating details of a measure that, if approved by voters next year, would spend billions to build and maintain parks and water infrastructure. Gov. Jerry Brown also has agreed to support a water and parks bond.
Among the issues left to be worked out is how much the bond would raise. Earlier this week, Brown, Rendon and De León announced their support for a $4-billion bond to fund the construction of low-income housing and provide home loans for California veterans.
De León said spending on housing would be greater than water and parks.
“The housing bond, given the real need that’s out there, will be supreme,” De León said.
Two groups outside the Legislature also have pitched ballot initiatives for 2018 to fund water and parks improvements. Those measures, one backed principally by the Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund and similar groups and the other by other environmental and agriculture interests, would each authorize more than $7 billion in spending.
De León said negotiations involved trying to mollify those outside interests so they would abandon their efforts.
“We don’t want several ballot initiatives working at odds with each other, confusing the voters,” he said.
Eight California Republicans voted against Sandy aid. It’s not clear what they’ll do about Harvey
The Trump administration is expected to ask Congress for billions of dollars to address the disaster caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas. But after congressional Republicans’ extremely public fight over an aid package for 2012’s Superstorm Sandy, attention is turning to GOP members who voted against it.
Eight Republicans currently in the California congressional delegation were among the 179 Republicans and one Democrat who voted against that bill.
Most of their offices did not return emails asking how the congressmen plan to vote on an expected, but not yet public, Harvey aid package.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s spokesman, Ken Grubbs, said the Costa Mesa congressman’s vote would depend on what’s in the bill, including whether there is funding for non-emergency projects.
“He doesn’t want any boondoggly poison pills,” he said.
It took Congress more than 60 days to approve the $50.5-billion relief package to help Sandy’s victims rebuild in 2013. Republicans who voted against the bill said they opposed it because it was filled with unrelated, non-emergency projects. Others wanted the Sandy relief offset by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.
At the time, Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove said that “a tragedy like Hurricane Sandy shouldn’t be used for a grab-bag of spending.”
Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik took a look Monday at the more than 20 members of the Texas congressional delegation who, along with their U.S. senators, voted against the Sandy relief bill, and whether East Coast Republicans might punish Texans in retaliation. (Some members from the areas affected by Sandy have hinted they don’t plan to do so.)
Here’s the breakdown of how the California Republicans who are still in Congress voted on Sandy relief:
- Rep. Doug LaMalfa of Richvale: No
- Rep. Tom McClintock of Elk Grove: No
- Rep. Paul Cook of Yucca Valley: No
- Rep. Jeff Denham of Turlock: Yes
- Rep. David Valadao of Hanford: Yes
- Rep. Devin Nunes of Tulare: Did not vote
- House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield: Yes
- Rep. Ed Royce of Fullerton: No
- Rep. Ken Calvert of Corona: No
- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa: No
- Rep. Darrell Issa of Vista: No
- Rep. Duncan Hunter of Alpine: No
Republican Reps. Steve Knight of Palmdale and Mimi Walters of Irvine were not yet elected to Congress when the vote was taken.
Several of the Republicans who voted against the Sandy bill represent areas Democrats are targeting in the 2018 election.
All the California Democrats who voted on the Sandy bill voted in favor of the aid. Reps. Jackie Speier of Hillsborough and Grace Napolitano of Norwalk did not vote.
Los Angeles City Council votes to make Columbus Day a thing of the past
Gavin Newsom says California’s next governor must do more than build upon Gov. Jerry Brown’s legacy
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that California’s next governor must do more than simply build upon Gov. Jerry Brown’s legacy because of the massive economic transformation and uncertainty the state will face in coming years.
“There are certain trend lines that are not yet headlines that to me require a different kind of engagement,” Newsom said, pointing to demographic changes, worker skills shortages, debt and workers being displaced by automation. “Short-term-ism has got to be replaced with some long-term thinking on these issues. And the governor’s just been brilliant at solvency and triage and getting the state back on its feet, but the next governor, I think, is going to really need to lean in on these deeper, bigger issues.”
Newsom made the remarks in an interview with the Times after addressing a breakfast gathering of the Orange County Forum, which hosts conversations about public policy issues. During his speech, Newsom said the state and the nation are at critical points in their history because of the impending economic changes.
“Something big is happening here,” he said. “We’re at a hinge moment.”
Newsom said he is focusing on the threat of automation, which he said will replace millions of jobs for fast-food workers, cashiers and truck drivers. Newsom said the next governor must be prepared to confront what this means for the state’s workforce and education system, likely during another recession.
“This isn’t a time to be timid. I’m not running for governor to play in the margins. I have no interest in doing a little bit more, a little bit less,” he said. “What we need is leadership, not stewardship.”
Assembly Republicans want to close ‘loophole’ for local tax proposals written by citizen groups
Assembly Republicans said Wednesday they will introduce a constitutional amendment that would close what they call a potential loophole making it easier to enact local tax measures.
The announcement comes on the heels of a California Supreme Court ruling on Monday that local ballot initiatives imposing new taxes for specific purposes may need only a simple majority of voters to approve.
The new proposal would prevent influential interest groups from using initiatives to pass “pet projects and programs,” Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes (R-Yucca Valley) said at a state Capitol news conference.
The effort would change the California Constitution to make clear that a supermajority of voters must approve any local tax increase that’s placed on the ballot by citizen groups.
Under California’s landmark tax law, Proposition 13, local taxes for specific needs are subject to approval by two-thirds of voters. A second ballot measure in 1996, Proposition 218, expanded voter approval to nearly all local taxes.
Mayes hopes the amendment, which must be placed on the ballot by the Legislature, will go before voters next June.
Keeping the supermajority requirement on local tax measures protects taxpayers, said Assemblywoman Catharine Baker (R-San Ramon), by forcing tax proponents to build a much broader consensus of voters.
“That two-thirds threshold that is so critical is difficult to reach,” she said. “But it works.”
Garcetti joins other California mayors in Sacramento to push state lawmakers to pass housing bills
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and mayors from other large cities in the state urged state lawmakers Wednesday morning to pass major legislation to address California’s housing problems.
“For us, the biggest problem we all face is our housing crisis,” Garcetti said at a news conference outside the Capitol. “Too many people can’t afford the housing that they’re in. And too many people aren’t in housing at all.”
Gov. Jerry Brown and top lawmakers are trying to finalize a package of legislation to increase funding to build low-income housing and ease local regulations on home building. Legislators could vote on a series of bills as early as this week, and face a Sept. 15 deadline before they depart for the year.
But among the major measures in play, Senate Bill 2, which would add a $75 fee on mortgage refinances and many other real estate transactions to fund low-income housing, is the most uncertain. It remains a few votes short of passage in the Assembly.
“That’s the one that we’re really going to have to go in there and lobby hard for,” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said.
Garcetti said the group of mayors, which included Steinberg, San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido, planned to meet Wednesday with Brown and other lawmakers to push for the housing bills.
Legislator proposes putting local races ahead of presidential elections on California ballot to boost participation
Concerned about low voter participation in local elections, state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada-Flintridge) proposed Wednesday that the order of future ballots be flipped so that local contests would be first and presidential or gubernatorial races would be last.
The state recently mandated that most cities and school districts hold their elections during statewide and national election dates.
Portantino said that in the November election, many people voted for president because that contest was it at the top of the ballot and state offices and ballot measures came next. Only some make it through the end of the long ballot, where there are elections for city councils and school boards.
“I think more people would be apt to go down through the ballot with the president at the end,” Portantino said. “There is a drop off of people who vote for president and then close the books.”
The senator said the idea was suggested to him by Glendale City Clerk Ardy Kassakhian, who ran for a Glendale Assembly seat in 2016 and lost to fellow Democrat Laura Friedman. The seat previously was held by former Assemblyman Mike Gatto, a Democrat who termed out.
“Given this new state mandate, it is the right thing to do to feature our local offices and local civic issues first,” Kassakhian said in a statement.
California Senate leader Kevin de León fires back at Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s call for ‘patience’ with Trump
The leader of California’s state Senate on Wednesday sharply criticized a call from Sen. Dianne Feinstein for “patience” with President Trump, suggesting it was tantamount to being “complicit” in his behavior.
The comments by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) offer a glimpse into the vastly different approaches by two leading California Democrats to Trump’s first few months in office.
“It is the responsibility of Congress to hold him accountable — especially Democrats, not be complicit in his reckless behavior,” de León said in a written statement, first reported by San Francisco’s KQED public radio.
Feinstein, who spoke Tuesday night at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, was booed by the crowd after saying she still thinks he can be a “good president.” She went on to suggest a pause before passing judgment in the wake of how Trump will have to handle Hurricane Harvey
“This is his first big American emergency. I think we have to have some patience. I do,” she said.
The reply from de León, who is termed out of office next year and is rumored as a future candidate for governor or U.S. Senate, raised a litany of issues on which Democrats disagree with the president, including the environment and the possible deportation of young immigrants without legal residency status.
“I don’t think children who breathe dirty air can afford patience,” he said. “The LGBT worker or woman losing their rights by the day or the black student who could be assaulted on the street, they can’t afford patience. DREAMers who are unsure of their fate in this country can’t afford patience. Even a Trump voter who is still out of work can’t afford to be patient.”
De León also said that “this president has not shown any capacity to learn and proven he is not fit for office.”
After news reports of her comments at the event, Feinstein issued a statement Wednesday seeking to clarify her stance.
“The duty of the American president is to bring people together, not cater to one segment of a political base; to solve problems, not campaign constantly,” Feinstein said. “While I’m under no illusion that it’s likely to happen and will continue to oppose his policies, I want President Trump to change for the good of the country.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein laments that Trump hasn’t brought the nation together
Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Tuesday said now more than ever President Trump should work to unite and heal the country.
“The one thing he needs to do, in my view, is bring this nation together, and he hasn’t done that,” Feinstein said at a Commonwealth Club event in San Francisco.
Feinstein, a Democrat, talked about her support for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program for people brought to the country illegally as children. She called on Trump, who is considering rescinding the program, to allow these immigrants to stay.
“These young people so want to be Americans, and they want to work and be part of this country,” she said.
She also offered a moment of silence for victims of Tropical Storm Harvey.
The crowd showed its political leanings when asking her about efforts in Congress to impeach Trump.
The senator said the president is likely to be in office for the next few years, adding that she hopes he will learn and change.
Several audience members booed and shouted, “No!”
Feinstein had her own critics at the scene.
Members of Indivisible SF demonstrated outside the theater as they objected to the fact Feinstein had not hosted a town hall during the August congressional recess. Christine Wei, a spokeswoman for the grass-roots group, complained that anyone wanting to ask the senator a question at this forum would have needed to pay $40 to $65 for a ticket.
Instead, Feinstein fielded questions from the audience read to her by Ellen Tauscher, a former congresswoman who represented the Central Valley and served as an undersecretary in the Obama administration. Most of the attendees were members of the Commonwealth Club.
Violence from white supremacist groups should be treated as terrorist acts, committee says
In response to the deadly rally in Charlottesville this month, the Senate Public Safety Committee on Tuesday approved two resolutions urging state and local law enforcement agencies to treat violent acts by white nationalists and neo-Nazi groups as terrorist attacks.
Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), chairwoman of the committee and author of the resolutions, has also amended a bill to expand the penal code related to hate crimes. If approved, protections under current state hate crime laws would extend to anyone acting in defense or support of those already covered, including minorities, the disabled and members of the LGBTQ community.
Before the committee on Tuesday, Skinner urged support for the legislation, saying state prosecutors and officers should be allowed to use terrorism and anti-hate crime laws to fully investigate and pursue charges against white nationalist and neo-Nazi hate groups.
The resolutions were unanimously approved with 7-0 votes. But following a weekend of protests in the Bay Area, including several violent clashes in Berkley instigated by members of the leftist group Antifa, one committee member questioned whether the list was too narrow.
Sen. Joel Anderson (R-Alpine), who asked to be added as a co-author, said his staff had suggestions for additional groups that should considered “given what was happening on college campuses.”
“The whole point is hate is hate,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where it originates, it is all wrong.”
Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) said he had been critical of suppression of free speech in Berkeley in the past. But while the language in the resolutions could be massaged, he said, their message shouldn’t be diluted.
“When we talk about neo-Nazis and white supremacy, it goes beyond suppressing of free speech,” he said. “These are unique evils that deserve to be specifically called out.”
Democratic nurse and school board member announces bid against Republican Rep. Jeff Denham
Emergency room nurse Sue Zwahlen is joining the race to try to unseat Central Valley Republican Rep. Jeff Denham.
Zwahlen, a 63-year-old Democrat, has been elected twice to the Modesto City Schools Board of Education.
“I’m a homegrown candidate; I have a lot of experience in bringing people together to solve problems, especially when it comes to healthcare and education,” she said.
Zwahlen was born in Modesto and attended nursing school at the Samuel Merritt Hospital School of Nursing in Oakland. She’s been an emergency room nurse for more than 40 years. She is the second nurse who has signed up to run against Denham.
“We need someone, I believe, with my experience and knowledge and intimate experience with patients and the challenges they face every day,” she said.
All of California’s Republican members voted for the House GOP healthcare plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, and Democrats are using the vote as a campaign issue.
Democrats have repeatedly targeted the 10th Congressional District, where Denham won reelection in 2016 by less than 5 percentage points. At least 10 people have filed to challenge him in 2018.
Democrats lack votes to pass key California housing bill
State Democrats remain short of the votes they need to pass a key part of the package of legislation aimed at addressing California’s housing crisis.
Three Democrats in the Assembly told the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday afternoon they remained undecided on Senate Bill 2, a measure that would add a $75 fee on many real estate transactions to fund low-income housing development.
SB 2 requires a two-thirds supermajority vote of the Assembly to pass. Assuming no support comes from Republican lawmakers, Assembly Democrats can’t afford to lose any members of their caucus.
“I’m still looking at it,” said Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance). “My concern is that it looks and smells like a tax.”
The bill’s author, Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) pushed through changes to the measure Tuesday morning to give cities and counties more direct control over the money generated by the fee in an effort to gain enough support.
Democratic Assemblyman Tom Daly of Anaheim said he was still reading through the amendments and hadn’t made up his mind.
After Democratic lawmakers gathered for lunch Tuesday, Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin of Thousand Oaks exited with Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco. Chiu, who leads the Assembly Housing and Community Development Committee, was talking through the housing bills with her.
“I’m considering it still,” Irwin told The Times of SB 2.
SB 2 passed the state Senate on a party-line vote with the entire supermajority of Democrats voting yes.
Legislative leaders are aiming for a vote on a full package of housing bills, which include a bond measure on the 2018 ballot and legislation to ease local development regulations, as early as Friday.
Sept. 1, 1:30 p.m., This post was corrected to reflect that Democrats can’t afford to lose any members on this vote. An earlier version incorrectly said they could lose one member.
L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti, other top California mayors will be at the Capitol Wednesday to push for housing legislation
Voters are skeptical of a new state law that overhauls how Californians cast ballots
A new statewide poll shows widespread voter opposition to a California law that allows counties to close polling places and instead rely on absentee ballots and a limited number of multipurpose election centers.
Sixty-one percent of voters said they didn’t like the idea of switching to a system of “voter centers” and all-mail ballots, according to the poll released on Tuesday by UC Davis’ California Civic Engagement Project.
“Voters are not initially receptive to vote centers,” said Mindy Romero, the project’s founder, during a presentation in Sacramento.
There are 14 counties eligible to use the new rules in 2018, with all other California counties being able to join them and move away from neighborhood polling places two years later in 2020. So far, only a handful have agreed to the change.
Supporters have said the law simply builds on the trend toward voting by mail, while also allowing voters more access to a variety of election-related services -- including election day registration -- at locations conveniently placed throughout communities.
But the poll found substantial skepticism across a number of subgroups of voters, both by ethnicity and age. Eight in 10 of the voters surveyed said they typically travel 10 minutes or less to their polling place, a distance that could grow in the counties that switch to vote centers.
Romero said the poll’s findings show the importance of explaining the sweeping change in the counties that choose to change procedures under the new law, hopefully minimizing the risk that voters might be discouraged from casting ballots in 2018 and beyond.
“This is the most significant voting change we’ve seen in our state,” she said. “Education and outreach is going to be absolutely key.”
GOP healthcare vote inspires another challenger for California’s Rep. Jeff Denham
It was healthcare that inspired Riverbank small business owner Virginia Madueño to become the newest person to challenge Republican Rep. Jeff Denham in California’s Central Valley.
Madueño, 52, said she decided to run when Denham voted for the GOP bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act in May after initially saying he’d vote against it.
“That’s when it became personal for me,” she said.
After previously toying with the idea of running, she attended a local healthcare town hall and realized “not only did I have a story to share but I had a cause, if you will. I could relate.”
The Democrat said that before the Affordable Care Act passed in 2010, she struggled to find health insurance because of a preexisting condition stemming from a case of bacterial meningitis when she was an infant.
Born to Mexican immigrant farmworkers in Modesto, Madueño has a communications degree from Cal State Stanislaus. She said she can relate to the heavily agricultural community and its concerns about immigration policy.
“My family has gone through the whole immigration process. There was a time when immigration worked incredibly well, and it’s not working right now,” she said.
Madueño runs Imagen LLC, a communications firm she established in 2001. She served on the Riverbank City Council from 2005 to 2012, including a stint as mayor from 2009 to 2012. Gov. Jerry Brown appointed her to the Commission on Boating and Waterways in 2013. She ran unsuccessfully for the state Assembly in 2016.
Madueño plans to hold 10 town halls in the district over the next few months.
“I don’t believe that I have all of the answers, but I think that by learning more from the community … I’m going to be able to actually articulate and carry that voice forward,” she said.
Immigrant advocates hold prayer service in Gov. Jerry Brown’s office to support ‘sanctuary state’ legislation
With negotiations heading down to the wire on California’s so-called “sanctuary state” legislation, more than a dozen faith leaders poured into Gov. Jerry Brown’s office Tuesday to show their support for immigrants who are in the country illegally.
In what they called “an act of civil disobedience,” members of the Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity peacefully occupied the space and held a prayer service. The group read Scriptures, sang songs and told stories of parishioners who they said were living in fear under the Trump administration’s expanded deportation orders.
“Gov. Brown, join our service,” said Sarah Lee, an organizer with Interfaith Movement. “We are here to stand with you in courage.”
Several California Highway Patrol troopers and staffers at first scrambled to respond, but the group brought along a police liaison, and no one intervened.
People without an appointment were not allowed into the governor’s office. Some who did have a meeting scheduled were asked to wait outside.
Group leaders said they held the service in an attempt to meet with Brown and urge him not to amend SB 54. The legislation, introduced by Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), is the centerpiece proposal in a legislative package filed by Democrats to protect immigrants under increased immigration enforcement actions. It would prohibit police and sheriff’s agencies from using resources to enforce federal immigration laws.
But it has raised loud opposition from Republican lawmakers and many sheriffs, who say they have been in discussions with Brown in hopes of amending the bill. A different group of faith leaders met with Brown in his office last week.
Among those present was Leslie Takahashi, the daughter of a Japanese internment camp survivor and a lead minister with the Mount Diablo Unitarian Universalist Church in Walnut Creek.
She said she and other church leaders have been working for years to make California a place of sanctuary for immigrants without legal status. She called the legislation crucial at a time when the president has pardoned former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio and is threatening to end a federal program that provides temporary immigration relief to children illegally brought into the country.
“What we see going on is an effort to reduce the effectiveness and the statement that we are trying to make,” Takahashi said of the push to amend the legislation.
2:15 p.m. This article was updated with comments from immigrant advocates.
This article was originally published at 1:30 p.m.
California state senators want big bucks for cleaner trucks and buses
A cadre of Democratic state senators are pushing to spend nearly $1 billion over the next year to replace diesel trucks, buses and other vehicles with cleaner versions.
A chunk of the money would come from California’s cap-and-trade program, which lawmakers agreed to extend last month. The program requires companies to buy permits to release greenhouse gases, and the state can use the revenue on initiatives that further reduce emissions.
“You are looking definitely at California’s future,” Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) said at a Tuesday news conference as nine trucks and buses, some powered only by electricity, lined up behind him outside the Capitol.
The proposal builds on an idea outlined by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) earlier this month.
The senators described diesel exhaust as a public health crisis in congested areas of California, especially highway corridors near international ports.
Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) held a canister holding pollution equivalent to 80 miles of exhaust from an 18-wheeler.
“It’s time to ditch diesel,” she said.
The senators aren’t the only ones with their eye on cap-and-trade funding. Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) wants to use some of the money to expand incentives for drivers to buy electric cars.
Los Angeles Rep. Karen Bass endorses Antonio Villaraigosa in governor’s race
U.S. Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) endorsed Antonio Villaraigosa’s gubernatorial bid on Tuesday, arguing that his record of fighting for equal rights over the four decades she has known him demonstrates he would be the best candidate in the 2018 race to lead all Californians.
“What a governor he will be,” Bass said. “Antonio is working to lift up this state so everyone everywhere has equal opportunities. So good jobs are not just for people in Silicon Valley or Silicon Beach, but for everyone. So good schools are not just in wealthy neighborhoods, but for everyone, everywhere. So we are not a wealthy coast and a struggling inland, but one California [where] every single one of us has a chance to learn and earn.”
Bass is the third former Assembly speaker to endorse Villaraigosa, who also held that post before he was elected mayor of Los Angeles. The current speaker, Anthony Rendon, has backed Treasurer John Chiang for governor.
Bass is also among the most prominent African Americans to endorse in the race. Black voters make up about 6.5% of the state’s population, according to the 2015 U.S. Census Bureau estimate. That’s far less than the fast-growing populations of Latino and Asian American voters. But black voters have historically been a powerful force in Democratic politics. Villaraigosa’s support in the African American community is among the reasons he won the 2005 mayor’s race four years after losing.
“He has built bridges with the African American community for decades,” Bass said, pointing to Villaraigosa’s work on education, criminal justice reform and inequity. “Go to church with him and see the support that he has, the recognition that he has, the affection that people feel.”
Bass and Villaraigosa appeared together at Los Angeles Trade Technical College, where they emphasized the nation’s need for more skilled workers with higher education degrees, as well as training in fields such as nursing and welding. It’s personal for the pair, who both attended community colleges before transferring to four-year universities.
“I know what education can do to change the lives of people,” Villaraigosa said, noting that he was raised in a home where domestic violence and alcoholism were present and that he had disciplinary issues in high school before teachers and his mother helped him find his way.
They spoke in front of several students who were brought to the country illegally when they were children. President Trump is considering whether to phase out Obama-era protections for younger undocumented immigrants.
“I want to make absolutely clear that here in California, we’re going to mark our own path. We’re going to stand up for the immigrants and the poor,” Villaraigosa said, pledging to try to use the courts to block Trump if he rolls back the protections in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
Changes to key housing bill will give local governments in California more control over the money
Cities and counties will have more control over money designed to help the state combat its housing affordability crisis under amendments to key legislation unveiled Tuesday.
SB 2 from state Sen. Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) would charge a $75 fee on mortgage refinances and other real estate transactions and funnel the money to housing subsides. The fee, which would raise roughly $250 million a year, wouldn’t be charged on home or commercial property sales.
Under the changes made to the bill Tuesday, local governments will receive half the money in the first year to update blueprints that guide neighborhood development to speed up community planning. The state Department of Housing and Community Development would receive the remainder to fund homeless housing efforts. In later years, the state would award most of the dollars to cities and counties to finance the construction of low-income housing development.
The changes are designed to address concerns from some skeptical Democrats in the Assembly about raising fees on homeowners. The measure requires a two-thirds supermajority vote to pass and is considered the most fragile of the main bills in a package of legislation aimed at addressing the state’s housing problems.
At a news conference Monday before the amendments were released, Atkins said she had not yet secured enough support for her bill but was working on changes. The state’s housing problems, she said, required lawmakers to act now.
“If we don’t get started in a serious way with each and every one of these pieces of legislation, we will have more than a crisis on our hands,” Atkins said. “We will have a humanitarian crisis of proportions you have never seen.”
Changes to other bills in the housing package also were released Tuesday morning. They were memorialized in a deal announced Monday evening between Gov. Jerry Brown and legislative leaders to support a $4-billion bond on the 2018 ballot to fund low-income housing projects and subsidize home loans for veterans. There also were minor changes to a bill designed to ease local regulations on home building.
Lawmakers could take up all the housing bills as soon as Friday. But Brown and top lawmakers have not announced they’ve reached an agreement on an entire package, nor that they’ve secured the votes for it to pass.
California Supreme Court: Local tax hikes should be treated differently when citizens propose them
For decades in California, local tax increases to finance school, transit, road and other specific improvements have needed to clear a high bar: a two-thirds super-majority of voters.
But a California Supreme Court ruling on Monday has led some to argue that’s changed, making tax hikes easier to pass. The court decided that local tax proposals from citizen groups put on the ballot via initiative should be treated differently than those pitched by local elected officials. By that logic, the two-thirds threshold may no longer apply to tax initiatives, which now could possibly pass with a s