September archives: California politics news feed

This is Essential Politics, our in-the-moment look at California political and government news.

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Downey congresswoman backs Antonio Villaraigosa for governor


California farmworkers will have to undergo sexual assault prevention training

Gov. Jerry Brown/
(Monica Davey/ EPA)

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday signed legislation to ensure farm labor contractors train employees on how to prevent and report sexual assault, a response to a 2013 PBS Frontline investigation that found sexual violence against women was a pervasive problem in California fields.

Senate Bill 295 by Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) makes sexual harassment training mandatory at all businesses that supervise farm employees or provide them with lodging, transportation or other services.

The training has to be conducted or interpreted in a language that employees can understand, the law stipulates, and farm labor contractors will have to provide proof of all of their materials and resources to the Farm Labor Commission as part of the license renewal process.

Under the new law, the state labor commission also will be able to charge a $100 civil fine for any violation of the new requirements.

The PBS Frontline investigative documenatory, “Rape in the Fields, The Hidden Story of Rape on the Job in America” found more than half a million women work in U.S. fields. Most do not have legal residency in the country, and sexual harassment and violence often go unreported. A 2012 Human Rights Watch survey found 80% of 150 women in California’s Central Valley had experienced some form of the abuse.


Los Angeles voters can cast ballots in Assembly race on Tuesday

Wendy Carrillo is one of 13 people running for a state Assembly seat.
Wendy Carrillo is one of 13 people running for a state Assembly seat.
(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The political dominoes from U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s retirement are almost done falling.

Her decision two years ago to forgo reelection led to a reshuffling that eventually left vacant a state Assembly seat in Los Angeles.

There are 13 candidates running in the special election, and the primary is Tuesday.

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California Politics Podcast: Lawmakers say their focus on housing has just begun

For months, lawmakers in Sacramento said that their effort to pass a package of bills aimed at California’s housing woes was only the beginning.

They repeated that pledge on Friday, even after acknowledging the heavy political lift it took just to pass the simple steps signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown.

On this week’s podcast episode, we discuss the political and practical impact of the new housing laws, as well as what might be in store for 2018.

We also discuss Brown’s decision to move California’s presidential primary from June to March, and whether it has any hope of making the state relevant in the race for the White House.

Other topics on this week’s podcast include a push for a property tax proposal on next year’s statewide ballot, and a new poll showing a number of likely voters think Sen. Dianne Feinstein should step down when her current term ends.

I’m joined by Times staff writer Liam Dillon and Marisa Lagos of KQED.


Gov. Brown signs major housing legislation

At a signing ceremony in San Francisco on Friday morning, Gov. Jerry Brown signed 15 bills aimed at addressing the state’s mounting housing problems.

“It is a big challenge,” Brown said. “We have risen to it this year.”

The bills could add nearly $1 billion in new funding for low-income housing developments in the near term as well as lessen regulations that slow growth.

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Watch live: Gov. Jerry Brown signs bills to tackle California’s housing crisis

Gov. Jerry Brown and state lawmakers are gathered in San Francisco for the signing into law of a package of proposals designed to tackle some of the most pressing parts of California’s housing crisis.

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Businesses in California will be required to tell customers exactly how much their automatic renewal will cost


California will require online businesses that offer free trials to tell customers exactly how much an automatic renewal will cost under a law signed by Gov. Jerry Brown on Thursday.

The law’s author, Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), thinks the bill, known as SB 313, will make it easier for customers to cancel service.

“Consumers need to know what they are signing up for and that they can just as easily cancel any service or subscription online as when they started it online,” Hertzberg said in a statement.

Streaming services like Hulu and Spotify and the file-sharing site Dropbox have elicited lawsuits and consumer complaints about their automatic service renewals, according to Hertzberg’s statement.

The law goes into effect in July.


Antonio Villaraigosa wants to bring back an urban renewal program to fund low-income housing

Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa is running for governor.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

California candidate for governor Antonio Villaraigosa wants the state to bring back an urban renewal program to fund low-income housing.

“Solving our state’s growing housing crisis will take a sustained commitment and creative thinking,” Villaraigosa wrote in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle. “But when it comes to giving local governments the tools they need, we don’t need to reinvent the wheel.”

Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers eliminated a state redevelopment program in 2011 as a cost-cutting move aimed at saving nearly $2 billion during the state’s budget crisis. The program allowed cities to target run-down neighborhoods for investment and use a share of property tax dollars generated by development to fund improvements, including financing low-income housing. But doing so required the state to spend more to support public schools, and Brown derided the agencies as being rife with abuses of taxpayer dollars.

Villaraigosa, a former mayor of Los Angeles, said a revived program would allow for greater state assistance to address housing problems.

Lawmakers passed a large package of housing legislation earlier this month, including a new real estate transaction fee and a bond measure for the November 2018 ballot. But even with that new spending, state subsidies will remain billions of dollars’ short of what’s needed to finance housing for its neediest residents, according to state and third-party estimates.


Will California Republicans in the House support a tax proposal that would hit their districts hard?

California's GOP House members: top from left, Devin Nunes, Darrell Issa and David Valadao; middle: Steve Knight, Dana Rohrabacher and Duncan Hunter; bottom: Mimi Walters, Jeff Denham and Ed Royce.
(Associated Press / AFP/Getty Images))

One-third of Californian taxpayers could be forced to pay thousands more in federal taxes from the repeal of one deduction under a GOP proposal released Wednesday, setting up another political dilemma for California Republicans facing tough reelection battles next year as Democrats work to win back the House of Representatives.

The potential repeal of the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, which allows taxpayers to write off those taxes on their federal returns, would hit especially hard in wealthier areas, some of which are on the exact turf Democrats are trying to win over in Southern California.

Details of the overall tax reform plan have yet to be worked out, but so far, vulnerable California Republicans are not joining GOP colleagues in other states who have said they won’t accept the repeal of the deduction, and some of them seem willing to negotiate.

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Here’s why California’s early primary in 2020 is destined to pick the next president. (Nah, not really)

(Harry Chase / Los Angeles Times)

Today we answer questions.

Woo-hoo! Now that Gov. Jerry Brown has signed the bill, it looks like California is moving up its 2020 presidential primary. Finally!


No more watching from the sidelines as small-fry states like Iowa and New Hampshire throw their weight around.


I’m already fluffing pillows and prepping the guestroom for all the 2020 hopefuls who’ll be camped out.


What? You don’t seem too excited.

Look, it would be great if California voted in a truly meaningful presidential primary. It’s been about 50 years since that happened. But it’s about as likely in 2020 as President Trump dumping Vice President Pence and running for reelection on a unity ticket with Hillary Clinton.

How can that be?

Lots of reasons, both political and practical.

Do tell.

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Poll: Californians like Obamacare more than ever but are divided on single-payer healthcare

Members of the California Nurses Assn. and other supporters rally at the state Capitol for a single-payer health plan June 28.
Members of the California Nurses Assn. and other supporters rally at the state Capitol for a single-payer health plan June 28.
(Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

As the latest attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act fizzles, the law has reached its highest popularity in California in four years, according to a new poll released Wednesday by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Nearly 60% of the Californians hold a generally favorable view of the healthcare law, and just over a third of Californians see it unfavorably — the highest approval rating since PPIC began tracking the law’s popularity in 2013.

But while Democrats and independents back the law, known as Obamacare, with strong majorities, three-quarters of Republicans have negative views of it.

Only 18% of Californians believe congressional Republicans should try again to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, and 58% of adults want to see bipartisan efforts to improve the law.

Underscoring the GOP’s challenge in dramatically reducing government’s role in healthcare, two-thirds of the state’s adults believe it is the federal government’s responsibility to ensure that all Americans have health coverage.

But Californians are divided on whether to substantially increase government involvement through a single-payer system, such as the “Medicare for All” proposal recently introduced by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont).

A national single-payer insurance program such as “Medicare for All” gets support from 35% of Californians, according to the poll. Support is higher among Democrats — 44% — and independents — 34% — than among Republicans. Only 6% of Republicans back such a system.

But the current system, a patchwork of government and private insurance options, isn’t particularly adored by Californians.

Just under 30% of adults support continuing with a mix of private and public insurance options, while 36% of Democrats, 21% of Republicans and 31% of independents see that mixed system as the best way to provide health coverage.


Half of California’s likely voters think Sen. Dianne Feinstein should retire, poll finds

(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

As Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein contemplates a 2018 bid for reelection, a new poll has found that 50% of California’s likely voters think she shouldn’t run again.

Just 43% of likely voters support Feinstein running for a sixth term, according to a Public Policy Institute of California poll released Wednesday. The results are similar among all California adults, not just likely voters, with 46% saying she should not run for another term and 41% saying she should run.

Feinstein, 84, has come under increased pressure from members of California’s left, many of whom were infuriated when earlier this month she called for “patience” with President Trump and refused to back demands for his impeachment.

Still, the poll found that Feinstein remains popular. More than half of likely voters — 54% — approve of the job she’s doing, compared with 38% who disapprove.

That’s on par with Gov. Jerry Brown’s approval rating, and it bests the marks for California’s other Democratic senator, Kamala Harris. When likely voters were asked about Harris, the former state attorney general elected to the Senate in November, 47% approved of the job she was doing in Washington and 30% disapproved. Almost a quarter of voters didn’t offer an opinion about Harris.

The contrasting results on Feinstein are difficult to decipher but at the very least indicate voters remain restless.

“Partly, this is a holdover from last year’s election in which you saw many Democrats wanting a more liberal alternative at the presidential level and you saw many independents wanting an outsider,” said Mark Baldassare, president of Public Policy Institute of California. “As people are looking to next year, there’s a desire for something new.”

Speculation continues that Feinstein may face a Democratic challenger. Among those who have been mentioned is state Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles), who is weighing his next political move after he terms out of office in 2018. De León lashed out at Feinstein after her comments about Trump in early September.

In her last election, Feinstein trounced her Republican opponent, Elizabeth Emken, by a 25-percentage-point margin in 2012. She won by almost an identical margin in 2006 when challenged by former Republican state Sen. Richard Mountjoy.

However, California has since switched to a top-two primary system. The two candidates who receive the most voters in the June primary election will advance to the 2018 general election, regardless of their party.

Two Democrats faced off in the finale of California’s 2016 U.S. Senate election, with Harris besting then-Rep. Loretta Sanchez.


Want to see ‘Hamilton’ in L.A.? Rep. Cardenas is raffling tickets as a fundraiser

Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-Los Angeles) is raffling off a set of tickets to “Hamilton” in Los Angeles as a campaign fundraiser.

According to the small print in an email the campaign sent to supporters, one winner will be randomly selected among donors by 11:59 p.m. PST on Oct. 3. The tickets are for the Oct. 19 showing of the hit musical and have an approximate retail value of $824. Entries for the raffle can also be made without donating to the campaign.

Cardenas is friends with the father of Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony- and Pulitzer-winning creator of “Hamilton.” When the show opened in Los Angeles in mid-August, Miranda spoke to nearly 1,000 students in Cardenas’ largely Latino San Fernando Valley district.

The congressman isn’t the only one with the idea. Gubernatorial candidate John Chiang is raffling tickets to the Nov. 1 show to those who follow him on Instagram — if they fill out a form on his campaign website.


Barbara Boxer says if Sen. Dianne Feinstein runs for another term, she should expect a tough race

Former Sen. Barbara Boxer
(Mina Corpuz / Los Angeles Times )

It’s one of the hottest political parlor games in California right now: Will she run again?

Everyone is waiting for Sen. Dianne Feinstein to announce if she’ll seek a sixth term.

And even though they served as colleagues in Washington for more than two decades, former Sen. Barbara Boxer said she has no inside intel on what Feinstein will do in 2018.

“I believe she is running until I see any other indication,” Boxer said Wednesday at a Sacramento Press Club lunch. “Every single race is hard.... Anyone who runs against her will give her a tough race.”

Feinstein, 84, has made clear she is taking her time, even as ambitious politicians eye the seat she has held since 1992. One long-shot Democrat already is raising money for the race, and Feinstein recently drew criticism from California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, who has not ruled out a primary challenge against her.

Boxer said Wednesday her own priority for next year’s midterm election is flipping several Republican-held House seats in Southern California.

“There’s no such thing as an off election year,” she said. “It’s an on year.”

Much of this work will be done through the political action committee Boxer founded, PAC for a Change. The organization also supports electing more Democrats to the Senate and standing up to President Trump’s policies, she said.

Since leaving the Senate in January, Boxer has also given speeches and promoted her book, “The Art of Tough.” She doesn’t like to consider herself a retiree.

Boxer also skirted a question about her pick for governor in a race that already is crowded with several Democrats. All of the candidates, she joked, are “like my sons and daughters.”


California’s top elections officer now says his agency’s website wasn’t the one ‘scanned’ by Russian hackers

Secretary of State Alex Padilla
(John Myers / Los Angeles Times)

Five days after saying he had been told Russian hackers scanned the state’s main elections website for weaknesses in 2016, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said Wednesday that it turns out it didn’t actually happen that way.

Padilla said that his office was given incorrect information by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and that the Russian operation was instead focused on “scanning” the network of the state Department of Technology.

“Our notification from DHS last Friday was not only a year late, it also turned out to be bad information,” Padilla said in a statement.

Bryce Brown, a spokesman for the state’s information technology agency, said officials had long known about “suspect activity that occurred on our network last summer” but didn’t know anything else until the notification from federal officials.

“Although we did not have knowledge of the source until now, we have confirmed our security systems worked as planned and the activity was blocked as it happened in 2016,” he said.

The Department of Homeland Security did not respond to a request for comment.

On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that federal officials also reversed course in a notification they had made to Wisconsin elections officials about Russian activity. In June, federal officials told Congress that 21 states’ elections systems were targeted by Russian activity.

Padilla insisted last week that the “scanning” incident found no vulnerabilities or access to any California voter information, and he criticized DHS officials for the delay in sharing information about 2016 activities. On Wednesday, he said hopes that federal officials will continue to work with the states in preventing cyberattacks.

“I remain committed to a partnership with DHS and other intelligence agencies; however, elections officials and the American public expect and deserve timely and accurate information,” Padilla said.


California moves its presidential primary to March in push for electoral relevance

(Los Angeles Times)

Backing an effort for California to claim a bigger share of the attention from presidential candidates, Gov. Jerry Brown has signed a bill moving the state’s primary elections to early March.

Brown’s decision, announced without fanfare on Wednesday, means the state will hold its presidential primary on March 3, 2020. It’s a reversal from a decision he made in 2011 to push the state’s primary elections back until June, after years of trying — and failing — to entice major candidates to bring their campaigns to California instead of smaller, more rural states.

Democrats who embraced the push for an early primary said they were motivated in part by the election of President Trump, whose successful bid for the Republican Party nomination was well on its way to reality by the time California voters cast ballots on June 7, 2016.

“We have a greater responsibility and a greater role to promote a different sort of agenda at the national level,” said state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), the author of the bill. “We need to have a greater influence at the national level.”

The new law also moves California’s congressional and legislative primaries to March, a change which some have suggested could make it difficult for challengers to raise money and quickly put together a credible campaign for challenging established incumbents.

Under current projections, California’s primary would come fifth in the presidential nominating process in 2020 — following caucuses in Iowa and Nevada and primaries in New Hampshire and South Carolina. Lara said he realizes that the Democratic National Committee may not like the state moving its election up to the early slot, but that he hopes party officials will work with California officials over the next few years to accommodate the change.

“California’s role has clearly changed,” he said.

California first tried the March primary in 1996. But by election day, 27 states had already held their own presidential primary or caucus, passing over California – one of the most expensive places to buy political advertising time in the nation.

The state’s most successful early presidential primary was in February 2008, when 57.7% of registered voters turned out in a race won by Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican John McCain. That was the highest voter turnout for a California presidential primary since 1980. But even then, enough states had already voted that the relative impact of the early election was small.

Last year, 47.7% of registered voters cast ballots in the state’s June presidential primary.

Several Democratic lawmakers praised Brown’s decision to allow another try at the early primary.

“Candidates will not be able to ignore the largest, most diverse state in the nation as they seek our country’s highest office,” said Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

The bill does not change the scheduled 2018 statewide primary, which will be held in June.

Brown has one other closely watched bill on his desk with the potential for national political impact: A proposal to deny access to the California ballot for any presidential candidate who won’t release personal tax returns to the public – a not-so-subtle jab at Trump’s refusal to do so in 2016. The governor has until Oct. 15 to act on that, and other, bills passed by the Legislature before it adjourned earlier this month.


2:54 p.m.: This article was updated with additional information on California’s past attempts to move up its primary, as well as details about the 2016 campaign and comment from Secretary Padilla.

This article was originally published at 1:48 p.m.


California’s Democratic leaders have a plan for thwarting Trump in 2020

Skelton: Brown should junk the presidential election bills on his desk

The California primary bill probably won’t change anything


Hollywood tour buses could get more rules slapped on them under the law Gov. Jerry Brown just signed

A tour bus passes the late Carrie Fisher's gated home in Beverly Hills.
A tour bus passes the late Carrie Fisher’s gated home in Beverly Hills.
(Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday signed legislation aimed at reining in the proliferation of tour buses offering to take fans to the homes and gathering spots of celebrities in Hollywood and other trendy neighborhoods.

The measure allows cities and counties to adopt rules that restrict the routes or streets used by the tour buses, and prohibit the use of loudspeakers on open-topped buses and vans.

Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian (D-Sherman Oaks) introduced the proposal in response to a report by NBC Los Angeles that found some tour buses were operating unsafely without proper permits. He also cited complaints about topless buses on narrow streets of the Hollywood Hills, Malibu and Bel-Air.


Latino state lawmakers back Antonio Villaraigosa for California governor

Antonio Villaraigosa gives a pep talk in Los Angeles at Cathedral High School, where he once was also a student.
((Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

The Legislature’s California Latino Caucus on Wednesday endorsed former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa for governor.

While expected, the nod from the politically influential caucus is a boon for Villaraigosa, a former Democratic Assembly speaker and the only major Latino candidate running for governor. Villaraigosa has lagged behind Lt. Gov. Gavin Newson in early polls and fundraising.

“As Assembly speaker and Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa worked to strengthen our economy, expand our healthcare, improve our schools and invest in strategic infrastructure projects that create middle-class jobs,” Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), chair of the caucus, said in a statement Wednesday morning.

An intriguing aspect of the endorsement is that one of the most prominent members of the California Latino Caucus is Senate leader Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles). In Sacramento, speculation abounds over whether De León may run for governor, and the Villaraigosa endorsement could indicate De León has other plans for his political future.

Villaraigosa joins a slate of other Latino statewide candidates endorsed by the caucus: Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-Azusa) for lieutenant governor; current appointee Xavier Becerra for attorney general; incumbent Alex Padilla for secretary of state; Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens) for insurance commissioner; and Assemblyman Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) for superintendent of public instruction.


California is trying to educate people about marijuana before recreational sales start

Months before California allows the sale of marijuana for recreational use, the state has launched an education campaign about the drug, including highlighting the potential harms of cannabis for minors and pregnant women.

The state is scheduled to issue licenses starting Jan. 2 for growing and selling marijuana for recreational use, expanding a program that currently allows cannabis use for medical purposes.

In response, the California Department of Public Health has created a website to educate Californians about the drug and its impacts, including how to purchase and safely store cannabis.

“We are committed to providing Californians with science-based information to ensure safe and informed choices,” said State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.

The website, “Let’s Talk Cannabis,” notes it is illegal for people under 21 to buy marijuana for non-medical use and warns that “using cannabis regularly in your teens and early 20s may lead to physical changes in your brain.”

The site also warns that marijuana edibles may have higher concentrations of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. “If you eat too much, too fast you are at higher risk for poisoning,” the website warns.

The state urges parents and guardians to talk to their teenagers about legal and health issues surrounding marijuana use.

The state officials also say consuming cannabis is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, or who plan to become pregnant soon, noting that it “can affect the health of your baby.”

The website got good marks from legalization activist Ellen Komp, deputy director of California’s chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

The website is “fairly accurate,” she said, but added, “The risks with pregnancy are somewhat overstated, telling women they should not use cannabis for nausea or even if they are thinking of getting pregnant.”

Some 43% of Californians have used marijuana for recreational purposes and 54% said they have not, according to a USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll last November.

Among those who have not used it, just 2% said they are much more likely to use it if Proposition 64 passed, which it did, while 5% said they are somewhat more likely to use it, and 89% said they are no more likely to smoke pot if it was legalized.

Other advice from the state’s site: driving under the influence of cannabis is illegal and increases the chance of a car accident, and cannabis should be stored in a locked area to avoid poisoning children and pets.

Updated at 11:30 am to include data from poll on marijuana use.


Today’s newsletter: Republicans fail again to repeal Obamacare


Today’s Essential Politics newsletter details the last gasp of the Republican efforts in Washington to repeal the Affordable Care Act, efforts that President Trump insisted on Tuesday aren’t over.

We also take a look at the win by Roy Moore, a former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, in a Senate runoff that saw the president back the losing candidate.

And we’ve got the details of what happens if Gov. Jerry Brown, as expected, signs the “sanctuary state” bill into law.

The newsletter comes out Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Are you a subscriber? Sign up below.

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Combustion engines could go the way of the horse and buggy in California, top air regulator says

(Carl Costas / For The Times)

Imagine a future where only zero-emission vehicles could be registered in California or driven on the state’s freeways.

Those are two tactics that could be used to help the world’s sixth largest economy phase out combustion engines, suggested California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols in a recent interview with Bloomberg.

The state already has far-reaching policies for fighting climate change, but Nichols said Gov. Jerry Brown wants to make sure California is keeping pace with goals set by other countries.

Britain and France plan to ban vehicles powered by gasoline or diesel fuel by 2040, and China recently announced it would set its own deadline.

“I’ve gotten messages from the governor asking, ‘Why haven’t we done something already?’” Nichols said in the Bloomberg interview. “The governor has certainly indicated an interest in why China can do this and not California.”

The discussion is not a new one for California leaders. Brown signed legislation last year requiring the state to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, but an even more ambitious target was included in a 2005 executive order from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

To hit the goal of slashing emissions to 80% below 1990 levels by 2050, California would need nearly every new vehicle sold between 2040 and 2050 to produce zero emissions, according to an analysis from the Air Resources Board.

So far, California has struggled to meet more modest goals of getting more electric cars on the road, and emissions from transportation have recently increased.

“Given the existential challenge we face, the administration is looking at many, many possible measures – including additional action on electric vehicles – to help rapidly decarbonize the economy and protect the health of our citizens,” Dave Clegern, a spokesman for the Air Resources Board, said in a statement.


Police body camera footage depicting rape victims won’t be released in California under new law

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Gov. Jerry Brown signed a measure Tuesday that would prohibit the public release of police body camera footage or other videos that depict victims of rape, incest, sexual assault, domestic violence or child abuse.

The new law will not change existing policy. Generally, police departments across California don’t release body camera footage outside of a courtroom. This measure, Assembly Bill 459 from Assemblyman Ed Chau (D-Arcadia) enshrines extra protection for such footage into state law.

Lawmakers have struggled to pass more wide-ranging police body camera policies. A bill that would have allowed much more footage to be released did not advance this year.


After meeting with Trump, California Democrats say they want a seat at the tax reform table

Ahead of Republicans’ plans to unveil a more detailed overview of their tax reform plan Wednesday, President Trump sat down with a bipartisan group of members that included California Democratic Reps. Linda Sanchez and Mike Thompson.

Sanchez, of Whittier, who serves on the House committee that has authority over tax legislation, said members didn’t learn much about the details of the plan Tuesday.

“There were kind of generalities but no specificity, which is why we’re interested to see what they put out tomorrow, because clearly it’s not something that’s had Democratic input,” Sanchez said.

According to a White House transcript of part of the meeting, Trump said the plan is focused on making the tax code “simple and fair,” increasing the deduction most families can take, lowering the business tax rate and bringing wealth stored overseas back to the United States.

Thompson, of St. Helena, said the president listened to what Democrats had to say, but he didn’t get the impression that the policy plan would change before it becomes public Wednesday.

“I don’t think it was that kind of meeting. We all agreed we wanted a fair, easy-to-work-with tax code that generates more jobs,” said Thompson, who is also on the committee. “He said repeatedly he wants to be successful.”

Republicans are set to unveil a “consensus document” Wednesday they say will be a much more detailed overview than previous tax policy papers they’ve released. But it is not expected to be an actual plan or bill.

Republicans will huddle with Vice President Mike Pence for half of Wednesday to discuss tax reform. Democrats are holding their own tax reform forum too.

It’s been 30 years since Congress has passed a major tax overhaul, and Republican leaders have set an ambitious timeline for passing a tax-reform measure, indicating they want to get it to Trump’s desk by the end of the year.

Sanchez said she tried to stress in the meeting that Democrats should play a role in writing the final bill. There wasn’t discussion about the group sitting down with Trump again, she said.

“The president was very pleased that it was a bipartisan effort, which sort of confused me because that was the first meeting where there were members of the Democratic side of the Ways and Means Committee there,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know if they’ve been telling him that the process is bipartisan or if he knew it wasn’t bipartisan but didn’t care, but I thought that was kind of odd.”


Tom Steyer won’t rule out challenging Sen. Dianne Feinstein, but warns against reading too much into that

Tom Steyer.
(AFP/Getty Images)

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer did a little political two-step Tuesday when a reporter pressed him on whether he might challenge Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein if she runs for reelection.

Capital Public Radio’s Ben Adler tweeted that he asked Steyer if he would rule out running against Feinstein, and that Steyer would not nix the idea. Steyer was visiting a Sacramento high school to encourage students to register to vote.

Steyer quickly added that he hates answering speculative questions such as the one posed to him because there’s always a chance it might “bite you in the rear end.”

“I’d rather come out with what I do want to do as opposed to eliminating all the things I don’t want to do,” he told Adler.

Steyer, a Democrat who has openly contemplated a run for governor, said he is still weighing his political prospects and has not decided if he will run for office in 2018.

Feinstein has been facing increased pressure from progressive activists who believe she’s out of touch with her constituents. That intensified earlier this month when Feinstein refused to back the impeachment of President Trump, instead calling for “patience” during his presidency, which prompted a rebuke from state Senate leader Kevin De León.

Feinstein has been coy so far about whether she’ll retire or run again in 2018, but she does have a hefty $3.5 million in campaign funds socked away.


Judge rewrites summary of proposed gas tax repeal initiative, saying it was ‘fundamentally flawed’

A Chevron gas station in Sacramento shows prices in February.
( (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press))

A judge on Monday rewrote the title and summary for a proposed initiative that would repeal recent gas tax increases in California. He rejected a title and summary written by the state attorney general’s office as “fundamentally flawed.”

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Frawley criticized the attorney general’s office for not mentioning in the title that the ballot measure would repeal newly approved taxes or fees.

“This is not a situation where reasonable minds may differ,” Frawley wrote in his ruling. “The Attorney General’s title and summary ... must be changed to avoid misleading the voters and creating prejudice against the measure.”

The initiative proposed by Assemblyman Travis Allen (R-Huntington Beach) would repeal a bill approved in April by the Legislature and governor that would raise the gas tax by 12 cents per gallon and increase vehicle fees in order to generate $5.2 billion for road repairs and to improve mass transit.

The title and summary will be placed on petitions to be circulated by those trying to qualify the measure for the November 2018 ballot. The title and summary are also placed on the ballot if enough signatures are collected.

The original title written by Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra’s office was: “Eliminates recently enacted road repair and transportation funding by repealing revenues dedicated for those purposes.”

Allen’s attorneys argued the voter could read that to mean that the Legislature identified existing funds for transportation and the initiative would take those funds away.

The judge’s title says: “Repeals recently enacted gas and diesel taxes and vehicle registration fees. Eliminates road repair and transportation programs funded by these taxes and fees.”

The judge also made it clear in the summary that an Independent Office of Audits and Investigations that would be eliminated by the initiative is “newly established.”

Representatives of the attorney general’s office were not immediately available to comment on whether the ruling would be appealed.


Democrats to try to force vote on Dream Act with rarely successful procedural move

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-Downey) speaks at a news conference on the end of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on Capitol Hill earlier this month.
(Tasos Katopodis / European Pressphoto Agency)

House Democrats are trying to force a vote on Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard’s version of the Dream Act, they announced in a news conference Monday.

The House and Senate have less than six months to address the legal status of people brought into the country illegally as children before the program protecting them from deportation ends in March.

In the weeks since President Trump announced he was ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Democrats have pushed for a quick vote on Roybal-Allard’s bill, which is backed by every House Democrat and four Republicans. There are also a handful of other Republican-sponsored bills that could be considered.

To force a vote, Democrats