California politics news feed
This is Essential Politics, our in-the-moment look at California political and government news.
When Halloween gets political: Check out this tiny Maxine Waters
It happens every year: Halloween and politics mix.
California’s politicos got in the spirit on social media.
Rep. Maxine Waters got a shoutout from a little girl in Oakland, with a play ona now viral incident in which Waters dismissed Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin for not answering her questions in a committee hearing and using up her allotted time.
Sen. Kamala Harris posted a photo of a mini-me of her own, saying 4-year-old Micaela “wins best Halloween costume in my book.”
California Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman’s costume was pointed: President Trump in a clown suit.
Orange County at center of fundraising in California’s most contested races
More than half of the money raised for the most contested House races in California is going to candidates in Orange County, another indication of its starring role in the Democratic effort to win back control of the House next year.
Of the 80 or so challengers in California, 27 are running in Orange County. A Los Angeles Times analysis of this year’s campaign finance filings found it is also where the cash is going to: About $15 million of the nearly $28.5 million raised this year for 13 key races went to candidates in just four Orange County districts:
Gov. Jerry Brown plans climate trip to Vatican, Belgium, Norway and Germany
Gov. Jerry Brown has mapped out a busy European travel schedule that includes attending the next United Nations conference on climate change in Bonn, Germany.
“While the White House declares war on climate science and retreats from the Paris Agreement, California is doing the opposite and taking action,” Brown said in a statement. “We are joining with our partners from every part of the world to do what needs to be done to prevent irreversible climate change.”
Roughly two dozen public events are planned over 10 days, starting with a speech at a Vatican symposium on Saturday. Brown won’t be the only California politician at the conference. Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) is speaking later that day, and state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) is scheduled to appear Friday.
After the Vatican, the governor is bouncing between Germany and Belgium, plus a stop in Norway to meet with scientists. He’s holding press conferences with the president of the European Parliament and the minister-president of Baden-Württemberg, a German state that has collaborated with California on an international climate pact.
Once the Bonn conference begins, much of Brown’s focus will be on how states, provinces and other local governments can tackle climate change absent stronger action from national leaders. He was named a special advisor to the U.N. conference for states and regions earlier this year.
Brown is scheduled to appear with former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Nov. 11 and speak at numerous other events, a packed itinerary much like the one he kept at the Paris climate conference two years ago.
His last event is expected to take place Nov. 14.
Tom Steyer’s impeachment petition gets over 1 million signatures in first week
Billionaire Democratic donor Tom Steyer says his online petition asking Congress to impeach President Trump garnered more than 1.1 million signatures in its first week.
Last week, Steyer began airing an ad calling for Trump’s impeachment and asking viewers to sign his petition urging Congress to do so. He has spent more than $10 million to air the ad nationwide, including during the World Series.
Trump attacked the effort -- and Steyer -- on Twitter after the ad ran during “Fox and Friends” on Friday. Steyer’s staff members said they haven’t determined whether the president’s tweet boosted the signature effort.
Steyer has donated millions to Democrats and get-out-the-vote efforts in recent years. He’s weighing a primary challenge to California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein.
Petitions are a common way to try to change politicians’ minds, though they work to differing degrees. Still, the rate of people signing on to Steyer’s effort is quick. For example, one of the most popular petitions on Change.org deals with removing health insurance for members of Congress if they get rid of the Affordable Care Act. It took four months for it to top 1 million signatures.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Porter Ranch) drafted and circulated articles of impeachment against Trump this summer, but most members of Congress -- even Democratic leaders -- have been reluctant to press for impeachment and Sherman’s efforts haven’t gained traction.
1:19 p.m.: The post was updated with details about Rep. Brad Sherman’s impeachment efforts.
This post was originally published at 1:08 p.m.
California business tax incentive program should end, legislative analyst says
California no longer should give specific tax incentives to businesses and instead should provide broad-based tax relief, the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said in a new report.
The analyst’s office examined California Competes, a program that began four years ago to give tax credits to businesses looking to move to the state or remain here, and found it puts existing companies that don’t receive the awards at a disadvantage without clear benefits to the overall economy.
“Picking winners and losers inevitably leads to problems. In the case of California Competes, we are struck by how awarding benefits to a select group of businesses harms their competitors in California,” the report said. “We also think the resources consumed by the program are not as focused as they should be on winning economic development competitions with other states to attract major employers that sell to customers around the country and the world.”
California Competes has allowed the awarding of nearly $800 million in tax credits.
The legislative analyst found that more than a third of the credits awarded through California Competes resulted in no change to the overall economy and put the state’s existing businesses at a competitive disadvantage. The analyst couldn’t assess the value of the remainder of the credits because it’s impossible to know how businesses would have reacted had they not received them.
California Competes is scheduled to end next year. The analyst’s office recommends replacing it by lowering business taxes overall or, should lawmakers want to keep it, tailor the program more narrowly to focus on attracting and retaining high-value companies.
Electric companies found at fault in North Bay fires won’t be able to pass costs onto residents under proposed bill
If electric utilities are found at fault in the recent wildfires in the North Bay, a group of state lawmakers want to ensure they don’t pass along their costs to residents.
“Victims of devastating fires and other customers should not be forced to pay for the mistakes made by utilities,” state Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said in a release.
Hill is one of four Bay Area legislators who said they plan to introduce a bill when lawmakers return to the Capitol in January to block any effort by utilities found at fault to recoup any costs from ratepayers.
Investigators have not identified the cause of the wildfires that ripped across Northern California this month that left more than 40 people dead and thousands of homes destroyed.
But the lawmakers said their legislation is motivated by San Diego Gas & Electric’s efforts to recover costs from wildfires in that region a decade ago.
Co-authoring the bill with Hill is Sen. Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg), Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael).
Nancy Pelosi endorses Sen. Dianne Feinstein for reelection
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) endorsed the reelection bid of longtime colleague Sen. Dianne Feinstein on Monday, saying her seniority is a source of strength for the state.
“Feinstein is a strong voice and a staunch advocate for the people of California. Dianne Feinstein is uniquely positioned to defend California against Donald Trump’s constant attacks on health care, immigration and voting rights. She is a recognized leader in the Senate on economic policies that work for all Californians, defending against tax policies that hurt our state,” Pelosi said in a statement released by the Feinstein campaign.
Pelosi avoided getting deeply involved in the expected fight between Senate leader Kevin De León and Feinstein during an interview at a Los Angeles Times and Berggruen Institute event in downtown Los Angeles.
“People running against each other for office, that is a democracy,” she said at the event. “I do think that it is important to note how powerful Dianne Feinstein is in Washington, D.C., and how important that is to the state of California…. Another case can be made as to whether that is valuable or not, and that is what the discussion is about.”
Proposed initiative would end early release for some crimes, allow more DNA collection
A coalition including police officers and prosecutors on Monday proposed a California state initiative that would end early release of rapists and child traffickers and expand the number of crimes for which authorities could collect DNA samples from those convicted.
The ballot measure is sponsored by the California Public Safety Partnership, and would reverse some elements of Proposition 47, which was approved by voters in 2014 and reduced some crimes deemed nonviolent from a felony to a misdemeanor.
The proposed initiative would add 15 crimes to the list of violent crimes for which early release is not an option, including child abuse, rape of an unconscious person, trafficking a child for sex, domestic violence and assault with a deadly weapon.
“These reforms make sure that truly violent criminals stay in jail and don’t get out early,” said Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert, a leader of the coalition.
The initiative would also allow DNA collection for certain crimes, including drug offenses, that were reduced to misdemeanors under Proposition 47.
Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) said there have been 2,000 fewer hits matching DNA to cold cases annually in recent years.
He cited one case from 1989 involving the murder of two young girls in Sacramento that was solved last year by DNA taken from a man in a drug case before those were excluded from DNA collection.
“If that case happens today, right now, it does not get solved,” said Cooper, a former sheriff’s captain.
Changes in law also made theft of goods valued at less than $950 a misdemeanor, so some criminals are committing serial thefts and keeping each one to $949 or less, Cooper said. The initiative would make serial theft a felony.
The measure also mandates a parole revocation hearing for anyone who violates the terms of their parole three times.
“A Whittier police officer was recently murdered by a parolee who had violated parole five times,” said Los Angeles Police Protective League President Craig Lally, who supports the initiative.
A representative of the group behind Proposition 47 said it was not reasonable to blame the ballot measure for an uptick in some crimes in some parts of the state.
“Fluctuations in crime have much more to do with economic and social policies and practices,” said Tom Hoffman, a spokesman for the group Californians for Safety and Justice. “It’s so much more complicated than one piece of legislation as an issue.”
The proponents of the initiative need to collect signatures from 365,880 voters by the end of April to qualify the initiative for the November 2018 election.
When men with power go too far: After years of whispers, women speak out about harassment in California’s Capitol
It started with a dinner invitation from a former assemblyman more than twice her age. He had offered his services as a mentor, but his hand reaching for her knee under the table revealed other intentions. Then came the late-night phone calls and unexpected appearances at events she had to attend for her job in the Capitol.
Fresh out of college, Amy Brown did what she thought women were supposed to do in these situations — she reported him. The former assemblyman accused her of slander, an experience that left her so humiliated that she left Sacramento for a new job in San Jose.
“I immediately got the hell out of town,” Brown said. “I felt like the people — the person — I was relying on for advancement in my career was preying on me.”
Stories like these have taken many forms through the years. Sometimes it’s a professional meeting that turned inappropriately sexual, or it’s a groping hand on a backside. In one case, a woman said a lawmaker masturbated in front of her in a bar bathroom.
No matter the details, each story involves a man with power — the kind of power bestowed by voters, an influential lobbying client or a supply of campaign cash. And instead of wielding that power to shape politics or public policy, the man used it to proposition women or to touch them inappropriately.
Big jump in the number of House challengers isn’t great news for California Republicans
So far this year, 80 challengers have reported raising money across California for the 2018 midterm elections, more than triple the number who had done so at this point in the 2016 election. Collectively, they’ve raised more than $14.9 million, and 70% of that has gone to the four Republican-held districts in Orange County that Democrats consider key to their chances.
There haven’t been this many congressional challengers in California’s House races this early in the game since at least 2003, and that could be bad news for Republican incumbents.
California’s Senate culture doesn’t encourage women to file complaints. Here’s how that could change
In 2014, reeling from scandals that led to the suspension of three Democratic senators, California’s state Senate changed its policies to make it easier for employees, members and the public to sound the alarm about misconduct.
A Times analysis of those rule changes shows a lack of follow-through to make reporting complaints more accessible. And the lawmaker who worked on changes in the Senate’s operations after that scandal says more could have been done.
Then-Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) suggested at the time that the move would lead to “positive cultural change and strengthen the integrity of this great institution.”
But as the Capitol now soul-searches over allegations of widespread sexual harassment, the current legislative leaders acknowledge the culture still does not encourage women to file complaints. The Senate’s effort to reform itself three years ago — and how it fell short — is instructive as both legislative houses embark on a new round of self-improvement.
From the 1979 archives: Politics, Marriage Hard to Mix, Legislators Find
I’ve been closely watching Sacramento for half a century. It’s my observation — OK, a guess, because no one keeps statistics — that sexual harassment at the state Capitol is about the same now as it was decades ago. Sexual bullies of both parties have always plagued politics.
High taxes on legal pot in California could mean black market will thrive
State and local taxes on marijuana could surpass 45% in some parts of California, jeopardizing efforts to bring all growers and sellers into a state-licensed market in January, according to the global credit ratings firm Fitch Ratings.
“High tax rates raise prices in legal markets, reinforcing the price advantage of black markets,” the firm said in a report Monday. “California’s black markets for cannabis were well established long before its voters legalized cannabis in November 2016 and are expected to dominate post-legalization production.”
The report said that increased enforcement may blunt the illegal market, “but high taxes may complicate such efforts by diverting in-state sales to the black market.”
California is scheduled to begin issuing licenses to grow, transport and sell medical and recreational marijuana on Jan. 1 and will charge a 15% excise tax, as well as a state cultivation levy of $9.25 per ounce for cannabis flowers and $2.75 per ounce for leaves.
In addition, local business taxes have been approved by 61 cities and counties ranging from 7.75% to 9.75%.
The marijuana market is expected to provide a windfall for state and local treasuries.
“In the handful of states that legalized nonmedical cannabis prior to 2016, tax receipts have generally outpaced initial revenue estimates and have shown strong year-over-year gains,” Fitch Ratings said. But California could end up being one of the highest taxing states in the country if proposals stand.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti says he won’t run for governor
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California Assembly Speaker applauds Capitol staffer’s ‘bravery’ in going public with complaint against assemblyman
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) said Friday that the experience of a staffer who filed a complaint eight years ago against now-Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra illustrates why the Capitol culture must change.
Elise Flynn Gyore told The Times about her experience filing a complaint against Bocanegra, who was then a legislative staffer, after she said he groped her and followed her in a manner she found threatening at a 2009 after-work event in a Sacramento bar.
The Friday morning story in The Times was the first time she had spoken publicly of the incident and the complaint, which resulted in Bocanegra being disciplined.
“I appreciate Ms. Gyore’s bravery in bringing this incident forward. We have to change the culture in the Capitol and in society and her experience shows why,” Rendon said in a statement Friday afternoon. “How incidents of harassment were handled in the past can inform our current efforts to improve the system and to build a future where these injustices are prevented before they happen and no employee has to fear harassment or abuse.”
Bocanegra, who was first elected in 2012, is part of Rendon’s leadership team, serving in the position of majority whip. A top lieutenant to Rendon, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D-San Diego), also chimed in with support for Gyore on Friday.
Former Speaker John A. Pérez (D-Los Angeles), who led the Assembly from 2010 to 2014, said he was unaware of the complaint’s existence until The Times’ report.
He said he had never heard of any complaints — formal or informal — against Bocanegra, nor had he witnessed any inappropriate behavior from the Pacoima Democrat.
Also on Friday, the organizers of We Said Enough, a recently launched campaign against harassment, thanked Gyore for sharing her story.
“This is an act of true courage — and we support every woman who chooses to do so. Sadly, this story is just one example of how the existing system fails victims and survivors. We are resolute in our call for action,” the group said in a statement. The group’s organizers added that they are calling for an overhaul to the complaint process — such as confidential reporting, an independent oversight body and whistleblower protections — to better guard against harassment.
Rep. Darrell Issa goes after Gov. Jerry Brown on tax debate, criticizing ‘contrived letters pretending to care’
As the debate over tax reform rages in Washington, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) is blaming Gov. Jerry Brown’s policies for creating a situation where Californians pay high local and state taxes and claim them as a deduction of their federal taxes.
An estimated one in three Californians claim the State and Local Tax, or SALT, deduction, that would end under a tax plan proposed by the GOP.
“I recognize the role of the state and local tax deduction to reduce the tax burden on many Californians, but let’s be clear: It has only become of such importance as a direct result of the tremendous weight that your misguided policies have put on California taxpayers,” Issa wrote in a letter to Brown on Friday.
Brown sent letters of his own to the GOP delegation Wednesday urging them all not to support the Republican budget, which allowed for a $1.5-trillion deficit increase that sets the stage for President Trump’s tax cuts.
With the midterm elections critical to the battle for control of the U.S. House, Issa and other vulnerable California Republicans, especially those in wealthy Southern California, where constituents save thousands on their taxes through the deduction, are being closely watched.
There were 20 Republican “no” votes. Several opposed the budget because of a potential repeal of the federal deduction for state and local taxes, which would hit especially hard in wealthier states such as New York and California. But all 14 California Republicans voted for the budget.
Issa also admonished Brown for sending the letters.
“Government must foster an environment that promotes economic growth. Rather than sending contrived letters pretending to care about the burdens placed on taxpayers in our state, I implore you to turn away from the era of ever-increasing taxes that have continued under your Administration and instead seek policies that actually lower the tax burden on all Californians,” Issa said in his letter.
Brown responded Friday in a statement to The Times: “It’s unconscionable that Rep. Issa would tax the people of his district while exempting his corporate allies and sponsors. What a betrayal of his oath of office.”
2:04 p.m.: This post has been updated with comment from Brown. It was originally published at 12:58 p.m.
California Legislature colleagues back Kevin de León’s U.S. Senate bid
Behavior that didn’t meet ‘expectations for professionalism.’ Read the 2009 letter disciplining Raul Bocanegra
California Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra was disciplined after a human resources investigation eight years ago, when a female Capitol staffer accused him of “inappropriate and unwelcome physical contact,” The Times has learned.
Elise Flynn Gyore said Bocanegra, at the time chief of staff to then-Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, groped her and followed her in a manner she found threatening at an after-work event attended by legislators, staff and lobbyists.
A weeks-long investigation by independent attorneys hired by the Legislature concluded that “it is more likely than not that Bocanegra engaged in behavior that night which does not meet the Assembly’s expectations for professionalism,” according to a June 22, 2009, letter from the Assembly Rules Committee reviewed by the Los Angeles Times.
Gov. Jerry Brown says California Republicans have ‘slavish adherence’ to their party’s tax plan
Gov. Jerry Brown took aim at the sweeping tax overhaul plan in Congress and California’s Republican delegation on Thursday, saying their support of the plan is wrong “economically and morally.”
Brown, who joined New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a conference call with reporters, aimed most of his fire at the provision to cancel deducting local and state taxes paid from federal taxes. Both governors said it could have a profound impact on their states’ bottom lines. Brown criticized California’s 14 Republican House members for their Thursday budget vote, which allows for a $1.5-trillion deficit to help finance tax cuts.
“I know there is a lot of slavish adherence to the Republican leadership,” Brown said. “It’s bad for California. They’re doing a disservice.”
California and New York taxpayers have long been able to deduct the cost of paying local and state taxes from their federal tax liability. Both governors said Thursday they believed the effort by President Trump and Republicans to be at least somewhat motivated by their states voting for Democrat Hillary Clinton over Trump last November.
“It’s using a handful of states to finance the tax cuts for their states,” Cuomo said.
Brown, who sent personal letters to all California GOP members of the House urging them not to go along, said the proposal was particularly unfair in light of how it would not apply equally to corporations.
“It’s a gross manipulation of our tax code,” he said. “It’s a Hail Mary pass by the Republicans.”