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(For The Times)

Citing limited options for raising local taxes, the association representing hundreds of California cities warned that rising public employee pension costs might mean fewer services and longer emergency response times over the next several years.

“These pressures are not only mounting, but will force cities to make very tough choices in the next seven years and beyond,” said Carolyn Coleman, executive director of the League of California Cities.

The organization Thursday released a new analysis showing that 16% of the general fund budget in an average large city will go toward pension payments in just seven years’ time — close to double the percentage paid for those retirement stipends as of mid-2007.

State Treasurer John Chiang
State Treasurer John Chiang (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

State Treasurer John Chiang criticized Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for his stance on single-payer healthcare Thursday, saying his chief rival in the governor's race has flip-flopped on the issue.

Chiang and fellow Democratic candidate Antonio Villaraigosa have expressed concerns about the cost of establishing a state-sponsored universal healthcare program, which could run from $330 billion to $400 billion a year depending on various estimates.

Newsom has been a strong advocate for the idea, saying California needs a governor who isn’t afraid to take bold action. But Chiang, speaking to the Public Policy Institute of California in San Francisco on Thursday, accused Newsom of changing his tune.

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

Almost every city and county in California will have to streamline its rules for approving new housing following the passage of legislation last year, the state Department of Housing and Community Development said Thursday.

Every eight years, local governments receive targets from the state for new housing production in an effort to keep pace with population growth. But those targets have long been ignored with little consequence even as the state’s housing shortage has fueled record-high costs.

Senate Bill 35, passed as part of a package of housing legislation in 2017, requires cities that have fallen behind on their goals to make it easier to permit new construction. Under the bill, cities and counties must approve housing projects without delay if the proposals match a city’s underlying zoning rules. For example, the bill will fast-track 50 condominiums proposed on land now zoned for that amount of housing, but won’t if the proposal is for more than that.

Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) agreed to extend his leave of absence up to 60 days on Thursday.
Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) agreed to extend his leave of absence up to 60 days on Thursday. (Steve Yeater / Associated Press)

Under investigation for sexual harassment allegations, state Sen. Tony Mendoza avoided a showdown with Democratic leaders Thursday by agreeing to abide by an extension of his leave of absence for up to 60 days — even though he complained the Senate Rules Committee acted prematurely.

Meanwhile, Rio Hondo College Trustee Vicky Santana of Whittier on Thursday became the second Democrat to take out candidacy  papers for a possible challenge to Mendoza’s re-election campaign in the June primary.

Mendoza had originally agreed to a leave of absence that would have ended Thursday, but he stayed away from the Senate floor session.

  • Congressional races
  • 2018 election
(Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call)

For the second period in a row, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher’s fundraising has lagged behind that of his Democratic challengers in the hotly contested race for his 48th Congressional District.

The 15-term Republican reported raising $271,969 in the last three months of 2017 and ended the year with $713,144 cash on hand.

That’s significantly less than opponents Hans Keirstead and Harley Rouda, both Democrats, have reported raising. But much of the money raised by Rohrabacher’s challengers has come from their personal wealth.

  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment
  • Congressional races
  • 2018 election
Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) walks past protesters as he leaves a town hall meeting.
Rep. Steve Knight (R-Lancaster) walks past protesters as he leaves a town hall meeting. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Democratic challenger Katie Hill narrowly out-raised Republican Rep. Steve Knight in the last three months of 2017, with another Democrat close on her heels in fundraising for the Antelope Valley area district.

Hill reported raising $252,351 in the final months of the year, positioning her to start 2018 with $382,848 in the bank.

Second-term lawmaker Knight, of Palmdale, lagged slightly behind, raising $240,244. He has an existing war chest from previous campaigns and still holds a fairly large lead with $794,748 in cash on hand.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom. (Gina Ferazzi)

Democratic candidate for California governor Gavin Newsom leads the field in campaign fundraising — by a wide margin.

The lieutenant governor started the year with more than $16 million socked away in his campaign war chest, compared to just under $6 million each for his top two Democratic rivals, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and state Treasurer John Chiang.

Those figures were made public on Wednesday when state candidates were required to file their campaign reports for the second half of 2017.

  • California Legislature
The Forum in Inglewood.
The Forum in Inglewood. (Mel Melcon / Los Angeles Times)

More than $1 million was spent lobbying last year on failed legislation that would have fast-tracked construction of a new Clippers arena in Inglewood, according to state lobbying disclosures released this week.

The legislation, Senate Bill 789 from Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), would have carved out exemptions from the California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, for the arena and related projects in Inglewood. CEQA requires developers to disclose and reduce the environmental effects of their projects, and CEQA lawsuits often tie up or kill proposals. The bill originally included similar exemptions benefiting Los Angeles’ 2028 Olympics bid, but organizers balked and Bradford removed the language.

Madison Square Garden Co., which owns Inglewood's Forum and would compete with the new Clippers arena, spent more than $750,000 to lobby against the bill. Lobbyist Mercury Public Affairs and law firm Latham & Watkins were the largest recipients of the money. SB 789 stalled in an Assembly committee a week after it was introduced in September.

Democratic challenger Emilio Huerta
Democratic challenger Emilio Huerta (Sarah D. Wire / Los Angeles Times)

Republican Rep. David Valadao of Hanford, Calif., raised 10 times as much as his Democratic opponent last quarter, despite representing a district that backed Hillary Clinton for president in 2016, and where Democrats have a voter registration advantage.

It’s the third lackluster fundraising quarter in a row for Democratic challenger Emilio Huerta, the son of labor rights icon Dolores Huerta. He is the only announced challenger to the three-term congressman in the 21st Congressional District in the San Joaquin Valley.

The fundraising gulf stands out among the other high-profile races where five California incumbents were out-raised by Democratic opponents in the last three months of 2017.