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(Dreamstime)

California taxpayers are on the hook for more than $91.5 billion to provide health and dental benefits to state government workers when they retire, according to a report issued Wednesday by the state controller’s office.

That’s a substantial increase from last year’s estimate, a result of changes in the way the total debt is calculated and changes in the projected cost of healthcare in the coming decades.

Last year’s report put the total liability at just under $77 billion. The estimates are a reflection of what the benefits to state government workers— which are in addition to cash from pensions — would cost in present-day dollars. The debt, Controller Betty Yee said in a statement, will “remain a paramount fiscal challenge over the next three decades.”

  • Congressional races
  • 2018 election
Payne is running in Orange County.
Payne is running in Orange County. (Courtesy of Rachel Payne for Congress)

Abortion rights group Emily’s List has thrown its weight behind two more Democrats challenging GOP incumbents in California.

The group announced Wednesday that it’s endorsing Rachel Payne’s candidacy against Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in Orange County, and Virginia Madueño in the race to unseat Rep. Jeff Denham in the Central Valley.

In a statement announcing the endorsements, president Stephanie Schriock highlighted Madueño’s background as a small town mayor and business owner and Payne’s leadership in the tech industry.

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  • California Legislature
  • Sexual harassment
Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia)
Sen. Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) (Steve Yeater)

State Sen. Tony Mendoza “more likely than not” behaved in a flirtatious or sexually suggestive manner toward staffers, a Senate investigation found.

The four-page summary report released late Tuesday afternoon described the findings by two outside law firms tasked with investigating allegations that Mendoza had made unwanted advances to female aides while he served as an Assembly member from 2006 to 2012 and as a senator from 2014 to the present.

Investigators spoke to 47 witnesses, including Mendoza, who was interviewed twice, according to the report.

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  • California in Congress
(Michael Reynolds / EPA/Shutterstock)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein is urging President Trump to back her gun-control legislation rather than have the administration try to do it alone.

Feinstein, the original author of the nation's assault weapons ban, proposed legislation to ban devices that make semiautomatic weapons work more like automatic weapons after 59 people were killed and more than 500 others were injured at a Las Vegas country music festival, but the measure stalled soon after she put it forward.

Construction workers building homes in Echo Park.
Construction workers building homes in Echo Park. (Los Angeles Times)

Those who want to blame a California environmental law for the state’s housing problems should instead point their fingers at cities and counties, according to a new report from researchers at UC Berkeley and Columbia University.

The California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, a 1970 state law, requires developers to analyze and eliminate a project’s effect on the environment before building. While often praised for preservation, CEQA is a continual target for those who argue the law blocks needed housing.  

The real problem isn’t CEQA, but rather how local governments approve projects, the report said. CEQA only comes into play if a city or county decides to review housing developments individually. If a local government relies on zoning or other processes to determine whether a particular project gets built, developers don’t have to go through the CEQA process.

  • 2018 election
  • California Democrats
  • U.S. Senate race
(Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images)

California Democratic Party delegates received a mailer on Tuesday from Sen. Dianne Feinstein asking for their support in the endorsement race at the state party’s convention this weekend.

“Today, more than ever, California and our nation’s progress are threatened on many fronts by Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress,” Feinstein wrote. “… California Democrats can and must lead Democrats across the nation to victory. Please know that I stand with each and every one of you and that I deeply appreciate all you do for our party and for the values we share.”

The mailer also touts Feinstein’s endorsement by scores of California political leaders, including Sen. Kamala Harris, House Minority Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

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  • California Legislature
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra
California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra on Tuesday said he would not appeal a state appellate court ruling that granted a new bail hearing for a San Francisco man accused of stealing cologne, paving the way for a change to the way judges across the state award bail.

The announcement comes after Gov. Jerry Brown pledged last year to work with state lawmakers and the state’s chief justice, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, on overhauling California’s bail system. 

El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells announced Tuesday he is running for Congress, challenging long-time Republican incumbent Rep. Duncan Hunter for a hotly-contested district that encompasses much of East County.

Wells, who has held the mayoral position since 2013, is seeking to take over the 50th Congressional District, which serves more than 730,000 constituents, including those in the North County communities of Fallbrook, San Marcos, Valley Center and Escondido.

Orange County sheriff's Deputy Jeff Puckett checks a motorist's identification at a DUI checkpoint.
Orange County sheriff's Deputy Jeff Puckett checks a motorist's identification at a DUI checkpoint. (Al Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

California motorists under the age of 21 would lose their driver’s license for a year if caught driving with marijuana in their system under new legislation, though the state still is developing methods of measuring the drug in the body and determining a standard for impairment.

State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said he proposed the law so that the state would have the same “zero tolerance” policy for pot that it has for those under 21 who drive under the influence of alcohol.

“This bill will save lives by making it illegal for drivers under age 21 to drive under the influence of marijuana, just like current law for alcohol,” Hill said in a statement.

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