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California politics archives from April

Welcome to our archived feed of Essential Politics from April. We covered the California Republican Party convention here.

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Federal Election Commission dings Senate, House candidates for failing to file financial reports

The financial reports detailed campaign contributions and spending within the first three months of 2016.

Wyman, a Tehachapi businessman who along with 23 others is running to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer, did not return calls and emails to his campaign Friday.

Picus, a San Francisco teacher challenging House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, said his campaign received a lot of donations right before the filing deadline and had trouble completing the report. He said it would be filed Friday evening.

“We had trouble keeping up with it with our largely volunteer staff,” Picus said.

According to the Commission, both campaigns were notified March 22 of the filing deadline and were sent a notification on April 22 that their reports were not received. It’s up to the commission to decide what happens next — whether to issue fines for missed reports is decided on a case-by-case basis.

‘We’re there’: Lt. Gov. Newsom says he has enough signatures for gun control initiative

Citing the failure of the state Legislature to act, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that he has collected 600,000 signatures of California voters to qualify a gun control initiative for the November ballot.

“We’re there. This is going to be on the November ballot,” Newsom said Thursday. “Over 600,000 registered voters want to take some bold action on gun safety.”

Newsom’s campaign plans to begin delivering signatures tomorrow to county clerks for verification. If at least 365,880 signatures are found to be valid, the measure will qualify for the ballot.

Newsom said most of the proposals in the initiative “have one thing in common, that over the past number of years they have suffered the fate of either being watered down or rejected by the Legislature. We’re hopeful and confident that the voters of California will overwhelmingly support the initiative.”

The broad measure would require background checks for purchasers of ammunition; ban possession of ammunition magazine clips holding more than 10 rounds; provide a process for felons and other disqualified persons to relinquish firearms and require owners to report when their guns are lost or stolen.

The initiative would also address an issue caused by the previous adoption of Proposition 47, which made thefts of guns worth less than $1,000 a misdemeanor. The ballot measure would make all gun thefts a felony.

Last week, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles) said key provisions of the initiative, including the ban on large-capacity magazines, are addressed by legislation this year, but that bills could be harmed by the initiative going forward.

A campaign committee including gun groups and law enforcement is being formed to defeat the initiative, according to one member, Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California. He noted that the measure has already been opposed by the California State Sheriffs’ Assn., which said it would put restrictions on law-abiding people without taking guns from criminals.

“it’s an initiative that carries multiple proposals that were either killed by the Legislature as not workable or vetoed by the governor,” Paredes said. “Newsom has collected failed policy issues from the Legislature and put them up as an initiative. It’s going to be a massive effort to defeat him.”

Paredes said the initiative is a cynical attempt by Newsom to gain higher office.

“We know he’s doing this to pump himself up for his gubernatorial run,” Paredes said.

Newsom said his campaign for governor is secondary to his effort to enact gun safety laws.

He said he has been active in the gun safety movement going back 15 years when he was mayor of San Francisco and a founding member of the group Mayors Against Guns. The National Rifle Assn. was so upset, they protested at his wedding in Montana, he said.

“I expect a good challenge from them,” Newsom said of the NRA. “They have been very aggressive to date. But we are very enthusiastic to be getting to this next phase.”

He cited internal polls indicating more than 70% of California voters support the initiative, and a Field poll that found greater support for provisions of the measure, including the ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Mayer Hawthorne, Reggie Watts, Holychild to headline ‘Bernie Bash’ show in L.A.

A “Bernie Bash” concert will be held at Los Angeles’ Teragram Ballroom on Sunday. Tickets are $20 and $35. All proceeds will go to Bernie Sanders.

Members of Congress want fix for Covered California glitch dropping coverage for pregnant women

Rep. Ami Bera and 15 members of the California delegation are pushing the heads of California Health and Human Services and the California Health Benefit Exchange in a letter to address a computer glitch that is terminating Covered California Care for pregnant women.

California Healthline/Kaiser Health News reported April 18 that about 1,900 women across the state have been automatically transferred from the Covered California health insurance exchange to Medi-Cal since October, even though they were supposed to have the option to stay with Covered California. The article appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

Amy Palmer, the agency’s director of communications, told the Bee that the problem was caused by a computer glitch that will not be fixed until September.

Bera and the letter signers say that isn’t acceptable.

“While we appreciate your efforts to ensure women can switch between plans, we remain concerned that until the problem is fixed in late 2016, women will continue to be unenrolled from their Covered California plans and lose access to their current medical providers,” the letter states.

Bera said in an interview that as a doctor he is worried about pregnant women losing healthcare access for any time. Bera practiced medicine in the Sacramento area and was a dean at UC Davis.

“When someone is pregnant, you want them to get continuous prenatal care,” Bera said. “We’re just trying to put a little pressure on Covered California. There’s no reason we should have to wait until September.”

1 p.m. This post has been updated to reflect that the April 18 article was written by California Healthline/Kaiser Health News. It appeared in the Sacramento Bee.

Assembly approves moratorium on injecting gas into Aliso Canyon wells

Amid concern over the months-long leaking of natural gas in Aliso Canyon near Los Angeles, the Assembly on Thursday formally approved strict rules preventing injection of new gas into old wells until experts determine the operations are safe.

Assembly members approved a bill that sets specific tests that must be conducted before such work can be undertaken.

The move comes in response to the leak that began in October at the Southern California Gas Co. facility in the area.

Residents complained at the time of headaches, nosebleeds and nausea, and about 8,000 families were relocated, including 2,000 who are still away from their homes even though the leak was plugged in February.

“Certainty about safety and energy reliability must be provided to the community and the entire L.A. region,” Assemblyman Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) told his colleagues in arguing for the bill.

Wilk noted that some of the people who have moved back to their homes are still complaining of health issues.

Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) called the bill a “measured response” to the problem.

“This testing regime is proactive and helps make sure that aging wells, some over 80 years old, are safe to use or are shut down,” Williams said during the floor debate. “We can’t afford the risk to the public health or the environment with another uncontrolled leak at Aliso Canyon or somewhere else.”

Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) voiced concern about the possibility of blackouts and brownouts if sufficient natural gas is not available to keep the electric power grid working.

“The potential for significant service interruptions is real,” Patterson told his colleagues.

Wilk said Gov. Jerry Brown retains the power to declare a state of emergency and order use of natural gas wells to avoid electricity interruptions.

Lawmakers approve emergency election cash

California billionaire Tom Steyer takes aim at Donald Trump, Ted Cruz in TV ad

Calling Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz “wildly extreme and dangerous,” billionaire activist Tom Steyer is launching a weekend blitz of TV advertising that uses the presidential candidates’ views on climate change as an incentive for voter registration.

“These are two of the most dangerous men in America,” Steyer said in an interview Thursday, as his 30-second commercial hit the airwaves.

The ad, being run on televisions stations around the state, features clips of Cruz and Trump as they have taken aim at the scientific evidence pointing to climate change and those who have called for urgent efforts to combat it.

Both men, along with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, are scheduled to make appearances at this weekend’s California Republican Party convention in Burlingame. Trump arrives in California first, with a rally in Costa Mesa on Thursday night.

Steyer, one of the most prominent wealthy donors to Democratic causes, launched a $25-million campaign earlier this week aimed at increasing the ranks of millennial registered voters. The ad builds on that effort, and the San Francisco activist says it includes those who wish to vote Republican.

“Republican voters agree with us,” Steyer told The Times. “Trump and Cruz are not out of step just with Californians; they are out of step with their own party.”

Steyer, long seen as a potential candidate for office in California, said he will continue to spend money in 2016 on efforts to defeat Trump or Cruz, should they become the GOP nominee.

“We think this is going to be a generation-defining election,” he said.

Two members of Congress endorse Republican Katcho Achadjian in open congressional race

There are nine candidates running to replace retiring Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara).

This company spent almost $43,000 to support a candidate but can’t spell his name right

The congressional campaign of state Sen. Isadore Hall (D-Compton) got some help from Long Beach billboard company Bulletin Displays earlier this month.

The company reported an independent expenditure of $42,875 to pay for billboards supporting Hall’s candidacy.

Too bad they misspelled Hall’s name on the federal filing reporting the expense, referring to him as “Isahore.”

It is not the first time the company has put up billboards bearing Hall’s image.

Company President Mark A. Kudler asked the state’s ethics agency for advice in 2011 after his company put up a billboard reading, “Thank You from Assemblymember Isadore Hall to those that help make our community safe!”

Kudler wanted to know if he needed to disclose the costs of the billboard ad to the ethics agency. The agency told Kudler that he did not have to disclose the cost because the advertisement was taken down more than 45 days before an election.

Internet poker inches closer to legalization in California

After years of gridlock, a bill that would help legalize Internet poker in California advanced out of a legislative committee on Wednesday after its author said there has been “serious progress toward consensus” between many competing interests in the gambling industry.

The measure by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) would allow Internet poker websites to be operated by Native American tribes that operate casinos in partnerships with card clubs. Federal approval would also be required.

It would give at least $60 million annually to the horse-racing industry to compensate it for being excluded from Internet poker and for losing revenue to tribal gambling casinos. The provision on subsidizing the horse-race industry removes one stumbling block that has prevented an agreement in the past.

Gray estimated that more than one million Californians are playing poker on Internet websites that are run by offshore companies without regulation by U.S authorities.

“These poker players are at the mercy of unscrupulous operators who may cheat them out of their money with absolutely no recourse or protections,” Gray told the committee. “It is time we pass a sensible I-Poker framework in California and allow consumers who want to play to do so in a safe, fair and regulated environment.”

The Assembly Governmental Organization Committee approved the bill on an 18-0 vote, sending it to another panel for fiscal analysis, even though it is not yet supported by a group of six Native American tribes that operate casinos. Those tribes are neutral, but warned they may oppose the bill unless more is done to exclude Internet companies that have operated in the past without legal authority.

“We are allowing [the bill] to go forward to continue negotiations,” said David Quintana, a spokesman for the group that includes the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and Barona Band of Mission Indians.

The bill is backed by another coalition that includes the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians, Morongo Band of Mission Indians, Commerce Casino and Bicycle Casino.

The firm Morgan Stanley estimates that California’s online poker market could reach $1.1 billion annually.

Can the U.S. fight climate change with Treasury bonds?

Care about the effects of climate change? Sen. Barbara Boxer wants you to be able to help get the country ready.

On Wednesday, the senator from California introduced legislation that would allow the Treasury Department to issue up to $200 million annually in “Climate Change Bonds.” Money raised by the bonds would fund infrastructure projects such as desalinization projects and flood control to prepare the country for the results of climate change.

“It gives the people a chance to show us that they really care about this,” Boxer said. “We have to fight to lessen the ravages, and that we’ve been doing through the Clean Air Act, fuel economy, energy efficiency, but we’re still going to have these problems. We’re already seeing that.”

The bonds are modeled after the World War II-era U.S. War Bonds program.

“I think it captures the imagination of the people, it gives them a way to help meet the challenges of climate change,” Boxer said.

Boxer said she remembers as a child looking forward to her $18 war bond maturing in 10 years.

“I remember as a little kid when my mother said ‘Oh, when you’re older you can get these $25 war bonds, you can cash them in,’” Boxer said. “Think if we could get the children very excited.”

An 11-member commission would recommend proposed infrastructure projects to the Commerce Department.

Boxer said she envisions flood control projects in the Gulf States and protection for the East Coast from rising ocean levels. On the West Coast, there could be programs to deal with wildfires and drought, she said.

Locals would have to pitch in 25% of a project’s cost in order to get funding.

“It appeals to patriotism in a way, because if you love this country, and we all do, you have to preserve it. And the way to preserve it is to step up on these issues,” she said.

Boxer said having a dedicated funding source for the large-scale projects would increase their chance of getting built.

“We don’t have enough to take care of just normal infrastructure problems that we have, let alone hardening that infrastructure and making it resilient,” she said. “This might be a way to take it off the budget, but do it in a way that is fiscally responsible and can capture the imaginations of the people.”

The bill is one of many on Boxer’s list of things to accomplish before she leaves Washington in January. She said she’s glad to have Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) as co-sponsor on the bill.

“He’s committed to carry on after I leave,” she said.

Push to legalize renting cars to drive for Uber and Lyft moves forward

Assemblymembers wear jeans for a cause

Support L.A.'s 2024 Olympic bid, California members ask Congress

Members of California’s congressional delegation are asking House colleagues to support Los Angeles’ bid to host the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Democratic Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Janice Hahn, Alan Lowenthal and Adam Schiff announced Wednesday they will file a resolution stating that Congress supports holding the Games in California.

“Los Angeles’ bid for the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games is a bid for the entire nation, and this resolution reflects that,” Roybal-Allard said in a statement. “Our country knows from experience that hosting the world’s greatest sports event can have profound and positive sporting, social, and economic impact. I urge my congressional colleagues to follow the sun to L.A., and help us bring the Olympic Games back to the City of Angels.”

The LA 2024 Olympic bid committee has been drumming up support for the city’s application for months. Los Angeles is competing with Paris, Rome and Budapest, Hungary. The International Olympic Committee is scheduled to choose a host in September 2017.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, LA 2024 Chairman Casey Wasserman and LA 2024 Vice Chair Janet Evans also attended the Capitol Hill news conference.

Garcetti praised the California members for the resolution.

“L.A. is a city with the Olympics in its DNA, and we are honored to have been selected as the U.S. bid to bring the Games back to our country for the first time in 28 years,” he said in a statement.

Legislators reject an effort to allow locals to re-order their ballot

A proposal that would have shifted the order of ballot measures in some communities — allowing local proposals to be at the top of the page — was rejected on Wednesday by an Assembly committee.

The bill by Assemblyman Adam Gray (D-Merced) reflected the widely held belief that the more prominent the placement of a ballot measure, the better its chances for passage. But California election law requires statewide ballot measures be listed before those proposed by local communities.

Gray’s push for quick passage would have allowed Merced County to place a transportation tax at the top of the Nov. 8 ballot, a local tax measure that would also trigger matching funds from the federal government.

“While your communities have drawn down those federal dollars, my community has not,” Gray said to members of the Assembly Elections and Redistricting Committee.

And he was quick to point out that legislators re-order statewide ballot measures anytime they like, pointing out how a water bond (Proposition 1) and state budget measure (Proposition 2) were both boosted to the top of the November ballot in 2014.

Committee members rejected the idea, though some suggested a special exemption could have been made for Gray’s Central Valley community.

“There’s so many other folks who also want their stuff at the top” of the ballot, said Assemblywoman Shirley Weber (D-San Diego), the committee’s chairwoman.

A proposal to help taxis compete with Uber and Lyft

Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell)
(Los Angeles Times)

With the taxi industry withering thanks to the rise of Uber, Lyft and the ride-sharing economy, Assemblyman Evan Low (D-Campbell) wants to make it easier for taxis to compete.

He’s proposing legislation to deregulate the taxi industry statewide, allowing taxis to set their own prices among other changes.

Low’s bill falls in line with a growing line of thinking at the Capitol: Rather than add regulations to Uber and Lyft, lower them for taxis.

Read More

Andy Cohen talks with ‘favorite politician’ Gavin Newsom on Bravo’s ‘Watch What Happens Live’

A block of episodes from “The Real Housewives” franchise was the opening act for California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Tuesday night appearance on Bravo TV’s “Watch What Happens Live,” where he appeared alongside “Scandal” actress Bellamy Young for a half-hour of reality TV trivia and saucy questions from callers watching at home.

Newsom, who host Andy Cohen introduced as his “favorite politician,” discussed everything from his tie to “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” star Erika Girardi — her husband, millionaire plaintiff’s attorney Tom Girardi, “has been extraordinarily generous” to Newsom’s campaign, he said — to whether he has “taken a dip in the man pond.” (The answer is no, said a blushing Newsom: “My gosh, what a question!”)

Newsom played coy about whether he’d accept a call to be vice president if it was offered to him, but fielded several other quick-fire questions on the show that allowed him to tout his work in Sacramento.

When a caller asked Newsom when he thought recreational marijuana use would be legalized, the lieutenant governor pointed out the California ballot initiative he’s backing.

“There is only one statewide Democrat that has come out in support of that ballot initiative and is working to lead the charge,” a grinning Newsom told Cohen as he shrugged and pointed to himself. “This person sitting right here, I’m just saying.”

Newsom also plugged the gun control initiative he hopes to take to the ballot box this fall.

“The idea that we don’t do background checks on ammunition is something in California we’re going to fix this November,” Newsom said.

For more banter, political shop talk and a tribute to Newsom’s “great hair” by an adoring, American flag-waving Cohen, watch clips from the episode and its aftershow.

California GOP is rethinking term limits -- for the party chairman

Lost in the excitement over the top three GOP presidential candidates dropping by this weekend’s California Republican Party convention in Northern California is a proposed rules change that could have a big impact on the party’s leadership.

Republican delegates will consider proposals to extend or remove the term limits for the post of state party chairman.

If approved, the current chairman, Jim Brulte, would be eligible to serve at least another two-year term.

Brulte, a former state Senate Republican leader from Rancho Cucamonga, took over as chairman in 2013 at a time when the party was in disarray and in massive debt. He is largely credited with helping turn around the party’s finances and plotting a course for the depleted GOP to become relevant again in California. Brulte was reelected as chairman in 2015.

“He’s done an absolutely great job,” said Michael Osborn, chairman of the Ventura County Republican Party. “It’s always been my opinion that the worst reason to get a rid of someone is because they’ve done too good a job for too long.”

Under the party’s current rules, the chairman is limited to two, two-year terms.

The state GOP’s County Chairman’s Assn., which Osborn heads, has proposed scrapping term limits outright. Another party leadership group has another proposal to expand the limit to three terms.

Osborn expects a compromise to be reached, and said a final version come up for a vote Sunday morning.

If Brulte is elected to a third term as chairman, he still has a lot of work to do. California voters have not elected a Republican to statewide office since 2006, and Democrats hold a 15-percentage point advantage over the GOP in voter registration.

Still, the GOP managed to prevent the Democrats from winning a powerful supermajority in the state Legislature in 2014, and the party is hoping to build on that in 2016.

“This would give him time to finish what he started,” Osborn said.

Laura Capps skipped a run for Congress. Now she is seeking a seat on the school board

When Rep. Lois Capps (D-Santa Barbara) announced her retirement last year, all eyes turned to her daughter Laura, a former speechwriter for Bill Clinton and aide to Edward M. Kennedy.

But the younger Capps decided against a campaign to succeed her mother in Congress, saying it wasn’t the right time for her and her family, including her young son Oscar.

A year later, with her son ready to start kindergarten, Capps has found a different public office to seek: a seat on the Santa Barbara school board.

Capps announced her candidacy Tuesday with a snazzy video recounting her life story.

“I’m a Santa Barbara kid,” she told the Santa Barbara Independent. “As my (4-year-old) son starts kindergarten in the fall, I want to strengthen our schools for his generation and beyond.”

Capps is something of Santa Barbara political royalty.

Her father, Walter Capps, a UC Santa Barbara religion professor, was elected to Congress in 1996. He died unexpectedly less than a year later, and Lois Capps won a special election for the seat.

Laura Capps and her husband, Bill Burton, both national campaign veterans, moved back from Washington three years ago. Burton was deputy White House Press Secretary during President Obama’s first term.

Capps serves on the boards of a number of local nonprofits and was appointed to Santa Barbara County’s Commission for Women by Supervisor Salud Carbajal, a candidate for the congressional seat who has earned the congresswoman’s blessing.

Should she win the school board seat, the commute will certainly beat the two-flight commute she would have made as a member of Congress. Capps told The Times’ Cathleen Decker last year that the school board’s offices are half a mile from her house.

Boxer’s chief of staff heads to Clinton campaign

Laura Schiller, chief of staff to Sen. Barbara Boxer, is leaving next week to work for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, the senator’s office confirmed Tuesday.

Schiller has been with Boxer’s staff for more than a decade. Boxer, a longtime Clinton supporter, is retiring in January after more than two decades in Washington.

Politico reported that Schiller will replace Maura Keefe, who has been Clinton’s congressional liaison since November.

Before joining Boxer’s staff, Schiller worked as a special assistant to President Clinton and as a speechwriter for Hillary Clinton when she was first lady.

Lawmakers agree to extra cash for June election costs, qualifying ballot measures

With Election Day six weeks away, an effort to help counties conduct the statewide primary cleared its first legislative hurdle on Tuesday.

The state Senate’s budget committee approved an extra $16.3 million in election spending, money that will also help defray the costs of validating voter signatures on ballot initiatives that will be submitted over the next few weeks.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla warned lawmakers three weeks ago of the need for more money. Local elections officials are facing a one-two punch of more Californians registering to vote in the June 7 primary and an expected glut of ballot measures seeking a spot on the Nov. 8 statewide ballot.

On steps of Supreme Court, Sen. Boxer presses Senate to consider Obama’s pick

Sen. Barbara Boxer joined members of California billionaire Tom Steyer’s environmental advocacy group on the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday, saying environmental issues facing the country are too great to leave up to an evenly divided court.

“What’s at stake here is not just some discussion we’re going to have at a cocktail party or a salon, or with radio talk show hosts .... The fact of the matter is, it’s real stuff to people, it’s the quality of the air, the quality of the water, the quality of the drinking water,” Boxer said.

The California Democrat and other Senate Democrats, along with NextGen Climate and other environmental advocacy groups, want the Senate to consider President Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland.

Senate Republicans have said they won’t hold confirmation hearings for Garland, saying the next president should fill the seat left empty when Justice Antonin Scalia died in February.

“With their outrageous obstruction of Judge Garland’s nomination, Senate Republicans are playing politics with the future of our families and our climate,” NextGen Climate Vice President Andrea Purse said in a news release.

Boxer’s comments start 18 minutes and 37 seconds into the video below:

Tracking a year’s worth of free sports tickets for state lawmakers

Being an elected official in California has its perks. Want proof? Consider all the free tickets to sporting events that members of the Legislature accepted last year as gifts from utilities, unions, law firms and other businesses.

Among the top gifts disclosed on annual forms members of the state Assembly and Senate are required to file: Game 5 of the National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets.

Read More

Fact check: Has Loretta Sanchez missed committee hearings?

Republican candidate George “Duf” Sundheim went after Rep. Loretta Sanchez for her attendance record in Washington, appearing to criticize her based on figures the Los Angeles Times reported in a weekend profile of the congresswoman from Santa Ana.

Sundheim accused Sanchez of not showing up to Homeland Security meetings.

She defended herself as working “that much harder” as one of the higher-ranking Democrats on the panel, and said she stepped up to help when the ranking member of the Armed Services Committee had hip surgery.

Homeland Security meets “at the same time” as Armed Services, Sanchez said. She said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco “wants me in those positions.”

From our profile:

A review of Sanchez’s attendance shows she missed 13 of 18 Homeland Security meetings from January through early November, tied for the second-worst attendance on the committee. She missed the vast majority of her subcommittee meetings and half of the full meetings in the 2013-14 congressional term, when she was not yet running for higher office.

Last year, Sanchez was supposed to co-chair a task force on obstructing terrorist travel and keeping violent extremists from entering the United States.

But two Republicans on the eight-member panel, who said they attended most of at least 16 meetings and briefings over seven months, said they never saw Sanchez there. Democrats serving on the Homeland Security Committee, from which the task force was created, said attendance was not recorded at the private meetings.

Sanchez could not cite any meetings she attended, but said she thought she had attended some.

“I attended the vast majority of them … I did not see her there,” said freshman Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), a retired Air Force colonel.

Sanchez has also missed more floor votes in the House — more than one in five — than all but two other members in 2015, according to Congressional Quarterly. That’s a drop from her previous terms in Congress, when she cast votes more than 90% of the time in all but one year.

Sanchez said she doesn’t recall missing many Homeland Security hearings, but added that her responsibilities on the Armed Services committee this year expanded greatly when Smith, the ranking Democrat, was away from Congress because of two hip surgeries.

Sanchez said she also spent more time in California, in part because her father has Alzheimer’s and her elderly mother, though still independent, also needs more care.

Read More

U.S. Senate candidates debate Obama’s foreign policy record

In their Monday night debate in Stockon, five candidates for the U.S. Senate offered pretty different viewpoints of President Obama’s record on foreign policy, except for one almost constant refrain: Some things could have been done better.

Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Santa Ana), said she has told Obama he was wrong on occasion during her time in Congress. But she deflected any precise criticism, except to say that the events in Libya could have turned out better. She also took the opportunity to decry those who want more military intervention.

“We have diplomacy and we need to exhaust that tool,” Sanchez said.

Two of the Republicans, Tom Del Beccaro and Duf Sundheim, sounded similar themes of criticism. Sundheim called for a blend of economic, military and political power.

“That kind of combined approach is missing,” Sundheim said.

Del Beccaro suggested words also matter.

“If they are Islamic, or Islamic terrorists, then we should call them that,” he said.

Republican Ron Unz, who several times in the debate staked out a position far apart from his party rivals, took aim not only at Obama but at the previous president.

“The Bush administration was even worse,” said Unz in citing the decision to launch the war with Iraq in 2003.

The president’s most well-known friend on the stage, Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris, avoided any direct criticism.

Asked if Obama was on the right track, Harris said, “I think that there are many tracks.” Harris then talked about the need to engage America’s allies and to “lead with our values.”

Loretta Sanchez on her foreign policy style

Should college be free?

U.S. Senate candidates offer ideas on whom to help, and how

One key early question in Monday’s U.S. Senate debate in Stockton: Whom would you help first when it comes to the economy, and why?

The two Democrats on stage, Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez, both sounded similar themes. Sanchez talked about an affordable college education. Harris talked about helping working parents.

“We need to have a national commitment to affordable child care,” Harris said.

Considering his political party, perhaps the most unconventional answer came from Republican Ron Unz. Unz, who has backed a higher minimum wage, also lashed out at a familiar target of Democrats.

“I think we have to crack down on Wall Street, just like Bernie Sanders is saying,” said Unz.

His fellow GOP candidate, Tom Del Beccaro, disagreed.

“I’m not at all concerned about Wall Street and the rich,” he said. “Government can’t solve everything.”

Republican Duf Sundheim said he’s opposed to raising the minimum wage. Instead, he advocated for a boost in the earned income tax credit — aimed directly at the lowest-income Americans.

The crowd is ready...

Pre-debate jitters for U.S. Senate candidates

As he paced outside the University of the Pacific hall that will host tonight’s U.S. Senate debate, Republican candidate George “Duf” Sundheim compared the experience to the excitement he felt before a football game.

“The adrenaline is really pumping,” said Sundheim, who played ball at Stanford University.

GOP rival Tom Del Beccaro seemed a little calmer. He said he plans to be aggressive onstage, and to play out why he is the true conservative in the race.

Del Beccaro thinks he’ll win over enough Republicans to land a second-place finish in the June primary, which, under the state’s “top-two” primary rules, will be enough to win him a spot on the November general election ballot.

Republican Ron Unz had enough downtime to carbo-load by grabbing a plate of pasta in the debate’s press room.

Senate candidates told to keep it short

It looks like the rules will be pretty strict in tonight’s U.S. Senate debate in Stockton.

Of course, it will be up to debate moderators -- San Francisco Chronicle Editorial Director John Diaz and KCRA 3 anchor Edie Lambert -- to keep the candidates in line.

  • There will be no opening statements.
  • The order in which candidates will be asked questions was selected randomly.
  • Candidates will have 90 seconds to answer a question, and 30 seconds to answer follow-up questions.
  • Candidates have 90 seconds for their closing statements.

U.S. Senate candidates all set for Stockton debate

Five candidates, one stage, 90 minutes.

The first of two U.S. Senate candidate debates kicks off at 6 p.m. on the campus of the University of the Pacific. And while Monday night may not seem like a huge TV night for politics, it’s a chance for a campaign that’s been almost invisible to take a little bit of the spotlight across California.

Some of the candidates arrived early. Duf Sundheim, the former chairman of the California Republican Party and first-time contender for elected office, visited with UOP students before the big event.

Tom Del Beccaro, also a former state GOP chairman, made his way to the debate site early for a few handshakes.

Meantime, rival GOP candidate Ron Unz appears to have taken a liking to a quick pre-showtime meal with the press corps.

The 90-minute debate will air on TV and radio stations across California. The only other scheduled debate is on May 10 in San Diego.

The Senate debate starts soon. Here’s what to watch for.

California’s U.S. Senate race is about to see its first real action as the top candidates descend on the University of the Pacific in Stockton tonight for the first major debate.

Will one of the Republicans emerge from the pack? Will front-runner Atty. Gen. Kamala Harris come under attack?

The two Democrats on stage will be Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez of Santa Ana. The three Republicans will be Tom Del Beccaro and George “Duf” Sundheim – two former chairmen of the California Republican Party – and Silicon Valley software developer Ron Unz.

The debate starts at 6 p.m. and we’ll be covering it live here.

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Remembering Prince on the state Senate floor

Assembly Democrats want more than $1 billion for affordable housing next year

Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco) announces a $1.3-billion affordable housing proposal on Monday at the Capitol.
(Liam Dillon / Los Angeles Times )

A dozen Assembly Democrats made a pitch Monday for more than $1 billion in state funding for affordable housing programs next year, a move they said would help California’s most vulnerable deal with soaring housing costs, but one that would only be a drop in the bucket in addressing the state’s housing needs.

The plan provides a mixture of tax credits, development subsidies and grants to spur homebuilding for those with the lowest incomes in the state, including farmworkers and the homeless.

“This investment will address poverty among Californians with the lowest 25% of incomes who spent two-thirds of their income on housing,” said Assemblyman David Chiu (D-San Francisco), a co-author of the measure.

Chiu said the package would allow for the building of up to 25,000 new affordable units over time. California’s housing problems, though, are far greater than that. An estimate from the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office says that the state needs to build roughly 110,000 additional units each year to keep pace with rising housing prices. Currently, California’s $459,000 average home price is more than twice the national average.

There is no pending legislation to make it easier to build homes in the state on a broad scale, such as easing environmental requirements or reforming tax policy to incentivize residential development.

Chiu said lawmakers understand the state needs to do more on housing, but can’t ignore the most needy.

“We don’t think the answer is to do nothing,” he said.

Assembly Democrats who attended Monday’s news conference, including Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount), say they’re requesting money for the plan in year’s budget. Chiu said the one-time budget allocation would be about a third of the state’s projected budget surplus.

A budget spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown declined to comment on the proposal.

Last year, Brown vetoed a widely supported Chiu bill that would have offered a tax credit for low-income homebuilders, saying the Legislature should make such funding requests during the budget process. Chiu said this plan is a response to Brown’s criticism.

Beyond the low-income tax credit, the Assembly Democrats’ plan would provide grants to local governments to help middle-class families in high-cost areas with downpayment and other home buying assistance as well as provide funding for the construction of new farmworker housing and supportive housing for the homeless.

Assembly Republicans were cold to the measure, responding that the state should emphasize easing regulations on homebuilding rather than subsidies to address affordability.

“I think government intervention is what created the crisis in the first place,” said Marc Steinorth (R-Rancho Cucamonga). “I think government needs to get out of the way and allow the free market to create its own way out of this by really eliminating red tape.”

UPDATE:

5:15 p.m.: This story was updated with more context on the proposal and the GOP response.

This post was originally published at 1:47 p.m.

Assembly votes to ban tobacco use on all state college campuses

The state Assembly on Monday voted to ban the use of tobacco products, including electronic cigarettes, on all campuses of the California State University system and California Community Colleges by 2018.

The proposal by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) follows the lead of the semi-autonomous University of California system, which adopted a tobacco-free policy that took effect in 2014.

McCarty cited findings by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke can lead to cancer, lung disease and heart disease.

“In essence this measure will promote a safe and healthy environment for students to learn, making campuses a more education-friendly environment and tobacco smoke-free,” McCarty told his colleagues.

The measure passed on a 41-24 vote, with Assemblyman Donald P. Wagner (R-Irvine) arguing that the Legislature should leave it to local community college boards to decide the policy that best fits local values.

“What we have is a system that allows local government agencies, school boards, college boards, to make the laws that are right and appropriate and wanted by their community rather than have us act as a super school board up here and decide what is best,” Wagner said in opposition to the bill, which next goes to the state Senate for consideration.

More than 480,000 deaths each year in the United States are smoking related, according to the national center, which said another 2.5 million people have died from health problems caused by second-hand smoke since 1964.

Although smoking declined from 20.9% to 16.8% between 2005 and 2014, the use of electronic cigarettes and hookahs is increasing among young people, health officials said.

The proposal outraged Robert Best, western regional representative of the Smoker’s Club, an advocacy group.

“It’s another blatant attack on smokers,” Best said. “They are outdoors in a public place. I guess the campuses are no longer public.”

Pablo Garnica, an officer with the California State Student Assn., said each university and its students should develop their smoking policy internally, and the state “should focus on funding the CSU in order to rebuild crumbling infrastructure, grow student success programs, and pay our faculty.”

He said electronic cigarette users try not to disturb those around them.

“Building a community of successful students means being able to accommodate diversity of lifestyles and not banning activities of creative students by the state,” Garnica said.

State law currently bans smoking in public buildings on campuses and within 20 feet of a door or window, but the Legislature in 2011 passed a bill allowing each campus to decide whether it wants to further regulate smoking.

As a result, 18 of the 72 community college districts currently have smoke-free policies, as do a handful of Cal State campuses including Fullerton, San Jose and Northridge.

The new proposal allows campuses to fine violators of the smoking ban up to $100, with the money going to anti-smoking education and cessation programs.

Elections officials say ballot design is the key to avoiding U.S. Senate race confusion

It will be the longest list of candidates vying for a single race since the historic recall of California’s governor in 2003. And the potential for voter error -- which means invalid ballots -- is very real.

Elections officials across the state have chosen different ways to display the 34 names in the June 7 primary for U.S. Senate. Should a voter mistakenly pick more than one candidate, known as an “overvote,” that ballot won’t be counted.

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Friday tax collections again below expectations

Hillary Clinton announces California leadership team

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign announced three members of her California leadership team Friday.

Clinton has made fundraising and campaign stops across California ahead of the June 7 primary, which is shaping up to be increasingly more meaningful than past presidential contests.

The leadership team includes:

State Director Buffy Wicks ran state operations for Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign in California, Texas and Missouri. Wicks later worked as deputy director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and is currently the campaign director for Common Sense Kids Action’s California Kids Campaign.

Political Director Peggy Moore organized a get-out-the-vote campaign for Obama in 2008 as deputy field director for Northern California. She also has worked with Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Oakland), and for Oakland Mayors Ronald V. Dellums and Libby Schaaf. She was political director at the Organizing for America group that spun off from the Obama campaign.

Communications Director Hilda Marella Delgado has worked on public relations campaigns for Southern California Edison, Coca-Cola Company, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn and the Los Angeles Federation of Labor AFL-CIO.

Gov. Jerry Brown in New York for U.N. climate event

A fight over gun control at the very top

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are in a dispute over the best way to enact gun control laws.

Newsom has proposed an initiative, voicing skepticism that the Legislature will act on the issue, while De Leon said the ballot measure could “derail” efforts to pass legislation to control guns.

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California congressman ‘gravely disappointed’ Obama doesn’t recognize Armenian slaughter as genocide

Burbank Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff said Friday morning that he was “gravely disappointed” that President Obama didn’t call the century-old massacre of 1.5 million Armenians genocide.

“For a president who knows the history so well, who spoke so passionately about the genocide as a senator and presidential candidate, and who has always championed human rights, the choice of silence and complicity is all the more painfully inexplicable,” Schiff said in a statement.

The White House released a statement from Obama for Armenian Remembrance Day that stopped short of calling it genocide.

“As we look from the past to the future, we continue to underscore the importance of historical remembrance as a tool of prevention, as we call for a full, frank, and just acknowledgment of the facts, which would serve the interests of all concerned. I have consistently stated my own view of what occurred in 1915, and my view has not changed. I have also seen that peoples and nations grow stronger, and build a foundation for a more just and tolerant future, by acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past,” Obama said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Schiff publicly called for Obama to use the word genocide before leaving office.

The U.S. is among the countries that don’t formally recognize as an act of genocide the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923.

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Politics podcast: November tax hike scores well in new poll

When Gov. Jerry Brown was asking voters to raise taxes temporarily in 2012, his plan never polled higher than a bare majority.

And so it may come as some surprise that an effort to extend some of those taxes seems much more popular.

A new poll by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California finds 62% of likely voters favor the effort to keep income taxes for high earners at their current level.

On this week’s California Politics Podcast, we take a closer look at those poll numbers and the path ahead for the tax increase campaign.

We also discuss some of the bills that faced a big deadline this week at the state Capitol, and the awkward disagreement over gun control between the leader of the state Senate and the lieutenant governor.

As always, you can subscribe to the weekly politics podcast either on Soundcloud or iTunes.

Legislators wield new influence over California’s powerful climate change agency

For the first time, state lawmakers have appointed members to the powerful Air Resources Board, the agency responsible for implementing California’s climate change goals. Before now, the board’s been selected entirely by the governor.

The two new board members are representatives from low-income communities, which often are disproportionately affected by pollution.

Dean Florez, a former state senator from the San Joaquin Valley, and Diane Takvorian, a San Diego environmental health advocate, already plan to push for changes to how the agency does business, including challenging a plan to allow California polluters to offset some of their emissions by protecting rainforests in Brazil.

Expect Florez and Takvorian to keep the Legislature in the loop as well. Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) called the pair the Legislature’s “eyes and ears on the CARB board.”

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It’s ‘unlikely’ California will hit its April tax revenue goal, analysts say

The job of crafting a balanced budget for California’s new fiscal year could be getting harder by the day.

On Thursday, the independent Legislative Analyst’s Office cast doubt on hitting Gov. Jerry Brown’s predictions for this month’s income tax collections.

“Based on what we now know, hitting the target seems unlikely,” wrote analysts Jason Sisney and Justin Garosi.

April is a crucial month for collecting personal income taxes from Californians, and Brown’s budget assumes $14.9 billion over the 30-day period.

As of Thursday, the monthly total stood at $10.86 billion. And the analysts said that may mean the final nine days of April will need to see tax revenues of as much as 35% above the same time period in 2015.

After monthlong wait, tobacco bills are going to governor’s desk Friday

The Legislature plans to send a batch of tobacco control bills to the governor on Friday, more than a month after they were approved, officials say.

The bills approved in early March were held up to hinder a referendum threatened by the tobacco industry to measures raising the smoking age from 18 to 21, and banning electronic cigarettes in restaurants, theaters and other public places where smoking is prohibited.

“We will continue to take these threats seriously and do everything in our power to keep hostile out-of-state interests from subverting and tampering with our cherished democratic initiative process,” Claire Conlon, a spokeswoman for Sen. Kevin De León, said at the time.

Once they land on the governor’s desk, he will have 12 days to act, meaning a final decision could come in May.

A tobacco industry lobbyist had threatened a referendum that would have driven up the cost of collecting signatures for other initiatives to raise the state tobacco tax by $2 a pack; legalize recreational use of marijuana; extend 2012’s Proposition 30 on income tax rates to fund education; and enact Brown’s plan to overhaul the criminal justice system.

Backers of some of those initiatives are expected to turn in their signatures next week, and will not be affected by the threat to drive up petition costs.

California congressman to Curt Schilling: ‘Sports don’t build character they reveal it’

ESPN announced Wednesday night it had fired outspoken baseball analyst and former Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling after he reposted a meme widely interpreted as anti-transgender on his Facebook page on Tuesday.

His first social media post after the firing announcement swung back at a tweet by Rep. Mike Honda (D-San Jose), whose 9-year-old granddaughter is transgender.

It isn’t clear that Schilling knew anything about Honda or his family. The former analyst frequently responds to people who reference him on Twitter.

Honda took issue with the tweet in a statement released by his campaign Thursday afternoon.

“As the proud grandfather of a transgender grandchild, Curt Schilling’s post on social media was personal. The Sportscaster’s booth is no place for such hate filled speech fueled by intolerance and divisiveness,” Honda said in the statement. “Apparently, posting hateful and derisive memes was not enough for Mr. Schilling, who through his Twitter account went on to call me ‘a coward’ for standing with my grandchild and the transgender community.”

Honda founded the Congressional Anti-Bullying Caucus and is vice chairman of the LGBT Equality Caucus.

Assemblyman Roger Hernández denies threatening or abusing his wife, will not step down

Assemblyman Roger Hernández (D-West Covina) said in a phone interview with The Times on Thursday he has no plans to take a leave of absence and he denied accusations from his estranged wife that he threatened and abused her.

On Thursday, two leaders of the California Legislative Women’s Caucus called on Hernández to step aside from his duties in Sacramento one week after a judge issued a temporary restraining order against the lawmaker amid domestic violence accusations.

Hernández said the unfounded allegations were made by his estranged wife, Susan Rubio, a Baldwin Park City Council member, “at the tail end of a 16-month divorce process.”

“I’m going to continue to do my job because I have done nothing wrong,” Hernández said. “I plan to continue to do the work for the good people of the 48th Assembly District. I don’t intend on walking away from the responsibility vested in me by the people of the 48th Assembly District.”

The assemblyman said the call for him to take a leave was from two legislators and does not represent the feelings of other members of the Legislative Women’s Caucus.

“They have a right to their opinion, but it’s just that, their opinion,” Hernández said. “I was very pleased and heartened by the support I received from my women colleagues during the floor session today. They said they weren’t asked to give an opinion or vote on an expression by the caucus.”

Hernández said Rubio has sent him emails and left him messages over the past year indicating she loved him, but he said he has not talked to her for 10 months until they met in court two weeks ago.

The judge had encouraged the two to talk and try to work out differences, so Hernández said he approached his wife calmly and offered to talk, but he was rebuffed by her attorney. He denied his approach was made in an aggressive or threatening manner.

“That is completely false,” he said.

“There is something called due process,” he said. “There has been no criminal prosecution, no investigation. There has been no charge.”

Bill to give ‘gig economy’ workers collective bargaining rights is done for the year

Diane Hohen, with TaskRabbit, delivers a bouquet of flowers in Boston in 2012.
(Boston Globe / Boston Globe via Getty Images)

One of the most talked-about bills in the state Capitol is done for the year.

Tuesday morning, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) pulled her effort to allow Uber, Task Rabbit and other workers in the so-called gig economy to collectively bargain for their pay and benefits. The complicated measure would forge new ground in labor law by creating a class of worker that was neither employee nor independent contractor in an effort to allow gig economy workers to better advocate for themselves while maintaining flexibility.

Gonzalez said in a statement that she will keep working on the issue and plans to take it up again in the next legislative session. As much as 20% of the state’s workforce doesn’t have sufficient job protections because they’re involved in for-hire work, she said.

“The issue is complex,” Gonzalez said. “The law is untested. The challenge is essential.”

The bill cleared its first legislative hurdle at a committee hearing Monday afternoon, but received strong pushback from the California Chamber of Commerce and tech industry advocates. Barry Broad, a Teamsters lobbyist, also raised questions about the difficulty in coordinating bargaining efforts from so many diverse interests.

“Let’s say you took an example of Uber with 180,000 drivers,” Broad said. “You could have 100 unions running after groups of people which would be difficult to distraction for the union and crazy to distraction for hosting platform.”

Gonzalez had long signaled that because of the issue’s complexities she didn’t expect it to pass this year, but she hoped to get something to Gov. Jerry Brown before he leaves office at the end of 2018.

“It’s too new for people,” she said after Monday’s committee hearing.

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