Newsletter: Essential Politics: A deadline comes — and goes — for California’s landmark climate change law

Essential Politics

It was probably inevitable the headlines would remain focused on Russia even after President Trump returned from the G-20 meetings following a one-on-one with Vladimir Putin.

I’m Christina Bellantoni. Welcome to the Monday edition of Essential Politics.

The U.S. president declared on Twitter over the weekend that he “strongly pressed” Putin about interference in the U.S. elections, which the Russian president “vehemently denied.” What’s more, Trump said the two leaders discussed forming an “impenetrable Cyber Security unit” to prevent against election hacking, among other things. The announcement prompted ridicule from even members of Trump’s own party, before the president appeared to pull back from the idea.

The trip itself found Trump coming back to the States “undeniably alone,” our team wrote for the Sunday front page. More from their analysis: “With the leaders’ final statement, it was evident that Trump’s prioritization of American self-interest — on environmental agreements, trade, migration and more — left him, and thus America, often in unfamiliar isolation.”


But any news from the second foreign trip of the Trump presidency was overshadowed, yet again, with a fresh report that the president’s eldest son met with a Kremlin-linked lawyer just after his dad became the GOP presidential nominee. Donald Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting after being promised information damaging to Hillary Clinton and potentially “helpful” to the campaign, the New York Times reported.

With Congress returning to work after a holiday break, it’s a safe bet that Russia will remain a topic of conversation for the near future — and maybe longer. You can find the latest about what’s happening in the nation’s capital on Essential Washington.



Gov. Jerry Brown has been pushing to extend cap and trade, California’s landmark program to battle climate change. But now, he can count on one fewer vote. Melanie Mason reports that efforts faltered to introduce a bill in time for Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez to vote on it before he is sworn into Congress on Tuesday.

Why have negotiations dragged on? It’s all due to the delicate balance Brown and lawmakers are trying to strike between reaching California’s climate goals, improving local air quality and not harming the state’s economy. Plus, the question of how to spend the money generated by the cap and trade auctions remains unanswered.

We’ll be tracking the negotiations closely. Keep an eye on our Essential Politics news feed for the latest, and for dispatches from Gomez’s swearing in ceremony.


Brown just can’t pass up an opportunity to swipe at Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate accord. On Thursday, he told an international audience that Americans are still committed to combating climate change, even if the federal government isn’t. To cap it off, he announced plans for a global climate summit in San Francisco in fall 2018.

Trump “doesn’t speak for the rest of America,” Brown told the Global Citizen Festival in Hamburg via a video that included German subtitles.


Senators were back in their districts last week for their July 4 break, and for Sen. Kamala Harris that offered time to protest the Republican healthcare plan and to shore up her political support in the state.


On Wednesday Harris was in the Central Valley, where she met with agriculture leaders to talk about continuing problems because of the recent drought, Cathy Decker reports. The valley is among the most Republican areas of the state, and both sides were working to craft the sort of relationship that eluded Harris’ predecessor, Barbara Boxer.

On Monday, Harris indulged in some thinly veiled criticism of Trump at a naturalization ceremony at the Port of Los Angeles, then went after the GOP healthcare plan at a pro-Obamacare rally at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance.


Seema Mehta and The Times’ data team report that gubernatorial fundraising for a race that is a year away has already topped $25 million, with Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom continuing to dominate, according to preliminary information filed with the state.

The reporting period closed on June 30, but full disclosure reports are not due until the end of July. Candidates are required to immediately report donations of $5,000 or more, allowing a preliminary snapshot of how candidates on both sides of the aisle are faring in the money race.

What about the race to replace Newsom, and the other statewide officeholders, in 2018? Phil Willon explains who’s in and who’s out in California’s down-ticket contests that get way less attention, and why those jobs are influential in the state.


Javier Panzar caught up with several protesters wearing fake neck braces as they complained about Rep. Steve Knight’s vote for the GOP healthcare bill.


Speaking of Republican attempts to repeal Obamacare, don’t miss Mark Z. Barabak exploring why the party so far hasn’t gotten it done, despite total control in Washington.


Get ready for another political slugfest in the Sacramento suburbs. Business executive and Marine Corps veteran Andrew Grant announced he is challenging Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove) for a Northern California congressional seat that has been coveted by both parties. Bera won a squeaker in November against Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones, a campaign that wallowed in mudslinging and allegations of wrongdoing.

Grant said he plans to focus on the issues and hopes to sidestep the political “noise” coming out of Washington. He’s a newcomer to politics, but has had a career steeped in defense, national security and foreign policy, including serving in the U.S. State Department after he left the military.


Times readers had great questions in response to our deep dive into California’s housing supply law.

They wanted to know why costs are still rising if some cities are meeting their housing goals, the causes of the housing shortage, whether new home building only benefits affluent people and why the state is involved in local development decisions at all.

Liam Dillon has the answers.


California lawmakers have tried for years to figure out whether the public should see footage from police body cameras. A Bay Area assemblyman is trying again, introducing legislation last week to make the videos public from officer-involved shootings and other high-profile incidents, Dillon reports.


Big telecommunications companies including AT&T and Verizon want to start installing 5G transmitters, the next generation of wireless infrastructure, in your neighborhood — without interference from city hall or the courthouse. They want to streamline permitting and costs to install the transmitters, which can be tiny or large, on utility poles and street lights.

Now, under a bill from state Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego), local governments wouldn’t have the power to deny permits if the telecoms followed the minimum guidelines required by Sacramento. But that would be a bad idea and would give residents little say in potential eyesores going up near their homes, George Skelton writes in his Monday column.


-- In his Political Road Map column, Sacramento bureau chief John Myers explains how aging baby boomers could upend Proposition 13 and its effect on local revenue for schools.

-- A bill exempting Marin County from parts of the state’s affordable housing laws is headed to the governor’s desk.

-- Legislation to raise $250 million a year for low-income housing subsidies through a new real estate transaction fee cleared a key hurdle by passing the state Senate.

-- Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Asif Mahmood has launched a social media campaign in Arabic and Urdu hoping to tap into what he sees as a potentially influential pool of voters in California’s Muslim and South Asian communities.

-- Democratic engineer TJ Cox will challenge Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Turlock) in the 10th Congressional District, joining a bunch of other Democrats.

-- Ken Blackwell has been tapped to serve on the Trump administration’s bipartisan voter fraud commission, despite some high-profile flubs while handling Ohio’s voting process.


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