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Politics

Newsletter: Essential Politics: Washington’s wrenching week, California’s vast challenges

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Essential Politics
(LAT)

There is peril on the horizon in the nation’s politics this week.

Not just for those whose reputations are on the line as the topic of sexual violence takes center stage, but for the broader American discourse — accusations versus facts, justice versus vendetta, right versus wrong.

The stakes seem higher than ever as a Senate committee prepares to dive deep into conflicting accounts of a time more than three decades ago.

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A THURSDAY HEARING, A SECOND ACCUSER

It was anything but a quiet weekend in the debate over the future of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination by President Trump to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The woman whose name became nationally known last week agreed to testify, while a second explosive accusation was made against Kavanaugh.

The latest controversy erupted only hours after Christine Blasey Ford agreed to testify to the Senate committee on Thursday about her claim that Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her in the early 1980s, when they were teenagers.

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On Sunday, the New Yorker magazine identified another woman whose allegation comes from when she and Kavanaugh were both students at Yale University — an allegation quickly denied by the judge and the White House.

The president tweeted Friday that he had “no doubt that, if the attack on Dr. Ford was as bad as she says, charges would have been immediately filed with local Law Enforcement Authorities by either her or her loving parents.”

But surveys of sexual assault victims and crime reporting data from federal government agencies suggest there’s a lot of room for doubt.

DECISION CALIFORNIA: KAVANAUGH, IMMIGRATION

The fierce reactions sparked by Ford’s accusations have made crystal clear that a sharp era of gender politics seems to have arrived with election day only six weeks away. And it could pose particularly tough times for Republicans.

“It’s a disregard, disrespect, minimization of women, and there’s a rebelliousness against that,” Mary Hughes, a veteran Democratic strategist in the Bay Area, said.

Meanwhile, Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher lashed out last week at Ford’s accusation. “High school? Give me a break,” he said in a recording of a recent event.

And the Californian in the center of the fray — Sen. Dianne Feinstein — has seen new life in her challenge from the left this season, state Sen. Kevin de León. The Los Angeles Democrat is also taking on Feinstein’s long history of comments on illegal immigration while criticizing her approach to the Kavanaugh controversy.

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You can follow complete coverage of the midterms on our Decision California page.

THE NEXT CALIFORNIA: ROLLER-COASTER REVENUE

California voters who cast their ballots in November aren’t just choosing a new governor. They are choosing a leadership style and agenda for a future that promises to be dramatically different than the state’s past.

The Times is examining a handful of key issues facing the Golden State in our series The Next California. Melanie Mason is diving into four important topics that either man who hopes to be governor — Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom or businessman John Cox — will have to tackle.

This week, it’s the reality of a government funding structure that will continue its feast-or-famine nature unless someone steps in with a radical overhaul.

We’ve also asked the candidates to respond. And we want to know from you: What do you think are California’s greatest challenges?

BROWN ON BILLS: STRAWS, FIRE PREVENTION, REBUKING TRUMP ON HEALTHCARE

The current chief executive, Gov. Jerry Brown, has six days left to take action on bills sent to him by the Legislature before its August adjournment. (And his office says no new decisions will come until Brown returns from a New York climate change event at midweek.)

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Last week, the governor signed into law a first-in-the-nation effort to limit pollution from plastic straws, banning most restaurants from handing them out unless customers make a request.

Brown also signed a sweeping law to boost wildfire prevention efforts by $1 billion over the next five years, a law that also could allow some fire-related costs incurred by utility companies to be passed to consumers.

In other bill action:

-- A new law will require restaurants to offer only milk and water-based drinks to be served with kids’ meals.

-- Two laws will push back on Trump administration efforts related to healthcare. One forbids work requirements for healthcare provided to low-income adults; a second bans no-frills health plans, part of GOP efforts in Congress to dismantle the Affordable Care Act.

-- Brown signed a bill that will allow people to sell food they make themselves, a practice that was previously outlawed due to health concerns.

-- Voters whose signature on an absentee ballot doesn’t match the one on file with elections officials will have eight days to fix the problem under a bill signed last week.

-- But the governor vetoed a bill to ban any middle school or high school start times before 8:30 a.m., part of an intense debate over the sleep patterns of teenagers.

-- He also vetoed a bill to study the effects of driving under the influence of cannabis, calling the measure a distraction for the state’s beleaguered Department of Motor Vehicles.

Melanie Mason and I discussed several of these bills in this week’s California Politics Podcast. And we’ll continue to track bill action this week on our Essential Politics news feed.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- Trump had a stormy debut at the U.N. General Assembly last year, blasting North Korea’s leader as “Rocket Man” and warning of “loser terrorists.” When he returns on Tuesday, he will claim his brash diplomacy has led to foreign policy success.

-- Climate change has uprooted tens of millions of people around the globe, creating another refugee problem for the U.N.

-- The California Correctional Peace Officers Assn. opened up its campaign checkbook in a move that brought to mind the union’s political power plays of days gone by. Is the union bringing back its swagger from the 1990s?

-- Officials at California’s DMV said last week that an additional 3,000 people were mistakenly signed up to vote during the rollout of the state’s new “motor voter” program.

-- California’s candidates for governor have agreed to face off in a San Francisco public radio forum next month.

-- A group working to repeal California’s recent increase in the gas tax argues that the charges are disproportionately hurting the working poor, while gas tax supporters counter that opponents are exaggerating the financial impact.

-- California’s campaign finance watchdog agency voted to prohibit the use of cryptocurrency including bitcoin for political contributions.

LOGISTICS

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