Newsletter: Essential Politics: This is a year worth watching the writing of laws in Sacramento

Essential Politics

Imagine how many California laws you could craft in a single day. No, not how many you should craft — that’s a different conversation.

Now consider the fact that a staggering 742 bills were introduced in a single day, the final day state lawmakers could put a bill “across the desk” in the state Senate and Assembly last week.

In all, 2,576 proposed laws will now need to be vetted in Sacramento in just a matter of weeks. Based on recent totals, it could be a record number of bills introduced in a single year.

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Our Times team in Sacramento continues to review the bills introduced in the final hours. But what we’ve seen so far suggests some fascinating and important policy debates are on the horizon.

One of the late bills seeks to give California yet another role in the debate over illegal immigration: a proposal to ban local governments from hiring companies that share data with federal immigration authorities.

Elsewhere, lawmakers will consider a nationally watched ban on pharmaceutical companies offering payments to competitors to delay the release of competing drugs.


We’ll see increased discussion of California’s housing crisis — including an effort to block some of the local ordinances that have limited housing construction.

With the state’s wildfire dangers still front and center — and look for efforts to ensure adequate early warning systems and new rules on fire prevention — we’re going to find lawmakers debating how much power they should have over a private utility company: A Democratic state senator wants the Legislature to have final approval of any rate hikes resulting from the bankruptcy of Pacific Gas & Electric.

And that’s just a sampling of what’s in store. One Republican wants to build new highway lanes with no speed limits — yes, a California autobahn — while others are going after Big Gulps and non-recyclable plastics. There will also be an effort to require members of the clergy to report child abuse.

One other thing to keep an eye on: Democrats have reintroduced dozens of bills vetoed last year by former Gov. Jerry Brown. Will Gov. Gavin Newsom see things differently?



There was change in the air inside a Sacramento hotel ballroom on Sunday, as the California Republican Party elected a new leader. And to call these tough times for the state GOP is an understatement.

The person who will seek to solve the party’s California quandary is 38-year old Jessica Patterson, chosen by a majority of delegates at the weekend convention.

Among Patterson’s many challenges: finding the donors who are willing to help finance the party’s efforts after a dismal showing last November.



-- Newsom is in Washington as the week begins, where on Sunday he talked healthcare and attended a dinner at the White House.

-- As the city of Sacramento braces for the release of reports into the 2018 fatal shooting by police of Stephon Clark, activists believe the only real impact will be sweeping police accountability legislation at the state Capitol.

-- Newsom and lawmakers must tackle what a new report calls “fragmented and uncoordinated” enforcement of legal marijuana since voters passed Proposition 64 two years ago.


-- The governor told mayors of several California cities last week that the crackdown on one city over housing — Huntington Beach — is only the beginning.

-- For California’s struggling bullet train project, Newsom is giving the Legislature the opportunity to have a real say in its fate.

-- California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra says police records from older incidents of misconduct should be made public, but he’s not following his own legal opinion.

-- In a state where Latino elected officials helped launch a Trump “resistance,” the new governor could be a powerful ally for those looking to revitalize California-Mexico relations.


-- Are California’s teachers’ strikes part of a coordinated “wave”? Not exactly.


“We are going to get to the bottom of this.”

That was the promise of Burbank Rep. Adam Schiff on Sunday, who said congressional Democrats will — if needed — subpoena the final report of special counsel Robert Mueller III, call him to testify or take President Trump’s administration to court in the investigation over Russian election meddling.


Schiff’s comments reflected the fear of some Democrats that new U.S. Atty. Gen. William Barr could keep Mueller’s findings mostly private.

Of course, some observers have also noted that the special counsel’s findings are already quite apparent in filings made in court.

Mueller’s team does not, though, tend to recommend punishment for the crimes it uncovers. Last week, prosecutors left it up to a judge to decide the fate of Paul Manafort — even after saying the former Trump campaign chairman “repeatedly and brazenly violated the law” and shows a “hardened adherence to committing crimes.”



-- House Democrats filed a bill Friday aimed at overturning Trump’s emergency declaration to shuffle military funding to pay for his wall at the southern border.

-- A video of Sen. Dianne Feinstein‘s frank discussion with children pressing her for a Green New Deal sparked a fire on social media and shows the pitfalls for Democrats on the issue.

-- The average tax refund so far has shrunk 8.7%, according to the IRS. News of the lower refunds is another hit to a tax law that has been much less popular than Republicans had expected.

-- The Democratic presidential campaign is already the most crowded in decades, and more candidates are likely to jump in. How’s a poor voter to tell all them apart? Easy.



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