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California's housing crisis won't be easily solved in Sacramento

California's housing crisis won't be easily solved in Sacramento
Essential Politics (LAT)

If the first step to resolving a crisis is admitting there’s a problem, then there’s certainly a consensus in California’s Capitol on the need for a historic boost in housing that’s affordable to millions of working-class adults and families.

But that’s the first step. As the past few days have made crystal-clear, there’s a major political battle underway about what should happen next.

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Simply put: The most sweeping effort to spur housing construction in the state’s population and job centers has hit the skids in Sacramento. Supporters insist their effort isn’t dead, but it’s certainly not going anywhere this year.

SENATE BILL 50: SURPRISINGLY BLOCKED BEFORE A FULL VOTE

It ended not with a bang but a whimper last week in the state Senate Appropriations Committee. Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), the committee chairman, quickly told those assembled that Senate Bill 50 would become “a two-year bill,” meaning it wouldn’t be allowed to move through the process until 2020.

No matter what you call it, though, the marquee housing effort was delayed indefinitely.

Portantino expressed concern on Thursday for the bill’s effects on “residential neighborhoods,” which was probably another way of saying upper-income suburban neighborhoods, which would have had to move away from single-family zoned housing under the bill by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

By Friday, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) was refusing calls to override Portantino’s decision to block the bill. And Wiener, along with a chorus of local officials committed to his bill, insisted the public is on their side.

(Note: SB 50 was blocked during Thursday’s high-stakes action on hundreds of bills that had been placed in the “suspense file” in the Legislature’s appropriations committees — an opaque process discussed in detail in last Monday’s Essential Politics newsletter.)

THE MICHIGANDER WHO MAKES THE TRUMP INQUIRY ‘BIPARTISAN’

It may be by the thinnest of margins, but no longer can President Trump say it’s only Democrats who have raised the specter of impeachment.

On Saturday, Michigan Rep. Justin Amash became the first member of the president's party on Capitol Hill to accuse him of engaging in “impeachable conduct” stemming from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

And Trump wasted little time in taking aim at Amash, blasting him on social media on Sunday and being backed up by party members — even his sometime critics — who closed ranks around the president, denying that the evidence in the special counsel’s report suggests Trump acted to obstruct justice.

CAMPAIGN 2020

-- Joe Biden, holding the first large-scale rally of his 2020 presidential campaign on Saturday, issued a broad call for national unity, denounced Trump as the “divider in chief” and plunged into a challenging new phase of competition with his Democratic rivals.

-- Sen. Kamala Harris is rolling out a new part of her presidential platform, calling for strengthened federal laws that mandate equal pay for men and women doing the same job.

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-- Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Bernie Sanders wants to suspend taxpayer funding of new charter schools and ban those that are for-profit, according to his plan to overhaul public education that he released on Saturday.

NATIONAL LIGHTNING ROUND

-- Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a letter that he will not comply with the subpoena from House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal for six years of Trump's tax returns because the request “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose.”

-- Adult-film actress Stormy Daniels has agreed to settle the last of three lawsuits that her former attorney Michael Avenatti filed in the scandal stemming from her alleged one-night stand with Donald Trump.

-- As one Republican legislature after another has pressed ahead with restrictive abortion bills in recent months, they have been confronted with raw and emotional testimony about the consequences of such laws. Female lawmakers and other women have stepped forward to tell searing, personal stories — in some cases speaking about attacks for the first time to anyone but a loved one or their closest friend.

-- Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers’ spokeswoman accused Republican legislative leaders of refusing to work with the governor's chief of staff because she is a woman, leading the GOP lawmakers to call the charge "asinine" and "clueless."

-- A white Georgia evangelical voted for Trump in hopes of getting the legal right to abortion overturned. Now he and his wife raise their 6-year-old son from opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, unable even to get relief when the boy fought kidney cancer.

-- Pregnant women and other vulnerable asylum seekers are being returned to Mexico to await hearings.

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-- Major retailers are sounding the alarm: The U.S.-China trade battle could be coming to a mall near you in the form of higher prices in time for the back-to-school and holiday shopping seasons.

TODAY’S ESSENTIALS

-- Stopping in San Diego on the final leg of his healthcare tour Saturday, Gov. Gavin Newsom touted California’s support for abortion rights and other reproductive health services as other states signed bans on the procedure into law this past week.

-- A recent kerfuffle over the governor’s budget and its walkback of a tax break on diapers and tampons may remind government watchers that when it comes to Newsom and his promises, Californians might need to more closely read the fine print.

-- With proposed California vaccine law SB 276, health officials estimate four in 10 children would be denied the ability to skip vaccines while attending school.

-- Cal Fire investigators have concluded that Pacific Gas & Electric equipment sparked the Camp fire, which destroyed nearly 14,000 homes and killed 85 people.

-- California legislators balked Thursday at cutting the pot tax to help the struggling legal market, while they moved forward a proposal to require more cities to allow pot shops.

-- A San Francisco judge has ordered California's attorney general to release police misconduct records predating Jan. 1, when new transparency legislation took effect.

-- Lawyers for a woman who has accused Rep. Tony Cardenas of sexually assaulting her when she was a teen say they plan to stop representing her in her lawsuit.

-- Newly disclosed damage, including broken windows and gang graffiti, at Los Angeles County juvenile halls is just one example of the growing turmoil inside L.A. County's juvenile system.

-- A high-stakes lawsuit seeks to block a California ballot measure in 2020 from asking voters to tighten prison parole rules they loosened four years earlier.

LOGISTICS

Essential Politics is written by Sacramento bureau chief John Myers on Mondays and Washington bureau chief David Lauter on Fridays.

You can keep up with breaking news on our politics page throughout the day. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics?

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