Good morning from the state capital. I'm Sacramento bureau chief John Myers, and here's a great political chicken-and-egg quandary: Is the polarization of the major parties the reason why more Californians are registering as independents? Or is the exodus of centrist voters the reason the parties have become more polarized?
Either way, something's driving voters away from the party. And it may not be confined to California.
"This may give us a glimpse of what's happening nationally," Republican strategist Mike Madrid told me in an interview for my story on how new statewide voter data shows the ranks of the unaffiliated voters still rising. They make up 24% of the California electorate now, just about four percentage points smaller than the group of voters who are registered as Republican.
But the key thing to note: Both major parties are losing market share in California, and researcher Eric McGhee says that's going to continue.
"New, young registrants are heavily independent," he said.
REPUBLICANS ROLL THE DICE IN NEVADA
Today's Republican presidential caucuses in the Silver State feature a smaller field, a short turnaround from Saturday's vote in South Carolina, and perhaps a single burning question: Is there any dominant storyline other than Donald Trump?
For much of the time leading up to Nevada's GOP caucuses, the attention was focused on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz asking his national spokesman to resign over accusations leveled against rival Sen. Marco Rubio.
"If other candidates choose to go into the gutter, we will not do the same," Cruz said after telling reporters he'd asked his advisor Rick Tyler to quit. "This was a grave error of judgment."
And just how big of a deal are the Nevada caucuses? One Las Vegas campaign strategist said don't get your hopes up, because it's not really part of the "political psyche" of the state's voters.
LAWMAKER CALLS FOR A BAN ON JUNKETS
Legislators in Sacramento have long been criticized, and yet drawn, to out-of-state trips that are funded by interest groups and billed as educational events.
Now, one lawmaker says enough. Assemblywoman Patty Lopez (D-San Fernando) has introduced a bill to completely ban these junkets. And as Patrick McGreevy reports, her effort could face long odds. Much smaller efforts to rein in these kinds of trips have failed in years past.
A reminder that we're tracking all of the latest news and notes on California politics on our Essential Politics news feed.
— Kate Linthicum reports that Univision, after battling with Trump, is launching a major voter registration and engagement campaign aimed at turning out 3 million new Latino voters ahead of this year's presidential election.
— With a big change in the branding of a major national park just days away, lawmakers say they don't want to see the same thing happen with state parks. Melanie Mason reports that legislators are ready to protect naming rights for state parks in the wake of the saga over naming battles for Yosemite National Park.
— Sarah Wire reports San Diego's Rep. Scott Peters made his way to the embattled city of Flint, Mich., to talk about the ongoing crisis over drinking water.
— What happens when a popular comedian stops by the state Capitol? The business of government (briefly) screeches to a halt.
Miss yesterday's newsletter? Check it out here.. Did someone forward you this? Sign up here to get Essential Politics in your inbox daily. And keep an eye on our new politics page throughout the day for the latest and greatest. And are you following us on Twitter at @latimespolitics or @LATpoliticsCA?