Newsletter: Essential Politics: Is homeless help coming to California’s budget?


Good morning from a (thankfully) rainy state capital. I’m Sacramento bureau chief John Myers, your guide to Essential Politics today. And after a long recess, legislators are back in session for 2016 and gearing up for a rich mix of politics and policy under the state Capitol dome.


The beginning of any legislative session offers a chance for big thinking, a prime opportunity to set the agenda in Sacramento for the year ahead. And Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) wasted no time in laying down a $2-billion marker on the issue of helping the homeless, most notably those who suffer from mental illness.

Gale Holland was on hand as De León, surrounded by his fellow Senate Democrats and a few GOP legislators, unveiled the proposal at an event in downtown Los Angeles on Monday. In a nutshell, the plan would dip into tax revenues collected under 2004’s Proposition 63 tax on millionaires to help finance statewide bonds and, eventually, housing. The Democrats also want an earmark in the state budget, valued at $200 million over four years, to help the elderly and disabled.

Note that last part: money from the state budget. That will take the blessing of Gov. Jerry Brown.


The governor will unveil his 2016-17 state budget on Thursday morning in Sacramento. And while there are a number of big items to ponder — from healthcare to transportation and beyond, keep an eye on Brown’s economic forecast. A big question mark is whether an economic slowdown is on the horizon in California, and whether that emboldens the governor’s long-running approach to limit new state spending commitments.


In a move that surprises almost no one, President Obama will formally announce that he’s taking executive action to expand background checks for gun buyers. And as Christi Parsons reports, Obama hinted that he may just be getting started.

The presidential action comes in the wake of mass shootings from San Bernardino to South Carolina and beyond, and drew sharp rebukes from both House Speaker Paul Ryan (D-Wis.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Meantime, Obama met with a handful of members of Congress on Monday night to discuss the action, including three members of California’s delegation.

Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) told Sarah Wire after the meeting that Democrats are happy the president “is really thoughtfully taking some action.” He added, “At the same time I think everyone is realistic that really dealing with the issue, including on background checks, is going to take congressional action.”

Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-Norwalk) said “the idea is to be ensuring that everyone is accounted for who is buying a gun.” She said she urged the president to push for more training of local law enforcement on how to deal with people who have mental health issues.

Look for more on this issue on Thursday, when Obama participates in a town hall event outside Washington, D.C., and during next Tuesday's State of the Union address to Congress.


If you’ve got an opinion on the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling on campaign finance, the historic Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission, California legislators may want to hear from you on Election Day.

Actually, they wanted to hear from you in 2014. But a lawsuit blocked what was then supposed to be Proposition 49, with critics saying the Legislature had no power to put an advisory, non-binding measure on the statewide ballot.

On Monday, the California Supreme Court disagreed. As Maura Dolan writes, a majority of justices said there’s nothing to stop the Legislature from asking voters to offer an opinion. And yes, the ballot measure was motivated by Democrats who hoped a groundswell of voters would rise up to say they oppose the Citizens United ruling. It's unclear whether legislators will move to put the advisory issue back on the ballot this fall.


What won’t be on the 2016 ballot, on the other hand, is a referendum to try to overturn California’s new law to allow physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to someone who’s terminally ill. Patrick McGreevy reports that the effort failed to gather enough signatures in the 90-day window for a referendum to qualify.

It’s worth noting that the law hasn’t taken effect yet. It was passed by the Legislature during a special session on healthcare, which would normally mean enactment in 90 days. But until legislators adjourn that special session, the aid-in-dying law remains on hold. No word on when that legislative action will take place.

By the way, a reminder that we’re tracking all the action here in Sacramento this week, from new legislation to political maneuverings and beyond.


-- It was a Clinton double team on Monday on the presidential campaign trail. Chris Megerian reports that Hillary Clinton accused Republicans of being beholden to energy companies during a speech in Iowa, while former President Bill Clinton was stumping in New Hampshire. Mike Memoli reports Clinton called his wife “a change maker” during her long political career.

-- David Lauter looks at the tax plan rolled out by presidential hopeful Ben Carson and finds it would cut taxes for the wealthy and raise them for the poor.

-- South of the border, down… Morocco… way? Donald Trump released his first TV ad on Monday, but Kurtis Lee reports it relies on images from a border a long, long way from the United States and Mexico.


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