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Essential Politics: Early not late, this State of the State

Essential Politics: Early not late, this State of the State
(LAT)

Good morning from the state capital. I'm Sacramento bureau chief John Myers, your Essential Politics host this week while Christina Bellantoni is away.

There was a time in the state Capitol when the annual State of the State speech was a big event. Sweeping policy proposals, intense media coverage, formal responses from leaders of the Legislature. In short, an address that was the California political equivalent of the State of the Union.

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Notice the past tense in that previous paragraph. The times, it seems, have changed.

Even so, Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State that he will deliver this morning at 10 a.m. is still an important moment to take stock of the governor's agenda and the trajectory of the Golden State in the year to come. And few believe he will miss an opportunity to talk about his favorite topics, the state's finances and his efforts on combating climate change.

We will have full coverage, starting on our new Essential Politics news feed and going from there to additional stories, text of Brown's speech and more. Though most observers think the governor will offer a subdued approach, don't forget: This is the guy who handed out playing cards with his corgi on them a couple of years ago. Brown thrives on a little bit of unpredictability.

By the way, our headline this morning is a nod to the fact that in days gone by the State of the State was an evening affair, timed to be picked up live on television newscasts across California. No longer. It was former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger who nixed that tradition during the depths of the recession crisis in 2009.

TOBACCO TAX: SIGS FOR CIGS IN 2016

The next few weeks are going to be some of the most interesting when it comes to the size of November's statewide ballot. The conventional wisdom is that it will be a blockbuster ballot when it comes to statewide propositions, the longest in more than a decade.

And it's all but certain to be a ballot that includes another effort to boost the state's tobacco tax. On Wednesday, billionaire activist Tom Steyer and healthcare groups launched their drive to gather voter signatures for a $2 a pack increase in taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

The last time a tobacco tax was on the ballot, 2012's Proposition 29, tobacco companies spent some $47 million and eked out a narrow victory in killing the measure.

Meantime, backers of a measure to increase California's minimum wage are finished gathering signatures on their proposal and are turning in those petitions to elections officials in the state's 58 counties.

More propositions are coming, as the fall season looks to be one replete with hundreds of TV commercials and even more political mail filling mailboxes from Yreka to Calexico.

BIG DROP IN ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION

The race for the Republican presidential nomination has time and again come back to the issue of illegal immigration, but new data suggests the debate has left out some key context.

Kate Linthicum reports on a new study that finds the population of those in the country without legal status has dropped below 11 million for the first time since 2004. And the decline in illegal immigration is being attributed to immigrants from Mexico returning home.

DEMOCRATS FOR THE DONALD? NOT LIKELY, SAYS POLL

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One of the more fascinating narratives in political circles has been that Republican front-runner Donald Trump might attract some notable crossover votes from Democrats in the general election this fall. Or, in a similar vein, that he might push some GOP voters to hold their nose and vote Democratic.

A new poll, writes David Lauter, suggests that's more political junkie fantasy than anything else.

Among people who identify with Democrats, almost two-thirds say Trump would be a "terrible" president. By contrast, 56% of those who identify with Republicans say Trump would be good or great in the White House.

So cross that one off your once-in-a-lifetime narratives.

TODAY'S ESSENTIALS

— House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-Fullerton) spent the last few days in Tanzania, where he met with Tanzanian officials, and toured aid organizations and hospitals.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Menlo Park) and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.) sent a letter Wednesday asking the Federal Communications Commission to exercise its authority under existing law and require more complete disclosure of who sponsors political ads. The FCC defines the organization that claims "editorial control" over the ad to be the true sponsor of an ad, which Eshoo and Yarmuth say is insufficient with the rise of opaquely named super PACs. Thirty five of California's 53-member House delegation joined more than 160 congressional colleagues in signing the letter.

— Phil Willon caught up with U.S. Senate candidates in their appearance Wednesday at a Latino voter forum in Sacramento. Two of the GOP candidates, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) and former state party chair Duf Sundheim both sounded different notes than their national GOP colleagues on the issue of illegal immigration.

LOGISTICS

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