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Laurel Rosenhall

Political Reporter
Laurel covers California politics for CALmatters, with a focus on power and personalities in the statehouse. Her weekly news analyses explain political dynamics in the Capitol and examine how money, advocacy and relationships shape the decisions that affect Californians. She joined CALmatters after more than a dozen years as a reporter for the Sacramento Bee, where she covered the influence of lobbyists on state government. Previously, she covered education for the Sacramento Bee, winning awards for stories that exposed unintended consequences of standardized testing and revealed abuses in the teacher pension system. Laurel is a native Californian and holds a master’s degree from the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.

California’s legislature is on the cusp of approving a new plan for responding to—and trying to prevent—sexual harassment in its own ranks. But

These proposals routinely stir up debate over California’s environmental laws and whether to grant special deals for wealthy sports franchises.

Small donations alone did not secure Gavin Newsom’s win, but they likely helped build enthusiasm. The lackluster finish by Antonio Villaraigosa shows that a gush of money from a handful…

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra will face a Republican opponent in his re-election bid this fall, as retired judge Steven Bailey was coming in second with two-thirds of ballots counted in...

Legislators whipped through hundreds of bills in the last two weeks as they confronted critical deadlines. But these Senate and Assembly bills failed to clear their chamber of origin—so barring…

With California’s primary just days away, here’s a sampling of some of the players spending big to influence your vote.

Why would a group trying to elect Democrats buy ads promoting their Republican opponents to conservative watchers of Fox News? Because California’s election rules have turned normal campaign tactics on…

Is your social media feed filling up with political campaign ads? Our reporter Laurel Rosenhall wants to see them. After you submit an ad, Laurel may contact you for a story about how campaigns use...

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is accusing the many who wants to unseat, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, of violating “the very law he is sworn to uphold.” How? By filming campaign…

On a leave of absence from the Legislature since she was accused of sexual harassment in February—and facing intensifying attacks in her re-election campaign—Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia jumped back into the…

Charter school supporters may be an effective counterbalance to the prevailing influence public-employee unions have long exerted on Democratic politics in California. But the billions in campaign donations by pro-charter…

After losing in California courts, three lead paint companies are asking voters to overturn the ruling that says they must pay to clean up toxic lead paint in older homes.

Cannabis companies are hiring well-heeled lobbyists and donating money to politicians.

Questionnaires for candidates are a staple of electoral politics. Many interest groups use them in evaluating whether to make endorsements or spend money supporting their campaigns. Here is a...

Voters won't see the questionnaires candidates answer when they seek endorsements from special interests.

The state Senate has released results of an investigation finding that Adam Keigwin, the former chief of staff to Sen. Leland Yee, likely engaged in sexually inappropriate conduct with a female...

A day after Gov. Jerry Brown agreed to the Trump administration's request to beef up the National Guard in states along the Mexico border, fellow Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom…

As Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrapped up a second day being grilled by Congress about whether the company adequately protects the personal data of its 2 billion users, news broke in California...

Cops have a lot of pull in the California Capitol, and over the decades, that’s added up to this startling reality: The Golden State now goes further than many states in terms of protecting police...

You can monitor the growing list of sexual harassment cases that the California Legislature has substantiated and released records about via this spreadsheet, created by CALmatters' Capitol news analyst Laurel…

The Legislature has released another swath of harassment records—this time detailing five cases it substantiated or in which a settlement was reached—involving elected members and high-level employees between 1992 and…

How companies collect and share consumers' personal information is likely to grow into an expensive fight as election season unfolds in California.

California utility companies worry they may be held liable for billions of dollars in damages from last year’s wildfires. State leaders may help them by changing liability rules.

So the Capitol Correspondents Association of California—which represents reporters who cover the statehouse—today sent a letter to the Legislature's leaders asking for an improved and consistent system for releasing information…

The case, which the U.S. Supreme Court will hear on March 20, is the latest battleground in a long legal debate at the intersection of free speech and abortion access.

Toni Atkins is set to make history as the first person in more than 100 years to lead both houses of the California Legislature. While no one expects her to…

The U.S. Supreme Court has yet to weigh in on a high-profile case that could slash the power of public-employee unions. But California labor leaders are already planning to push…

Most of the Democrats running for governor of California are hard to miss at the state party’s convention this weekend in San Diego. Gavin Newsom, Antonio Villaraigosa, John Chiang and Delaine...

With housing prices soaring across California, supporters of a ballot measure to end limits on rent control are making themselves seen and heard all over the state Democratic party convention this...

The contrast between U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her challenger state Senate leader Kevin de León came into stark focus Friday night at the California Democratic Party convention.

Think you know Democratic politics in California? Take our quiz and see how much of a whiz you are.

The effort to create a single-payer healthcare system in California appears to be a lost cause in the short term. But advocates are playing a long game, and they have…

A huge twist emerged this week in the Capitol’s months-long reckoning over sexual harassment: A female lawmaker who helped spark the movement to end misconduct is taking a leave of absence while she...

Protestors wearing dolphin, shark and polar bear costumes joined the throngs who descended on Sacramento Thursday to speak out against the Trump administration’s proposal to expand oil...

The California Senate's flailing efforts to deal with an accused colleague illustrate the challenges lawmakers face in response to revelations of sexual harassment that have swept the state Capitol.

Four current lawmakers, two former lawmakers and a dozen legislative employees are named in a trove of records the California Legislature released today showing substantiated cases of sexual...

California lawmakers are considering an unprecedented request to spend more than $100 million in taxpayer money to dismantle two offshore oil-drilling facilities—a platform connected to the ruptured pipeline and a…

As Gov. Jerry Brown neared the end of his last State of the State speech Thursday, he invoked a name that has become a frequent theme: August Schuckman, his own great-grandfather, who left Germany...

A resolution declaring the California Legislature’s opposition to the Trump administration’s proposal to expand offshore oil drilling, shouldn’t, on the face of it, be very controversial. But never underestimate the…

Speech, someone quasi-famously said, is the mirror of the soul. Wait—you don’t recognize that observation made by the ancient Roman scribe Publilius Syrus? Bet your governor would. This week...

For more than a decade the extravagant Back to Session Bash was a place to let loose. But with the Capitol reeling from accusations of sexual harassment and assault, the…

Patty Lopez “is the unusual candidate who can go back out there and say… ‘I am one of you. I got elected to office, the big machine came and took…

Both leaders of California’s Legislature have agreed to release records about certain investigations of sexual harassment in the state Capitol.                     …

Taking a different tone from his counterpart in the state Senate, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon on Wednesday would not yet commit to releasing information reporters requested about sexual...

As legal cannabis moves from campaign pitch to reality in California, some details of the plan have changed.

Typically we make these requests with a formal letter using boilerplate legal language to explain what we want and why it’s public information under California law. But recently, I tried…

This post is part of our Open Reporting at CALmatters, in which we share progress on stories as we’re developing them, while also inviting you to share thoughts and comments…

The electorate is a politician’s ultimate boss. But in recent weeks, as a wave of sexual harassment and assault allegations hits politicians in California's statehouse and the nation’s capitol, another…

And as women come forward with stories of being propositioned, groped and even assaulted by male colleagues in politics, an undercurrent of retaliation has begun rippling through the state.

One wants to end the death penalty. The other thinks capital punishment is just. One campaigned for tax increases that the other opposed. One tried to put Hillary Clinton in…

It’s an example of how the The Legislature’s exemption from the Whistleblower Protection Act has garnered attention in recent weeks, as a groundswell of women complaining of pervasive sexual harassment…

Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes’ tactical skills will be put to the test as she faces her first re-election campaign next year, a contest that could decide not only her own future…

Four Democrats vying to become the next governor of California faced off for the first time Sunday at a forum in Anaheim hosted by a union for health care workers. The discussion focused largely on...

The letter has ignited an impassioned debate in Sacramento: Do Capitol employees have enough protection to believe that they can report sexual harassment or assault and maintain their careers?

Ongoing coverage of this weekend's semi-annual CA Republican Party convention in Anaheim, CA, featuring Steve Bannon, and a Democratic governor candidate forum on Sunday.

Gov. Jerry Brown is famously enigmatic, a difficult-to-predict politician who said decades ago that he likes to “paddle a little bit on the left side, then… a little bit on…

As the oil industry worked to influence a landmark environmental policy in California this year, it had hired Democratic former legislators to lobby on its behalf.

Voters passed a law last year barring lawmakers from acting on bills until they've been available to the public for 72 hours. It was a game-changer this year.

The 2017 legislative session now wrapping up began with a rhetorical punch in the face to Donald Trump, but California Democrats have a mixed record when it comes to turning…

As befits a good murder plot, California lawmakers target potential victims by placing the bills on what they call the “suspense file.”

The very reason Arnold Schwarzenegger called GOP Assemblyman Chad Mayes the “future of the Republican party”—his work on climate change—was what ultimately cost Mayes his leadership post.

After an artistic career that propelled him from the south side of Chicago to poetry nights in the Obama White House, the 45-year-old rapper Common is now working to influence…

The California Air Resources Board approved a paragraph, tucked within a 17-page resolution, that will likely result in benefits worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the oil and agriculture…

Legalizing marijuana, California voters were told last year, would create a “safe, legal and comprehensive system” allowing adults to consume the drug while keeping it out of the hands of children....

(Update: On Sept. 12, the Senate voted down AB 186. Its sponsor, Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, said “I am committed to finding a way forward next year.”) Many California communities could open...

In California, a deep blue state leading the charge to curb climate change, the question for many Republicans isn’t whether global warming is happening—it’s what kind of policies are best…

It has become a familiar routine for the Sears family: Gather the medical experts, trek to Sacramento, and tell another panel of lawmakers how their 6-year-old son died from the anesthesia a dentist...

Facing a stack of lawsuits from privacy and civil-rights advocates, President Trump's commission on elections integrity—which California's Democratic Secretary of State likened to a "sham commission"— is temporarily halting its…

California has lots of company in its refusal to cooperate with the Trump Administration's request for data on the state's voter rolls. At least 44 states have said they will…

(Update: On Oct. 7 Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law AB 249, meaning campaigns will now have to be more transparent about the source of their funding.)   Who pays for all those political ads that...

“Trailer bills,” said Sen. Richard Roth—referring to pieces of legislation tied to the budget but often bearing little connection to it—“are a box of chocolates. And you never know what…

Foam burger boxes and ice cream cups could eventually go the way of the flimsy plastic shopping bag—banned throughout California.

The day after Democrats in the California Senate passed a proposal for a universal health care system, RoseAnn DeMoro took to Twitter to call out those who voted against it. Her tweet read: “23 CA...

(Update: On Oct. 15, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law SB 258. Manufacturers will now be required to list chemical ingredients on cleaning-product labels.)   Nail polish and hair dye. Cleaning...

Sandra Lowe reminisced about the good old days as she addressed a roomful of Democratic activists at the California party’s annual convention last week in Sacramento. It used to be, the teachers...

On paper, McCarthy is the second-most powerful member in the House after Speaker Paul Ryan, but in reality, no politician has more clout with the Trump White House than he…

A new generation of legislators and the growing clout of eco-advocates from urban communities is changing the focus of environmental debates in California. Once sidelined as a fringe voice of…

“Make-up money” is what it’s called in Sacramento—the contributions that flow to newly-elected officials from interest groups that backed a losing candidate during the campaign. It’s a completely legal way…

The right-leaning Democrat, Sen. Steve Glazer, and the left-leaning Republican, Assemblywoman Catharine Baker, represent overlapping suburban districts some 40 miles east of San Francisco. Once opponents who ran for the…

A cattle-ranching billionaire headed into Gov. Jerry Brown’s office last week with redemption on his mind. Redemption for prisoners who wind up behind bars because their own tortured childhoods lead...

California Democrats are expected to face a key test of their unity this week, with Gov. Jerry Brown leaning on state lawmakers to pass a landmark tax increase to fix what he calls a massive backlog...

Grab a powerful political tool that few voters understand. Plan to fight in courts, statehouses and ballot boxes. Add an infusion of celebrity and more than a dash of cash. It’s a recipe some...

California has joined several other states in a lawsuit challenging Trump's revised travel ban.

With President Donald Trump alleging serious voter fraud in California, and the state’s top election official calling his claim untrue, how much voter fraud is actually under investigation in the...

President Trump issued a new version of his travel ban today, nearly a month after a San Francisco-based federal court blocked his last order to limit migration from seven predominantly…

President Trump's action to rescind Obama-era protections for transgender school children drew quick rebuke from California lawmakers, but the dispute at this point is more symbolic than substantive.

In the 1970s, an ethnically diverse high school in Sacramento sought to quell tensions by training a mix of specially selected students how to resolve conflicts. Among the chosen was a son of...

Back before the internet made it so easy to find a celebrity’s age, a 29-year-old actress landed the role of a 17-year-old girl—and helped propel “Beverly Hills 90210” into a hit TV show in the...

The sandwich baggie brimming with buds is gradually becoming a thing of the past in California. In its place, an era of name-brand marijuana is emerging.Celebrities—including actress Whoopi...

“I made the worst mistake of my life.” “I had a drug and alcohol problem.” “I was just a kid with low self esteem and felt hopeless.” Those are the words people convicted of felonies in California...

As the Legislature opened a new two-year session this month, staffers lined up before 9 a.m. to hand freshly-written bills to the clerk, who assigns them an all important number. Whether a bill...

As they suit up for battle against the Trump administration, Democrats who dominate California’s Legislature vow to unleash one of the superpowers of holding a supermajority: the ability to enact...

Although he has served as governor longer than anyone else in California history, Jerry Brown has never been forced to make one of the weightiest decisions governors face: whether to spare a...

On a night many believed would be a milestone for women in politics, Cristina Garcia donned a Hillary Clinton T-shirt and a gray pantsuit and left her house in southeast Los Angeles. “Buenas...

In a turbulent election year full of surprises, this much is certain: When it’s all over next week, broad swaths of California will still be represented by Democrats. The pressing question in many...

The one shred of power Republicans hold in the California statehouse—enough seats to block Democratic lawmakers from a “supermajority”—is on the brink in this election. Already California is one of...

In California’s Democrat-dominated statehouse, big business usually plays defense. Liberal groups—like labor unions and environmentalists—typically push for new bills, while corporate interests work...

Andrew Naylor was working at a digital advertising firm in Silicon Valley when the “a-ha” moment struck. It was 2008, and money—more than $83 million—was gushing into the advertising world as...

The slick website offers many ways to get high. Three pre-rolled joints will cost you $30. A gram of hash is $45. Blueberry, pineapple or brownie-flavored cannabis treats go for about $12 a bag....

California has more billionaires than any other state, and an abundance of direct democracy. Those two facts intersect during election season, when spending by wealthy donors helps determine which...

Six years after Citizens United—the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that says corporations and unions have a 1st Amendment right to unlimited campaign spending—presidential candidates across...

As a bill named in memory of his 6-year-old son heads to Gov. Jerry Brown, Tim Sears looks at his family’s foray into Sacramento politics with mixed emotions. “I’m both happy and proud of the...

One after another they stepped to the podium telling stories of liberation through transformation. There was the man, in suit and bowtie, who once played college basketball on a women’s team. There...

Gov. Jerry Brown has taken the national stage to tout California’s fight against global warming, telling cheering throngs at the Democratic National Convention that the state has “the toughest...

As they come of age and register to vote, Millennials—that enormous generation born since 1981—are surging so fast they’re on the verge of overtaking the Baby Boomer behemoth as a share of the...

Protracted policy questions. Big-money battles. Contradictory proposals that are difficult to discern. It’s shaping up to be an all-too-typical fall election—once again confronting  California...

As an AIDS activist 30 years ago, Michael Weinstein helped defeat an inflammatory ballot measure that could have quarantined Californians with the disease. Today, Weinstein has turned to the ballot...

In Sacramento, right outside California’s gleaming state Capitol, dozens of homeless people live on the streets. Here is Debbie Bartley, a grandmother who was one of them until last year. She now...

The Capitol dome looms over downtown Sacramento, a magnet for money and power. Shiny-shoed politicians and well-dressed lobbyists hustle toward the building where billion-dollar decisions are made....

Some of the outsized money spent on California legislative races this year came pouring through the mail slot of voter Michael Johnson’s home, arriving in the form of two or three glossy ads a day...

How much information should be available to the public in cases of severe child abuse? California lawmakers and the administration of Gov. Jerry Brown have been at odds over that question for the...

It’s not often that interest groups call out public officials by their race, but as environmentalists evaluated state lawmakers’ voting records last year, that is just what they did. Black and...

The eight-page document reads like a contract, asking candidates seeking a seat in the Legislature to pledge support for workers organizing unions. It lists priority issues – including health care,...

  Questionnaires for candidates are a staple of electoral politics. Many interest groups use them in evaluating whether to endorse contestants or spend money to support their campaigns. The stakes...

A group that lobbies to change public education is pouring money into a handful of Northern California legislative races ahead of the June 7 election, aiming to influence the kind of Democrats who...

In their own words “You can’t do that, man, you go to jail for that.” – Sen. Leland Yee on June 20, 2013, talking to an undercover FBI agent who offered him a bribe “What has happened to me...

With feathers adorning his head and red paint decorating his face, Haru Kuntanawa hardly looked like a potential business partner for California’s oil industry when he addressed the crowd gathered...

As anti-establishment fervor sweeps the nation this election season – forcing the son of a former president to abandon his campaign for the White House – a contrary trend has taken hold in the...

After their 6-year-old son died following a dental procedure, a Bay Area couple went to the California Legislature, hoping a new law could prevent other families from experiencing similar tragedy....

Can a Democrat cross environmentalists and labor unions and still keep her seat in the California Legislature? Assemblywoman Cheryl Brown (D-San Bernardino) is putting that question to the test....

Democracy has a price. And at the moment, it’s higher than ever in California. With a presidential election coming up this fall, dozens of groups are trying to get measures on the ballot —...

A month after taking over as the California Assembly’s Republican leader, Chad Mayes brought his caucus to a shelter for homeless mothers. The lawmakers listened as women shared stories of drug...

A Harvard economist known globally for his work on climate change policy sat in the Sacramento office of the oil industry’s lobbying firm recently, making the case that California is fighting global...

Women who work in California politics gathered in the historic Governor’s Mansion in Sacramento for a #WinLikeAGirl networking event paid for by the state Democratic party on February 11,...

#WinLikeAGirl at the Governor’s Mansion Click here to see more photos from the bipartisan networking event for women in California politics. Photos decorating the Political Solutions lobbying...

Several times in the last year, Assemblyman Eric Linder (R-Corona) pushed the green “Yes” button on his desk when most of his Republican colleagues pressed “No.” He broke from his party to vote for...

When President Barack Obama announced last month that he is taking executive action to ban the solitary confinement of juveniles in federal prisons, it was a rare case of Washington setting policy...

In 1976, a year into his first term as governor, Jerry Brown signed a bill that came to be seen as one of the strongest environmental protection laws in the country. The California Coastal Act...

Is it safe for children to play on fields made of ground up old tires? Recycled tires on California parks The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery gives grants to communities...

A strange thing is happening in Sacramento: voices on the political left and right are calling for the state to spend more money on services for Californians with developmental disabilities. The...

Lobbyists in Sacramento talk about the “inside game” and the “outside game.” The inside game is the one they play under the Capitol dome: testifying in committee hearings, meeting with legislative...

A culture clash separates California’s Capitol from the Silicon Valley companies that are transforming the state’s economy. Technology entrepreneurs move fast, and see rewards for disrupting the...

Shortly after the new year begins, Gov. Jerry Brown will declare a special election to fill a vacant spot in the Legislature. The election will cost Fresno County, one of the poorest areas of the...

Hours after Greg Campbell awoke from surgery in 2013, the phone rang in his Sacramento hospital room. It was Gov. Jerry Brown, calling to wish him a speedy recovery from the operation that removed a...

This week’s shooting in San Bernardino comes as a debate over gun control that has divided Democrats in the state Capitol could head to the voters of California next year. Nearly three years ago,...

The California Teachers Association, one of Sacramento’s most powerful interests, is heading into an extraordinary year with decisions on the ballot, in the Capitol and in the courts holding the...

Compared with the partisan gridlock that gripped Sacramento just a few years ago, dynamics in the statehouse can seem almost cuddly these days. There are friendly handshakes after lawmakers cross...

In a hotel ballroom blocks from the state Capitol, nearly three dozen wanna-be legislators gathered recently to learn the ways of Sacramento. They were members of city councils and school boards up...

Politics is a team sport in Sacramento. After new folks are elected to the Legislature, their Democratic or Republican “teams” typically do everything possible to keep them in the game. The...

Maywood, CA. — A politician who will soon hold one of the most powerful positions in California was walking along the industrial banks of the Los Angeles River last week when an artist smoking...

HALF MOON BAY — It’s a lovely place to do business. Ocean waves crash into rocky cliffs. Pelicans flap along the shoreline. And on the golf resort overlooking it all, a powerful bloc of...

Around the Capitol they’re known as “juice committees” – those that oversee lucrative industries, allowing politicians to foster relationships they can squeeze for campaign cash. These panels...

The Catholic Church was a player in two of the biggest bills California lawmakers grappled with this year, working to push politicians to the left in one case, and to the right in another. Many...

Sharing. It sounds so simple, but as an economic trend, sharing is a divisive issue for Democrats. Tension over the so-called “sharing economy” has been on full display in Sacramento, with Democrats...

The oil industry helped Democrat Jim Cooper win his first election to the Legislature last year. Now it’s seeking his help fighting Democratic leaders in the state Capitol. Cooper is one of a...

EL DORADO, Arkansas – On the east side of this small town, tucked away not far from the Louisiana border, sit two massive incinerators with a surprising link to a landmark environmental law in...

In a small hearing room decorated with paintings of birds and flowers, Sen. Fran Pavley – the great-granddaughter of a three-time presidential candidate – sat down to present the bill that will...

It was mid-morning one day in May and somewhere deep inside a 25-story tower in Sacramento, an auction, cloaked in secrecy, was about to begin. Why this matters Cap and trade is among the most...

The friendship between two men from vastly different backgrounds may shape the future of California.

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