Good morning, California.

“We’re going to have to split the family apart. I mean, there’s no way we can get around that.”—Chris Keys, whose home was destroyed in the 2017 Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa, telling Capitol Public Radio that while they rebuild, their insurance money is running out.

Those are some sharp scissors

Remnants of a shredded souvenir basketball

Assemblyman Chad Mayes isn’t an L.A. Clippers fan. 

So when a Clippers executive gave Mayes a basketball signed by Clippers players a few years ago, Mayes figured he’d score a few points by passing it to Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, among the Clippers’ long-suffering fans.

Fast-forward to the April 10 Assembly Elections Committee hearing.

  • Melendez, a Republican from Lake Elsinore, offered Assembly Bill 359, an anti-revolving door measure that would ban ex-legislators from lobbying for five years after they’ve left office, rather than the current one-year prohibition.
  • She thought she could count on Mayes’ vote. Mayes, a Republican from Yucca Valley, thought otherwise, deciding the bill was being done for show, and spoke against it. The bill died.
  • Later, one of Melendez’s aides delivered a pink gift bag to Mayes’ office. Mayes and his staff opened it to find the cut-up remnants of the basketball and a note:

“Chad,

“Regrettably, I am returning the basketball you gave to me. It has been shredded and is now completely worthless, just like your word.

“Be Best, Melissa.”

Melendez used scissors to slash the ball.

“When you get double-crossed, it pisses you off.”

Mayes was, well, amazed.


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Harsh judgment for antiquated commission

The Commission of Judicial Performance disciplines state judges.

California is a state of innovation and techies. But the commission responsible for disciplining California’s 1,800 judges persists in taking complaints solely in writing, delivered via mail.

The Commission on Judicial Performance rejects complaints sent by email, and there’s no way to submit complaints on its website, the Bureau of State Audits reports.

“Even if the [Commission on Judicial Performance] developed the capacity to accept online complaint submissions, it is unclear whether its case-management system could accept these complaints directly.”

  • The commission’s case-management system is 25 years old, and an information technology specialist position has been vacant since early 2014.
  • An outside consultant keeps the system operating, at a cost of $100,000 a year.

Among other findings, auditors said the Commission on Judicial Performance:

  • Ignored patterns of wrongdoing by certain judges.
  • Privately admonishes judges far more often that it issues public reprimands.
  • Closes three-quarters of the complaints without imposing sanctions.
  • Spends far too much money on rent for its spacious San Francisco office, and depends on paper and couriers to deliver packages to commissioners, rather than using email.
  • Fails to hold public meetings.

Most troubling: The audit noted the commission’s investigators failed to fully investigate allegations of misconduct in 11 of 30 cases reviewed by the auditor.

One investigator was told a judge made intimidating comments while on the bench that could have violated criminal law. However, the investigator never listened to audio files that could have proven or disproven the allegation.


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Rent control? Not likely

Supporters and opponents of rent control legislation came to the Capitol on Thursday.

Legislation that would have opened the way for local rent control stalled Thursday when the bill’s author pulled it from consideration.

  • The decision by Democratic Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica to pull Assembly Bill 36 from consideration in what should have been a friendly committee suggests rent control is unlikely this year.
  • A similar bill failed last year, and voters overwhelmingly rejected a statewide rent control initiative last November.

Separate legislation intended to blunt rent gouging did clear the Assembly Housing Committee, CALmatters’ Matt Levin reports.

  • San Francisco Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu’s AB 1482 would cap the amount that landlords could raise the rent year over year at 5 percent plus inflation. It was a rare victory for tenant groups that have struggled to get state lawmaker support in recent years.
  • The bill faces many more obstacles before it becomes law.

Puzzler at the pump

Golden State drivers have long paid a mysterious premium for gas.

Why do Californians pay so much more for gasoline than drivers elsewhere? Gov. Gavin Newsom asked state energy regulators to investigate that perennial mystery earlier this week.

  • Drivers in the Golden State currently pay roughly 75 cents more per gallon, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. To Newsom’s critics, the explanation for the differential is obvious.

From the CAGOP’s Twitter handle: “Gas prices are high because Democrats keep taxing gas!…Detective Newsom is on the case!”

But experts say the answer isn’t quite so simple.

Severin Borenstein of UC Berkeley’s Energy Institute: “This is not California’s gas taxes, this is not cap-and-trade, this is not the low-carbon fuel standard and it’s not the cost of producing California’s cleaner-burning gasoline.”

Even accounting for all that, he says, California prices have been at least 25 cents higher than where we would expect them to be since 2015.

  • Remind me: Four years ago, an explosion at a refinery in Torrance temporarily cut statewide refining capacity, sending prices skyward. Prices have yet to fully come back down.

What gives? Newsom wants regulators to investigate possible “inappropriate industry practices,” but Borenstein says other possibilities include constraints on fuel imports into the state. “Whatever it is,” Borenstein said, “we need to find out.”

California congressional royalty

Gov. Gavin Newsom and U.S. Rep. Katie Hill.

Nancy Pelosi vowed to be a “transitional figure” when she reclaimed her role as Speaker of the House—to the vexation of many within her caucus.

  • As she grooms the next generation of Congressional leaders, she seems to have found a “new favorite,” The Los Angeles Times reports: Simi Valley Democratic Rep. Katie Hill.

Perks of being Pelosi’s pal include:

  • Scoring the vice chair seat on the House Oversight Committee.
  • Standing in for the Speaker at special events and regularly appearing on MSNBC.
  • Getting to tag along with the Speaker to an international security conference in Munich—the only freshman member of Congress to get an invite.

Not bad for a 31-year-old whose 2018 run for Congress was dubbed by Vice “the Most Millennial Campaign Ever.”

  • Hill, like many of her cohort of California Democrats who managed to flip half of the remaining Republican districts in the state last year, was reluctant to be associated with Pelosi during the campaign. But once the blue wave crashed, putting Democrats back in charge of the House, she eagerly backed the Speaker.

That seems to have been a good bet. But the friendship isn’t without its drawbacks.

  • A UC Berkeley poll from October of last year found that 61 percent of likely voters in her district opposed a Pelosi speakership. That’s compared with 55 percent who disapproved of President Trump.

Send us your college cost questions

Submit a college cost question and be a star.

Calling all students, parents, faculty and other higher ed watchers: CALmatters wants your questions about the cost of college in California.

  • Higher education reporter Felicia Mello has been doing a lot of reporting on college affordability. Now, she and CALmatters’ video czarina, Byrhonda Lyons, are doing a video explainer on tuition, financial aid, choosing a college, why it’s so hard to pay those bills, bills, bills and more.

You and your question could be featured. Click here for information on how to submit.

  • And click here for a sampling of the amazing explainers CALmatters has done on other important topics over the past year.

A new member of CALmatters' team

Jackie Botts

Commentary at CALmatters

Holly Mitchell, Senate Budget Committee chair: While the housing first model does not require sobriety, it clearly encourages sobriety. It has been shown that people who voluntarily sign up for supportive services are more likely to discontinue substance use, participate in job-training programs, and attend school.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: They look like zombies, and that’s because California’s public schools often begin their classes so early in the morning that many of them have had much less sleep than their still-growing bodies demand.

Erratum: Thursday’s newsletter erroneously reported this week’s legislative committee vote on vaccine restrictions. It was was 6-2.

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected], 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you Monday.