Good morning, California. Is it naptime?

“A key data operator at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) failed to perform her essential duties over a period of nearly four years because she slept at her desk for extended periods of time during work hours.” — California State Auditor report.

The DMV response: There was insufficient documentation to discipline her.

Brown proposes to help utilities on fire costs

A National Guard C-130 dropping fire retardant. (File)

In a move certain to be embraced by utilities, Gov. Jerry Brown proposed Tuesday that the state ease the liability standards when electricity providers’ equipment sparks fires that destroy property.

Market reaction: Shares of Pacific Gas & Electric, Edison International, and Sempra spiked upward on the news.

Brown sent his proposal to legislators as they prepare for hearings beginning today focused on liability issues raised by wildfires, and as the National Park Service closed Yosemite as a wildfire consumed 36,000 acres.

Brown: “If we do not take action today to prepare for and anticipate the extreme weather events of tomorrow, we will pay for it dearly.”

PG&E is reviewing the proposal. Steve Malnight, PG&E’s senior vice president for strategy and policy, told CALmatters:

“The status quo is not sustainable for the utility industry across California.”

Sen. Jerry Hill, a San Mateo Democrat and PG&E critic: “PG&E keeps breaking the law, so they’re trying to change the law.”

Insurance industry statement: “This proposal’s weakening of well-established liability standards is nothing more than a utility bailout …”

Bottom line: The 2018 wildfire season is worse so far than the 2017 season, which was among the worst in history. The utilities are powerful players in the Capitol and Brown, though in his final months in office, remains influential. That suggests some change is coming.

Abortion pills on college campuses?

California’s public universities may soon become the first in the nation to provide access to abortion pills at on-campus health centers, CALmatters’ Elizabeth Castillo reports. Pending legislation would require California State University and University of California campuses to provide the RU 486 medication by 2022.

Abortion opponents say students already have access to the pills from facilities near campus. But students told Castillo about problems reaching off-campus sites to obtain the prescription.

UC and CSU haven’t taken positions on the legislation. The bill doesn’t propose the use of public funds. The Women’s Foundation of California has secured up to $20 million in start-up money from donors.

The bill’s author, Sen. Connie Leyva, a Chino Democrat: “It’s necessary because it’s a constitutionally protected right, but just because it’s a constitutionally protected right does not mean you have access.”

Will initiative ease housing crisis, or hurt schools?

A November initiative would cost local government $1 billion in property tax revenue, much of it earmarked for public schools, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst reports.

The proposal: Proposition 5 would allow homeowners 55 and older to move to more expensive homes and keep their lower property tax bills from their old homes.

Current law: Older homeowners can keep existing property tax bills if they move within their county to less expensive homes. Ten counties also allow people to move across county lines and keep old property tax rates.

Backers say the initiative would ease the housing crisis by making it more affordable for empty nesters to move out of larger homes, freeing up housing for families:

“If seniors can move to a new primary residence that better fits their needs (such as downsizing after children move away), their old homes will generate more tax revenue once sold to new buyers” — Ballot pamphlet.

Opponents cite the Legislative Analyst, which says local government including schools would lose up to $1 billion a year over time. The state would be expected to make up the difference:

“The real estate interests who cynically paid to put Prop. 5 on the ballot have decided to pit some homeowners against others. Why? You’ll have to ask them. But we think it probably has something to do with their profits” — Ballot pamphlet.

Money matters: Realtors have spent $7.2 million on Proposition 5 so far. Unions representing teachers and firefighters oppose it but have spent little to date.

Sanctuary state law: Facts, fiction, politics and myths

The California Sunday Magazine dives deep into the reality and fiction that is California’s new sanctuary state law, which limits cooperation between local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities:

  • Farmers and farm workers are caught in the middle of the immigration debate.
  • LA cops patrol the MacArthur Park neighborhood, knowing they need cooperation from residents no matter their status to keep the peace.
  • Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchens continues to help U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers within the new state law.

The sanctuary state law that Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law was much more narrow than what was originally proposed. That doesn’t stop critics from scoring political points by exaggerating its reach.

Myth-busting fact: “Asians are the fastest-growing undocumented group. And ICE tends to leave them alone.”

Walters: Big returns in one year won’t fix pension funds

Schools and local governments are feeling immense stress from ever-rising pension payments even though California’s economy has been booming and investment returns have been surpassing projections, CALmatters commentator Dan Walters writes.

Walters: “That’s why we’ll see dozens of cities and other local governments asking their voters for tax increases in November, and why school officials are pleading with Brown and legislators for more money.”

A fine Tiki hut while it lasted

A Cal Fire assistant fire chief built this Tiki hut, in violation of many regulations.

An assistant chief for the state fire department built a fully plumbed 320-square foot Tiki hut and bar in the backyard of state property he rented, and invited friends to party and “experience the décor,” the state auditor reported Tuesday. The chief, who wasn’t identified, got a 30-day unpaid suspension and had to remove the structure.


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