Good morning, California.
Sen. Kamala Harris, contemplating a presidential run, told a New York radio station she won’t take corporate political action committee money. Harris had taken $260,000 in corporate PAC money since 2015.
Here comes the flood
Get ready for the deluge of campaign ads and the puffery that goes with them.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the front-runner in the race for governor, is first with a major statewide television ad buy. In his ad, a narrator describes Newsom’s “courage” for being the first big city mayor to support same-sex marriage. True enough.
Less true: “The first to take on the National Rifle Association and win.” Newsom’s ad is referring to Proposition 63, a successful 2016 initiative he promoted to regulate the sale of ammunition and ban possession of large capacity magazines.
No one could seriously question Newsom’s support for gun control and his willingness to take on the NRA. But he’s hardly the first California big city politician to take on the NRA.
Former Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley backed 1989 legislation to ban assault weapons, a landmark bill at a time when the NRA was able to win elections in California.
Then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein beat an NRA-backed recall after she supported a 1982 statewide initiative to regulate handguns, a radical notion in that day.
As a state assemblyman in 1996, former LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, one of Newsom’s Democratic challengers this year, carried legislation to tax bullets. And Villaraigosa was Assembly Speaker in 1999 when the Legislature approved a far-reaching ban on assault weapons.
It’s early: Tens of millions of dollars will be spent by the June 5 primary, all intended to sell you on one candidate or another. I refer you to CALmatters’ voter guide.
Democrats’ tent frays
Environmentalists and unions that represent hard-hat workers are aligned with the Democratic Party, but that doesn’t mean they always get along.
That has become evident as a coalition of building trades unions, including oil refinery workers, targeted the re-election of Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a Democrat from Bell Gardens.
Garcia ran afoul of the State Building & Construction Trades Council of California when she carried legislation last year to require the state to pay more attention to urban pollution. Some opponents saw it as an attack against Southern California oil refineries and thus their workers.
Enter Trump: Garcia and President Donald Trump couldn’t be more unalike, on the surface. But Erin Lehane, speaking for the independent campaign that calls itself Working Californians Against Corruption, said its ads will attack Garcia for being like Trump.
How’s that? Think “Access Hollywood” tape. Garcia had been a leader of the #MeToo movement, but faces an investigation into allegations she groped a male staffer, encouraged her staff to play spin the bottle, propositioned a male lobbyist, and uttered slurs aimed at gay men.
The politics: Speaker Anthony Rendon, whose job includes defending Democratic incumbents, denounced the effort. To defend Garcia, he’ll have to spend money he’d rather use to campaign against Republicans.
Now, health care rate regulation
California legislators won’t pass a single-payer Medicare-for-all plan any time soon, to the dismay of the left side of the Democratic base.
But the California Labor Federation and other unions are backing a bill to create an 11-member commission to regulate prices charged by hospitals, health plans and physicians. The Assembly Health Committee has a hearing on the bill today.
Yes: The League of California Cities, whose 482 member cities are on the hook for health and retiree benefits for their employees, embraces the bill, so long as the proposed commission includes a member representing cities. Cities have $10.8 billion in unfunded liability for health care costs, and “the influx of baby boomers retiring at an alarming rate continues to drive up unfunded costs,” the league said in a letter of qualified support.
No: Scores of hospitals and chambers of commerce oppose the bill, as do doctors, health insurers and managed care plans. Hospitals say they could lose $18 billion a year if the bill becomes law.
The prognosis: It’s a tough vote in an election year. Doctors and hospitals can spend millions to defeat wayward legislators, while the California Nurses Association, the main single payer proponent, has “substantial concerns,” said nurses’ spokesman Chuck Idelson.
An accountant’s trick
Calling politicians self-serving can be redundant. It can be bipartisan, too.
Sen. John Moorlach, an Orange County Republican, and Congressman Brad Sherman, a San Fernando Valley Democrat, are certified public accountants. Because they haven’t kept up with their continuing education requirements, their licenses are inactive. No big deal. Lots of professionals let their licenses lapse.
So what? In 2009, the Legislature, without a single no vote, approved a measure that says all inactive CPAs must disclose their status on any business communications in which they call themselves CPAs. That includes Moorlach and Sherman.
Unlike other CPAs, however, Moorlach can carry legislation, and he is, to the delight of Sherman. Senate Bill 1159 would exempt any CPA member of the Legislature or Congress from having to disclose that they’re inactive. The bill would affect two people: Moorlach and Sherman. Sherman wrote a letter of support:
“I believe that my colleagues, as well as other interested parties, would more carefully review my letters and documents on tax and budgeting issues if I could sign them as follows: Congressman Brad Sherman, CPA.”
A rich target: The Senate Appropriations Committee approved Moorlach’s unanimously on Monday. At an earlier hearing, Moorlach seemed somewhat sheepish, calling the bill “a little self-serving.” Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Valley Democrat, voted no at that hearing, and made a point that accountants would appreciate: pushing a single bill through the legislative process costs about $10,000.
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