Good morning, California. Ben Christopher is sitting in for Dan Morain, who is on assignment today.

“It’s not one-size-fits-all, its two-sizes-fits-all…What cities will do in response to a bill like this is sue the state.”—Pasadena city planner David Reyes, testifying against SB 50, Sen. Scott Wiener’s controversial housing density bill.

Not in Marin's backyard

A housing bill fought by NIMBYs advanced—for most of CA.

A controversial bill to allow lots more apartments near mass transit across California passed out of a key legislative committee on Wednesday—but only after it was amended to take a softer approach on counties of less than 600,000 people.

  • Marin County’s population at last count was 263,886, in case you were wondering.

Senate Bill 50 (a.k.a San Francisco Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener’s hugely controversial “upzoning bill”) still faces a long road. But the vote marks a significant win for Wiener’s years-long campaign to promote more dense housing around transit—an approach he says is necessary to alleviate the state’s housing shortage and curb greenhouse gas emissions from commuters, CALmatters’ Matt Levin reports.

  • The original bill would have required all neighborhoods within a half-mile of a major public transit stop to allow apartment buildings four to five stories tall.
  • Under the compromise, smaller counties—including those with expensive real estate markets such as Marin, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo—would be treated differently.

Marin has a history of winning itself carve-outs from state housing laws. But the bill’s backers say this isn’t just another giveaway.

  • Most cities would still be required to approve duplexes, triplexes and four-plexes “by right” in almost all neighborhoods.

Read more about what went down in the hearing—and what this means for California housing policy—here.


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The vaxxers are back

A bill to tighten vaccine laws drew crowds to the Capitol.

California’s vaccine opponents are among the Capitol’s most ardent lobbies, as state lawmakers learned the hard way a few years ago, when state Sen. Richard Pan led a successful push to tighten the state’s lax school immunization rules.

  • On Wednesday, they returned en masse with children in tow, choking the Legislature’s humid hallways by the hundreds, to protest a followup bill by Pan to crack down on bogus medical exemptions to the state vaccine law.

The Los Angeles Times: “One opponent called Pan a ‘tyrant,’ another labeled his bill a ‘crime against humanity,’ while a third urged the senator to abandon the proposal to ‘save your soul’.”

Pan’s bill passed the Senate Health Committee 6-2 after more than five hours of testimony on SB 276, which gives the state Department of Public Health, rather than individual doctors, the final say over whether a child can be exempted from the state’s immunization requirements.

  • Not so fun fact: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday that the number of measles cases now stands at 695 nationally, the highest annual number since 2000, when the disease was declared eradicated in the U.S. At last count, more than three dozen of those were in California. 

Learn more about the rise in medical exemptions from CALmatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera here. 


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CA divided on charter schools

A new PPIC poll reflects complex views on school reform.

California lawmakers and voters have at least this much in common: They are entirely split over charter schools. 

  • A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California finds that 50% of likely voters oppose the privately-run, publicly funded charters, while 48% are in favor of them. That gap is within the survey’s margin of error. 

Mark Baldassare, PPIC president: “People are concerned about the fact that charter schools might be taking away resources from traditional schools, but at the same time they’re concerned that lower-income parents might not have the kind of choices they need for schools.”

Which helps explain why yesterday’s hearing of the Senate Education Committee was so contentious as lawmakers advanced a bill that would impose a five-year moratorium on new charters unless the Legislature passes specific reforms. 

It’s just one of a cluster of bills that have charter advocates on the defensive, according to CALmatters’ Ricardo Cano. 

Cano: “Combined, the bills would give local school boards sole authority and more discretion over charter school approvals, enact local and statewide caps on charters and prohibit the authorization of far-flung charter schools.”

Speaking of schools

Legislation expanding preschool advanced on Wednesday.

Early childhood education, a key priority for Gov. Gavin Newsom, advanced Wednesday with a package of bills that would dramatically boost access to subsidized preschool.

The three pieces of legislation, authored by Sacramento Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, sailed through their first committee, reports CALmatters’ Ricardo Cano. They would, among other things:

  • Make subsidized preschool available to nearly 70,000 more 3- and 4-year-olds.
  • Restructure and boost the state’s reimbursement rates for childcare and preschool providers.

Universal pre-school was one of Newsom’s central campaign promises. As ambitious and costly as this week’s legislation would be, McCarty himself notes it doesn’t get the state there.

  • McCarty: “We’d like to have universal preschool for everybody, but frankly we can’t afford it. So we should start with the kids who need it the most.”

Ready for split roll?

Local school tax fixes may have less luck than statewide reform.

For cash-strapped school districts, last night’s PPIC poll has good news and bad news.

First, the good: 56% of respondents said they would back a ballot measure that would raise money for school districts, resetting property tax rates on commercial properties to market rate, colloquially known as a “split roll.”

  • Under current law (see: Proposition 13) property taxes are set based on the purchase price. In California, where real estate prices tend to move in only one direction, that means longtime property owners often pay much less than newer buyers.
  • A “split-roll” system would generate an extra $6.5 to $10 billion annually, the Legislative Analyst’s Office estimated last year.
  • As 2020 approaches, expect to hear a lot more about this idea. Progressive groups and teachers unions have funded a ballot measure, which will be fiercely contested by business and anti-tax conservatives.

Now, the bad news: Californians aren’t nearly as welcoming of local school tax changes. Some 53% of respondents (and 60% of likely voters) said they would not back a measure to reduce the voter threshold needed to pass new parcel taxes to fund public schools from two-thirds to 55%.

  • Don’t tell Sen. Jerry Hill: Yesterday his bill to put this change on the 2020 ballot was passed by the Governance and Finance Committee.

Pick a number: $1,950

The 2020 Census could cost California.

That’s how much California stands to lose in federal funding for each resident left uncounted by the 2020 Census, according to the state Department of Finance.

  • It’s a sum likely on the minds of many state lawmakers this week, as the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments over whether the Trump administration can legally include a question about citizenship on the 2020 Census.

Opponents, including the State of California, say asking about citizenship will suppress participation across immigrant communities—which they say is the Trump administration’s goal. And undercounting immigrants could be particularly harmful to California.

California’s supporting brief to the court: “California would face a grave risk of losing a congressional seat and would likely lose tens of millions of dollars in federal funding.”

But the court’s conservative majority seemed to agree that the administration has “huge discretion” to put whatever it wants on the census, The Los Angeles Times reported.

  • If Trump wins this one, as most court watchers expect, it will be up to state lawmakers to convince residents wary of census counters to participate anyway, said Ann O’Leary, chief of staff to Gov. Newsom, at a Latino Community Foundation event Wednesday.

O’Leary: “We need to make sure that we are telling people, ‘This is your duty, but it’s also your right. You have the right to these federal dollars that will come if you’re counted.’”

Defendant Dems

California Democratic Party chairman Eric Bauman.

California Democrats had a less-than-great day in court on Wednesday.

  • In Fresno, a district court judge ruled that case against Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula can proceed. Arambula, an emergency physician and the son former Assemblyman Juan Arambula, was arrested last year on misdemeanor child abuse charges. He told reporters that he was dispensing “normal discipline” to his 7-year-old daughter. The Fresno Bee reports that Fresno County Superior Court Judge Alvin Harrell did not agree.  
  • Meanwhile in Los Angeles County, The Los Angeles Times reports that a California Democratic Party staffer filed suit against the organization, alleging he was sexually assaulted by Eric Bauman, the former party head who resigned in the weeks after election day over allegations of misconduct. The 28-year-old gay man accuses Bauman of performing oral sex on him three times without his consent—including once when he was asleep.  

Commentary at CALmatters

Don Nottoli and Bill Dodd, Sacramento County supervisor and Napa state senator: The impacts of a single Delta tunnel are unknown absent further study. What is clear is that a conveyance-only plan is not a viable, sustainable solution for Northern and Southern California.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: A new poll says voters want to raise school spending, but are leery about taxing themselves to do it.

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See you tomorrow.