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

“Current total collections are about $3.1 billion ahead of the projection so far for the month.”—California Legislative Analyst’s Office, reporting the state’s massive, larger-than-expected haul in personal income taxes. With a week left before the end of April, California has already hit its monthly revenue projection, and then some.

Soda tax goes flat

That proposed statewide levy on sugary beverages? Shelved.

At least one of the many new state taxes being proposed for California is a no-go, at least for this year. In a win for the powerful beverage industry, state lawmakers officially kicked the can, yet again, on a statewide tax on sugary drinks.

  • The 2-cent levy proposed by Santa Monica Democratic Assemblyman Richard Bloom was put on hold until 2020.

Kris Calvin of American Academy of Pediatrics, California, a co-sponsor: “We want to make sure that everybody understands it and buys into it—and that can take a little time.”

Public health care advocates declared legislative war on Big Soda in February with a package of five bills. San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu’s ban on super-sized soda cups died earlier this month. With Bloom’s bill on ice, three remain:

  • Oakland Assemblyman Rob Bonta’s bill to ban soda companies from offering discounts to distributors and retailers.
  • Berkeley Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks’ ban on stores from placing sweet drinks near checkout counters.
  • Carmel Sen. Bill Monning’s proposal to put a safety warning on soda bottles.

Remind me: Concerned about a Bay Area wave of local soda taxes, soft drink companies launched a ballot initiative last year that would have made it much harder for municipalities to raise local taxes of any kind. That got Sacramento’s attention. State lawmakers agreed to ban local soda taxes for 13 years and the beverage industry withdrew the initiative.


Gun tax survives

A proposed fee on firearm sales would target gun violence.

A $25 fee on each new firearm? In a less liberal state, AB 18 by Marin County Democratic Assemblyman Marc Levine would be a double whammy—a vehicle not only for higher taxes, but also for gun control.

  • But this is California: AB 18 was referred Monday to the Assembly appropriations committee.
  • The bill would help fund the California Violence Intervention and Prevention program, which issues grants of up to $500,000 to gun violence reduction programs. CalVIP has been funded on an annual one-off basis since 2007.

Levine: “California needs to bolster violence prevention initiatives so that they are commensurate with our state’s tough gun laws.”

Gun rights groups are not thrilled: Lobbyists for various firearm and sporting groups, including the National Rifle Association, argued that state gun owners already pay their “fair share” in taxes.

  • But NRA clout in the Capitol isn’t what it used to be. As CALmatters reported earlier this year, 16 Democratic lawmakers have formed a first-ever working group on gun legislation.

Learn more about California’s tough gun laws here.


The other police shooting bill

A police-backed bill on deadly force faces a big test today.

Law enforcement-backed legislation to reduce police shootings in California faces its first vote today in the Capitol, as police groups seek to block toughened legal standards for the use of deadly force.

This will be an interesting vote, as CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall has reported in her Force of Law podcast.

  • Democrats dominate the Legislature, but for those in moderate districts, the issue pits civil rights and party unity against organized labor (police unions) and law-and-order constituents.
  • A bill by civil rights advocates that would enact a historic shift in standards passed its first committee earlier this month on a party-line vote.

The police-backed bill would keep existing standards, but give officers more training and require agencies to develop detailed policies on the use of deadly force.

  • Authored by Sen. Anna Caballero, a moderate Democrat from Salinas, it’s being heard in the Senate public safety committee, dominated by liberal Democrats from Berkeley, San Francisco and Los Angeles. As of Monday, Caballero wouldn’t predict whether it would pass.

 In a tweet Monday, the ACLU pressured Sen. Nancy Skinner, the Berkeley Democrat who chairs the public safety committee:

“The cops are trying to dupe #CAleg into keeping in place a law that lets them kill people even when they have alternatives. Sen. @NancySkinnerCA has the power to stop their fake reform in its tracks.”

Meanwhile, a letter from leading police groups tried the soft-sell: 

“To make real progress and enact lasting change, we must work together. We must replace fear and anger with empathy and understanding. We must make a genuine effort to understand what it is like to walk in each other’s shoes.”

Speaking of police shootings

Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove aims at bias.

Can prejudice be unlearned? Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove, a Democrat from Culver City, wants police officers—and doctors and judges and trial lawyers, among others—to receive ongoing training in how to check their own unconscious biases, and has introduced three bills to require that, The Los Angeles Times reports. 

  • “Implicit biases” refer to stereotypes and associations hardwired into human brains, even if we don’t harbor explicitly bigoted views.
  • Experts say tragic outcomes can result when police, prosecutors and even medical professionals unknowingly treat members of the public differently depending on their race, gender or sexual identity.

Kamlager-Dove to the Times: “No one likes to be told what to do and no one thinks they’re a racist, so the question I hear a lot is, ‘Why do we need this?’”

But it’s unclear whether these harmful associations can be eliminated with mere training, said Jack Glaser, a social psychology and policy researcher at UC Berkeley.

Glaser: “There is a lot of enthusiasm and zeal about implicit bias and it’s definitely real. It affects people’s behavior and causes discriminatory outcomes. But that doesn’t mean that these trainings are the way to spend resources…The truth is, this is just normal human cognition.”

Prop. 10—2.0

A rent control ballot measure will be back in 2020.

The organizers behind last year’s failed effort to let cities expand rent control are revving up for round two.

  • Michael Weinstein, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation head-turned-housing activist who backed Proposition 10, announced the new effort Monday morning.

The 2020 version will differ from original in some ways:

  • New rent control rules could not be applied to new buildings or to landlords who own fewer than three units.
  • Landlords could raise the rent after a tenant moves out, but only by 15%.

Timing is everything: A bill by Assemblyman Richard Bloom, a slightly less restrictive version of the proposed initiative, and an “anti-gouging” bill by San Francisco Assemblyman David Chiu go to committee hearings later this week.

Weinstein: “I feel like that with our initiative breathing down our necks that could be a motivation to do something.”

Proponents face an uphill battle, says Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, noting that “the burden of proof is always on the yes side,” and “most Californians” aren’t necessarily “most voters.”

Baldassare: “Most of the people who we view as likely voters are homeowners, so you’ve got to ultimately convince homeowners that it’s in their interest.”

Ta-ta tiny toiletries?

California's latest front in the war on single-use plastics.

California’s eco-minded lawmakers have a new target in their war on single-use plastics: Those tiny plastic shampoo bottles in hotel rooms.

Kalra: “We are addicted to plastic as a society.”

The bill is modeled on a Santa Cruz County ordinance that supervisors there passed unanimously last year.

  • Supervisor Zach Friend: “I don’t think we can expect the federal government to be leading the way on a lot of these issues anytime soon and so you’ll really mostly see the solutions at the local and state government level.”

Plastic isn’t the only ubiquitous consumer product experiencing a regulatory crackdown. A ban on obnoxiously long paper receipts is also working its way through the state Legislature. Find more on that effort here.

Graying California

Golden Staters are increasingly in their golden years.

What will life in California look like 10 years from now? Think Florida.

  • By 2030, one Californian in five will be over the age of 65. That’s a higher proportion of seniors than even in the Sunshine State, a place virtually synonymous with snowbird retirees.

So what’s life like for seniors now entering the golden years of their California Dream? As part of a two-year collaboration, reporters from CALmatters and the public radio stations KQED, KPCC, KPBS and Capital Public Radio chronicled the lives of 11 seniors confronting the challenges of aging in California.

  • Among those challenges? Life after driving, settling into your adult children’s backyards, continuing to work, not just because you love your job, but because you desperately need the paycheck. Plus, the graying of whole sectors of California, from agriculture to Skid Row.

Click here for digital and audio stories posting and airing in coming weeks on news sites and public radio.

Commentary at CALmatters

Why do bills to cut pollution keep dying in the Assembly?

Kathryn Phillips, Sierra Club California: One would expect to see growing devotion by the Democratic-led California Legislature to helping Californians access electric cars and cut pollution from delivery trucks. Instead, the California Assembly, specifically its transportation committee, has been the graveyard for legislation to help advance zero-emission vehicles.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Despite California’s status as a technological innovator, its state government has seen failure after failure in implementing information technology. Gov. Gavin Newsom is promising to fix this chronic problem.

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