Good morning, California.

“If the rains come gentle and slow, we won’t have a big problem. If the rains come hard, we’ll have a problem.”—Chris Holbeck, a National Park Service employee overseeing the Carr Fire response, concerned about winter mudslides in fire-scorched hillsides.

From water policy to ‘water grab’

Congressman Jeff Denham at the Capitol.

A state plan to shift some of the San Joaquin River water flow toward struggling fisheries and away from farms brought hundreds of people and ag region politicians to the Capitol on Monday, in campaign mode.

Jog my memory: The State Water Resources Control Board in July proposed dedicating more river water to the environment and less to farms, industry, and individuals. The board delayed a vote set for this week so the sides could negotiate a voluntary settlement.

Republican and Democratic candidates took turns leading a crowd of several hundred people in chants of “Stop the water grab.”

Congressman Jeff Denham, a Turlock Republican, faces a well-funded foe, Josh Harder, and is a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee target.

Denham told me: “There is not a more important issue. If he is going to side with those who take our water, this won’t be a competitive race.”

Harder, who didn’t attend, sent me a statement: “The Bay Delta Plan imperils the Central Valley—risking billions of dollars and thousands of jobs in agriculture.”

Assemblyman Adam Gray, a Modesto Democrat who took the lead organizing the rally: The water board is “completely out of touch with reality.”

Assembly Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Anna M. Caballero, a Salinas Valley Democrat who hopes to win a Republican-held state Senate seat: “If we don’t get a seat at the table, they’re going to have to deal with us.”

What’s next: More of this issue—in campaign commercials.

Meanwhile: In D.C., Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is demanding a plan by the end of the month to maximize water supply deliveries to irrigation districts south of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the Sacramento Bee reported.


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One fire fix that actually might happen 

Lawmakers have dashed utilities’ hopes of easing their liability for wildfires. But one aspect of the fire problem seems likely to be addressed this session: undead trees.

Remind me: Overgrown forests, particularly in the Sierra, fuel California’s wildfire problem, thanks to decades of fire suppression and lack of logging. Plus, drought and bark beetle infestations have killed an estimated 129 million trees. A Senate-Assembly conference committee on wildfires sees a natural target.

Assembly Republican Leader Brian Dahle of the Lassen County town of Bieber and a member of the committee: “If you take fuel away from the fire, you don’t have a fire. That’s the one thing we agree on.”

Dahle is allied with Democratic Assemblyman Jim Wood who represents Sonoma County and is also on the fire committee.

Wood told me he is seeking $300 million a year in cap-and-trade revenue to prevent wildfires in a variety of ways, including removing dead trees and easing logging restrictions on private land. Fires emit huge amounts of greenhouse gas, as do decaying forests.

Bottom line: Some of the worst fires in state history occurred in Wood’s and Dahle’s districts, including the devastating wine country blaze of 2017 and this year’s Carr fire near Redding. Given that, the allies carry outsized sway over the debate.


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The start of a beautiful friendship?

Consultant Joe Trippi with Sen. Kevin de León.

Democratic campaign consultant Joe Trippi, a veteran of presidential, gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races, happened to be on the state Senate floor Monday, and Sen. Kevin de León seized an opportunity to chat.

“Is that who I was talking to?” Trippi deadpanned after leaving the floor.

De León on whether Trippi would help his underfunded campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein: “He expressed interest.”

Does de León share that interest? “I would love it. I respect his work.”

Trippi was visiting with an old friend from San Jose State, Sen. Jim Beall. Trippi worked on the San Jose Democrat’s first city council race before leaving to work on Sen. Ted Kennedy’s 1980 presidential race.

Trippi, accustomed to longshots, is working on Democratic races in Oklahoma and Mississippi and helped elect Alabama Democrat Doug Jones last year to the U.S. Senate. He’s also giving strategic advice to the Yes-on-Proposition 10 campaign to allow California local governments to expand rent control, against what he called “corporate rental companies.”

“I’m sure they’re going to take a lot of the profits from rent money and spend it fighting renters.”

Money matters: The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the main funder of Proposition 10, has given $10.1 million to the campaign since July 1. Apartment owners and related businesses have donated $26 million and counting to defeat it.

Walters: Legislature’s sneaky ways

CALmatters commentator Dan Walters writes about the Legislature’s “sneakiest procedures” in the last days of the legislative session. Among them: so-called budget trailer bills. Though the budget was signed into law in June, 11 new trailer bills popped up last week, some budgetary, others merely expedient.

The result? “A distortion that becomes more egregious every year.”

Commentary: Animal testing legislation

Legislation by Sen. Cathleen Galgiani would ban the sale of lipstick, shampoo and other personal care products in California that have been tested on animals. The pro: Kristie Sullivan of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine says the California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act, would make California the first state to address a decidedly un-beautiful problem. The con: California Retailers Association’s Bill Dombrowski says the bill would advance neither animal nor consumer welfare.

Everybody’s gone surfin’

Surfers in Orange County.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Monday declaring the official state sport of California to be surfing.

“I’m stoked that we’re celebrating an iconic sport.”—Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, a Torrance Democrat who co-authored the bill with Assemblyman Ian Calderon, a Democrat from Whittier and fellow enthusiast.

Brown offered no words of wisdom by way of a signing message. What’s the Latin phrase for hang loose?

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, dmorain@calmatters.org, 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.