Good morning, California.

House Speaker Paul Ryan may not care about California potholes and doesn’t have to pay the new gas tax for road repairs. But the Wisconsin Republican has given $50,000 to a proposed initiative to repeal the new 12-cent-per-gallon gasoline tax, evidently believing it will draw Republicans to the polls in November and help the GOP keep control of the House.

Marijuana jumps into the Capitol mainstream

New legislation to expand marijuana delivery service cleared a hurdle Wednesday. More bills are coming. 

The growing clout of the marijuana lobby was on full display Wednesday as dozens of lobbyists and cannabis aficionados filled a Capitol hearing room to advocate for legislation that would allow deliveries pizza-style to users’ doors.

The bill passed despite opposition from local government representatives who fear they will lose control over what happens.

CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall was there to report on the hearing, but also has been digging into political donations by the cannabis industry.

Eric Bauman, California Democratic Party chairman: “I’m sure we will (continue) soliciting (donations) from the cannabis industry. It’s a legal industry in California. It’s not one that hurts the environment, it’s not undermining our society. So we welcome their dollars.”

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the front-runner in the race for governor, has raised more money from cannabis interests than any other California politician: at least $495,000 as of April. Newsom championed the legalization ballot measure and now talks about California rejecting the “war on marijuana.”

Sen. Ricardo Lara, a Bell Gardens Democrat who is running for insurance commissioner, is the author of the bill debated Wednesday. He has taken at least $18,900 from cannabis interests.

Money talks: By hiring blue chip lobby firms and strategically giving money to candidates’ campaigns, cannabis interests are taking their place as one of the Capitol’s big-time players.

When your doctor is a machine

Sooner or later, California legislators will need to grapple with the use of artificial intelligence in medicine and law.

The California Medical Association is urging that it be sooner, as is the Center of Public Interest Law at the University of San Diego. They’ve delivered a letter Wednesday asking that legislators hold hearings into the legal and ethical issues raised by the use of AI to provide patient care and legal counsel.

The letter estimates that AI could replace 100,000 jobs in the legal profession in 20 years, and notes that it’s already able to render medical diagnoses.

Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Mark Stone, a Democrat from Scotts Valley, told me it’s a “a reasonable request.” He also noted: “This place doesn’t work well unless there is a crisis.”

As if anticipating legislators’ response, Bridget Fogarty Gramme, of the Center for Public Interest Law, told me earlier: “Let’s do this before there are headlines that people are dying,”

Hard questions: AI provides the promise of greater access to health care and the law, perhaps at a lower cost. But will individuals or corporations control the machines? There’s a state prohibition on the corporate practice of medicine. If machines make a mistake, what recourse do patients and clients have and how would they be insured? Legislators will need to establish boundaries.


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Decision time for carmakers

In his latest commentary, CALmatters’ Dan Walters unravels California’s latest lawsuit against the Trump administration and says this environmental fight hinges in no small part on what automakers want.

My take: Carmakers tread carefully. If they are seen as siding with Trump by advocating for poorer gas mileage and greater emissions, they could alienate many California consumers. As Walters notes, California is a huge market.

GOP condemns Republican candidate

The California Republican Party is condemning a U.S. Senate candidate who fared well in an online poll, but espouses anti-Semitic views in tweets and on a website.

Patrick Little lists himself in the state’s official handbook as a Republican “civil rights advocate.” A new SurveyUSA poll showed Little in second place, behind Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic incumbent.

Newsweek quoted Little saying “he admires Adolf Hitler, and would prefer to see Jewish Americans deported to Israel. He falsely denied that the genocide of Jews took place during World War II and incorrectly suggested that Germany was not an aggressor during that conflict.”

California GOP spokesman Matt Fleming responded: “… we condemn anti-Semitism and any other form of religious bigotry, just as we do with racism, sexism or anything else that can be construed as a hateful point of view.”

SurveyUSA President Jay Leve: “I cannot account for why he has the votes he has.”

But why? There are polls and then there are polls. SurveyUSA is an online survey that presents the names and party affiliation of the candidates, nothing more. Respondents didn’t know Little’s views but did know he wasn’t Feinstein.

Speaker Rendon on Cristina Garcia

On Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon tweeted that the investigation into Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia is not complete. That was a response to what I was told on Tuesday, that the sex harassment investigation was over.

Garcia, a Democrat from Bell Gardens, took a leave of absence at the start of February amid allegations that she sexually harassed staff and a lobbyist. The Assembly began investigating Garcia in January. This is May.

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