Good morning, California.

“For the record, I am not paying—nor have I paid—Mr. Cohen’s legal bills.”— Tom Steyer, the San Francisco billionaire pushing for President Trump’s impeachment, on Twitter Wednesday. House Republicans, asserting a vast left-wing conspiracy, had asked former Trump fixer Michael Cohen again and again whether Steyer was the unseen hand behind his testimony against the president this week.  

High anxiety over weed licenses

Lawmakers on Newsom administration: 'Do they want to make this market work?'

The Capitol was not chill as legislators rushed this week to extend 10,000 soon-to-expire temporary commercial weed licenses before newly legal growers get shoved back into the black market. 

  • On Wednesday, a Senate committee unanimously approved legislation by Sen. Mike McGuire, who represents North Coast counties where the product is cultivated. The legal weed industry is backing the bill, as well.

Terra Carver of the Humboldt County Growers Alliance, as quoted by Marijuana Business Daily: “Without passage of this bill, there will be dire consequences, such as the imminent market collapse of hundreds of businesses.”

The backlog at the California Department of Food and Agriculture, which is responsible for licensing growers, prompted questions from McGuire and Senate Business and Professions Committee Chair Steve Glazer. 

  • Crickets. No one from the department appeared at the committee hearing.

Glazer: “I’m a little baffled” by the department’s absence. “Do they want to make this market work?”

It will take a decade to bring the commercial cannabis industry into the mainstream of government regulation, McGuire guesses. As a first step, he said: “We need to have the administration engage on this issue.”

  • That would be the administration of Gov. Gavin Newsom, the main proponent of the 2016 initiative that legalized the commercial sale of cannabis.

A Department of Food & Ag spokeswoman late Wednesday emailed me saying the CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division’s top priority is to process licenses. But it can take “several months to process an application,” in part because state officials must make sure growers are not violating local restrictions.

Judicial board slams ex-AG candidate

Republican Steven C. Bailey is banned from serving as a judicial officer.

Republican Steven C. Baileythe retired El Dorado County Superior Court judge who lost the attorney general’s race last year to Democrat Xavier Becerra, has been censured by a state judicial panel for improperly using his position to promote his ill-fated campaign.   

  • The Commission on Judicial Performance, an arm of the court system that disciplines judges, offered its verdict Wednesday, issuing a scathing 43-page ruling permanently banning Bailey from serving as a judicial officer. 

The commission: Bailey is “a judge who plays by his own rules with little concern for whether his conduct comports with the rules applicable to all judges under the Code of Judicial Ethics.”

As a judge, Bailey violated canons in a variety of ways including by:

  • Ordering defendants facing alcohol-related crimes to wear ankle bracelets that monitor alcohol consumption, without disclosing his son worked for the company that supplied the monitors.
  • Bragging to other judges that his clothes were “snappy” because he bought them from a gay salesperson in France.

As a candidate, he violated canons by:

  • Meeting privately with a building industry lobbyist and suggested he would take an industry-friendly view of environmental law.
  • Distributing donation envelopes that referred to him as a judge.
  • Using photos of himself in judicial robes in campaign material.

Bailey contended free speech rights protected his campaign efforts, and called the decision “a political hit by a Democrat-dominated commission designed to damage me politically.”

  • Becerra trounced Bailey, with 63.6 percent of the vote to the judge’s 36.4 percent.

Money matters: The decision has no effect on Bailey’s retirement, which he took in 2017 in a lump sum of $409,408. He served eight years on the bench.

A bipartisan tax bill—on opioids

Lawmakers wants drug makers to help pay for 'a problem they helped create.'

In the Capitol, Democrats are the ones who advocate for state taxes. But Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher, who represents Butte County, is joining one of the most liberal Democrats, Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, to propose legislation that would impose a fee on opioid manufacturers and wholesalers.

  • The proposal: Opioid makers and distributors would pay fees based on their share of the opioid market, with the goal of raising $100 million a year earmarked specifically for addiction prevention and rehabilitation. The fee would sunset in 2028.

Gallagher: “I make the taxpayer argument. Right now, taxpayers are picking up the full freight. … I believe manufacturers should be required to provide some help with a problem they helped create.”

The GOP Assemblyman cannot think of another tax he has supported since his 2014 election. But his Northern California district is centered in Chico where one man died and 12 others overdosed on fentanyl at a single party last month.

Gallagher: “We have a real problem on our hands. … Regular, everyday people finding themselves addicted. It is your friend next door. It is your buddy from college.”

What’s ahead: Expect the pharmaceutical industry to come out in force against it. If the Legislature can levy a fee on one class of drugs, others would be next.

Newsom and Trump shake

Newsom reportedly told Trump he hopes to work together on the bullet train.

Gov. Gavin Newsom shook President Trump’s hand at the White House Sunday and told his Twitter foil that he hopes to “work together on high speed rail,” Newsom’s chief of staff Ann O’Leary told reporters Wednesday.

  • Newsom’s overture occurred as governors dined at the White House, and after Newsom announced he wants to scale back the bullet train project. That prompted Trump to refuse to release almost $1 billion earmarked for it and attempt to claw back another $2.5 billion recently. 

Newsom is preparing to sue the Trump administration over its plan to cut funds for family planning, cancer screening and other health services to any organization (read Planned Parenthood) that offers abortion services, O’Leary told a Public Policy Institute of California gathering.

O’Leary: “That is unconstitutional. That’s not okay. And we are going to fight that, too.”  

The suit would be California’s 47th against the Trump Administration—not counting the litigation certain to come if Trump follows through on his threat to cancel payments for high-speed rail.

Commentary at CALmatters

On public records, whom does the attorney general stand for?

John Temple, Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism: The Investigative Reporting Program and Investigative Studios filed records requests asking the Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training to identify officers who committed crimes. The department responded by sending us spreadsheets with 12,000 names. Three weeks later, Xavier Becerra’s office sent letter demanding their return.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: The state Supreme Court drew a line between employees and contractors, and now the issue is a hot one for the Legislature.

Erratum: On Monday, WhatMatters said the California Republican Party’s new chair, Jessica Patterson, is the first Latina to lead either major party and the first woman. California Democrats elevated Alexandra Gallardo-Rooker as interim party chairwoman after Eric Bauman resigned in November. The party will elect a new chair at its convention later this year.

Please email or call with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected]org, 916.201.6281. Shawn Hubler, [email protected]edits WhatMatters. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.