Good morning, California.

Charter school advocates already are spending $9.5 million to elect former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa as  governor. On Wednesday, they disclosed they’re spending $2 million to elect Villaraigosa’s former aide, Marshall Tuck as California superintendent of public instruction. Public school unions back his opponent, Assemblyman Tony Thurmond, a Richmond Democrat.

An initiative funder’s sad hope

Grizzled veterans of the political wars though they are, Sacramento consultants Jeff Randle and Mitch Zak couldn’t help but feel a chill.

“It was surreal,” Zak said of the feeling he got when he saw the news flash Wednesday morning about the arrest of  the man variously identified as the East Side Rapist and Golden State killer, Joseph James DeAngelo.

In the early 2000s, the Legislature balked at expanding the collection and testing of felons’ DNA to aid in criminal investigations. California prosecutors turned to an initiative in a campaign managed by Randle and Zak and funded by Newport Beach developer Bruce E. Harrington.

In 1986, Harrington’s younger brother, Keith, a UC Irvine medical student, and his sister-in-law, Patti, were bludgeoned to death at their Laguna Hills home. Patti had been raped. Police linked the DNA from that crime to several other murders and rapes.



“It’s clear from my family’s point of view—my two brothers and myself—that the only realistic way we’re going to identify who killed Keith and Patti is through DNA technology,” Harrington told the Los Angeles Times in 2004.

Then: During the campaign, Zak recalled, Harrington would say that his goal was to wake up one morning and learn that the killer had been caught because of DNA database he helped to create.

Now: Harrington was front and center at a press conference in Sacramento on Wednesday held by Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and Sheriff Scott Jones to announce that thanks to a DNA match, deputies had arrested the suspected killer, DeAngelo, 72, a former police officer in Placer and Tulare counties.

Harrington told reporters that the arrest vindicates his efforts to bring DNA testing to the forefront of forensic science in California. Addressing politicians who had stood in the way of establishing the database, Harrington said: “You were wrong.”

Facts to come: Certainly Harrington’s effort has helped lead to many arrests. But for now, law enforcement has not revealed how DeAngelo came to their attention. That will become known as the case progresses.

What college campuses need

CALmatters’ Felicia Mello explores what many California State University student leaders see as the most pressing problem: better mental health care. Legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown are preparing a final budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year. And advocates including the Steinberg Institute, which advocates for better mental health care, are seeking more money. The need is real. The onset of serious mental illness often begins in young adulthood, and “here we have these institutions that could absolutely be identifying this early on,” the Steinberg Institute’s Deborah Anderluh told Mello.

Recession’s impact lingers

The Great Recession is a bad memory for many Californians. But its impact lingers, CALmatters’ Dan Walters points out in his latest commentary. The U.S. Department of Labor issued a report showing California still owes Uncle Sam billions for loans it took out to prop up the Unemployment Insurance fund. It was a miserable time and remains so a decade later.

Ruffling feathers

The California Legislature has run afoul of the French and Canadian governments, and some homegrown libertarians.

The history: In 2004, then-Senate President Pro Tem John Burton carried legislation banning the production or sale in California of foie gras made with the French method of force-feeding geese and ducks by sticking tubes down their throats. Once the ban took effect in 2012, foie gras producers sued, contending Congress, not any single state, regulates poultry production.

The courts: The San Francisco-based U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the state last year. That prompted Canadian duck and goose farmers to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The French and Canadian governments and the libertarian Reason Foundation based in Los Angeles filed briefs urging the court to hear the case. The Supreme Court will decide that after California Attorney General Xavier Becerra files the state’s brief in May defending the ban.

“It is an ominous trend,” Reason’s attorney, Manuel Klausner, said of California’s efforts to regulate commerce, and what we eat.

Burton, a San Francisco Democrat who long had been offended by the French method of fattening birds’ livers, recalled the salty doggerel he wrote to then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger urging that he sign the bill. You can readily guess the word I left blank: “[blank] Wolfgang Puck. Save Donald Duck.”

Schwarzenegger signed the bill. Puck remains in business, but a Sonoma foie gras farmer shut down.

Why it matters: California has passed many laws regulating farm products, including a 2008 initiative regulating the size of chicken cages. Such laws could be in jeopardy if the high court were to rule against California’s right to ban foie gras sales and production.

Foie gras is not vegan

State institutions and health facilities strive to provide patients with meals that meet their dietary needs, habits and customs. Now, Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley Democrat, is carrying a bill to require thatCalifornia prison, hospitals and nursing homes offer patients and prisoners plant-based or vegan diets. Skinner has amassed a long list of supporters, among them the Tofurky Company and other advocates of a vegetarian lifestyle. Republicans are voting for it, too. It’s a California thing.

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