Good morning, California.

Led by a drop in personal income tax payments, revenue fell “$2.2 billion below the 2019-20 Governor’s Budget forecast of $93.741 billion” for the general fund, used to fund most other programs including public schools.—California Department of Finance. The real test comes this time next month when April 15 tax collections are tallied.

Newsom focuses on drug prices

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to buy high-cost drugs in bulk.

Gov. Gavin Newsom marked his 100th day in office by focusing on a bread-and-butter issue: prescription drug prices.

Newsom was in Downey on Wednesday, where he and Los Angeles County Supervisors Hilda Solis and Janice Hahn announced plans to combine their negotiating power to drive down drug prices.

Newsom, as quoted in the L.A. Times: “I don’t want to overstate this, but I don’t want to understate this. This is a big deal.”

However, the Times’ Melody Gutierrez writes that Newsom has not released details on how the bulk-buying system would work, “leaving even the pharmaceutical companies he painted as opponents unable to comment substantively on the plan.”

And this from The Times: “The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office said it could not yet assess Newsom’s plan to consolidate the state’s purchases on high-cost drugs because there are too few details on how it will be implemented.”

Dem fundraising machine doesn't miss a beat

The California Democratic Party has still raised millions even though its leader stepped down last year.

The California Democratic Party’s lack of a permanent elected leader appears to have had little impact on its fundraising.

The state party and its county affiliates have raised $6.5 million in donations of $1,000 or more so far in 2019, compared with the California Republican Party’s $1.44 million in larger donations.

  • The Democratic Party raised money even though Eric Bauman stepped down as the Democratic Party’s chairman at the end of November, amid a staff uprising over allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior. The party won’t elect its new leader until delegates convene at the end of May.
  • The California GOP, meanwhile, settled its leadership issue by electing Jessica Patterson as its chair at the end of February.
  • Patterson was widely favored by donors. Though it lags badly behind the Democrats, the GOP’s fundraising appears to have picked up somewhat in the seven weeks since Patterson’s election.
  • Chevron was the GOP’s biggest donor, at $300,000, with all of it given in April. The San Ramon-based oil company gave no money to the Democratic Party.

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Realtors invest in Democratic Party

Realtors have given over $600,000 to the California Democratic Party in 2019.

The California Real Estate Association has been the largest single donor to the California Democratic Party so far in 2019.

  • Real estate donations have flowed as the Democratic-controlled Legislature prepares to vote on legislation intended to ease the housing crisis in a variety of ways, an issue that is top on Realtors’ priorities list.
  • Assembly committees will consider three bills next week intended to limit rent increases in various ways, including allowing local government to impose rent control. Realtors were among the leading opponents of a 2018 initiative that sought to allow more rent control.

Realtors long have been major contributors to both major parties. Campaign finance reports show that in the first quarter of 2019, Realtors gave to the state Democratic Party by contributing $610,000.

  • The Democrats’ second-largest donor, the California Teachers Association, accounted for $285,000. In many periods, the teachers’ union is the Democrats’ largest single donor.
  • Realtors gave the Democratic Party $1.5 million in the entire 2017-18 election cycle.
  • Realtors gave no money in the first three months of 2019 to the California Republican Party, after providing $1 million to the state GOP in the 2017-18 election cycle.

A step into history, not that long ago

Jack Tenney, left, with Sam Yorty, who would become Los Angeles mayor.

Over four years, whenever he had a few extra minutes, Bill Mabie, the recently retired chief of staff to Secretary of State Alex Padilla, would steal away to the California state archives to pick through documents, photos and index cards.

The result: an online exhibit into the California Un-American Activities Committee’s investigation into real and imagined Communists and other subversives.

  • The committee existed from 1941-1971, though records only became public in 2008. Mabie believes he’s the first person to dig deeply into its early years.
  • Mabie focused on Assemblyman Jack Tenney, a one-time lefty musician from of Glendale, who chaired the California Un-American Activities Committee. Its investigators would catalogue what they found on index cards, 125,000 in all.

A card for one Ronald Reagan, Screen Actors Guild president, includes a 1948 notation:

“Sponsored garden concert for West View interracial hospital at which Paul Robeson and Earl Robinson appeared.”

Mabie writes about Luisa Moreno, a Latina activist in San Diego who challenged Tenney over his efforts to “support segregation, oppose miscegenation, and to divide the Mexican community in Southern California.”

Mabie: “Tenney played a major role in her deportation.”

Seeing comparisons to politics today, Mabie called Tenney’s story “a lesson about unchecked power, and how people resisted.”

Tenney’s legacy: California still has a Tenney-authored law, circa 1947, that prohibits Communist Party members from serving in state government. It’s a zombie statute. The U.S. Supreme Court has deemed such laws are unconstitutional. In 2017, legislation to eliminate that provision failed, amid an outcry.

Legislator-landlords and the housing crisis

A Sacramento house rented out by Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty.

At least 30 lawmakers own one or more properties that generate income from tenants, receiving tens of thousands of dollars a year in rent checks, CALmatters’ Matt Levin and Elizabeth Castillo report.

Their report comes as legislators contemplate numerous steps to deal with California’s housing crisis, including rent control.

CALmatters could locate only one lawmaker who did not own a home: Assemblyman Todd Gloria, a Democrat from San Diego.

  • Bills to expand rent control, make evictions more difficult and provide other tenant protections have failed in recent years.
  • Tenant-advocacy groups believe the influence of the landlord lobby is their biggest obstacle. But their cause is probably not helped by having landlord-legislators.

Democratic Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Alameda has reintroduced a bill that would require landlords to give tenants a “just cause” for terminating their lease. That bill received only 16 votes, far short of the 41 needed to pass.

Bonta: “Well, if (the Legislature were) 100 percent currently renters, I probably would have got more than 16 votes.”

Commentary at CALmatters

Schools can save lives by managing threats in a coordinated and multi-disciplinary approach.

Vern Pierson, El Dorado County district attorney: Despite crime being at historic lows, school shootings doubled between 2013 and 2018. Appallingly, in each of these attacks, information known to school officials, law enforcement, counselors, friends and neighbors reasonably should have been used to prevent the attack. Assemblyman Kevin Kiley’s AB  1722 would require a common-sense approach to building best practices into our regional school safety plans to avert such shootings.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: As Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislators consider state tax increases, local government ballots are being loaded up with tax proposals and the jousting over them is becoming heated.

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