Good morning, California
“It’s his party these days, so when Trump weighs into the California gubernatorial primary, I think that has an impact on Republican voters.” — pollster Mark DiCamillo of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies, predicting Donald Trump’s choice for governor, Republican John Cox, and Democrat Gavin Newsom will take the top two spots in Tuesday’s primary.

Elon Musk plays with fire. Seriously.

Elon Musk's flamethrowers.

In time for summer fire season, billionaire Tesla founder Elon Musk is about to start legally selling flame-throwers, with support of gun owners.

Musk posted an Instagram  video of himself playing with the device and a caption: “I want to be clear that a flamethrower is a super terrible idea. Definitely don’t buy one. Unless you like fun.”

It’s part of a promotion for Musk’s Boring Co. and his vision for boring tunnels so people can avoid traffic by traveling via hyperloop.

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, a Los Angeles Democrat, was not amused and introduced a bill to restrict flame-throwers for recreational use. The gun lobby criticized the bill for criminalizing non-violent behavior.

CALmatters’ Robbie Short, picking through the hundreds of bills that died last week, discovered that the Assembly Appropriations Committee snuffed Santiago’s measure. Now, Musk is preparing to distribute  20,000 devices at $500 a copy, at “pickup parties.”

Nothing could possibly go wrong.


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A $120 million carrot for UC

The Assembly is offering a $120 million carrot to help the University of California pay down its pension debt on one condition: It stop offering new employees the choice of signing up for traditional defined benefit pensions, or 401(k)-style retirement plans with an 8 percent match from the university.

Why? Public employee unions oppose 401(k)-type plans, viewing them as a threat to the pension system that benefits their members. The Assembly, which generally sides with public employee unions, made the proposal in its version of the 2018-19 budget now being negotiated. UC President Janet Napolitano sent a letter to the Assembly Wednesday opposing the proposal.

The issue: UC has an $11 billion unfunded retirement liability. Since UC adopted the 401(k) option plan in 2016, 37 percent of new employees have chosen it. In September, CALmatters’ collaboration with the Los Angeles Times reported 5,400 UC retirees received pensions of more than $100,000 in 2016 and much of the tuition increase that year was used to pay the pension liability.

We’ve been here before: Sen. Steve Glazer, a Democrat from Orinda, proposed extending the idea to all state employees earlier this year. That measure failed in its first committee, amid united opposition by organized labor.

Questions: Will UC take a bite of the carrot? Will it have a choice?

A parting pay raise for prison officers

The Legislative Analyst Office reported that Gov. Jerry Brown has a “weak justification for large pay increase” after granting 27,000 correctional officers a 5 percent pay raise, the most since 2007.

Costs: The deal, detailed by The Sacramento Bee, would cost the state $116 million in the next fiscal year and $222 million in 2019-20.

Brown has reduced the number of prisoners to 126,000 from 151,000 in 2011 when he took office. However, the cost of prisons has escalated from about $8 billion in 2011 to an estimated $11.8 billion in the coming year.

The politics: The California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the union that represents correctional officers, generally has supported Brown’s policy and political endeavors.

Dan Walters: Jerry Brown’s parting gift

In his latest commentary, CALmatters’ Dan Walter focuses on the governor’s recent budget proposal, noting that Brown seems dead-set on storing billions in reserves as a parting gift to his successor, but he’ll likely give a little on spending to help legislators save face with their constituencies, especially if he can buy them off with some one-time appropriations.

Aid in dying law is in limbo

California’s aid in dying law is in limbo after a Riverside County judge once again rejected Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s attempt to revive it on Wednesday.

After years of attempts, California lawmakers approved legislation in 2015 allowing physicians in certain circumstances to prescribe drugs so patients could end their lives. The End of Life Options Act, patterned after one in Oregon, took effect in 2016.

Since then, at least 111 individuals have succumbed after ingesting drugs legally prescribed by physicians. Opponents sued contending the Legislature failed to follow proper procedure when it approved the legislation. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel A. Ottolia agreed earlier this month.

Where it stands: As of now, it is illegal for a physician to prescribe end-of-life drugs. The Mercury News reports Stanford, Kaiser Permanente, UC-San Francisco and California Pacific Medical Center among others are suspending access to the medication.

The Legislature could marshal votes to approve another bill. But that would suggest the state thinks opponents are correct. And such a law would not take effect until Jan. 1 at the earliest. But unless a court intervenes, the End of Life Options Act will remain on hold as the appeal proceeds.

What to make of the propositions

CALmatters’ Julie Cart unpacks two ballot measures on Tuesday’s ballot, including the most controversial, Proposition 70. A handful of Republicans last year orchestrated the measure in exchange for their votes to extend the cap-and-trade climate change program.

Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and Assemblyman Chad Mayes, a Republican from Yucca Valley, signed the ballot argument for Proposition 70. The California Democratic and Republican parties urge a no-vote.

Labor takes dialysis fight to the ballot

A union backing an initiative aimed at regulating 555 privately-owned dialysis centers qualified for the November ballot on Wednesday.

CALmatters’ David Gorn detailed the fight in the Legislature between Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West and dialysis providers, who say the initiative is an attempt to unionize their workers. There is an off-ramp.

The measure could be removed from the ballot if a compromise can be reached by late June. The 140,000 people who need dialysis probably would prefer a resolution.

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