Good morning, California.

“I don’t mean to sound disrespectful. But if point-two percent of the California population is even aware of who Eric Bauman was or what happened to him, I would be shocked.”—Democratic consultant Garry South, dismissing the notion that allegations against the former California Democratic Party chairman will harm the party in 2020.

Clearing the air on emissions

Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols , left, is taking on the auto industry.

Even if she can’t ban internal combustion engines, California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols can deliver a message to the auto industry.

Nichols has been among the state’s leaders fighting Trump administration attempts to roll back auto-emission standards and revoke California’s authority to reduce smog by requiring that cars sold here meet California emission standards.

In remarks written for a workshop last week, Nichols warned that California could respond to Trump with “an outright ban on internal combustion engines.” Nichols softened her delivered remarks somewhat, and later told Becker:

“Ban—it’s not a word that we use, and we don’t like to use it. But sometimes, we perhaps have to make a point. And the message here was intended to be heard by the auto industry.”

Auto executives are in a bind of their own making. They pleaded for Trump’s help to soften Obama administration emission rules, then tried to distance themselves after he met their request and they faced blowback.

Now, they seem to view Nichols’ talk of a ban as hyperbole. That could be another miscalculation.

  • Assemblyman Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat, introduced a bill to ban registration of gas-powered vehicles by 2040. That bill stalled. But few bills actually die. Look for Ting’s idea to reemerge in the years ahead.
  • Trump, after all, remains a foil for California Democrats.

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This water fight should end fast

A display at a clean-water rally at the Capitol

A million Californians don’t have clean water when they turn on their taps. Most live in farm towns like East Orosi, as the New York Times detailed last week. And no policymaker doubts there is a problem.

The question: How to raise the money to fix the problem. The cost of a solution is pegged at $140 million a year. That should be easy in a $213 billion budget. It’s not, evidently.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom, some environmentalist activists and some Assembly Democrats advocate a relatively small tax to be paid by all water users, including low-income Californians, plus several million from farmers and dairy operators whose fertilizers and waste have fouled the aquifers.
  • Senate Democrats see a tax as toxic, this after Josh Newman of Fullerton lost his seat last year over his vote to raise gasoline taxes to pay for road repairs.

The Senate’s two-step solution:

  • Sen. Bill Monning, a Democrat from Carmel, is carrying Senate Bill 200 to establish a fund and get the money to needy water districts starting July 1.
  • The Senate Budget Committee proposes using a fraction of the $20 billion-plus surplus to take $150 million a year from the general fund for the clean-up. No new tax would be needed.

Senate and Assembly budget conference committee members will resolve the difference as they work to get a budget to Newsom by the Legislature’s June 15 deadline.

  • This fight should end quickly, without a tax, if advocates take yes for an answer.

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Democrats' turmoil

The California Democratic Party will hold is annual convention this weekend.

Despite #MeToo lawsuits, infighting and a leadership fight, the California Democratic Party seems to be doing just fine as it heads into its annual convention in San Francisco this weekend.

CALmatters’ Ben Christopher reports on how the state’s dominant political organization is at the height of its political power, and at a low point, as delegates prepare to welcome presidential candidates and elect a new chair after Eric Bauman stepped down in disgrace.

  • Will the turmoil damage the party’s brand, or jeopardize its chances in 2020? To read the assessment of smart of people, please click here.

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FSB Core Strategies: Public Affairs. Ballot Campaigns. Legislative & Regulatory Fights


Bill-killing season

This week will be a dangerous time for bills.

It’s obituary season for legislation. The end of this month marks the halfway point on the Capitol calendar and the deadline by which bills must pass in their house of origin if they’re to become law.

  • Many bills are already shelved, of course, dispatched without even a hearing or left to rot in the so-called “suspense file.” But that’s just the first round. Between now and May 31, reams of potential state laws will join the roster of the rejected.

Early casualties so far include a proposed ban on flavored tobacco products. CALmatters is tracking. Click here to follow along.

And keep hope alive. Some measures still moving ahead in the process have repeatedly been killed in past years.

Toward ‘debt-free’ college

Legislators want to reshape California's student financial aid system.

Two bills intended to reshape and expand California’s student financial aid system cleared major hurdles last week.

  • Lawmakers supporting the legislation cited concerns about homelessness and food insecurity among students as they try to chart a course toward “debt-free” college.
  • CALmatters higher education reporter Felicia Mello is working with student journalists to track the fate of legislation related to the cost of college. To read the latest updates, please click here.

Wrongly convicted and uncompensated

Those wrongly convicted must fight for the compensation they are owed.

By law, California must pay people wrongfully convicted $140 for each day they spent behind bars.

But as the L.A. Times’ Anita Chabria reports, receiving that money requires them first to prove to a state board that they are “more likely than not” innocent of the crime.

That can take years and often ends with a denial.

  • Chabria details the case of Maurice Caldwell, who spent 7,494 days in prison for a second-degree murder conviction that was overturned in 2011, in part because another man confessed to the crime. He has spent eight years fighting the state for compensation, without success.
  • He was living in an extended-stay hotel in Sacramento when Chabria caught up with him. That stay will end when his money runs out at the end of the month. California historically has provided exonerees with less support than paroled felons.

Commentary at CALmatters

Mike MalesCenter on Juvenile and Criminal JusticeIn 2016, fewer than 6% of California adolescents reported trying cigarettes, down from 19% in 2003. Why on earth did legislators feel the need to intervene in such a hugely positive youth trend? For no apparent reason, they did. The results aren’t pretty.

Michael WebsterSouthern California Public Power Authority: Senate Bill 772 by Sen. Steven Bradford, a Gardena Democrat, would force publicly owned utilities and their ratepayers to pay for pumped hydropower storage, even if the utilities and their ratepayers don’t need it and would receive no benefit from it.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Donald Trump closes the book by California’s “Shrimpgate” scandal by pardoning former Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan.

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

See you tomorrow.