Pour yourself another cup, California.

“Through extensive research and intense scientific scrutiny, coffee has been shown to reduce the risk of some cancers and has not been shown to increase the risk of any cancer.” — California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, rejecting any need for a warning under Proposition 65, the 1986 law that requires warnings on toxins thought to cause cancer and birth defects.

Ontario tosses a wrench in cap and trade program

Gov. Jerry Brown signed cap-and-trade legislation last year, as Arnold Schwarzenegger looked on.

A populist’s victory in the Canadian province of Ontario could affect California’s cap-and-trade program, as legislators and Gov. Jerry Brown prepare to divvy up $1.8 billion in revenue from the program this week.

Brown will take a slice for high-speed rail. Other money likely will go for fire prevention. Projects must lower greenhouse-gas emissions, although any reduction from high-speed rail would come years from now.

As explained by CALmatters’ Julie Cart, polluters subject to the cap and trade—think oil refineries—pay to offset the impact of their emissions.

Complications: Doug Ford, a conservative, won election as premier in Canada’s most populous province on June 7 and says his first act will be to end Ontario’s involvement in the cap-and-trade program. That would leave Quebec as California’s only partner.

Brown hailed Ontario’s decision to join last September, saying it’d help “create an expanded and dynamic carbon market, which will drive down greenhouse gas emissions.”

Gas tax politics: Ford saw the cap-and-trade “scheme” as a pocketbook issue, saying it adds 4.3 cents to the cost of a liter of gasoline, or 16.25 cents per gallon. Voters clearly agreed.

Stanley Young of the California Air Resources Board, which oversees the program, said in a statement Sunday that California and Quebec remain focused on making “certain that the program continues to reduce climate-changing gases as a crucial part of our efforts to combat the existential threat of climate change.

P.S. Cap-and-trade adds 11 cents to the price of a gallon of gasoline in California.

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An initiative deluge. Or not

Hiram Johnson, father of California initiatives. (Courtesy Zócalo Public Square)

Voters could decide on no fewer than a dozen statewide initiatives in November, making for a lengthy ballot and costly campaigns.

You’ve probably heard about the proposals to carve California into three states, expand privacy rights and repeal the 12-cent per gallon gasoline-tax increase. Others would open the way for more rent control, alter property taxes and authorize a $9 billion water bond.

They all reflect their funders’ interests, if not eccentricities. Animal-rights activists want more protection for farm animals. Labor is seeking to regulate conditions for ambulance workers and limit profits at kidney dialysis clinics. Paint companies hope to avoid liability for lead toxicity in their past products.

The history: Since Gov. Hiram Johnson introduced the idea of direct democracy to California in 1911, promoters have proposed almost 2,000 initiatives. Only 376 have made it to a ballot. Voters approved 132, or 35 percent of those.

The count: Four measures have qualified for November. County registrars are vetting petitions for nine more to see if they bear enough valid signatures of registered voters.

The caveat: Legislators are trying to find common ground with advocates of the paint and privacy proposals, and probably others, to avert unnecessary campaigns. The secretary of state has set June 28 as the drop-dead date for placing statewide measures on the fall ballot.

Initiatives as weapons

A union that uses ballot measures to win concessions from hospitals has spent no less than $30.8 million on initiatives since 2012, campaign finance records show.

Evidently, the return on investment is high.

The Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West has ultimately withdrawn some of those measures without putting them on ballots. That might seem like a waste. It’s not.

Most notably, the union dropped a 2016 initiative to raise the minimum wage after Gov. Jerry Brown signed compromise legislation raising the minimum wage.

The Sacramento Bee quoted union leader Dave Regan: The union spent $1.6 million to qualify the initiative. The 90,000 workers who belong to the union would eventually get many times that amount in higher wages. Ballot measures, he said, are “the best bargain in American politics.”

Busy year: Regan’s union qualified an initiative for November to regulate profits at kidney dialysis clinics, as it tries to organize workers at those centers, CALmatters’ David Gorn and Elizabeth Aguilera recently reported.

It’s pushing a dialysis measure in Ohio; local measures in Palo Alto and Livermore to regulate profits at Stanford University Medical Center branches; and one to raise wages and staffing at two Pomona hospitals.

Union spokesman Sean Wherley: “These are initiatives that serve the purpose of improving health care access, lowering the cost of health care and improving conditions for workers.”

Democratic consultant David Townsend, who battles the union: “They’re not getting traction in the old-fashioned way. So they are attempting to use the initiative process to leverage companies and organizations” to help with organizing.

An initiative stumbles

An anti-crime initiative that would raise penalties for theft and expand the collection of DNA seems to have fallen short of qualifying, at least for 2018.

The problem: Proponents say it still could qualify. Perhaps. But they submitted their petitions late, giving county officials too little time before the June 28 deadline to verify that the signatures are from registered voters.

Dana Williamson, who had been preparing to run the campaign against the initiative: “It’s just math. … They hope the counties will do them a favor and count them really fast. But that would set a really bad precedent.”

Pushed by county prosecutors and Assemblyman Jim Cooper, a Democrat from Elk Grove, the initiative would reverse aspects of Proposition 47, the 2014 measure promoted by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom that reduced penalties for theft and drug possession.

Proposition 47’s impact: A Public Policy Institute of California study shows Proposition 47 probably led to an increase in car break-ins, but not more violent crimes and no overall crime increase.

P.S. Although the measure may not make it this year, it could resurface in 2020.

Walters: Politics isn’t tiddlywinks

CALmatters commentator Dan Walters writes that what happened to two state lawmakers in the June 5 primary is a reminder that politics is a rough business. After casting tough votes in the Legislature, one was recalled and another lost his race. It wasn’t pretty.

Walters: “No, it’s not tiddlywinks.”

Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union-Tribune return to local ownership

Billionaire Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong will take ownership of The Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune today from Chicago-based Tronc.

The headline in Sunday’s Times: “A new era of Times ownership.”

The Chandler family sold The Times to Chicago-based Tribune Company in 2000. The first five years were great. The last 13 were turbulent, although Times’ journalists continued to do amazing work.

Soon-Shiong’s letter to readers: “I believe that fake news is the cancer of our times and social media the vehicles for metastasis. Institutions like The Times and the Union-Tribune are more vital than ever. They must be bastions of editorial integrity and independence if they are to protect our democracy and provide an antidote to disinformation.”

We at CALmatters wish them nothing but success.


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