Good morning, California.

Former Gov. Jerry Brown will help launch the California-China Climate Policy Institute at UC Berkeley, the Sacramento Bee reports. Details to come, but Brown remains focused on combatting climate change.

Uber, Lyft form alliance

Uber and Lyft have joined to combat Assembly Bill 5.

Rival rideshare companies Uber and Lyft are joining forces to kill legislation that would turn drivers and many other gig workers into employees, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The companies intend to mobilize 100,000-plus drivers into sending emails imploring legislators to reject Assembly Bill 5, a measure that would make clear that many gig workers must become employees.

  • The bill, which awaits a Senate vote, would put into statute a 2018 California Supreme Court decision, Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles, that says many gig workers must be classified as employees.
  • The decision and legislation threaten the business model of Uber, Lyft and many other companies that depend on independent contractors. Organized labor views the issue as key to unions’ future and one that will define work in the years to come.

San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, the bill’s author and a labor ally: “Uber and Lyft haven’t presented a reason why they can’t treat workers like employees.”

Uber Chief Executive Officer Dara Khosrowshahi, Lyft CEO Logan Green and Lyft President John Zimmer wrote in a Chronicle op-ed:

“Speak with drivers, and they will tell you they are attracted to the work because of the flexibility it affords. Very few jobs allow you to start or stop working whenever, wherever, as often as you want.”

What’s ahead: The fight over AB 5 will be one of the most consequential of the 2019-20 legislative session.


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

Details aside, budget headed for approval

California's budget will be approved soon.

Legislators are expected to approve a new $213 billion budget today, even though Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislators have not resolved differences.

Among the unanswered questions:

  • Will legislators impose a new tax of up to 80 cents per phone line to upgrade the 911 emergency system. Such a tax could generate $400 million.
  • Will they support Newsom’s plan to bring state tax law into conformity with parts of the feds’ 2017 Tax Cut and Jobs Act enacted by a Republican Congress and signed into law by President Trump.
  • That would generate more than $1 billion, to be used to expand the earned income tax credit for low-income workers. Measures that raise taxes require two-thirds votes, a high hurdle.

Some legislators are grumbling about spending $130 million to clean unsafe drinking water by using revenue generated by the cap-and-trade program—money that is supposed to be used to combat climate change.

And the L.A. Times’ Liam Dillon writes: Newsom and legislative leaders have agreed to roughly $1 billion in spending to fight California’s growing homelessness problem, but they haven’t yet decided how to divvy up much of that money.

  • Bottom line: By law, the Legislature must approve a new budget by June 15. Given its size, pork is spread throughout the spending plan for individual legislators.
  • Because the budget itself can be passed by a simple majority, legislators almost certainly will approve it, and put off until coming days votes on tax increases.


Cannabis behind bars

Inmates are allowed to possess cannabis.

Proposition 64, the 2016 initiative that legalized marijuana, permits prison inmates to possess cannabis. Although they’d face a felony if they smoke it, they probably could vape it or rub it on themselves, a California Court of Appeal has ruled.

Justice Vance Raye, appointed by Republican Gov. George Deukmejian, wrote the opinion Tuesday for the three-judge panel of the 3rd District Court of Appeal in Sacramento.

  • Five current or former inmates of Folsom and other state prisons were caught with small amounts of pot.
  • A trial judge found they committed a crime.
  • The Court of Appeal reversed the lower court, citing the initiative’s “plain language.”

Proposition 64 does not repeal “laws pertaining to smoking or ingesting cannabis or cannabis products” in a prison. But the initiative says nothing about possession being illegal, the justices wrote.

The court: “A result is not absurd because the outcome may be unwise.”

And although it’s illegal for inmates to smoke or ingest pot, they could use it “as a non-burning vapor” or apply it “topically such that it is absorbed through the skin,” the decision said.

“Judges cannot rewrite the statutes to conform to either our, or the Attorney General’s, notion of wise drug policy.”

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation is reviewing the decision, and issued a statement:

“… [W]e want to be clear that drug use and sales within state prisons remains prohibited. CDCR is committed to providing a safe, accountable environment for prisoners and staff alike…”


Going sideways over weed rush

Santa Barbara has become a destination for pot growers.

Santa Barbara County, famous for his beautiful people, lovely coast and fine wine, is getting attention as being the center of pot growing.

The Times quotes Hezekiah Allen, a cannabis lobbyist in Sacramento, as noting that 1,100 acres of cannabis could supply all the demand in the state. By the end of May, the Times reported, Santa Barbara County growers had applied to plant 1,415 acres.

“County supervisors voted not to limit the size and number of marijuana grows. They chose not to vet growers’ applications for licenses or conduct site inspections.”

Money matters:

  • The Times cited cannabis industry campaign donations to supervisors, including Das Williams, a former Democratic state assemblyman. 
  • Santa Barbara political writer Roberts reported Williams could face a reelection challenge, and that wealthy locals have “let it be known that they might easily be persuaded to part with as much cash as it might take to support such a bid.”

Take a number: 2

Two California parolees currently receive a chemical castration drug.

In Wednesday’s WhatMatters, I wrote that California was the first state in the nation in 1996 to pass legislation providing for chemical castration of several sexual predators upon their release from prison.

Based on estimates at the time the bill passed and was signed into law by Gov. Pete Wilson, as many as 700 parolees could have undergone the procedure.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation provided numbers on Wednesday: Two parolees currently receive the drug, which deadens sexual drive. One was mandated by law. The other takes it voluntarily.

Commentary at CALmatters

Darren Kelly, Communications Workers of America: AT&T told 368 technicians throughout California, including me and many of my coworkers in Sacramento, that we need to move to the San Francisco Bay Area or lose our jobs. AT&T knows it wasn’t giving us any real choice at all: the company laid us off, even though it received a tax windfall when Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Using cap-and-trade to pay to clean up water is a very strained, and completely illogical, rationalization that undermines the original intent of cap-and-trade and further converts it into just another hidden tax on consumers.

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See you tomorrow.