Buenos días, California. The belated State of the Union speech, with a Spanish-language response by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, is tonight.

“San Diego is proud to be a destination for immigrants in search of an opportunity.”—San Diego Republican Mayor Kevin Faulconer on Monday, announcing plans to make the border city more welcoming to refugees and green card holders, in a California counterpoint to President Donald Trump’s expected anti-immigrant rhetoric. 

How to prevent gun violence

Gabby Giffords wants $37 million a year for CA gun violence prevention.

California would more than triple its spending on gun violence prevention under a proposal pushed by the organization created by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who survived a 2011 assassination attempt.

  • California’s current policy: The California Violence Intervention and Prevention Program, started by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007, gives $9 million annually in grants to cities and nonprofit groups that seek to reduce gun violence.
  • Oakland has reduced shootings 52 percent since 2012, and Richmond has reduced shootings by 66 percent since 2010, the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence says.

Giffords is asking the state to spend $37 million a year for the next three years on the program, plus $6 million over three years so the UC Firearm Violence Research Center can evaluate the violence prevention programs.

  • Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, who represents Richmond and Oakland, said she intends to introduce the requisite legislation.

Wicks: “We can and should and must lead the way in this country on gun violence prevention programs.”

Wicks spoke at a Capitol press event Monday attended by Giffords and 15 other legislators who called for more gun control, and announced the formation of a working group on gun violence at the Legislature.

Backstory: Wicks met Giffords while working in the Obama White House to pass a universal background check after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 children and six educators dead. The initiative also introduced Wicks to her future husband, Peter Ambler, who had worked for Congresswoman Giffords and now is executive director of Giffords’ organization.

Wicks: “We were unable to pass that bill but a movement began.”

More gun laws are on the way

California lawmakers are calling for even more gun control.

California has 109 gun-control laws on the books, more than any other state. More are on the way, CALmatters reporter Ben Christopher writes. 

Among the ideas: 

  • A tax on firearms to fund violence prevention.
  • A ban on plastic guns that could get past metal detectors.
  • Mandatory training for police officers on an existing law that lets them ask judges for gun violence restraining orders to remove firearms from people who are considered to be at risk for violence.

Backstory: In April 2018, Ventura County sheriff’s deputies interviewed Ian David Long, who had been acting irrationally, but determined he did not meet the criteria to be held involuntarily for psychiatric issues. Nor did they seek a gun violence restraining order. In November, Long shot and killed 12 people at a Thousand Oaks bar.

Democratic Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel of Encino: “We need to make sure our law enforcement understands that this is a very powerful tool.”

A new caucus? Veteran lobbyist John Lovell, who represents college police chiefs and police unions, says the 16 legislators who appeared at a Capitol press conference Monday with former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords were in essence declaring themselves to be part of a firearms caucus.

Lovell: “I see it as something that could be the fount of something important.”

For a deeper dive into California gun laws, check out Christopher’s explainer here.

Wildfire legislation, continued

A wildfire warning center would help cut power during high wind and heat.

A state senator whose district was hit hard in 2017 by catastrophic wildfires wants to establish a California wildfire warning center that would help officials turn off power and better position firefighting crews during extreme heat and high wind.

  • Democratic Sen. Bill Dodd of Napa is proposing to direct the various state agencies and private utilities to better coordinate monitoring of threats, CALmatters’ Judy Lin reports. The goal: identify high wind and dangerous conditions and scramble before a wildfire breaks out.

No price tag yet, but Dodd says: “The cost of this is far less than the cost of fighting a fire and then taking care of people and communities after the fire.” Dodd’s fire bill is one of many to come.

Ex-Westlands lobbyist rises at Interior

David Bernhardt, Trump's Interior Secretary nominee.

There are big implications for Central Valley ag in President Donald Trump’s nominee for Interior Secretary, who is not only a former oil lobbyist, but also steeped in California water politics.

  • David Bernhardt’s lobbying clients also included the massive Westlands Water District before he joined the Trump administration as No. 2 to Trump’s first Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, who resigned amid ethical questions.
  • Westlands, which is regulated by Interior, is the most influential customer of the federal Central Valley Project, which supplies water to much of the Central Valley.

Bernhardt’s nomination comes at a fraught time in California water policymaking:

  • The State Water Resources Board has proposed reducing San Joaquin River water for many Central Valley farmers and the Bay Area to help fisheries recover.
  • The feds are contemplating cutting Colorado River deliveries to states including California amid ongoing shortage.
  • Gavin Newsom has yet to say whether he supports former Gov. Jerry Brown’s $20 billion proposal to tunnel under the Delta to move Sacramento River water south to the massive pumps near Tracy.

The Sacramento Bee: “Bernhardt is widely seen among environmentalists and state officials as leading the Trump administration’s controversial efforts to pump more water through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Westlands growers and other Valley farmers.”

Backstory: After serving in President George W. Bush’s Interior Department, Bernhardt returned to his old law-lobby firm, Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, during the Obama years. There, he lobbied on behalf of Westlands and other clients.

  • Bernhardt signed a pledge when he became Zinke’s second in command in 2017 that he would not work on matters involving Brownstein clients, The Wall Street Journal reports, adding that he “took to carrying around a pocket-size list as a reminder of which companies’ executives he couldn’t meet with.”

Commentary at CALmatters

California's payday lenders ensnare hundreds of thousands of borrowers.

Tom Dresslar, former deputy commissioner at the California Department of Business Oversight: California’s payday lending regulatory structure is feeble. This state’s law ranks as one of the nation’s weakest, and significant ambiguities in the statute’s language and legislative history have been interpreted to favor industry and harm consumers’ interests. Consumers increasingly are vulnerable.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: California’s prisons are supposed to be rehabilitating inmates, not merely warehousing them, but a new report from the state auditor says it’s not effectively reducing recidivism among those released from the system.


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

See you tomorrow.