Good morning, California.

“If you want to call yourself a Democrat, what could be more democratic than a direct democracy policy put in place by Hiram Walker in 1906”—Orange County Republican Assemblyman Travis Allen, criticizing a Democratic-backed compromise Thursday that averted an initiative battle.

Hiram Johnson created California’s initiative system—also known as direct democracy—in 1911. He did, however, appreciate whiskey, perhaps including that which Hiram Walker distilled.

The initiatives that disappeared

Image by Sergey Tinyakov via Thinkstock

Late-hour legislative compromises prompted initiative promoters to pull three measures from the November ballot, avoiding campaigns that would have cost tens of millions.

Gone are initiatives to:

  • Expand consumer privacy protection, promoted by San Francisco developer Alastair Mactaggart. In place of the initiative, Mactaggart won approval of a bill Thursday to significantly enhance privacy rights. Tech companies, which opposed the initiative, settled because they see the bill as less onerous.
  • Raise the threshold for passing all local taxes to a two-thirds majority of voters, a plan that was pushed by the soda industry. Soda companies settled after winning legislation Thursday preempting local government from passing new soda taxes. The initiative would have invalidated $300 million in local taxes that were approved by voters in the June 5 primary. That gave local governments and public employee unions an incentive to settle.
  • Relieve paint companies of hundreds of millions in liability from lawsuits by local governments demanding they remediate lead paint in old homes.
    Three paint companies spent $8 million to qualify the initiative, and would have spent far more trying to persuade voters to essentially tax themselves to pay to remediate lead in old homes and schools. They pulled the measure based on legislators’ promise to work out a compromise.

Ann Ravel was Santa Clara County counsel and helped lead the suit against the paint companies more than a decade ago: “It’s always better to do the rational thing, rather spend a lot of money and then lose.”

Why now? All of these late changes to ballot measures happened because of 2014 legislation by former Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, now mayor of Sacramento, allowing legislators to strike compromises with initiative promoters. The deadline was Thursday for pulling initiatives from the November ballot.


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The propositions that remain

CALmatters’ Ben Christopher reports voters will decide a dozen ballot measures in November and offers his quick take: a gas tax repeal, an $8.9 billion water bond, greater protection for farm animals, rent control, an end to daylight savings times and more.

How we treat mentally ill people may change

San Francisco Mayor-elect London Breed at the Capitol on Thursday.

California legislators seem prepared to make it easier for authorities to detain and treat severely mentally ill people who cannot care for themselves.

A shift: In the past, more liberal Democrats would kill such measure, citing concerns that they would be stripping people of their civil rights. But voters see mentally ill homeless people as a huge problem.

San Francisco Mayor-elect London Breed and Supervisor-elect Rafael Mandelman came to Sacramento Thursday to ask an Assembly committee to approve legislation that would allow San Francisco and Los Angeles to place into conservatorship the most severely mentally ill chronically homeless people.

“We can’t ignore the heartbreaking things we see every single day,” Breed told legislators.

The committee unanimously approved the bill by Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat. Earlier this week, a Senate committee approved legislation to allow authorities to compel treatment for severely mentally ill people who are gravely ill.

The committees narrowed both bills. The Wiener bill would affect less than 1 percent of the homeless population. But the week’s votes show legislators’ attitudes are changing.

P.S. Assemblyman Brian Maienschein, a San Diego Republican, asked at Thursday’s hearing if his county could be added to Wiener’s bill. That didn’t happen. He said after the hearing he would pursue the idea.

Walking in LA’s Skid Row, talking with Gavin Newsom

Gavin Newsom outside Philippe restaurant in Los Angeles.

I spent an eye-opening two hours walking the blocks of Skid Row in Los Angeles last week with Anthony Ruffin, an outreach worker who has worked with LA’s homeless population for a decade.

He knows many of the homeless by name and tries to persuade them to accept help. Read my article here.

Later that day, I caught up with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the Democratic frontrunner to become governor, at an event at Philippe, the 110-year-old restaurant known for its French dipped sandwiches and sawdust floors, to ask him about homelessness. He said it will be his “Number One, Two and Three” priorities:

“What has been missing is a plan. What’s been missing is goals, objectives, strategies. … There is no coordinated effort emanating out of Sacramento to address the issue.”

Newsom also offered a prescription for the related issue of the mental illness in a piece he wrote for Medium. I cannot recall another gubernatorial candidate who placed the issue at the top of his or her to-do list.

Police could gain a tool for solving gun crimes

The California Supreme Court Thursday upheld a 2007 law requiring that new semi-automatic handguns sold in the state contain technology that would imprint microstamps on bullets to help police more readily solve crimes.

Remind me: With support from police, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed the bill in 2007 giving gun makers until 2010 to develop the technology. The California attorney general certified that the technology exists in 2013.

The National Shooting Sports Foundation sued, claiming the technology doesn’t work.

State Supreme Court Justice Goodwin Liu, writing for the 7-0 court, rejected gun makers claims that the law should be overturned because microstamping technology doesn’t exist.

The court did not rule on whether the technology exists. But California has adopted many laws over the decades that have spurred industries to make technological advances.

Lawrence Keane, of the National Shooting Sports Foundation: “California is experiencing a slow motion handgun ban as fewer and fewer models are allowed to be sold in the state.”

Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, who wrote the bill when he was an assemblyman: “Gun manufacturers in league with the gun rights advocates have opposed this idea from the beginning. I cannot fathom why.”

P.S. A separate suit challenging the law’s constitutionality is pending before the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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See you Monday.