Good morning, California.

“Wildfires in California aren’t going away, and we have to do everything possible to prevent them. This bill is complex and requires investment but it’s absolutely necessary.” — Gov. Jerry Brown, signing $1 billion worth of legislation to manage forests and help utilities control fire liability.

Union leader challenges Dem ‘opportunists’

Robbie Hunter, head of the State Building and Construction Trades Council

The head of the state building trades council has harsh words for Democratic candidates who support repealing the new gasoline tax.

In an ad in the LA Times last week, the State Building and Construction Trades Council urged LA Mayor Eric Garcetti and other Democrats to defy “well-funded ivory tower elites” who seek to shutter Southern California oil refineries, which employ thousands of union workers.

Robbie Hunter, head of the council: “We’re going to stand up for blue collar jobs.”

Separately, several Democrats running for Congress against Republican incumbents are opposing the 12-cent per gallon gas tax approved by the Legislature in 2017 to fund road repairs. Among them:

  • Josh Harder challenging Congressman Jeff Denham in the San Joaquin Valley.
  • Katie Porter vs. Congresswoman Mimi Walters in Orange County.
  • Ammar Campa-Najjar vs. Congressman Duncan Hunter in San Diego County.
  • Jessica Morse vs. Congressman Tom McClintock in a district that includes the Sierra.

California’s Republican congressional delegation, led by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, funded Proposition 6 to repeal the tax, believing it will motivate conservatives to vote in November.

Hunter, whose members build roads funded by the tax, criticized gas tax Democratic opponents: “They know roads are crumbling.  … But they are looking at the political wind to try to get themselves elected. … Opportunists. You can quote me on that.”

Money matters: The No-on-6 campaign has raised $30 million. Trade unions have donated $9.6 million, including $2 million from the State Building and Construction Trades Council.

The question: The council,  part of the Democratic Party’s base, tried to unseat Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia from her Bell Gardens-area seat earlier this year. Was that a one-off, or are more Democratic candidates to come?


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Guess who wants out from under #MeToo laws

California Senate chamber

A #MeToo lawsuit at the Capitol is demonstrating the institutional pushback that persists for legislative workers who allege sexual misconduct, even after months of rule changing—and soul searching—to deal with it.

Brought by a former Senate employee, the suit is one of the first legal challenges since the movement forced the Legislature to confront its sordid history of dismissing workplace harassment.

  • The employee alleges the Senate broke eight different laws in firing her several months after she reported being raped by a fellow staff member.
  • The Senate’s defense? Among other things, that state labor laws only apply to the private sector and not to government workplaces such as the Capitol.

Click here to read the full report, by CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall.


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Police exonerate police, study finds

A statewide analysis of police misconduct complaints by the Los Angeles Times finds California law enforcement agencies upheld only 8.4 percent of complaints filed by members of the public from 2008 to 2017. Most were rejected without explanation.

  • Tatiana Lopez was a college student in 2009 when she filed a complaint against a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who wrongly arrested her on suspicion of possessing methamphetamine. Lopez met with a sheriff’s lieutenant to discuss her accusation; he urged her to drop her complaint, The Times reported.

Lopez is 34 now: “I was terrified of cops. Anybody in a uniform: I didn’t know who to trust.”

The first investigation exonerated the deputy. But a judge later found Lopez to be factually innocent. The deputy ended up being fired years later.

Timing matters: The report comes as Gov. Jerry Brown weighs bills to give the public more access to police records.

So with police abuses, who should investigate?

Sacramento protests against the police shooting of Stephon Clark

Steven Bailey, the Republican candidate for attorney general, thinks the state, rather than local district attorneys, should investigate police shootings.

“It takes the politics out of it,” Bailey, a former El Dorado County judge, told CALmatters.

Bailey’s stand is more in keeping with liberal advocates, who believe county district attorneys are too close with police agencies to fully investigate officer-involved shootings, observes Laurel Rosenhall.

  • It places him at odds with Democratic incumbent Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who says the attorney general’s office lacks the staff to intervene in all officer-involved shootings.

Becerra’s view is shared by the district attorney in Bailey’s home county of El Dorado, Vern Pierson,  who is a vice-president of the California District Attorneys Association:

Pierson: “The state attorney general simply doesn’t have the resources to be everywhere in state, to respond quickly and take over a crime scene. It is not at all that practical. I don’t buy the argument that the relation is too cozy. District attorney offices take very seriously the investigations of those kinds of cases.”

Pierson has not endorsed in the attorney general’s race.

Assessing last year's big housing fix

Is the 2017 housing package helping yet?

A year ago this month, Gov. Jerry Brown signed 15 bills aimed at easing the state’s crippling housing crisis.

  • The package was heralded as the state’s most ambitious attempt in decades to alleviate housing woes.
  • It has been in effect for nine months now, too soon for a definitive judgment, but long enough to discern trends.

In their podcast “Gimme Shelter”, CALmatters’ Matt Levin and The Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon explore how the housing package is playing out. It’s promising. For details, click here.

Commentary from CALmatters

Proposition 5 would give homeowners who move a property tax break. CALmatters has the pro and con:

  • Steve White: The initiative would help ease the state’s housing shortage by encouraging more turnover of single-family homes in existing neighborhoods.
  • Sean Burrows: Proposition 5 would pull $1 billion a year or more from crucial local services like fire protection.

Dan Walters: Those who boast of California’s economic prosperity ignore the 16 million Californians who are living in poverty or near-poverty.

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.