Good morning, California. 
“I did not buy a lottery ticket because I understand math.”—Yolo County Republican political consultant Matt Rexroad. No one in California won the $1.6 billion Mega Millions jackpot, the California Lottery reported, though South Carolina lottery officials said at least one ticket with all six winning numbers was sold there.
  • Winning numbers Tuesday: 5, 28, 62, 65, 70 and Mega 5.
  • Odds: One in 302.5 million.

The long odds of enforcement for CA's for-profit colleges

Jana Bergevin's for-profit college complaint languished for more than two years.

If for-profit colleges should expect regulation anywhere, it’s California. The state’s last two attorneys general have litigated aggressively against Orange County-based Corinthian Colleges and others where vulnerable students have ended up with huge student loans and dubious degrees.

But enforcement has lagged badly at the state bureau that is supposed be California’s for-profit watchdog, reports CALmatters’ Felicia Mello, even as Obama-era crackdowns on for-profit college fraud have eased under the Trump administration.

A backlog of almost 1,200 complaints has stretched cases to a year and a half on average at the state Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, and some investigations are taking three years or longer, Mello writes.

Margaret Reiter, consumer attorney and vice-chair of the BPPE’s own advisory committee: “The bureau should be the first line of defense. It should be catching these frauds early on. I don’t see that that is happening.”

Jana Bergevin, a former student who waited two years, in vain, for the BPPE to act after she complained that The Art Institute of San Francisco left her with two worthless degrees and $114,000 in student loan debt: “If it’s not your jurisdiction to protect California students from fraud, then why are you here?”

Click here to find out what needs to be fixed, and here for a bonus report on California’s surprising secrecy around for-profit college complaint records.

And stay tuned: Mello’s report is the first in a CALmatters collaboration on for-profit college oversight with The Sacramento Bee.


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Ag interests to lawmaker: Every vote counts

Rudy Salas voted for farmworker overtime.

Agribusiness interests have poured $420,000 in recent days into a push to unseat a Bakersfield Democrat who voted in 2016 for a landmark bill that grants farm workers overtime.

  •  The overtime bill, sponsored by the United Farm Workers Union, was the focus of decades-long fight before Gov. Jerry Brown signed it into law in 2016. Agriculture groups contended it would damage California’s massive farming industry.  

Republicans voted against the bill, but Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas of Bakersfield, like most Democrats, voted for it. For that, Salas is paying a price, but also is collecting a dividend.

  • An ad airing in Bakersfield blasts him for voting for a gas tax increase, supporting high-speed rail, taking foreign trips, and approving a new legislative office building. The spot makes no mention the overtime vote.
  • The United Farm Workers union, however, is knocking on doors for Salas, whose own ads prominently declare that he supported farm worker overtime.

Consultant Richie Ross, who represents Salas and the UFW, and lobbied for the overtime bill: “The UFW has pulled out everything (for Salas). It is a real old-fashioned Cesar Chavez campaign.”

History: Ag interests funded a 2012 campaign that helped unseat then-Assembly Democrat Mike Allen of Napa after Allen carried an earlier version of the farm workers overtime bill. Allen’s replacement, Assemblyman Marc Levine, a Marin County Democrat, failed to vote on the 2016 version that became law.

Lesson: In a state where the stakes for competing interests are as high as California’s, one vote can make or break a career in the Legislature.

Meanwhile: Oil companies have spent $282,000 to help reelect Salas, who has been supportive of oil in various ways.


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SoCal's statewide chances against NorCal? Hella low

More than a half-dozen statewide campaigns feature North-South races.

California politics are chronically lopsided: SoCal may have most of the people, but Northern Californians hold most of the power statewide.

Could that change in November? CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall doubts it. But, she notes, a lot of statewide races this year pit Northern California and Southern California candidates—and priorities—against each other.

Rosenhall: “Northern California is likely to continue to dominate for reasons that largely boil down to this: People in the Bay Area just vote a lot more than those in Los Angeles.”

GOP political consultant Mike Madrid: “It’s a tale of two economies. Where you have a declining middle class, you have fewer voters and less civic participation.”

One stat: Of the 58 counties, L.A.’s turnout was dead last in the 2014 election and second-to-last in the June primary. And that’s just for starters.

Click here for the full story and here for CALmatters’ voter guide to the statewide races, if you haven’t yet cast your ballot.

Extra credit: How many North-South statewide matchups can you name?

Gambling politics threaten CA cities' bottom lines

California's Department of Justice is scrutinizing blackjack in card rooms.

What happens in Sacramento doesn’t stay in Sacramento. Take, for example, blackjack bans.

California once outlawed the popular casino card game. Then Native American tribes gained the right to operate casinos in 2000, and began offering it again.

  • Card rooms wanted in. In 2000 and 2001, then-Assembly Speaker Herb Wesson, now an L.A. city councilman, carried legislation altering the law so they, too, could offer gamblers the game.
  • Expanded business meant more in taxes for cities in which card rooms operate.
  • Tribes saw the competition as infringement, especially in recent years as card rooms began advertising blackjack.

Enter California’s Bureau of Gambling Control, part of Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s Department of Justice. This month, the bureau issued a statement saying it might “withdraw game approvals for certain 21/Blackjack games.”

  • The bureau and Becerra have not said what prompted the decision. But tribes, flush with casino revenue, have clout in Sacramento.
  • Cities that depend on card room revenue to keep their budgets balanced are alarmed.

The City of Commerce in Los Angeles County is among those whose officials who have protested to Becerra, warning that the loss of blackjack at the 270-table Commerce Club, the nation’s largest card room, could cost the city $16 million, a fourth of Commerce’s budget.  Libraries, sheriff’s services, parks all could be affected.

Commerce City Manager Edgar Cisneros: “We would immediately look at 25 percent cuts across the board.”

What’s ahead: It’s a safe bet that gambling will be a major issue in 2019 with a push for legalized sports betting and what card rooms can and can’t offer.

Commentary at CALmatters

Stan Forbes, California Citizens Redistricting Commission member: Citizens Redistricting commissioners drew the fairest lines we could and did not take into consideration incumbency. As a result, we have several highly competitive seats. Reformers across the nation are envious of what Californians have done. We are on the right side of history in this fight. For that, Californians should feel pride.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: An initiative that would remove Proposition 13’s property tax assessment protections from hotels, warehouses, office buildings and other commercial property has qualified for the 2020 ballot. However, the chief organizer of the proposal hopes for an agreement on tax changes that would remove the measure from the ballot.

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.