Good morning, California.
“He was conservative in coloration and stood firmly by his beliefs, even when it contravened the wishes of his party’s leadership. He fought bitterly with right-wing elements of the GOP — over immigration, gay rights, global warming.”—LA Times’ Mark Z. Barabak on John McCain.
What to watch in the Legislature’s final week: California’s own version of net neutrality. A fire deal. A $400 million aerospace tax break for hiring. A new water tax to pay for clean water. One hundred percent green electricity by 2045. Fighting over Cadiz Inc.’s desert water project. Gig economy workers. Police accountability. Later school start times. Steve Ballmer’s new Inglewood basketball arena. And more.
Oil joins the fire fight
Chevron refinery in Richmond. Oil refineries are huge users of electricity.
Oil companies have become leading skeptics of a late-hour deal to help Pacific Gas & Electric Co. avert bankruptcy.
Step back: Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators seek balance. Utilities can’t be let off the hook for wildfires their equipment may have sparked. Ratepayers can’t be saddled with unnecessary costs. PG&E, the state’s largest and most vulnerable utility, can’t be pushed into bankruptcy.
The Chronicle outlines a bill to let PG&E and Southern California Edison spread some costs of 2017 wildfires over decades. A final vote would happen this week.
The issue: Who pays and how much? PG&E’s liability could reach $10 billion. Residential bills will rise some. The cost to industrial bills will be greater.
Oil refineries spend millions a year on electricity. They have “significant concerns” about the deal, Luis Sanchez, Western States Petroleum Association lobbyist, told a legislative committee.
Bedfellows: Western States Petroleum, manufacturers, large farm groups and consumer advocates including The Utility Reform Network have created the Ratepayers Protection Network to oppose legislation that would raise electric bills.
The group’s statement: “We urge the conference committee to reject any provision that would give PG&E and other utilities a bailout.”
Define “bailout”: The group says PG&E shouldn’t shift costs from stockholders to ratepayers for “for future and PAST fires.” Legislators cringe at being accused of bailing out utilities.
Money matters: Western State Petroleum and Chevron spent a combined $23.3 million on lobbying in California between January 2017 and the end of June, far more than any other two entities. PG&E and Edison: $7.4 million during that period.
Cost of doing business
Besides voting on hundreds of bills between now and the end of the legislative session on Friday, legislators will be squeezing a last bit of money from interest groups.
By the numbers: 13 fundraisers between today and Wednesday; 46 last week. Incumbent legislators have raised $4.4 million so far in August; legislative candidates raised $1.7 million; and political parties raised $5 million.
Issue of the year: Fire legislation. Utilities, timber and farming interests, oil and insurance companies, plaintiff’s attorneys and electrical workers all have a stake.
Representatives of payday lenders, bail bonds companies, car dealers, labor, drug makers, cannabis companies, telecommunications companies, real estate, healthcare companies, casinos and more also are handing out checks this year.
Booze loosens inhibitions: A senator allegedly threatened to slap a lobbyist and a lobbyist is said to have shoved an assemblyman earlier this month at fundraisers at bars near the Capitol. Politics is friendly until it’s not.
Bottom line: It’s against the law to talk about policy while raising money. But in Sacramento, policy is the product. Lobbyists know it’s an end-of-session cost of doing business to make the fundraising rounds.
The shrinking dream
California municipalities are trying new ways to prevent homelessness from worsening, but it isn’t easy. Adriene Hill reports in an important new installment of the California Dream, a collaboration among CALmatters and public radio stations, that for many, the California Dream has been shrunken down to simply keeping a place to live.
Cal State Stockton
Stockton is working hard to overcome its old rep as a bankruptcy-stricken foreclosure capital with high crime. Crime is falling, lofts are rising, the city has a new 1,000-employee Amazon distribution center and its millennial mayor, Michael Tubbs, is a rising national star.
But city leaders say the missing piece is a Cal State campus, writes CALmatters’ Felicia Mello.
City Councilman Jesus Andrade: “All of the investment that is happening around universities is skipping us, and we’re one of the largest metros in the state.”
Gavin Newsom has endorsed a CSU Stockton. Assemblywoman Susan Eggman of Stockton proposes a $7 billion bond measure for California’s universities for the 2020 ballot, including money for new campuses.
Prospects: Stockton and Lodi form the state’s largest metropolitan area without a public four-year university. But higher ed funding is stretched, making a 24th CSU is a long shot. Plus, Mello writes, Chula Vista and Concord want Cal States, too.
School candidates debate
Marshall Tuck and Tony Thurmond, running for California Superintendent of Public Instruction, are displaying important differences, reports CALmatters Elizabeth Castillo. Debating last week in Sacramento, they clashed on charter public schools, merit pay for teachers and much more in the debate sponsored by the Public Policy Institute of California.
One point of agreement: the need to do a better job of teaching civics.
My turn: Abortion pills on campus
Abortion services aren’t as easy to obtain as they may seem for the University of California and California State University students, writes UC San Francisco Associate Professor Ushma Upadhyay. Lawmakers should pass SB 320, which would make abortion pills available through campus clinics.
Walters: CA’s Voting Rights
CALmatters commentator Dan Walters assesses the impact of 2002 legislation that forced many municipalities to switch to district elections. Nearly a fourth of the state’s cities have made or are making the change, which has led to more diverse candidates winning seats.
Walters: “Whether it’s brought a better level of governance remains to be seen. More diverse boards could also be more fragmented, more parochial and less responsive to overall community needs.”
See you tomorrow.