Good morning, California.
“Family is very important to the governor. His kids are on spring break, and he is traveling outside the state with the first family.”—Gov. Gavin Newsom’s spokesman Nathan Click, noting that Newsom will be gone for several days but not specifying where he is.
PG&E's new face
PG&E's new CEO, William Johnson, (Mercury News)
Pacific Gas and Electric Co. announced Wednesday that it reached to the Tennessee Valley Authority for its new chief executive and will reconstitute its board of directors. The steps did not play well in the state Capitol.
The utility’s new CEO is William Johnson, who recently retired from the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Gov. Gavin Newsom had warned PG&E last week against installing “hedge fund financiers, out-of-state executives and others with little or no experience in California …”
Newsom Wednesday said the proposed board “still raises concerns—particularly the large representation of Wall Street interests and most board nominees’ lack of relevant California experience.”
PG&E is in bankruptcy because of liability for deadly wildfires and on probation for a 2010 natural gas line explosion that killed eight people in San Bruno.
Environmentalists criticized Johnson for being slow to embrace alternative energy. But the TVA defied President Trump by closing coal-fired plants.
Johnson said at the time: “It is not about coal. This decision is about economics. It’s about keeping rates as low as feasible.”
PG&E also announced it would install 10 new directors. Some are affiliated with hedge funds, plus:
- Attorney Jeff Bleich, an Obama administration ambassador to Australia who ran for lieutenant governor in 2018.
- Nora Mead Brownell, who was a President George W. Bush appointee to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission when PG&E was in bankruptcy 18 years ago.
PG&E’s statement: “We have heard the calls for change and have taken action today to ensure that PG&E has the right leadership to bring about real and dynamic change …”
California Public Utilities Commission President Michael Picker said through a spokeswoman that he “may ask several members to come to the CPUC to testify on how they see their role on safety.”
High-capacity magazines return
For the first time in almost 20 years, firearm manufacturers are selling high-capacity magazines into California.
Citing the Second Amendment right to bear arms, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego last week struck down a 2000 California law banning the sale of magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition, as well as a 2016 voter-approved initiative promoted by then-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom banning possession of large magazines.
Gun maker Beretta declared on its Facebook page and via Twitter that it was offering a 20% discount on magazines of more than 10 rounds:
“You don’t even have to be a California resident. Just give your fellow California Second Amendment supporters a shout out, and welcome them back.”
Brownells, Inc., an Iowa gun maker that sells 75- and 100-round magazines, declared: “Now sending freedom back to California.”
Chuck Michel, a Long Beach attorney who sued the state on behalf the California Rifle & Pistol Association: “There was a huge pent up demand for these magazines….
“Who knows how many have been bought, but a lot. There has been a lot of chatter since Friday afternoon from everywhere, from buyers and sellers.”
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra urged that Benitez stay his decision pending the appeal. By day’s end Wednesday, Benitez’s order remained in place, meaning people could buy, sell and possess large-capacity magazines.
Former Sen. Don Perata, an Oakland Democrat who carried the 2000 legislation banning sales of high-capacity magazines: “I don’t feel a bit safer.”
Republican asks Trump to clarify
Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher is asking President Donald Trump to clarify his March 21 executive order protecting free speech on college campuses.
Gallagher, who is from Yuba City, has been urging UC Davis Chancellor Gary May to fire English Professor Joshua Clover. Clover, whose areas of study include Marxism, made over-the-top anti-police remarks in 2014 and 2015:
“I mean, it’s easier to shoot cops when their backs are turned, no?”
A UC Davis student, Nick Irvin, dug up those remarks for a column in the campus paper, after a man who apparently was delusional gunned down Davis police officer Natalie Corona in January.
The student journo asked Clover whether he’d recant. Clover declined.
- May told Gallagher he would not fire Clover, citing in part Trump’s executive order.
- Though Trump intended to protect conservatives on campuses, May noted the order applies to Clover, too:
“Failure to protect the First Amendment rights of university faculty could not only lead to legal consequences for violating the Constitution, but also could result in a loss of federal funding which is critical to the university’s research and teaching mission.”
On Wednesday, Gallagher sent a letter to Trump laying out his case against Clover and asking:
“By terminating Professor Clover, is the university at risk of losing any federal funding?”
Gallagher awaits Trump’s tweet.
Clover offered me this: “When rights include the right to food and housing so that no one is compelled to sell themselves to someone else to survive, I would be happy to discuss rights with you. Until then, I have no further statement.”
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Take a number: $84 million
Four law firms have billed Pacific Gas and Electric Co. at least $84 million for services related to its January bankruptcy filing, the Recorder reported.
And the San Francisco-based utility paid the New York-based firm Cravath, Swaine & Moore $75.7 million leading up to the bankruptcy filing.
- Cravath attorneys are charging PG&E up to $1,500 per hour.
- A second New York-based firm, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, is billing PG&E as much as $1,600 an hour.
Commentary at CALmatters
Dawn Davison, Scott Kernan & Michele Steeb, Saint John’s Program for Real Change: Under the “housing first” model, programs that require sobriety or engagement in life-improvement services are ineligible for government funding. This is a travesty for people seeking to escape the hold of drug addiction, and a threat to their children. Already traumatized children should not be placed in housing where drug use is permitted.
Sandy Sengon, Saint John’s graduate: At 32 years old, I was homeless, strung out on meth and pregnant with my fifth child. Having already lost four children to Child Protective Services, I felt that the baby I was about to bring into the world would be better off without me, too.
Dan Walters, CALmatters: California politicians often ignore constitutional rights as they make new laws, and federal judges have to remind them that Californians are also U.S. citizens who are protected by the Bill of Rights.
See you tomorrow.