Good Monday morning, California.

“He then slowly inhaled the Pineapple Thai. It was the first time he’d had cannabis, he said, since 1979. ‘Somebody said I’m overdue,’ he laughed.” — Leafly, quoting Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer at his West Hollywood fundraiser last week. The Los Angeles Democrat chairs the Assembly Public Safety Committee, which hears bills related to crime and punishment.

Where GOP must go in the age of Trump

 

What’s to come of the California GOP when the party’s leader, Donald Trump, is so unpopular in the Golden State? That’s the question CALmatters Ben Christopher asked Sunday at the end of the state Republican convention in San Diego.

The latest Berkeley IGS poll shows a mere 31 percent of the California electorate has a favorable view of Trump, though 80 percent of Republican voters approve of him. California Republican leaders say their candidates for legislative and congressional seats should focus on state and local issues.

Christopher’s take: It’s a strategy that tests conflicting theories. Will the midterm elections be a referendum on the president, or will all politics be local in 2018.

Republicans have issues they could use against Democrats: high taxes; poverty; sexual harassment claims against Democratic lawmakers; the Legislature’s approval of so-called sanctuary state legislation. But they need a messenger.

But then: The party changed its internal rules so it could endorse statewide candidates for the June 5 primary. In San Diego, however, the party failed to give its seal of approval to either of the two main gubernatorial candidates, San Diego businessman John Cox and Assemblyman Travis Allen, of Huntington Beach, Christopher reported.

Remember: In California, the top two primary vote getters will face off in the November general election, regardless of their party. The non-endorsement makes it more likely Republican voters will split their votes in the primary, leaving the GOP without a candidate at the top of the ticket in the November general election.

Bottom line: Only one in four California voters is a registered Republican. The failure to endorse is a misstep, one the GOP can ill afford.


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Confronting the achievement gap

Top-tier candidates for governor offer significantly different views for fixing the achievement gap between disadvantaged and other students.

CALmatters compiled their answers in this video: Republican John Cox wants taxpayer funded vouchers so parents could send their kids to private schools. Lt. Gavin Newsom urges universal preschool and improved mental health care. Former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa wants more teacher training.

CALmatters’ Jessica Calefati’s details how California students dreadful showing on a recent achievement test.

Follow through: Many candidates have run on education platforms. Not all them follow through once they take office. That where you, dear reader and voter, comes in.

Campaigning on crime

An initiative heading for the November ballot would raise penalties for theft, authorize DNA collection from people convicted of relatively minor drug and property crimes, and deny early release from prison to some serious felons, such as ones convicted of raping an unconscious woman.

Context: Crime is down from the 1980s and ’90s when voters approved anti-crime initiatives. In recent years, California voters have changed, easing the three strikes sentencing law, legalizing commercial sale of marijuana and reducing penalties for lower level drug and property crimes.

Backers: Police unions, grocers, Republican politicians and Democratic Assemblyman Jim Cooper of suburban Sacramento are funding the measure. Jeff Flint, a Sacramento consultant for the initiative, expects to submit enough signatures this week to qualify the initiative.

Targets: A 2014 initiative promoted by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, the front-runner to become governor, reduced penalties for drug and property crimes and disallowed DNA collection for some crimes. A 2016 initiative pushed by Gov. Jerry Brown granted some felons the possibility of early release from prison if they work to better themselves while behind bars.

Politics: In the primary, Newsom has run to the left of his main Democratic rival, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, on crime issues. Villaraigosa, endorsed by police unions, likely would use the initiative against Newsom if they face one another in the November run-off. High-profile crimes change opinions fast. Petty crimes like car break-ins wear on voters.

PG&E hires big guns

Pacific Gas & Electric Co., facing billions in liability from the wine country fires, is rapidly hiring lobbyists and consultants. The latest: Bill Lockyer, former California attorney general, treasurer and senate president pro tem.

Lockyer told me: “The possibility of working out a complex Rubik’s Cube solution was appealing. I don’t claim to have figured out what will be the most desirable outcome.”

Lockyer says he won’t have direct contact with legislators related to the fire. As such, he and his law firm are under no obligation to disclose what PG&E will pay. Lobbyists have direct contact with lawmakers and by law must register with the state and disclose their pay.

PG&E has retained five lobby firms, and spent $584,052 on them in the first quarter of 2018, more than in any quarter since the start of 2001 when it spent $622,000. That was the height of the energy crisis. The utility ended up in bankruptcy. Lawmakers fear it faces the same fate.

The tax fight to come

In his Sunday commentary, CALmatters’ Dan Walters details a burning issue for local government: which jurisdiction should get sales tax revenue from online purchases? Currently, Amazon remits the sale tax it collects to cities where its warehouses are located. Patterson is one Central Valley town that depends on that money. Sen. Steve Glazer, a Democrat from the upscale Bay Area suburb of Orinda, is carrying legislation to alter the equation and send revenue to cities and counties where purchasers live. It’s a rich vs not rich issue, and it pits cities against one another.

The bigger question: Should California charge sales taxes on services? You’ll be hearing much more about that soon.

Please email or call with tips, suggestions and insights, dmorain@calmatters.org, 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.