Good morning, California.

“It’s the first time that we have had an out-and-out cancellation over the issue … ” — Joe D’Alessandro, president of S.F. Travel, the city’s convention bureau, telling San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross that a major medical group will take its convention (worth $40 million) elsewhere after 2025.

Its members were afraid to to walk the streets, citing open drug use, threatening behavior and the prevalence of mental illness.

Soda tax to be back on tap

Illustration via Flickr

Four days after the soda industry won legislation barring new local taxes, the California Dental and California Medical associations took the first step toward a statewide 2-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary drinks.

The organizations are proposing an initiative for the ballot in 2020 to generate $1.7 billion for health care and restore the ability of cities to impose future soda taxes.

Remind me: On Thursday, lawmakers averted a soda-industry-funded battle over an initiative that would have greatly restricted the ability of local governments to tax soda.

Beverage makers dropped their measure after getting what they sought: a law preempting local governments from taxing groceries including soda pop.

Sen. Scott Wiener, San Francisco Democrat, opposed the deal and lauded the potential initiative:  “The soda industry has skated for far too long, and its recent act of extortion against the Legislature shows its unwillingness to seriously address these health impacts.”

An oops moment: In their rush to pass the bill prohibiting cities from taxing soda, the Legislature mistakenly banned new local taxes on marijuana. Los Angeles and San Francisco city officials complained, prompting the Legislature to approve a bill on Monday making clear local governments can continue taxing weed.

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Courts pay to resolve #MeToo cases. Quietly

California courts have paid $1.1 million since 2010 to settle claims involving sexual harassment and gender discrimination against judges and other court officials, California’s legal affairs newspapers are reporting.

Unlike the Legislature, which is identifying lawmakers who are targets of resolved harassment complaints, California courts are not naming judges and others involved in the settlements.

Courts, like the Legislature, are not subject to the California Public Records Act, which requires disclosure of most government documents.

The Recorder’s Cheryl Miller reported that a $150,000 settlement in 2013 between an unnamed Santa Clara County judge and an unnamed woman employee included this clause:

“The parties agree that they will not, directly or indirectly, initiate any contact with any member of the media regarding the dispute.”

In May, the Judicial Council, at Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye’s direction, agreed to provide greater public access to pacts “for which public funds were spent in payment of the settlement …”

The courts since have released records of settlements, but they’re heavily redacted, and they omit identities of the judicial officers whose conduct led to the settlements.

Bottom line: Courts are a co-equal branch of government. But it’s a matter of time before legislators begin asking why judges can remain anonymous in settlements involving payments of taxpayer money.

Kamala Harris had a good day, thanks to Trump

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris

President Donald Trump took a swipe at U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris on Monday, using the White House Twitter account to claim she is “supporting the animals of MS-13”—a violent gang—by urging the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Harris responded as any self-respecting Democrat would: She used it in a fundraising appeal, blasted via email to her supporters:

“Let me be very clear: As a career prosecutor, I actually went after gangs and transnational criminal organizations. That’s being a leader on public safety. What is not, is ripping babies from their mothers.”

The email’s ask: “Chip in $10 or more right now to help us fight back—and send a message to this White House today that we’ll never stop fighting to defeat their anti-immigrant, anti-public-safety agenda.”

Bottom line: An attack by Trump is golden, especially for a California Democrat thinking of running against him in 2020.

P.S. The Chronicle noted that in 2014, Harris as California attorney general  published a study describing MS-13 as “the largest and most violent transnational gang currently operating in California.”

Brunching with Lebron

In our hyper-politicized times, Lebron James’ decision to leave Cleveland for the Los Angeles Lakers inevitably became fodder for a trolling tweet.

Congressman Devin Nunes, a Tulare Republican, responded to the news by using Twitter to needle one of the greatest basketball players of all time, the longest serving governor of California, climate change and, yes, the state’s high taxes.

“LOL! Prepare to pay the highest taxes you ever have in your career!! You should have held out for more just to afford the Moonbeam weather tax!!!”

Nunes might not have known that James already owns homes in Los Angeles and already pays California taxes. James, no stranger to politics, campaigned for Hillary Clinton in 2016. Which may explain why Nunes, a Donald Trump ally, was quick to troll James.

P.S. A Votre Santé was the place to be for brunch on Sunday. Sports Illustrated reported James was having brunch at the Brentwood restaurant when gubernatorial frontrunner Gavin Newsom, there with his wife, asked where James was headed. James reportedly kept quiet. Former California First Lady Maria Shriver, brunching there too, made a pitch for him to join the Lakers. News of his move broke later that day.

Walters: The other piece of the Janus decision

CALmatters commentator Dan Walters focused on a far-reaching aspect of last week’s U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down laws in California and elsewhere requiring that government employees pay fees to unions even if they’re not members.

The justices declared that unions must get employees’ consent before deducting any fees from their paychecks. That calls into question a newly adopted state law intended to shield labor from the impact of the case, Janus v. AFSCME. Expect it all to play out in the months and years to come.


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See you Thursday. Happy July 4.