Good morning, California.
“I realized that this is what I am meant to do and this is where I want to be.”—Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, announcing he will not run for president in 2020.
Bankruptcy, Day One
PG&E's bankruptcy impacts employees, ratepayers, fire victims and more.
Stock prices stabilized and legislators fumed as Pacific Gas & Electric Co. entered bankruptcy Tuesday and the utility sought court approval to pay its employees $130 million in incentive bonuses.
Democratic Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo: “I don’t believe they had to do this. They did it because it’s in their interest and they benefit.”
Victims of the 2017 and 2018 wildfires will be put on hold by the filing, reports Judy Lin of CALmatters. They’ll probably receive less money. Customers could face higher bills to help PG&E cover costs related to wildfires and alternative energy contracts could be at risk.
- Among the questions legislators must contemplate: What happens to Southern California Edison if fire inspectors conclude that its equipment was partly responsible for the massive Thomas Fire of 2017, or the Woolsey Fire of 2018?
Officer-involved shootings return
Attorney General Xavier Becerra weighs in on officer-involved shootings.
Momentum is gathering around lethal police force again as an issue as investigations into the March 2018 police shooting of Stephon Clark start to land.
- Clark, who was 22 and unarmed, was shot to death by Sacramento police in his grandmother’s backyard in a case that focused national attention on use-of-force policies and racial profiling. The incident has spawned a $20 million civil rights lawsuit and two criminal probes.
On Tuesday, the first of of several state reviews arrived, with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra urging the Sacramento Police Department to overhaul its use-of-force policies. A specific review of the Clark shooting is still pending.
- The department should expand use of de-escalation tactics, such as verbal warnings or persuasion, emphasize “the sanctity of human life,” and better define and explain that force should be used “only when necessary,” Becerra’s 97-page report says.
Becerra’s report was hardly a gotcha, reports CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall, who is following this issue. He delivered it flanked by Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and Sacramento Police Chief Daniel Hahn, and heaped praise on them for inviting his office to investigate the police department.
Becerra: “We identified room for improvement in outdated use of force policies. We found a lack of standardization and rigor in use of force internal investigations and training.”
The police shooting issue is pulsing on two tracks in Sacramento. Locally, city leaders are bracing for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s upcoming determination of whether the officers who shot Clark can be criminally prosecuted. At the state level, new legislation to change the legal standard for justifying police shootings is developing after stalling last year.
- Becerra’s report “certainly should influence the discussions” in the Capitol, said ACLU lobbyist Lizzie Buchen, who is involved in the effort to write a new law meant to reduce police shootings.
Death penalty abolition revisited
A death penalty repeal is coming in 2020.
Californians could reconsider the death penalty in 2020 under a measure that soon will be proposed by Democratic Assemblyman Marc Levine.
- Levine’s Marin County district includes San Quentin State Prison, which houses California’s death chamber and nearly 700 men on Death Row. Women sentenced to death are housed elsewhere.
Voters have rejected two initiatives to repeal capital punishment in recent years, including in 2016. Whether a measure offered by the Legislature would meet a different fate is unclear.
- Legislators would have this session and next to shape it in ways that address an array of issues, including who receives life in prison without parole and ways to provide “justice for the victims.”
- The bill would require a two-thirds vote of both houses to get on the ballot.
LAUSD bets on state funds
LAUSD trustees halt the opening of new charter schools.
Fulfilling their end of the deal that settled the teachers’ strike at Los Angeles Unified School District, trustees on Tuesday approved a moratorium on new charter schools in the district and a contract that county education officials warned LAUSD can’t afford.
- The charter moratorium, pending a study on how charters impact traditional schools in the district, was a symbolic victory for teachers’ unions, who blame competition from charter schools, backed by billionaire donors, for declining student enrollment, and thus declining funding.
- The contract concerns from the Los Angeles County Office of Education, which oversees county school spending, also have broader echoes. The county warned that the district’s contract is financially “unsustainable” and relies too heavily on state funding increases that may or may not happen.
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner to the L.A. Times: “We are at a historic moment to start addressing these issues. This contract is not an end. It is a beginning.”
Next up? The state’s end of the deal: Beutner and LAUSD officials will be in Sacramento today to meet with Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers to discuss what their press advisory calls “opportunities for the state to invest in Los Angeles schools.” Newsom’s budget proposal includes substantial increases in education funding, but Los Angeles isn’t the only district with contracts that could leave it overextended this year.
Soda lobbyists return
Soda lobbyists head back to Sacramento.
Soda industry lobbying has been the focus of national coverage, from CNN and the Washington Post to the health policy journal Milbank Quarterly, which has detailed efforts by Coke to influence the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Now representatives of CocaCola, Pepsi and other soft drink companies will be at the state Capitol today to tell legislators about the industry’s efforts to “reduce sugar and calories consumed from beverages” and improve “sustainability.”
- The informational event follows the Legislature’s ban on local soda taxes last year.
Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez is listed as host, though a spokesman for the Pomona Democrat said he merely reserved a room in the Capitol as a courtesy to the American Beverage Association.
- The association reported spending $8.3 million to qualify an initiative for the 2018 ballot that would have made it all but impossible for cities to pass all kinds of tax increases, including and especially increases in soda taxes.
- Legislators averted that ballot fight in June by imposing a 13-year ban on new soda taxes by cities and counties. The American Beverage Association spent $240,000 in campaign donations to help elect legislators and statewide office holders in 2018.
Justice pendulum swings some more
Assemblyman Mark Stone's bill would end medical fees for inmates.
A new bill would roll back a vestige of Gov. Pete Wilson’s administration when Republicans were ascendant, budgets were tight and lawmakers wanted to prove they were tough on crime.
- In the 1994 election, Democrats tried to head off a Republican wave by approving bills to show they were tough. One measure required prison inmates to pay $5 for nonemergency medical visits. It was intended to ensure criminals would help pay their own way.
- It didn’t work, at least not politically. In 1994, Republicans took control of Congress and the California Assembly.
That was then: This year, Assemblyman Mark Stone’s Assembly Bill 45 would remove that medical fee for inmates. Expect this one to zip through.
- Inmates earn 8 cents an hour at prison jobs, meaning they must work four or five days to pay the fee. Rather than make the co-pay, many wait until they’re seriously ill.
Stone: “It really becomes a barrier to people getting the care they need.”
Commentary at CALmatters
California needs more funding for long-term care.
Nancy McPherson, AARP California, and April Verrett, SEIU: We need an affordable and accessible system of long-term care for all Californians. We believe the public would embrace funding a limited but meaningful range of services for those with long-term needs.
Dan Walters, CALmatters: It would be fair to say that in just a few weeks, Newsom has been more engaged in the housing crisis than predecessor Jerry Brown was during the previous eight years.
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See you tomorrow.