Good morning, California.
“We’re going to give them a one-year warning.”—President Trump, backing off his threat to close the border with Mexico.
“We don’t know what the long-term strategy is.”—Sara Neagu-Reed of the California Farm Bureau Federation, which is grappling with the impact of Trump’s trade policy with China and other markets.
Resisting trade turmoil
Almond grower Jonathan Hoff says tariffs are punishing his industry.
President Donald Trump is due in today for a visit to Imperial County and a $15,000-per-person Los Angeles fundraiser. Amid backlash from Calexico to Congress, he backed off Thursday from his potentially devastating threat to close the state’s border with Mexico.
Though may seem like a lifetime to most Californians, it has only been a year since California experienced the first aftershocks of Trump’s trade policies, CALmatters contributor Martha Groves reports.
- Since then, the worst has not come to pass and some products, such as pistachios, have even dodged Trump’s turmoil, but a host of other signature California items—almonds, pistachios, walnuts, wine grapes, oranges, dairy—have teetered on the verge of becoming collateral damage.
On the front lines has been Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, deployed by Gov. Gavin Newsom to do what the state can (spoiler alert: not much) to protect California’s trade interests.
Kounalakis, joking at a recent Sacramento Press Club luncheon: “For anyone who thinks that this international portfolio is, you know, having tea and going on trips, that’s not what this is about.”
For more on the lieutenant governor’s take on trade, click here.
Traveling with Newsom
The governor's Central American fact-finding mission is getting mixed reviews.
As Gov. Gavin Newsom heads to El Salvador this weekend with Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo to learn more about the “root causes” of the region’s migration crisis, his first international trip as governor is getting mixed reactions, report CALmatters Elizabeth Aguilera and Ben Christopher.
Carrillo: “It says a lot about his values, about the need for California to be an advocate within the United States for El Salvador.”
Assemblyman Devon Mathis, a Republican from Visalia: “I’ve got areas in my district that are flooding. Not in Central America. Come see the central San Joaquin Valley.”
More than 431,000 Salvadorian citizens live in California. They represent the state’s second largest undocumented immigrant population. Though El Salvador has just 6 million people, Salvadorans make up 1 in 5 asylum claims nationwide.
So who’s paying for Newsom’s fact-finding mission?
Christopher and Aguilera: “Flights, hotels and other on-the-ground expenses will be paid for by the California State Protocol Foundation, one of several nonprofits that have stepped in to relieve the taxpayer of travel costs for gubernatorial trips since the 1980s. Staff salaries will still be picked up by the state.”
Aguilera will be tagging along with the governor in and around San Salvador. Check for ongoing coverage here.
Paying for Coastal Commissioners
State regulators' back channel chit-chat will cost Californians.
Taxpayers will pay more than $1 million to a lawyer who successfully sued five members of the California Coastal Commission for failing to properly disclose scores of private meetings and discussions with developers and lobbyists who had matters before them.
- San Diego attorney Cory Briggs, representing a group called Spotlight on Coastal Corruption, sued the commissioners in 2016 for failing disclose so-called ex-parte meetings with lobbyists and others. The commissioners’ defense was free, courtesy of the state attorney general’s office.
- Ruling for the plaintiffs, San Diego Superior Court Judge Timothy Taylor imposed $57,100 in fines. Then, concluding that the case served the public interest by forcing the commission to be more transparent, Taylor ruled that Briggs was entitled to $960,000 in attorneys fees, but did not specify who should pay.
Briggs placed liens on the commissioners’ property, as lawyers do when seeking payment. Now, the state will pay $1.004 million in attorneys fees and interest, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Department of Finance said in a letter to the Legislature this week, citing the “significant and urgent ramifications this litigation could have on individuals who chose to serve the public as legislative and gubernatorial appointees.”
Addendum: Another $200,000 is also needed to pay for other litigation involving the commission, the letter said.
Measles cases are on the rise this year.
Questionable medical exemptions to California’s vaccination law are surging, three years after the Legislature restricted parents’ use of personal beliefs to avoid getting their kids immunized, Kaiser Health News’ California Healthline reports.
- The trend, noted in recent months in this space and by CALmatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera, exploits physicians’ broad authority under the law to exempt kids from vaccination.
Kaiser Health’s Barbara Feder Ostrov: “Some are wielding that power liberally and sometimes for cash: signing dozens — even hundreds — of exemptions for children in far-off communities.”
One is a psychiatrist who runs an anti-aging clinic in Santa Rosa, and, as it happens, gets rave Yelp reviews for also writing medical marijuana recommendations. Ostrov writes that the psychiatrist has provided “at least 50 exemptions, using nearly identical form letters … saying that immunizations were ‘contraindicated’ for a catchall list of conditions including lupus, learning disability, food allergies and ‘detoxification impairment.’”
- More than half the kindergartners at two charter public schools in Sebastopol received medical exemptions.
- Thirty percent of kindergartners at schools in Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Nevada City, Arcata and Sausalito had the exemptions.
- Seventeen cases of measles have been recorded so far this year in California, compared with 21 for all of 2018. Measles, which can be deadly, can be prevented by a vaccination.
The California Department of Public Health is reviewing schools with “biologically unlikely” numbers of medical exemptions.
What’s ahead: Legislators are preparing for what surely will be a fight over new legislation by Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician from Sacramento, intended to restrict medical exemptions. That bill faces it first hearing April 24.
Thinking small on housing
Are "granny flats" the key?
California lawmakers have pitched dozens of solutions to California’s affordable housing shortage: billion dollar bonds, revamping environmental protection law, suing NIMBY-inclined cities into permitting more development.
- But for all the big-picture housing legislation, the solution that’s proved most immediately effective has been rather small, report CALmatters’ Matt Levin and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillon: Accessory Dwelling Units, colloquially known as in-law units or granny flats.
For a closer look, check out their latest episode of “Gimme Shelter: The California Housing Crisis Podcast.”
Dealing with disasters
California has new guidelines for evacuations.
Since the civil defense system was created during the Cold War era, people believe “someone, somewhere, is ready and capable to respond during a crisis,” The Los Angeles Times’ Joseph Serna reports.
- Responses to recent disasters prove otherwise. After an unprecedented numbers of wildfire and mudslide deaths, the California Office of Emergency Services has issued a set of emergency alert protocols for counties throughout the state.
The Times: “The 85-page document gives a list of best practices for agencies to consider, from general ideas like building an up-to-date list of residents’ contact information to very specific points on how to word an evacuation order and how often emergency response staff should be trained.”
Commentary at CALmatters
Michael Latner, associate professor of political science at Cal-Poly, San Luis Obispo: Our democratic spirit desperately needs to be replenished. Empowered with the tools to develop civic virtue, our students can lead the next voting rights revolution, bringing us out of the shadows of our current predicament and closer to the ideal of a more perfect Union.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg, Los Angeles Democrat: Cannabis businesses make tens of thousands of dollars each week. They can’t put it in a bank account, so where do they turn? One business owner I’ve talked with stores over $1 million in a tractor trailer with 24 hour surveillance. Senate Bill 51 will help change this by allowing cannabis businesses to open bank accounts.
See you Monday.