Good morning, California.

“There’s a lot of money to be made off of sick people.”—Kati Phillips of California Common Cause, as dialysis company spending hit $111 million to defeat Proposition 8, which would regulate their profits.

What's stopping bipartisanship

Republican Assemblywoman Catharine Baker with fellow lawmakers.

Republican Assemblywoman Catharine Baker breaks with her party by criticizing President Donald Trump and supporting abortion rights and gun control.

No less a Democrat than Gov. Jerry Brown, citing Baker’s votes for environmental bills, took the unusual step of giving a testimonial for use in her mailers: “Catharine Baker is the kind of independent leader we need in Sacramento.”

And yet as they seek to expand their majority, Assembly Democrats and the Democratic Party have poured $527,000 since Oct. 1 into unseating Baker and electing her Democratic challenger, environmental law attorney Rebecca Bauer-Kahan.

Consultant Bill Wong, who oversees Assembly Democrats’ campaigns for Speaker Anthony Rendon, said Baker votes with her party 80 percent of the time: “Any Democrat is going to have a better record than she does on choice, guns and the environment.”

Baker is not without her defenses:

  • As Republicans try to hold onto their last legislative seat in the Bay Area, Baker has outspent Bauer-Kahan, $1.8 million to $1.3 million.
  • Outside groups funded primarily by business and charter public school advocates have pummeled Bauer-Kahan with $1.1 million worth of mailers and other campaign efforts.

Bottom line: Speaker Rendon’s main job is to expand Democrats’ control of the Assembly. Bipartisanship becomes a victim.

Baker, referring to partisanship: “Think about what Sacramento is right now. As soon as you arrive you are divided into two tribes. … Nothing in politics surprises me, except when I go to the mailbox and learn new things about myself.”

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What’s good for General Motors

Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols, AG Xavier Becerra and Gov. Jerry Brown

As Gov. Jerry Brown announced California’s challenge to the Trump administration effort to roll back gas mileage standards on Friday, he may have found an ally in Detroit.

Remind me:

  • Last year, with car companies’ support, Trump announced he would reverse ambitious emission and mileage goals set by the Obama administration in collaboration with California.
  • This year, Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency followed through by proposing freezing fuel-efficiency standards at an average 35 miles per gallon, CALmatters’ Julie Cart explained.
  • On Friday, California filed a 415-page challenge to Trump’s proposal.

General Motors, in a separate response to Trump’s proposal, urged a redoubling of the national effort to deploy electric cars.

  • GM Chairwoman Mary Barra called for deploying 7 million zero-emission vehicles by 2030 through “a comprehensive approach to help move our country faster to an all-electric, zero emissions future.”

California wants more. Brown earlier this year set a goal of 5 million zero-emission vehicles in this state alone by 2030.

Brown, at a press conference near Interstate 5 in Sacramento: “The car companies know they have to build clean, electric and hydrogen cars. If they don’t, they’ll be working for Chinese companies. It’s that simple.”

Attorney General Xavier Becerra, referring to GM’s filing: “Stakeholders in the auto industry are not speaking with one voice, as we may have first thought when they were talking to the Trump administration. … I think the auto industry is recognizing their future is not Donald Trump.”  

What one $1,000 donation may mean

Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens.

A law firm retained by the Assembly to oversee the sexual harassment investigation into Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia has donated $1,000 to her reelection, raising questions about its impartiality.

  • Nossaman, LLC, disclosed the donation on Friday. In addition to its law practice, Nossaman operates a lobby operation in the Capitol and is a regular donor to legislators.

On behalf of the Assembly, Nossaman partner, attorney John T. Kennedy, is the point person for correspondence in the investigation into the complaint by former legislative staffer Daniel Fierro.

  • Fierro, now a consultant, alleges that Garcia, of Bell Gardens, groped him after a legislative softball game in 2014. Fierro last month filed a separate complaint alleging that Garcia and Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, an Orange County Democrat, retaliated by trying to dissuade clients from hiring Fierro.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s spokesman Kevin Liao said Nossaman is not conducting the investigation. However, the firm serves as the contact for Fierro and his lawyer.

Fierro: “The donation puts the lie to the entire idea that this is a truly independent investigation.”

Major donors give to politicians hoping for access.  Fierro figures Nossaman’s $1,000 gift to Garcia implies Nossaman thinks “this person is going to stick around and is worth investing in.”

  • Which may mean that Nossaman expects Garcia to be exonerated in the investigation it is overseeing.

What's the holdup on net neutrality?

California’s new net neutrality law is on hold, as expected. Attorney General Xavier Becerra made the call, pending the outcome of the state’s court challenge of the Federal Communications Commission, which earlier had reversed the Obama administration’s internet access rules.

Remind me: After the Trump administration rolled back tough internet rules passed during the Obama-era, more than 20 states’ attorneys general sued the FCC. Arguments in that case are scheduled to begin Feb. 1.

  • Meanwhile, California this year sought to backfill, passing the nation’s toughest state-level internet protections. The state law, set to take effect Jan. 1, would ban internet service providers such as Verizon and Comcast from creating fast lanes for favored apps and websites—streaming video, for instance—and charging extra for them.
  • Internet service providers and Trump’s Department of Justice promptly sued the state.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who had denounced California’s law, was quick to crow last week that California’s made a “substantial concession” by delaying implementation.

Sen. Scott Wiener, the San Francisco Democrat who carried the net neutrality bill, said Becerra made a “reasonable legal judgment.” He was less kind about the FCC chairman:

Wiener: “Nothing that comes out of Ajit Pai’s mouth is credible.”

Bottom line: The federal court of appeals in Washington, D.C., and perhaps the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the basic states’ rights question: Can states act to control the internet in their jurisdiction, or has Congress specifically granted sole authority to the FCC?

Commentary at CALmatters

Mike Males, Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice: Demagogues have pushed many white Americans to fear immigrants and the young. In reality, white people are most violently threatened in areas where racialized anger is strongest. Confronting that reality is one key to forging sane policies and a more cohesive society.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: With a strong economy, California has a very tight labor market with many jobs going unfilled. A low “workforce participation rate” and high housing costs that discourage migration exacerbate the worker shortage and could slow the state’s economic growth.

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See you tomorrow.