Good morning, California.

“The private prison system represents so much of what is wrong with our criminal justice system … ” —  Democratic Party Chairman Eric Bauman Wednesday.

  • Private prison operators donated $160,000 to California Democratic Party since January 2017.
  • Capitol Weekly detailed those donations on Monday.
  • On Wednesday, Bauman announced the party would give money ($95,000 by my count) accepted during his tenure to groups that help immigrants.

Why greenhouse gas emissions fell

Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation last year extending the cap-and-trade program as former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger looked on.

The Air Resources Board announced Wednesday that California met its goals for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, driving them down to below 1990 levels in 2016—four years ahead of schedule.

Good news, to be sure, but it’s not all rosy. The air board’s report shows emissions from gasoline and diesel increased in 2016, the result of a strong economy and low prices. Industry accounts for 21 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and showed a slight decline.

Politicians were quick with congratulatory tweets.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who signed the 2006 bill requiring the state to lower greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020:

“Surpassing our 2020 emissions goal ahead of schedule while our economy grows by a nation-leading 4.9% and our unemployment rate is at a historic low should send a message to politicians all over the country: you don’t have to re-invent the wheel – just copy us.”

Gov. Jerry Brown, who expanded on Schwarzenegger’s measure: “California set the toughest emissions targets in the nation, tracked progress and delivered results.”

Most of the reductions were from the use of green electricity, less use of coal power imported from other states, and a factor that has nothing to do with anything politicians or policymakers did: rainfall.

“The abundant precipitation in 2016 provided higher hydropower to the state.”


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Will we cede power to other states?

California is considering legislation to alter the governance of the electric grid.

At Gov. Jerry Brown’s urging, legislators are contemplating legislation that would significantly alter the governing structure of California’s electricity system.

CALmatters’ Julie Cart writes that management of California’s electricity grid, now done by the Independent System Operator, would be replaced with a regional authority overseeing power in several Western states.

Legislation by Assemblyman Chris Holden, a Pasadena Democrat, will be the focus of much debate when legislators return from their summer break in August.

Cart: “The question is whether California would be giving up too much for too little.”

Pro: The concept would allow California to more efficiently produce renewable energy, much of it from the sun, and transmit to other Western states. California would then have a hand in helping ween other states from greenhouse gas-emitting power.

Con: Some environmentalists fear the state could be forced to accept coal-generated electricity that is still produced by some of the regional states. The influential union that represents electrical workers is fighting the measure. Some states that would be part of the regional grid take a dim view of organized labor.

CA could owe a debt of gratitude to South Carolina

Democratic legislators, hoping to save Californians from paying more taxes to Uncle Sam, are pressing ahead with legislation to evade a costly downside of President Trump’s tax overhaul, CALmatters’ Antoinette Siu reports.

If they succeed, California ought to thank Republican-dominated states.

Remind me: The federal tax overhaul limits to $10,000 the amount of state and local taxes people can deduct from their federal taxes. About a third of California taxpayers claim those deductions with wealthy Californians paying far more than $10,000 in state income taxes.

The response: Los Angeles-area Democrats Sen. Kevin de León and Assemblywoman Autumn Burke countered with bills to get around the new federal law by allowing Californians to “donate” to the state some of the money they would otherwise pay in taxes. Charitable donations are fully deductible.

The Internal Revenue Service warns that states cannot evade federal taxes by tinkering with their tax code.

However, many red states permit charitable contributions to help fund government programs, as academic tax experts note.

Siu: “Georgia gives its taxpayers a tax credit for contributions made to rural hospitals, and Alabama and South Carolina offer tax incentives to those giving to public schools.

Bottom line: If the bills pass, Californians would be taking deductions at some risk; the IRS could deny the deductions.

Assemblyman Mathis’ ‘locker room talk’

The Assembly Rules Committee Wednesday found insufficient evidence that Republican Assemblyman Devon Mathis of Visalia sexually assaulted a legislative staffer, but concluded he  “frequently engaged in sexual ‘locker room talk,’ including making sexual comments about fellow Assemblymembers.”

CALmatters Laurel Rosenhall is tracking #MeToo complaints against legislators and staffers here.

Mathis, as quoted in The Sacramento Bee: “The locker-room conversation referenced in the letter, that took place almost four years ago, was wrong and something for which I have previously apologized and do so again.”

The penalty: Mathis must attend sensitivity training and take additional training on the Assembly’s sexual harassment policy.

Walters: the mercy killing of a boondoggle

CALmatters commentator Dan Walters recounts the tortured and costly history of the North Coast Railroad Authority, a boondoggle if there ever was one, and recalls how it is that California in 2000 threw $60 million at it.

Short answer: Campaign contributions to then Gov. Gray Davis. New legislation would put the railroad to death.

What, then, would come of the state’s high-speed rail, or as Walters calls it “that bullet train to nowhere?”

 

Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, dmorain@calmatters.org, 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.