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California joins lawsuit against Trump travel ban

That didn’t take long.

A week after President Trump announced a new version of his order restricting travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, California has joined a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

Trump’s first travel ban was struck down by the courts. The new version is more limited in scope, reducing from seven to six the number of countries affected, and dropping language that called for giving preference to refugees who are religious minorities in their home countries. But it remains problematic, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said today in announcing the state has joined the lawsuit.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

“The Trump Administration may have changed the text of the now-discredited Muslim travel ban, but they didn’t change its unconstitutional intent and effect. It is still an attack on people—women and children, professors and business colleagues, seniors and civic leaders—based on their religion and national origin,” Becerra said in a statement.

California joins Washington, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts and Minnesota in challenging Trump’s new travel order. The state’s legal brief argues that the order will interrupt the education of many foreign students at California universities, the Los Angeles Times reports, and cause financial harm because of a loss of tax revenue generated by tourism from Middle Eastern countries.

Also today, California joined 13 other state attorneys general in filing an amicus brief supporting another suit contesting the revised ban, this one filed by the state of Hawaii. In a statement, Becerra said his reasons were the same in both cases: “to challenge the Trump administration’s constitutional overreach.”

The Trump administration contends its action is necessary to counter what Trump himself has portrayed as a below-the-radar influx of terrorists and criminals across U.S. borders. “Unregulated, unvetted travel is not a universal privilege, especially when national security is at stake,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in announcing the revised ban.

California joins lawsuit against Trump travel ban

June 1, 2018

GOP now at number 3

Feb. 7, 2017

In this corner: Health

That didn’t take long.

A week after President Trump announced a new version of his order restricting travel from several predominantly Muslim countries, California has joined a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.

Trump’s first travel ban was struck down by the courts. The new version is more limited in scope, reducing from seven to six the number of countries affected, and dropping language that called for giving preference to refugees who are religious minorities in their home countries. But it remains problematic, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said today in announcing the state has joined the lawsuit.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

“The Trump Administration may have changed the text of the now-discredited Muslim travel ban, but they didn’t change its unconstitutional intent and effect. It is still an attack on people—women and children, professors and business colleagues, seniors and civic leaders—based on their religion and national origin,” Becerra said in a statement.

California joins Washington, Maryland, New York, Oregon, Massachusetts and Minnesota in challenging Trump’s new travel order. The state’s legal brief argues that the order will interrupt the education of many foreign students at California universities, the Los Angeles Times reports, and cause financial harm because of a loss of tax revenue generated by tourism from Middle Eastern countries.

Also today, California joined 13 other state attorneys general in filing an amicus brief supporting another suit contesting the revised ban, this one filed by the state of Hawaii. In a statement, Becerra said his reasons were the same in both cases: “to challenge the Trump administration’s constitutional overreach.”

The Trump administration contends its action is necessary to counter what Trump himself has portrayed as a below-the-radar influx of terrorists and criminals across U.S. borders. “Unregulated, unvetted travel is not a universal privilege, especially when national security is at stake,” Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in announcing the revised ban.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Dec. 11, 2018 10:18 am

California AG labels Trump’s draft “public charge” crackdown on immigrants reckless—and unconstitutional

Health and Welfare Reporter
Cruz Cubias Castillo, 77, lives with her son Alejandro Cubias and his family. The only money she earns is from recycling cans and bottles. The green card holder qualifies for food assistance but won't apply for it because she fears that could hurt her or her family later. Photo by Elizabeth Aguilera for CALmatters
Cruz Cubias Castillo, 77, lives with her son Alejandro Cubias and his family. The only money she earns is from recycling cans and bottles. The green card holder qualifies for food assistance but won’t apply for it because she fears that could hurt her or her family later. Photo by Elizabeth Aguilera for CALmatters

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is labeling as unconstitutional the Trump administration’s  proposed rule that would block some legal immigrants from getting a green card if they’ve used—or may use in the future—public services like health care, food assistance and housing programs.

Just hours before a midnight Monday deadline for comment, Becerra submitted a 51-page denouncement of the “public charge” rule, warning it would have “dire consequences for the vitality of California and undermine our State’s investment in our communities and our commitment to supporting working families.”

Since the proposal’s release, he has promised to take “any and all legal action to challenge this reckless proposal.” Becerra already has sued the Trump administration 42 times, with nine of those cases contesting President Trump’s immigration moves.

Becerra’s latest comment contends that the Trump administration has “utterly failed to account for the potential impact the Proposed Rule has on states and their residents, especially in California. The Rule will have truly damaging and irreparable ramifications to our State’s families, employers, economy, and public agencies for years to come.” It says the proposal unconstitutionally
targets immigrant communities of color and interferes with California’s administration of programs that benefit the health and safety of its residents.

The controversial proposal is viewed as another step in the Trump administration’s efforts to reduce migration from developing countries and make it more difficult for poorer immigrants to stay and potentially pursue a path to U.S. Citizenship. More than 115,000 comments have been filed nationwide in anticipation of the federal government issuing a final determination.

Historically the federal government has subjected certain immigrants applying for legal permanent residency, otherwise known as green cards, to a test to determine if they have ever been or would ever need to be supported by taxpayers.  This “public charge” assessment is done at two points in the process—when people from abroad apply to enter the U.S., and when they apply to become a legal permanent resident. It has long focused on judging a person’s need for cash aid programs.

The new proposal would expand the list to include receiving food stamps, Medicaid (in California, Medi-Cal) health care and Section 8 housing assistance. It could affect immigrants here on worker visas who then apply for a green card, and those who apply for one after marrying U.S. citizens.

US Citizenship and Immigration Services, the federal agency,  said it is making the change to better define guidance on how to determine if a person “applying for a visa, admission or adjustment of status is likely at any time to become a public charge.”

“Since the 1800s, federal laws have required foreign nationals to be able to care for themselves without being a public charge,”  the agency’s director,  Francis Cissna, said in a statement. “As such, it is incumbent upon the U.S. government to evaluate applications in a manner consistent with federal law, and I believe the public charge regulation is a necessary step to achieving that goal.”

The Trump administration estimates about 380,000 applicants nationwide may face additional scrutiny under the new rule.

But California forecasts a larger chilling effect because of the fear a rule change is likely to instill among the nearly 30 percent of the state’s population who are immigrants. Becerra’s letter said there are about 5 million Californians living in mixed-immigration status households, with at least one family member who is undocumented, and nearly 3 million children, most of them citizens, with immigrant parents receive public benefits.

The UCLA Center for Health Policy Research estimates that as many as 300,000 eligible people could cancel their enrollment in CAL Fresh, the state’s food stamp program, equaling up to $488 million dollars in annual benefits. For Medi-Cal, the center estimates a decline of up to 741,000 eligible people, accounting for more than $1 billion in funding for the health care coverage. The center’s research concludes the state could lose up to$1.67 billion in benefits, $2.8 billion from the economy and lose 17,700 jobs including in the health care, agriculture and other food related industries.

“The programs lift hundreds of thousands of Californians out of poverty,” said Ninez Ponce, director of the UCLA center. “There is a lot of confusion and fear and so children and families, parents, individuals who are wholly eligible and who have already adjusted to legal permanent status may be confused—and may think that this may threaten their continued pathway to citizenship, and so may dis-enroll.”

Supporters, however, argue the country should reserve benefits for citizens, especially those who are homeless or jobless and need support.

“When you look at what a poor job we are doing with our most vulnerable people (citizens), our inability to provide meaningful work, living wages, what sense does it make to bring in someone who is indigent or very marginal and could be a burden to the taxpayer,” said Kevin Lynn, executive director of Progressives for Immigration Reform, a group that supports limited immigration.

Becerra pointed out that most of the families using the supplemental services are working and need the assistance to make ends meet—especially low-wage workers in health care, agriculture and childcare. “Discouraging eligible immigrants from accessing Medi-Cal, (food stamps) and housing benefits, will ultimately transfer costs to state and local governments and community organizations, as those families rely on emergency services and public safety net programs, such as local shelters, homeless services and food pantries,” said Becerra, who also predicted a major impact on California’s agricultural and construction industries should immigrants choose to leave the state.

An analysis of the change by the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization, found that the new rule would shift immigration from Latin America to Europe. Researchers applied the new test to immigrants who have become legal permanent residents within the last five years and found that nearly 70 percent had at least one negative factor.

Currently immigration officers assess the public charge rule by considering a person’s age, health, family status, assets and resources and education and skills. New factors could also include if someone is a child or a senior, those with limited English proficiency, limited education and medical conditions.

The only positive factor for avoiding being classified as a public charge: if someone has financial assets  or earns at or above 250 percent of the federal poverty level. That’s about $63,000 for a family of four.

Advocates say the new rules would favor wealthier immigrants, who tend to be white, and disproportionately harm women, children and the elderly. They report that legal immigrants are asking questions about how this rule will impact them and many are backing away from programs they qualify for, or that benefit their children.

“The majority of people who receive these benefits are working, so it’s really an unprecedented departure of our understanding of public charge to say that a person who is working but now is receiving supplemental assistance would be considered a public charge,”  said Gabrielle Lessard, senior policy attorney for the National Immigration Law Center. “It’s narrowing who is able to fit through.”

Health providers, especially those in low-income immigrant areas, are already seeing the fallout from the proposal. People are afraid and asking to be disenrolled from programs or are refusing to sign-up even if they qualify.

“This is a vulnerable population and we are concerned about it because these residents are here legally and may be in need of health care, and we should be helping to keep them safe and well,” said Erik Wexler, chief executive of Southern California’s Providence St. Joseph Health, a health care provider that serves a predominantly lower-income Medi-Cal population.

Eisner Health, which provides health care to low-income residents in Los Angeles, said in its submitted public comment: “The effect of this rule could drive entire families away from enrolling in programs that help them stay healthy.”

Among Eisner’s patients is Cruz Cubias Castillo, who lives in South Los Angeles. She recently told an outreach worker there that she did not want to apply for CALFresh benefits after all. The 77-year-old green card holder wishes she could accept the benefit since she lives with her son and has no income except the few bucks she earns collecting cans and bottles to recycle. But she is afraid.

“I am embarrassed to not have any of my own food and I have to get from my son and his family,” she said. “It really pains me—he has his family and has a daughter in a wheelchair. He is the only one that works.”

Castillo has been in the United States for 17 years, and has held a green card since 2010. She worries that the government might come after her or her son later for whatever benefit she might receive, or that they might take away her green card if she accepts the food stamps. So she’s going to go without.

She is, however, taking her chances on one program: Castillo is staying on Medi-Cal and says she can’t quit because she suffers from diabetes.

In Los Angeles County more than 1 million immigrants receive CAL Fresh, cash aid through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medi-Cal, and Section 8 benefits. If a quarter of those families drop their benefits, the county estimates that the local economy would lose more than $60 million.

“Our government should never be in the business of punishing people who may need a little help making sure their kids are safe, fed, and have a roof over their heads,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said in his submitted comment. “Creating fear and targeting legal immigrants who follow the rules does nothing to increase our security or strengthen our economy—it is nothing less than a public disgrace.”

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Dec. 5, 2018 3:07 pm

A gentler, still incredibly controversial housing bill is back—with a powerful new ally

Data and Housing Reporter
Land near public transit such as BART would be more easily developed into mid-rise apartment buildings under a proposal before California lawmakers. Photo by Dan Honda, Bay Area News Group
Land near public transit such as BART would be more easily developed into mid-rise apartment buildings under a proposal before California lawmakers. Photo by Dan Honda, Bay Area News Group

Last year, one piece of housing legislation overshadowed all others. Senate Bill 827 by Sen. Scott Wiener, Democrat from San Francisco, would have allowed developers to build four- to eight-story apartment buildings next to public transit stops around the state.

The goals were laudable: Ease regulations on the construction of desperately needed new housing (the state acknowledges it is short 3.5 million units), and reduce commuters’ greenhouse gas emissions by placing more homes near greener transportation such as subways, light rail and bus stops. The method was radical: Take away some of the zoning power of cities, which traditionally decide what types of homes can be built where and don’t typically encourage apartment buildings to be built right next door to single-family homes.

The instant controversy over the bill made national headlines. Beyond enraging homeowners in anti-growth locales such as Marin County, anti-gentrification groups complained the bill lacked sufficient protections for tenants in low-incomes communities where new high-rises often equate to rising rents.

So despite support from urbanists and environmentalists nationwide, the bill died a loud and early death. Wiener vowed he would be back with a similar plan next year, because he saw it as the only way to fix the state’s crushing housing shortage.

Well, it’s back. This week, Wiener and California YIMBY (“Yes In My Backyard,” a pro-development group mostly of younger Californians backed by tech money) unveiled  SB 50.

“The heart of the bill is the same as where the bill ended up last year,” said Wiener. “This is about adding housing and not replacing existing tenants.”

Under the proposal, in most cases cities would no longer be able to block new apartment buildings within a half-mile of public transit. Developers also wouldn’t have to worry about minimum parking requirements, which otherwise could add costs and reduce the number of apartments in a building.

State Sen. Scott Wiener, Democrat of San Francisco. Photo by Robbie Short for CALmatters

State Sen. Scott Wiener, Democrat of San Francisco. Photo by Robbie Short for CALmatters

But changes in the new version of Wiener’s legislation have made it more palatable to some, and attracted new political allies. Certain communities that already created effective transit-oriented development plans would be exempt—which is why Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a foe of last year’s bill, supports this one.  Garcetti and various Los Angeles anti-gentrification groups feared last year’s bill would encroach on their own plans to bring more affordable housing to public transit. While singling out Garcetti’s program, details on what other local initiatives might be exempt from the SB 50 remain unknown.

While details remain in flux, the bill also includes a provision for more low-income housing and stricter protections for tenants, an attempt to mollify concerns from anti-gentrification groups who remain wary, but are not as explicitly opposed as they were last year.

“There was certainly more engagement prior to SB 50 than before SB 827, and we definitely appreciate that,” said Anya Lawler, a policy advocate for the Western Center on Law and Poverty, who testified against last year’s bill. Lawler’s organization is waiting to see how key affordable housing provisions are fleshed out in the coming months.

Perhaps most importantly, the bill has a powerful new ally—organized labor. The State Building and Construction Trades Council, which opposed Wiener’s bill last year, endorses the new legislation. The “trades” and their campaign coffers wield enormous clout in the Capitol, and were instrumental to passage of a 2017 housing bill package.

“The entire approach is different,” said Cesar Diaz, legislative and political director with the state construction workers’ union.  “It’s a collaborative approach by a senator who brought us in to work on this early on.”

Why the about-face? Diaz says language in last year’s bill was too ambiguous about which types of projects could qualify for expedited city review. The new bill is clearer—most projects will still need to submit to an environmental review and conform to local labor standards, allowing construction workers’ unions to wield more influence in local project approval.

“Nothing in the bill will reduce labor’s ability to get wage protections,” said Wiener.

Even with the backing of organized labor, Wiener’s kinder, gentler “upzoning” bill still faces its own uphill climb. Sen. Jim Beall, current (although perhaps not future) chairman of the Senate housing committee, did not vote for last year’s bill. This week, he issued a press release that signaled he may be preparing an alternative to Wiener’s approach.

Most California cities—although not all—have loathed this approach because it strips their zoning power.

A new provision promoting denser development in higher-income communities seems particularly provocative. “Job rich” communities—a term Wiener has yet to fully define—would incentivize denser development even in areas not within a half mile of public transit. The provision aims to ensure that new apartment buildings won’t be built only in lower-income neighborhoods with lots of bus stops, but also in wealthier enclaves with lots of job opportunities but little public transit.

A remaining variable is Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, who applauded Wiener’s ambition but was lukewarm on the details of last year’s legislation. A spokesman for Newsom declined to comment on the new bill.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to clarify how SB 50 treats transit-oriented development initiatives in communities in Los Angeles and other cities. 

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Dec. 3, 2018 5:52 pm

On Day One, hints of California’s Democratic agenda to come

Political Reporter
Assemblymember Christy Smith is sworn in on the floor of the Assembly chambers. Photo by Max Whittaker for CALmatters
Assemblymember Christy Smith is sworn in on the floor of the Assembly chambers. Photo by Max Whittaker for CALmatters

It’s just the beginning.

California lawmakers kicked off a new two-year session Monday, a day full of pomp and ceremony and not a lot of substance. But a few eager legislators began putting bills across the desk, giving an early indication of some key policy fights that will shape 2019.

Some of the early legislation reflects policy priorities Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom championed on the campaign trail—calling for more housing, health care and early childhood education. (Newsom will be sworn in on Jan. 7.) Other bills amount to a take-two for lawmakers who saw their policies stall out or get vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

It’s too soon to say how these proposals will fare—a long road of compromises often separates a bill’s introduction from the gubernatorial signature that turns it into a law. But here are a few themes emerging in this first day of legislative action:

Disaster

California’s recent wildfires are clearly a preoccupation. Both chambers opened with a moment of silence for victims of the Camp and Woolsey fires. In one of the more gripping moments of the morning, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon listed, name by name, the many California counties that, just at the moment, are recovering from climate-driven natural disasters, and what Gov. Jerry Brown termed “the new abnormal” figured heavily into his and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins’ opening remarks.

On Monday, Democratic Assemblyman Jim Wood, who represents fire-scarred Santa Rosa—and who, as a forensic dentist, has been helping to identify remains in the Camp Fire— introduced legislation to hasten, broaden, subsidize and better codify local fire preparedness. As last session’s hard-fought wildfire bill demonstrated, though, the costs and liabilities associated with wildfires can politically be a hard sell.

Critics of Pacific Gas & Electric, whose equipment has been linked to many of last year’s fires, have been adamant in their demand that the state not give the massive utility a bailout. Assemblyman Chris Holden, a Pasadena Democrat, had planned to introduce language on Monday that would have expanded last year’s wildfire bill to give PG&E relief for potential liability for the Camp Fire, which killed at least 85 people, but over the weekend, Holden said he would wait.

Housing

Lawmakers introduced several bills aimed at alleviating the state’s housing crisis on the first day of the legislative session, including twin efforts to revive a controversial funding source for affordable housing.

Assemblymember David Chiu, Democrat from San Francisco, reintroduced a bill that would revive and reform redevelopment agencies across the state. Eliminated by Gov. Brown in 2011 to close the state’s yawning budget deficit, redevelopment agencies provided about $1 billion annually for the construction and preservation of low-income housing. Loathed by Brown, tax funds raised by these agencies were frequently used for questionable purposes.

Two of Chiu’s colleagues in the state senate unveiled their own version of “Redevelopment 2.0” on Monday. Senator Jim. Beall, Democrat from San Jose, and Sen. Mike McGuire, Democrat from Marin, announced they will be introducing a series of bills in the coming weeks to ease the state’s housing crisis, although the specifics of their redevelopment bill or other pieces of legislation were not yet made public. On the campaign trail, Gov.-elect Newsom made restoring redevelopment funding a cornerstone of his housing plan.

Lawmakers introduced a handful of other housing bills, including efforts to increase emergency funding to renters on the brink of homelessness and a major expansion of tax credits to low-income housing developers. But the biggest housing bill of the session will likely be announced tomorrow.

Sen. Scott Wiener, Democrat from San Francisco, plans to reintroduce his controversial bill that would allow taller, denser buildings around public transit, a measure that was widely admired and summarily trounced last year.

Preschool

If there is a sure bet this legislative session, the expansion of early childhood education is as close as it comes.

Stymied for years by Gov. Brown, who was wary of putting the state on the financial hook for an obligation as long-term and expensive as, say, universal preschool, Democrats have come to the table well-armed. Earlier this year, a Stanford-led team of academicians issued a massive study recommending that California spend much more on pre-K education. And Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, who has four young children, has been touting early childhood education for years.

On Monday, Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento was first out of the gate, with a package of bills worth nearly $2 billion that would add about 84,000 full-day preschool slots, mostly for students living in poverty; put a $500 million bond on the 2020 ballot for the construction of new preschool facilities; and increase reimbursement rates for private childcare and preschool providers that contract with the state.

The legislation effectively would increase the pool of eligibility for subsidized preschool to include more 3- year-olds and all 4-year-olds living in school attendance areas where at least 70 percent of kids are on free or reduced lunch, a poverty indicator. One of the bills also would raise preschool learning standards to align them better with K-12 curriculum. “

Take Two

Or three. For the last two years legislative Democrats have proposed expanding government-funded health care to undocumented adults, the largest segment of Californians who lack access to insurance. Doing that is expensive, and the proposals failed to make it into the final budget Brown signed in 2017 and again this year.

Now Democratic Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula of Fresno and Sen. Ricardo Lara are trying again, introducing bills on Monday to expand Medi-Cal to cover adults over age 19 who are in the United States illegally.

Also getting another go are some high-profile bills Brown vetoed last year, including one inspired by the #MeToo movement to stop sexual harassment. Assembly Bill 9 by Democratic Assemblywomen Eloise Gomez Reyes and Laura Friedman would give victims more time to file a claim—extending the deadline from one year to three years after an incident.

Brown vetoed the same policy this year, saying the one-year deadline “ensures that unwelcome behavior is promptly reported and halted.” Supporters counter that more time gives workers who are unfamiliar with the legal system enough time to hold predators accountable.

Brown also vetoed legislation to require colleges to provide abortion pills at campus health clinics, saying “the services required by this bill are widely available off campus,” and that students, on average, only have to travel a few miles to get it. Newsom quickly told reporters he would have signed the bill, so it was little surprise Monday when Democratic Sen. Connie Leyva came out with a second go in the form of Senate Bill 24.

Gig Economy

A major source of angst or ebullience—depending on your view—at the end of the last session was a state court decision that threw a monkey wrench into a legal pillar of the gig economy.

The so-called “Dynamex ruling” makes it harder for employers to classify workers as independent contractors. Cheered by organized labor, it impacted workers from Uber drivers to businesses to emergency room doctors, and sent Chamber of Commerce lobbyists scrambling for relief, or at least clarification.

On Monday, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, a San Diego Democrat and labor ally, said she will introduce a bill to put a statutory bulwark around the ruling. Business interests, meanwhile, are hoping to soften the blow. Touching on competing goods from across the political spectrum—jobs, tech, small business, fair pay—this is one of those vexing issues that could challenge even a super-duper-mega-majority.

CALmatters’ Ricardo Cano and Matt Levin contributed to this report.

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Dec. 3, 2018 1:26 pm

A deep blue sea of California lawmakers takes oath of office

Political Reporter

Editorial Intern
California Senate swearing-in ceremony for the 2019 legislature.
New members of the California Senate were sworn in at the Capitol on Monday. Photo for CALmatters by Byrhonda Lyons.

Forget mere supermajorities. As a new class of legislators was sworn in today in Sacramento, the watchword for Democrats was “super-duper-majority.” Or maybe “mega-majority.” Or, as Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon put it, “gigamajority.”

In any case, Dems now hold 75 percent of the seats in the Assembly and nearly the same portion in the Senate—the most Democrats the state Capitol has seen in decades.

Among the expected priorities? Early childhood education, wildfire costs and prevention, health care, affordable housing, programs to combat poverty and inequality, and perhaps a fresh look at California’s tax system, just for starters. Though conventional wisdom might translate more Democrats to mean more liberal governance, however, that might not be the case.

Both Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon stressed in their welcome addresses that the state’s most urgent challenges—climate-driven disasters, gaping income inequality, homelessness—demand bipartisan solutions. This Legislature also is among the most diverse in state history: As if to underscore this year’s striking influx of women, at least 36 of whom were sworn in this morning, the Secretary of the Senate, Erika Contreras, juggled a baby as she was sworn in to the chamber’s top executive staff position.

Many of the newcomers also are from the Central Valley and conservative stretches of Southern California, where Democrats swept districts previously held by the GOP.

One race remains too close to call. Assemblyman Brian Maienschein took the oath but leads his Democratic challenger Sunday Gover with just 50.2 percent of the vote.

Since Maienschein was leading as of today, the rules permitted him to be sworn in—but he will be replaced if his win turns to a loss when final votes are counted.

The new class includes 10 more women than the last. Among them are lawyers,  businesswomen and the first pair of sisters to serve in the state Legislature. Here are a few more things you should know about this new group:

  • Nine new senators and eight new Assembly members were sworn in to the 120-person Legislature, the smallest new cohort in 30 years. The small crop of newcomers is due to a change voters made to term-limit rules, allowing lawmakers to run for the same office for up to 12 years. It means more legislators to run for re-election, and creates fewer opportunities for fresh blood until those 12-year spans start to turn over.
  • It’s been a record-breaking year for women taking office at the state and federal level combined. This year’s class of state lawmakers includes 36 women, which is 10 more than the previous session—a big jump that brings the Legislature close to its 2005-06 apex for female representation, when the body included 37 women. Even so, women still comprise just 30 percent of the Legislature overall.
  • The state Senate now has 29 Democrats. It’s been 56 years since Democrats had that many and kept them throughout the session. (The tumultuous 2013-14 session started with 29 Democrats but ended with 28 because of resignations, according to legislative historian Alex Vassar.)
  • Two Democratic businesswomen were sworn-in to represent coastal So-Cal districts that have been held by Republicans for decades. Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath of Encinitas is the first Democrat to represent North San Diego County since 1978. And Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris of Laguna Beach is the first Democrat representing her district since 1980.
  • Democratic Senator-elect Anna Caballero of Salinas will be the first non-Republican lawmaker elected from Madera county since 2000. The seat was hotly contested and millions were spent on campaigns there. The flip helped Democrats win a supermajority in the state Senate.
  • Democratic Assemblyman James Ramos of San Bernardino, who was born at the San Manuel Indian Reservation, becomes the first lawmaker born on Native American tribal territory, according to the Speaker’s Office.
  • The steep losses for Republicans meant that just one freshman GOP member was sworn into the Assembly—Tyler Diep of Westminster. It’s the first time since 1958 that the Assembly’s freshman class included just one Republican.
  • Democratic Sen. Melissa Hurtado of Sanger, 30, will be the youngest woman ever elected to serve in the state Senate. She’s the youngest state Senator since 1981. Adding to the blue wave, she’s also the first Democrat to serve from Tulare County since 2010, according to Vassar.
  • With Democrat Susan Rubio sworn into the Senate, the Legislature now includes a pair of sisters for the first time in state history; Democratic Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio is her sister. (Several pairs of brothers have served over the years.) Side-note: Former Assemblyman Roger Hernandez is Susan Rubio’s ex-husband. She campaigned, in part, as a survivor of his domestic abuse, and criticized other legislators for tolerating his behavior.
  • Do you know who your lawmaker is? Check here to see if your senator or assembly member has changed.
Democrat Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, left, plays with her two-year-old daughter, Josephine Ambler, on her desk after being sworn into the California Assembly, December 3, 2018 at the State Capitol in Sacramento, California.

Democrat Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, left, plays with her two-year-old daughter after being sworn in. At least 36 female lawmakers will serve in the Legislature this term. Photo for CALmatters by Max Whittaker.

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This week, with California’s 2018 midterm behind us, we’ll be offering insights into the results with five charts—one per day. Today, Friday, we published our final installment. About 416,000 ballots await tabulation, so we’ll update these posts as warranted.

Skim how California voted on various ballot propositions—”yes” to more borrowing for affordable housing, “no” to the gas tax repeal, “yay” for bigger chicken cages—and you might think people across the state feel pretty much the same way about these things.

Which, of course, they don’t.

Proposition 6, which sought to nix a gas tax increase and thereby cut transportation funding about $5 billion per year, failed. But not everywhere. A majority of voters in most of the state’s inland counties voted for the measure. They did so despite the fact that many of these large, sparsely-populated counties receive a disproportionate amount of state road funding per person. Chalk it up to a combination of car dependence, tax-aversion and support for the Republican Party backing the measure.

So looks can be deceiving. Prop. 6 won a majority of the state’s landmass, but elections aren’t won by acreage. Overwhelming opposition in the state’s big cities (83 percent of San Franciscans and 61 percent of Angelenos voted “no”) dragged the ballot measure to defeat.

Then again, sometimes looks say it all.

Prop. 10, the unsuccessful attempt to repeal statewide restrictions on rent control and another one of the most controversial propositions on the ballot, went down just about everywhere. The two exceptions were San Francisco and Alameda County. Those two counties were also alone in opposition Prop. 11, a  paramedic breaktime initiative.

For the record, those were not the most geographically lopsided outcomes among the 11 ballot measures. Tiny Alpine County was the only county that supported Prop. 8, the profit cap on dialysis clinics. But it was close: 283 people voted yes while 269 opposed.

No county carried Prop. 5, the measure to allow older homeowners to carry their Prop. 13 property tax benefits when they move.

But that’s where the unanimity ended. Looking at which propositions received the most “yes” votes in each locale, counties were split across six measures: Prop. 2 (housing/mental health bond), Prop. 4 (children’s hospital bond), Prop. 6 (gas tax repeal), Prop. 7 (to start the process of ditching the biannual switch from Daylight Saving to Standard time), Prop. 11 (paramedic breaks) and Prop. 12 (requiring larger cages for hens and other farm animals).

Sadly for the seven counties that loved the idea of repealing the gas take hike, that was the only measure on the list above to fail.

As for which propositions received the most “no” votes, counties split their disdain three ways.

The gas repeal measure, as noted, was largely rejected by the coast. Likewise, in nearly every county not touching the Pacific, the measure to allow more rent control was the proposition that received the highest number of “no” votes. That more than canceled out the support that the measure received in the Bay Area.

And Prop. 5? While no county much liked it, ell, Yolo, Sacramento, Humboldt and Mono were especially down on the property tax break.

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Nov. 29, 2018 8:19 pm

One lesson from Bauman’s resignation? MeToo isn’t going away

Political Reporter
California Democratic Party chairman Eric Bauman speaks during a California Democratic Party executive board meeting at Oakland Convention Center in Oakland, Calif., on Saturday, July 14, 2018. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

The resignation of California Democratic Party chairman Eric Bauman comes at a particularly emotional moment in California politics—on the heels of historic wins for Democrats and after a year of bipartisan reckoning over the apparent culture of sexual bullying within the political class.

Bauman became the latest casualty of the #MeToo movement when he resigned Thursday, hours after Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom called on him to step down over allegations that he harassed staff members and party activists with numerous lewd comments and incidents of inappropriate physical contact. Bauman said he has a drinking problem and would seek treatment.

“I have made the realization that in order for those to whom I may have caused pain and who need to heal, for my own health, and in the best interest of the Party that I love and to which I have dedicated myself for more than 25 years, it is in everyone’s best interest for me to resign my position as chair of the California Democratic Party,” Bauman said.

That Bauman’s alleged behavior persisted even as the public gaze focused so heavily in the last year on rooting out sexual harassment may be a testament to the counterproductive role alcohol too often plays in Capitol culture. Or it may point to the declining significance of political parties—how important can a party leader be, after all, if he can decree “zero tolerance,” as Bauman did, for sexual harassment and then openly proceed to harass his staff?

But most of all, Bauman’s resignation is a sign that the #MeToo story is far from over.

“There are a lot of untold stories, and frankly, a lot of bad actors who haven’t been held accountable yet,” said Samantha Corbin, a lobbyist whose public letter last year kicked off the anti-harassment movement in the state Capitol.

During the past year of tumult and introspection, three legislators resigned, facing harassment allegations, and several others were publicly reprimanded for behavior ranging from using vulgar language to giving unwanted “noogies.” On the very day Bauman resigned, the Assembly released records saying Democratic Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia violated sexual harassment policy by acting “overly familiar” with a staffer when, in a drunken state, she grabbed him at a legislative softball game. Throughout this year, the Legislature passed dozens of laws to combat harassment in workplaces statewide, and formed a special committee that crafted a plan to improve the culture inside the Capitol.

Bauman, who is gay, spoke out last year in favor of legislation to give Capitol staffers whistleblower protection if they report misconduct. The Democratic convention he organized in February included new precautions to keep participants safe, such as extra security and a hotline for reporting harassment and assault.

Now Bauman himself will be the focus of an inquiry by a new Commission of Inquiry and Recognition being formed by a Democratic party activist in Los Angeles who says he’s been a victim of Bauman’s inappropriate advances.  The commission includes former state schools superintendent Delaine Eastin.

“There is going to be a lot of focus on who enabled this. There are still people in party leadership who enabled this to persist as long as it has,” said Hans Johnson, president of the East Area Progressive Democrats club.

“They are part of the breakdown in governance in the party that contributed to the worsening and widening of the hurt (Bauman) has been allowed to inflict.”

Johnson said Bauman doesn’t deserve credit for California Democrats’ electoral victories this month—which included flipping seven seats in the House, capturing every statewide office and gaining supermajorities (and then some) in both chambers of  the Legislature.

Political scientists and campaign strategists agreed that party leadership seemed to be only one factor among many in the blue wave this election. Democrats, they noted, also were buoyed by Californians’ deep dislike of Republican President Donald Trump, as well as a strong push from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and numerous labor and activist groups that raised huge sums of money and organized campaign volunteers.

“The state party did not have a major role in what happened in regards to Congress,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a retired political science professor at the University of Southern California.

“What the state party is, by and large, is a way for donors to launder money,” she said, because the law limits how much they can give to individual candidates but not how much they can give to the state party.

The party hired an employment lawyer to investigate the accusations against Bauman. That process will continue despite his resignation, said acting-Chair Alexandra Gallardo Rooker, and an executive summary of the findings will be made public.  

Rooker will continue to serve as the party chair until delegates elect a new leader, likely at their convention in May. What’s not clear, however, is how many more political figures will fall before the #MeToo story is over in California.

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This week, with California’s 2018 midterm behind us, we’ll be offering insights into the results with five charts—one per day. Today, Thursday, about 442,000 ballots are still waiting to be tabulated, so we’ll update these posts as warranted.

No doubt you’ve heard about the blue wave: the electoral tsunami of left-of-center enthusiasm that slammed into California on election day, flipping seven of 14 GOP-held congressional districts to the Democrats. But that was just the wave’s frothy cap.

For every single congressional district that featured a face-off between a Democrat and Republican in this midterm and the last, the California electorate shifted further blue. The average Democratic gain was 9 percentage points since 2014.

Last updated November 29, 2018.

As the sea of leftward pointing arrows above shows, Democrats amassed a larger share of the vote in all but five districts this year, including several that stayed in GOP hands. In 2014, for example, Central Valley Republican Rep. Devin Nunes won 72 percent of the vote. This year (at last count) he snagged a slim majority of 53 percent.

There was a leftward shift in most solidly blue districts this year too. Take Rep. Ted Lieu in Torrence. In 2014, he won his seat by a little less than 60 percent of the vote, leaving 41 percent of the vote for his Republican opponent. This year, he won by an even more resounding 70 percent.

The only districts that proved immune to the national wave of anti-Trump energy that swept the country—and swept Democrats back into the House majority—were districts where a Democrat and Republican did not square off against one another in one of the two election years (those districts are indicated by dashed lines above).

In California’s 8th congressional district, which covers much of the state’s eastern desert, two Republicans, Rep. Paul Cook and former Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, made it into the top two. That sole GOP shutout in the primary allowed the Republicans to rack up 100 percent of the vote there this year.

The other exceptions are true blue enclaves such as Burbank or San Jose where Republicans were shutout in 2014. This year, Republican candidates in those districts were able to improve upon their party’s prior vote share of 0 percent—but only modestly.

Democratic districts such as the one based in San Pedro didn’t see a Republican compete in either year. Not much room for Democratic improvement there.

If the graphic above looks familiar, it’s because we’ve run a similar version before. In a post from earlier this summer, we showed how the share of the vote going towards Republican candidates in the June primary fell dramatically in most seats between 2014 and 2018. The title of that article was “California’s Blue Wave watch: Why this graphic should worry Republicans.”

In retrospect, that sounds about right.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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This week, with California’s 2018 midterm behind us, we’ll be offering insights into the results with five charts—one per day. Today, Wednesday, about 442,000 ballots are still waiting to be tabulated, so we’ll update these posts as warranted.

Some races are more popular than others.

Sure, even the least engaged voters pick one of the candidates running to fill the state’s chief executive. This year, some 12 million cast their vote for either Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom or Republican businessman John Cox. But as voters work their way down the state’s super-sized ballot, within which they were asked to weigh in on the more obscure positions of California governance, many had a habit of shrugging and moving on.

In fact, a closer look at the statewide races that received the fewest votes this year underscores how California’s electoral system is leaving Republican and GOP-leaning voters with few good options.

First, let’s start with the most popular races.

At last count, the governor’s race received the highest number of votes, followed by the contest for secretary of state and attorney general. Among the statewide ballot measures, voters were most likely to weigh in on Proposition 6 (which would have repealed an increase in the gas tax) and Prop. 10 (which would have nixed state restrictions on rent control).

At the bottom of the list are four races for statewide office: insurance commissioner, U.S. Senate and state schools superintendent and lieutenant governor. The race for the state’s second-ranking executive officer received just shy of 2 million votes—16 percent fewer votes than those cast for governor.

The lackluster enthusiasm for the school chief race may come as a surprise to the various donors and interest groups who poured more than $63 million into that race, making it the most expensive on the ballot. (That works out to a little over $6 per vote, for those counting at home).

What do all those least-popular races have in common? There wasn’t a Republican to be found competing in any of them.

That’s thanks in large part to California’s top-two election system, which allows only the first- and second-place candidates from the primary to compete in the general election, regardless of which party they belong to. In the contests for U.S. senator and lieutenant governor, only Democrats made the cut. In the insurance regulator race, Steve Poizner, a former Republican, ran as a political independent. And though the race to be California’s schools superintendent is nonpartisan by law, it so happens that both candidates were Democrats.

One argument in favor of the top two is that it strips political parties of power to pick and choose nominees. It also, in theory, drives candidates and voters to the ideological center. In a race with two Democrats, for example, centrist and right-leaning voters theoretically will be more likely to choose the moderate in the race.

But the numbers suggest that in the face of two blue choices, many Republican-leaning voters opted not to choose at all.

An analysis of county election data shows that the voters most likely to leave the double-D races for lieutenant governor and U.S. Senate blank on the ballot live in counties with more registered Republicans than Democrats.

For example, in San Francisco County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans by over 50 percentage points, there was only a modest 2.6 percent drop off in votes between the race for governor and the race for U.S. Senate.

Meanwhile, in Lassen County, one of the state’s most conservative, nearly one-quarter of voters who cast their ballots for governor skipped the U.S. choice.

Presumably, some Democratic voters were turned off by the partisan uniformity as well. The competing “D”s and “R”s on the ballots make the process of choosing a candidate relatively easy for most voters who already lean one way or another. Between two progressives like Eleni Kounalakis and Sen. Ed Hernandez, the two lieutenant governor candidates, it’s possible many Democrats were stumped.

But the results suggest that the drop-off mostly came from Republicans: Rather than choose a “lesser of two evils,” many right-leaning voters simply didn’t choose at all.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Nov. 27, 2018 6:18 pm

Whiter, poorer, Trumpier: the new Republican California

Election Reporter
An elephant sitting in a hammock on the beach and look at sea.
The midterm elections whittled away all the purple sections of the state now represented by the GOP, leaving only the bleeding-red core.

This week, with California’s 2018 midterm behind us, we’ll be offering insights into the results with five charts—one per day. Today, Tuesday, about 580,000 ballots are still waiting to be tabulated, so we’ll update these posts as warranted. 

After the shellacking that California Republicans took in this year’s midterm elections, many figures within the more pragmatic wing of the party establishment had hoped that the party would turn away from the divisive politics of President Donald Trump and seek to become a more diverse coalition.

But in the short term, the midterm election whittled away all the purple sections of the state now represented by the GOP, leaving only the scarlet-red core. With striking losses in Orange County and the Central Valley, the Republican Party’s diminished congressional delegation will now represent a less diverse and less well-off subset of Californians—and an electorate that was most enamored with the president. It will also be a much smaller portion of the state.

This year, 26 percent of Californians are represented in Congress by a Republican. Next year, it will be down to 13 percent.

Prior to the election, the average Californian living in a Republican-held district earned $65,634 per year. That’s slightly above the state average of $63,783. The average district was also slightly less educated than the state as whole (19 percent have bachelor’s degrees compared to 20 percent statewide) and significantly whiter (49 compared to 38 percent).

But in an election that cost them seven of their 14 seats, the party was driven inland, losing every seat that touches the Pacific Ocean and tossed out of its former stronghold in Orange County. It also lost the suburbs north of Los Angeles and (assuming Democrat T.J. Cox maintains his lead over Rep. David Valadao in Hanford) two seats in the Central Valley.

And so come January, when only half of the Republican delegation will return to Washington D.C., the average income of the new, diminished GOP-represented electorate will be nearly $5,000 lower. It will also be majority non-Latino white. Only 16 percent of the population will have a college degree. And notably, every district in which less than a majority of voters supported Trump in 2016 abandoned the Republican brand this year. Only Trump country remains.

This could make it all the more difficult for Republicans who want to rebuild the party. While the GOP’s broader electoral viability in California may depend on its willingness to disassociate itself from the politics of the president, the remaining Republican members of Congress, representing the most fiercely Trumpian corners of the state, may have little incentive to do that.

Check out yesterday’s post on how much each ballot measure campaign spent per vote here.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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Nov. 26, 2018 7:41 pm

How much did interest groups pay per vote? The answer, as we break down the midterms with data

Election Reporter
Like a bullhorn, hundreds of millions of campaign dollars are amplifying the message from key industries to California voters.
Like a bullhorn, hundreds of millions of campaign dollars are amplifying the message from key industries to California voters.

This week, with California’s 2018 midterm behind us, we’ll be offering insights into the results with five charts—one per day.  Today, Monday, up to 700,000 ballots still need to be counted. We’ll update these posts as more votes are tallied.

Ballot propositions are an expensive business in California. In the lead-up to November’s election, advocates spent an eye-popping $409 million for or against 11 ballot measures. Among these were a mix of earnest policy initiatives of broad public interests (say, making daylight saving time permanent) and narrow proposals that sought to benefit a narrower interest or allowed unions and businesses to beat up on one another (in case you wondered why we were asked to vote on break times for paramedics).

So who got the best deal at the ballot box?

The award for priciest victory goes to the dialysis clinics that successfully opposed Proposition 8. Private medical companies such as DaVita and Fresenius Medical Care spent more than $111 million in defeating the union-backed initiative that would have placed a cap on their profits. That comes out to over $16 per vote.

Was it worth it? Perhaps it’s all relative: DaVita raked in $73 million last quarter alone.

The opponent of Prop. 8 (the Service Employees International Union) not only failed to shackle the profits of the state’s dialysis clinics as planned, they ended up spending more than any other losing campaign—$38 million or $8.49 per vote. Still it wasn’t a total bust for the union. Many saw Prop. 8 as an effort by the union, which has been trying to organize clinic employees for years, to bring the for-profit dialysis companies to the bargaining table. If this was all a pressure tactic, forcing the other side to spend $111 million is a lot of pressure.

The second most expensive victory goes to the opponents of the gas tax repeal effort, Proposition 6. A coalition of labor unions, business groups and Democratic Party allies spent nearly $51 million, or $7.81 per “no” vote. That success will guarantee that the state keeps spending an additional $5 billion of transportation projects each year.

Meanwhile, supporters of Proposition 5, which would have allowed older and disabled homeowners to take their low property taxes with them when they move, spent more than $13.2 million for the property tax break. Much of that funding came from the California Realtors. For that $2.88 per ballot investment, proponents came home with a grand total of nothing. That may be especially galling given that the opponents of the measure were able to convince over 6.7 million voters to swat it down for a mere $3.4 million. That’s just 50 cents per vote.

Still, nobody got a better deal than the opponents of Proposition 3. While supporters of the $8.9 billion water bond spent $6 billion arguing the case for canal upgrades, wetland restoration projects and water quality upgrades, opponents of the failed ballot measure spent nothing at all.

Want to submit a reader reaction? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Dan Morain with any questions, [email protected], (916) 201.6281.

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