Resistance State: California in the Age of Trump

Between Sacramento and Washington D.C. sits the rest of the country, and a chasm. On immigration and taxes, guns and healthcare, cannabis and climate change, California is the federal government’s equal and opposite reaction. One year into President Trump’s first term, the push and pull continues—playing out under the Capitol dome, in the courts and on Twitter.

Ready for another year? Follow along here.

Resistance State: California in the Age of Trump

Jan. 23, 2018 11:22 am

California lawmakers get partisan over even a symbolic move to deter offshore drilling

Political Reporter
Oil rig off the California coast
Image via Wikimedia Commons

A resolution declaring the California Legislature’s opposition to the Trump administration’s proposal to expand offshore oil drilling, shouldn’t, on the face of it, be very controversial. The vast majority of Californians oppose drilling off the state’s coast. And a resolution doesn’t actually change the law anyway—it’s just a formal way to state an opinion.

But never underestimate the potential for politics to rear its head.

After news broke earlier this month that the federal government would exempt Florida from its plans to expand offshore drilling—widely seen as a move by the Republican administration to favor a state with a Republican governor—a GOP assemblywoman in California drafted a resolution saying that California wanted the same treatment.

“Protecting our California coastline has had bipartisan support for decades, and I think it’s much more impactful when someone from the same party is willing to bring colleagues together and say, ‘No. We think you should leave our coastline protected,’” said Assemblywoman Catharine Baker of Dublin.

Though Baker is a Republican, most voters in her suburban East Bay district are Democrats. Unsurprisingly, Democrats have been trying for a few years to snag her seat. They’re trying again this year—and the Assembly Democrats’ political consultant quickly seized on Baker’s resolution.

“There is no way Dems should allow Baker, who has a failing 42 percent grade on the Sierra Club Legislative Scorecard, to be a fake face of the state’s resistance against the Trump Administration’s rollback of protections of our coast,” political consultant Bill Wong wrote in an email to the Democratic caucus. “Dems should introduce their own legislation and denounce the Baker resolution as a deceptive effort to fool voters in her district.”

Wong said he sent the email because he didn’t want “Democrats to validate her lackluster record, her misrepresentation of her environmental record.” (It’s true that Baker earned a 42 percent score from the Sierra Club last year. It’s also true that she was among a handful of Republicans who voted to extend California’s cap-and-trade program last year, and was the sole Republican who voted in 2016 to mandate that the state drastically reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.)

Sure enough, four days after Baker’s resolution was introduced, four Democrats introduced a similar resolution. The lead author, Assemblywoman Monique Limon of Santa Barbara, said she and her Democratic colleagues had announced their plans to draft a resolution before Baker introduced her version.

“Hers may have crossed the desk first,” Limon said. “But we made it very public to all our colleagues that this is something we wanted to work on.”

Baker said she was rebuffed when she asked last week if she could be included as a co-author on the Democrats’ resolution. But the tiff seems to have resolved after CALmatters began making inquiries. Now both resolutions, which are procedurally different, will have Baker and Limon as bipartisan co-authors.

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California already has taken its first shot at countering the Trump administration’s plan to deny funding for reproductive health services to any organization that provides abortions or makes referrals for the procedure.

This week California led a coalition of 19 states and the District of Columbia in backing a Planned Parenthood motion for an injunction to halt the federal plan. The states’ brief was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

The Trump administration today is expected to release the details of its proposal to change the requirements for the funds, known as Title X money, effectively taking it away from groups like Planned Parenthood and instead awarding it to groups advocating natural family-planning methods and abstinence-only education.

According to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California receives about $20.4 million a year in Title X money, which helps provide family-planning and other reproductive health services to roughly 1 million low-income Californians.

“Medical care is a matter between a woman and her doctor, not the President or the Vice President,” Becerra said in a March 18 statement.

According to reports from the New York-based nonprofit Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group, roughly half of the pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended. The rate of unintended pregnancies would jump by 66% without publicly funded contraceptive services, a Guttmacher report said—and unplanned pregnancy rates for teens would be 73% higher.

The Institute said Planned Parenthood is the source of birth control for about a third of all low-income women who get it through the Title X program.

“Title X is not abortion care,” said Jennifer Conti, a Stanford physician who provides abortions. “One of the things even my close friends and relatives don’t understand is that Title X funds have never been used to provide abortion care. This seems like a punitive rule for groups like Planned Parenthood.”

Conti said what rankles her most about the proposed rule is the restriction on discussing where patients can get an abortion.

“This new rule would force us to lie to our patients,” she said. “Not that we couldn’t discuss abortion—but not being able to discuss how to carry out an abortion or where to get it, I think that puts patients’ lives in danger.”

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The Orange County anti-sanctuary uprising takes the national stage today, as a coalition of politicians are in Washington to talk Republican political strategy with President Trump.

It’s a big day for these conservative California politicos, who come from a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2 to 1 in the Legislature and the GOP voice has been largely muted. About a dozen of them were invited to attend an afternoon meeting in Washington with Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and ICE director Thomas Homan.

They’re gathering to discuss how to attack California’s sanctuary law passed last year that places some limits on cooperation with federal immigration information requests.

Dozens of cities and counties across California have passed resolutions or joined a federal lawsuit opposing that law, with the epicenter of that opposition in Orange County. It began with the small city of Los Alamitos, which passed a local ordinance that breaks state law. Other cities haven’t gone that far, but at least 13 of the 34 cities in Orange County have joined the resistance with statements of support. And the county board of supervisors voted to join the federal lawsuit against three California sanctuary laws.

Orange County Supervisor Michelle Steel is part of the group meeting with the President, and so is the mayor of Los Alamitos, Troy Edgar. In an email, Edgar outlined what he hopes to discuss with Trump:

“First, I plan to thank him for our mutual interest in upholding the Constitution and I look forward to contributing to this dialogue on sanctuary and immigration law and policies,” Edgar said. He also hopes to get some financial help in fighting a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union against Los Alamitos’ ordinance, and any impending lawsuit that might be brought by the state of California.

“There will continue to be a significant price that comes with beginning this revolt in California,” Edgar said. “Any assistance that our city can be provided by direct or indirect funding would be appreciated.”

By early afternoon, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown weighed in:

Opposition to the sanctuary law is one of the few issues where Republicans have found a little political traction in California, and they plan to make immigration one of their cornerstone issues in the upcoming midterm elections.

The GOP faces an uphill battle for voters in California. They actually come in third in percentage of the state’s voters—with just 25.9 percent of registered voters, the Republicans not only trail the Democrats’ 44. percent but also are outnumbered by 29.4 percent of independent voters who choose no-party or other party affiliations.

According to Politico, the anti-sanctuary contingent includes Steel, Edgar, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, San Diego County Supervisor Kristin Gaspar, Riverside County Assembly member Melissa Melendez, and Los Alamitos City Council member Warren Kusumoto, along with some municipal and law enforcement officials.

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May 15, 2018 4:22 pm

Auto mileage and emissions: Will Washington and California be negotiating?

Environment Reporter
The federal Environmental Protection Agency is expected to revise the standards for auto emissions and fuel efficiency. Photo by MichaelGat via Flickr

The standoff between California and the Trump administration over automobile emissions standards continued this week, despite reports that the president ordered two federal agencies to begin negotiating with the state.

Trump met with automakers last week, and industry officials reportedly told the president they hoped he could sort out differences with California, which sets its own emissions standards.

In practice, the state’s stringent requirements have been adopted as a benchmark in the national fuel-efficiency standard. The auto industry earlier agreed to make cars gradually more fuel efficient, adding that no one wins if there are two sets of emissions standards.

That agreement, established during the Obama administration, is under review by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Transportation, which have signaled an intention to roll back the standards.

According to a report by the Associated Press, Trump left a meeting with auto executives Friday and directed the two agencies to enter talks with California to resolve the issue.

No one from the administration has yet contacted the California Air Resources Board, which regulates automobile emissions, according to spokesman Stanley Young.

California and more than a dozen other states are suing the federal government to prevent any reduction in the standards.

Note: This post was updated to clarify which rules California sets.

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