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.
With hours left before the House and Senate are expected to vote on a $1.5 trillion tax overhaul, Gov. Jerry Brown is rallying Californians to call on their Republican representatives to vote No on a “tax monstrosity.”
The Democratic governor posted a 1-minute message on Monday morning saying the plan will increase the national debt and gives tax breaks to corporations on the backs of states such as California that voted against President Trump. Statewide, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton received more than 4.2 million votes than Trump—a nearly two to one margin.
Here’s the full transcript:
Hi, I’m Governor Jerry Brown.
My message is real simple: The current tax bill in Congress is bad – it’s bad for you and it’s bad for America.
It’s never good to have one party vote one way and the other party vote 100 percent the other way – that’s dividing America at a time when we need unity.
Secondly, it’s going to increase our national debt by more than a trillion dollars. We’re going to have to pay for that for decades to come. It’s not economically healthy, it doesn’t make America strong.
You know what it really does, it gives massive tax breaks to corporations that are flush with billions and billions of dollars.And who’s going to pay for that? People who live in states that voted against Donald Trump. That’s not fair. That’s not treating America as one nation, indivisible, with liberty for all of us.
So please, call your Republican representative and tell them: “Vote no on this tax monstrosity.”
Call your GOP representative and tell them: Vote NO on this tax monstrosity. #GOPTaxScam https://t.co/dHvgx8QWCh
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield announced last week that members of Congress have agreed to a tax plan that will “deliver higher wages, lower taxes, a simpler system, and a stronger American economy” to President Trump by Christmas.
But the plan does hit wealthy, high-tax states such as California where many middle-class families face high housing costs and rely on deducting high amounts from their state and local taxes. Despite initial plans to eliminate the State And Local Tax (SALT) deduction, the final proposal imposes a $10,000 limit on any combination of state and local taxes, including income, property and sales taxes, that can be deducted by a household.
An analysis by the progressive D.C.-think tank Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found the change would still impact more than 2 million high-earning households in California. That’s because the average deduction for state and local income taxes alone is nearly $16,000 per return.
Republicans are also lowering the deductible amount of interest paid on mortgage debt to $750,000, which the Brown administration has warned will make it harder to own a home in California. The limit under current law is $1 million.
California city officials have already criticized the bill, saying fewer deductions may force cities to cut back on police, fire, road repairs and other local public services.
“By limiting SALT, taxpayers will be faced with double taxation on hard earned incomes and cities may be forced to reduce services due to cut backs in resources,” said Carolyn Coleman, executive director of the League of California Cities. “With many California cities and residents yet to fully recover from the Great Recession, we’re disappointed that the conferees did not preserve the full SALT deduction.”
So far, only one of California’s 14 GOP House members says he’s voting against the bill because many of his constituents in the coastal communities north of San Diego will face higher tax bills under the plan. Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, facing a tough re-election bid, instead took a swipe at state Democrats for “the tax factory in our State Capitol.”
I will be voting “no” on the final tax plan. The bill agreed to in conference makes some improvements, but the changes do not go far enough to guarantee tax relief for constituents in my district. https://t.co/9SnZdF8die
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the U.S. Department of Education’s delay of rules meant to protect student loan borrowers from predatory practices was “arbitrary and capricious,” granting a legal victory to the state of California and borrowers who say their colleges defrauded them.
If upheld, the ruling could make it easier for students like the tens of thousands of Californians left in the lurch when for-profit chain Corinthian Colleges abruptly closed its doors to recoup their investments.
Corinthian’s 2015 collapse prompted the Obama Administration to issue new rules the following year allowing groups of students to apply for federal loan forgiveness en masse if their college closed, misled them or broke the law. The so-called “borrower defense rules” were hailed by consumer advocates and criticized by representatives of the for-profit college industry, who said they would put small vocational schools out of business.
The Trump administration has repeatedly pushed back implementation of the rules, and in August proposed a new plan that would make each individual borrower prove that their college knowingly lied to them in order to have loans discharged.
But Judge Randolph S. Moss agreed with the complaint filed by a pair of student borrowers, joined by the attorney generals of 19 states including California, that the department illegally “failed to offer a reasoned basis” for the shift in policy. The two sides are scheduled to meet in court Friday to discuss remedies in the case.
“This is a big win for students in California and the nation who were cheated of a quality education,” said California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has filed multiple lawsuits on behalf of student loan borrowers.
The Department of Education did not reply to requests for comment late today.
Track all of California’s lawsuits against the Trump administration here.
California’s push to pass the nation’s strongest net neutrality protections—and bring back Obama-era rules undone by the Trump administration—advanced today, one step in a high-stakes tech battle that’s being waged from here to Washington.
The bill by Democratic Sens. Scott Wiener and Kevin de Léon survived intense negotiations to pass the Democratic-controlled Assembly with overwhelming support by a vote of 61 to 18. It goes back to the Senate for a final vote before the legislative session ends Friday. If passed, it would prohibit internet service providers from slowing or speeding content based on preference or extra payment.
“The core premise of net neutrality is that we get to decide where we go on the internet, as opposed to telecom and cable companies telling us where to go,” Wiener said in a statement.
SB 822 aims to protect an open internet by replacing the Trump administration’s repeal of federal protections established during the Obama administration in 2015. It is considered the strongest set of net neutrality provisions since Obama’s were rolled back in June, and would be enforced by California’s attorney general.
Wiener and de Léon’s proposal would ban internet companies from charging businesses access fees in order to reach its online customers. It would also prohibit “zero rating,” a practice in which providers charge consumers for accessing their competitors’ content, but provide a free data incentive for accessing their own content.
Republican opponents of the bill slammed it as an overreach that meddles with a free market, creates a regulatory patchwork and invites litigation. Advocates, meanwhile, argued that such protections prevent internet service providers, such as AT&T and Comcast, from throttling internet speeds and creating so-called “fast lane” access.
Net neutrality proponents include not just technology companies such as Google parent Alphabet Inc. and Facebook, but also the Writers Guild of America and the American Civil Liberties Union.
The bill garnered national attention as it moved through the Legislature earlier this year. Facing strong opposition from internet companies and Republican legislators, Democrats anticipated a legal challenge as the state measure advanced.
In committee, the bill was heavily amended by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, a Los Angeles Democrat. In response, Wiener almost withdrew his “hijacked” bill, which he said had been stripped of all its key protections.
But in July, the bill’s original provisions were restored and lawmakers reached an agreement to advance it together. Santiago eventually came around and joined as principal coauthor.
“This bill is about value,” Santiago said. “The question before us is, do you believe in a free and open internet?”
On the floor, Republican leaders charged regulation should be left to the feds. Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Fresno Republican, said the issue will go straight to the U.S. Supreme Court, and the state will lose. Other opponents argued it will chill the tech industry and result in a less robust market for consumers.
“The worst possible thing we can do is to create 50 different state FCCs,” Patterson argued. “If you are really interested, the place to have this fleshed out is the federal level with federal elections and accountability. It takes several steps way too far.”
“You’re wading into an area where you have no business in,” echoed Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez, a Lake Elsinore Republican. “This is embarrassing.”
Lobbying was intense as Thursday’s vote neared. A group affiliated to AT&T was reportedly using robocalls to send out automated messages claiming the law would raise consumer cell phone bills. Earlier this month, Verizon was widely criticized for allegedly throttling data speeds for the Santa Clara County Fire Department during the Mendocino Complex fire, a complaint the company denied.
Ryan Singel, media and strategy fellow at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society, says public pressure clearly helped secure Assembly approval.
“While it seems like getting net neutrality passed in California should be simple, the reality is that AT&T is incredibly powerful in California’s legislature—which was made clear when the bill was gutted in committee in June,” Singel said in an email.
In recent months, more than 20 states have introduced bills aiming to restore the federal net neutrality protections. Washington and Oregon have already passed legislation.
Meanwhile, the fight on the federal front is far from over. Tech groups including Amazon, Facebook and the Internet Association this month filed briefs with the federal appeals court supporting a lawsuit against the Federal Communications Commission to bring back net neutrality.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a federal records request today for information about the impact of the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy on immigrant children’s mental and physical wellbeing.
The Freedom of Information Act request seeks all records related to the creation of the policy and the federal government’s determination of its ability to care for the influx of children detained as a result of the policy.
The request follows a hearing last week in which federal health official Jonathan White said he warned the Trump administration of potential negative effects children could suffer if they were parted from their undocumented immigrant parents. “Separation of children from their parents entails significant harm to children,” said White. “There’s no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child.”
“Last week’s Congressional hearing shows that this President and his Administration received warnings about the impacts of the family separation policy and still acted,” said Becerra in a press release. “We must have answers and accountability. We all deserve to know what went into the federal government’s inconceivable decision to separate thousands of children from their families.”
Becerra’s request targeted the Justice, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments, and included disclosure of senior staff communications—including memorandums, emails, and notes of meetings or calls regarding the “zero tolerance” policy. He specifically is pursuing internal communications from Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and the current and former secretaries of Health and Human Services.
President Trump has defended the policy as necessary to stem what he has characterized as a host of societal ills resulting from illegal immigration. “It’s about keeping families together, while at the same time, being sure that we have a very powerful, very strong border,” he said in a statement.
Note: This post has been revised to correct the number of lawsuits Becerra has filed against the Trump administration.