Domestic violence, sexual harassment, HIV prevention, pardons, and a winemaker’s $3.7 million fine

Good morning, California.

“There are too many people who want to blame Trump for all the woes. I’m not going to do that. The decline began before that.” — Former Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle, Anaheim Republican on Democrats overtaking Republicans in voter registration in the one-time GOP bastion of Orange County.

A very personal bill

Susan Rubio
Susan Rubio at her Senate swearing-in ceremony, 2018

Sen. Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, is taking an especially intense interest in one of her bills, one that would lengthen the three-year statute of limitations on domestic abuse and require more training for police officers, CalMatters’ Adria Watson reports.

Remind me: In 2016, Rubio was on the Baldwin Park City Council, and accused her then-husband and then-Assemblyman Roger Hernandez of domestic violence. 

Hernandez began beating her, she told a Los Angeles County court, months into their marriage in 2013. She stayed silent because both were elected officials and because she feared he’d retaliate.

Now Rubio and her sister, Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio, have co-authored Senate Bill 273 to lengthen the three-year statute of limitations on domestic abuse and provide officer training.

  • Sen. Rubio: “When my story broke, so many women decided that they wanted to tell their stories to me, hundreds of them. One of the things that I found was common in all of the stories that were told to me is that there is a deep-rooted trauma and paralyzing fear that comes from their experience—and some of them take years to overcome.”

Public defenders and the ACLU oppose the legislation.

Where is he now? After a failed run for Congress, Hernandez placed fourth in a run for West Covina City Council. Earlier this summer, he emerged at the Coachella City Council in a public confrontation with ex-partners in a cannabis dispensary project.

‘I thought I could handle it’

A California court of appeal justice testified Wednesday that she was sexually harassed and groped by another state appellate justice, the Recorder’s Amanda Bronstad reports.

Justice Victoria Chaney testified in Los Angeles before the Commission on Judicial Performance that Justice Jeffrey Johnson asked her to have an affair.

Justice Jeffrey Johnson

And after one particularly difficult hearing, Bronstad reported, Chaney and Johnson ran into one another in a hallway:

  • “He said, when my back was up against the wall, that he wanted to kiss and squeeze my titties to make me feel better.”
  • Why she didn’t report him sooner: “Most of the time, I’m kind of a tough lady. I thought I could handle it, and did.”

She decided to speak out after hearing from other women, including a former California Highway Patrol officer who was assigned to drive Johnson, and alleged that Johnson crudely asked her for sex.

Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger appointed Chaney, 73, and Johnson, 58, in 2009.

Chaney also testified Johnson could be collegial, and that she wrote a letter supporting his appointment to the California Supreme Court, although Gov. Jerry Brown never considered him for any of the four vacancies he filled on the high court.

The L.A. Times reports Johnson, who denied the most serious charges brought by 17 women, faces removal from the bench if charges are found to be true. 

Johnson’s legal team, which includes former San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown, said he has taken and passed a polygraph test.

Newsom’s pardons

Gov. Gavin Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced Wednesday he’s pardoning seven people including an advocate for incarcerated women, and a man who could face deportation to Vietnam because of his crime.

Gov. Jerry Brown set a record for pardons of past crimes and commutations of lengthy prison sentences. In several instances, Brown granted commutations for people convicted of murder.

Newson’s pardons primarily were for drug offenses. 

An exception: Quoc Nguyen, 37, of Santa Clara County, was convicted of a gang-related assault in 2004. Since his release, Newsom stated, Nguyen has “maintained a stable residence and employment” and supports his elderly mother.

Nguyen came to this country at age 10 as a refugee from Vietnam. Under the Trump administration immigration policy, Nguyen could be deported.

  • Newsom: “This pardon may allow Mr. Nguyen to avoid deportation to Vietnam.”

Newsom previously requested that the California Supreme Court agree to his recommendation for a pardon of Susan Burton. Burton was an addict who was in and out of prison for years before becoming sober. She since has written a book and counsels other women.

The state Supreme Court has final say over pardons granted to people who have prior convictions. The high court, which rejected some of Brown’s requests without comment, agreed with the Burton request.

P.S. Justice Goodwin Liu included a statement with the court’s approval of Burton’s pardon saying the justices ought to provide reasons if they reject a governor’s request.

Fight over HIV-prevention drug

Truvada is used for pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a strategy in which healthy people routinely take antiretrovirals to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV. Credit: NIAID. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.
The HIV-prevention drug PrEP

An HIV-prevention drug could soon be available over the counter, if legislation making its way through the Legislature wins final approval when lawmakers return to work next week for the final month of the session.

San Francisco Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener’s Senate Bill 159 would:

  • Allow over-the-counter access to preexposure prophylaxis, PrEP. Pharmacists dispensing PrEP would undergo special training. 
  • PrEP would be added to the list of services covered by Medi-Cal, the government-funded health care program for low-income Californians.

Pro: The San Francisco AIDS Foundation said access to PrEP, which is said to be 99% effective in preventing HIV, is an “essential element” to combating the disease.

Con: The California Medical Association contends doctors need to be involved in prescribing the HIV regimen to ensure safety.

The medical association ranked No. 11 among all lobbyist employers in the first half of 2019, spending almost $1.1 million, and contributed another $474,000 to California politicians and political parties.

Gilead, which manufactures Truvada, PrEP’s brand name, has not taken a position on the bill.

By the numbers, detailed by the California Department of Public Health Office of AIDS:

  • 221,528 to 238,628 Californians would meet the criteria for PrEP.
  • 135,000 Californians were living with HIV as of 2017.
  • About 5,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.
  • 1,874 died from the virus in 2017.
  • About 5,000 new cases are diagnosed annually.

The bill has received only one ‘no’ vote as it made its way through the Legislature.

High-end vintner’s big fine

Rhys Vineyyard’s $3.7 million fine

Los Gatos–based Rhys Vineyards, whose Pinot Noir sells for upward of $100 a bottle, has agreed to pay a $3.7 million fine for destroying wetland as it added new vines in Mendocino County.

The fine was among the largest ever imposed by the North Coast Water Quality Control Board.

The grading took place on a 20-acre planting outside Laytonville, and damaged an ephemeral stream that ultimately feeds into the South Fork of the Eel River.

Joshua Curtis, of the North Coast Regional water board, called Rhys’ actions “an egregious violation of state and federal law” that resulted in “permanent loss of wetlands and streams.”

Kevin Harvey, a founding member of the Silicon Valley venture capital firm Benchmark Capital, owns Rhys. Rhys and Harvey did not respond to my emails but issued a statement to the Wine Spectator

  • “Rhys Vineyards, LLC deeply regrets the mistakes made.”
  • From Rhys’ website: “At Rhys Vineyards we aspire to make great Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah from some of California’s most unique and expressive vineyards. This pursuit has lead [sic] us to search the state for exciting rocky soils that exist within the mountainous, cool, Coastal climate zone.” 

Money matters: Harvey has donated $215,800 to state officials, most of them Democrats, and to the political action committee, Govern for California, since 2016.

P.S. On the North Coast and elsewhere, the water board has yet to issue such hefty fines against marijuana growers who have damaged creeks and watersheds.

Take a number: 89

Orange County Ronald Reagan
President Ronald Reagan kicked off his 1984 reelection in Orange County.

President Donald Trump promised to expand the Republican Party. The reverse has occurred.

When he began running for the White House in 2015, there were 124,600 more registered Republicans than Democrats in Orange County. On Wednesday, Democratic voter registration passed Republican registration in Orange County, once the heart of California’s GOP. The spread is 89 votes. Expect to it grow.

Republicans hold only one coastal California county, rural Del Norte. There, Republicans number 4,918 to Democrats’ 4,172.

Commentary at CalMatters

Susan Kirsch, Livable California: We have a housing problem, but the crisis is the loss of democracy brought about by the financialization of housing. When legislators become champions of the simplistic explanation that cities are to blame, they abandon critical thinking, their constituents and their oaths of office.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: California has a goal of reducing its solid waste stream by 75 percent by 2020 but is falling short of that goal

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