Proposition 187, and the transformation of California politics

Good morning, California.

“We handle one thing, and another one comes up. It’s not a linear process, but the heart is still pumping. The patient is not dead. We have a beautiful, thriving community. Smaller than it once was but very big in spirit.”—Paradise Town Manager Lauren Gill, one year after the Camp Fire all but destroyed the town, as told to The San Francisco Chronicle.

Proposition 187 wasn’t that long ago

Gov. Pete Wilson campaigned for Proposition 187 in 1994 (photo courtesy of Secretary of State).

Commemorating one of the most divisive elections of our time, Secretary of State Alex Padilla is publishing an online archival look back at Proposition 187, the initiative passed 25 years ago today that energized a generation of Latinos, Padilla included.

In 1994, Pete Wilson won reelection as governor, Republicans took control of the Assembly, and nearly 60% of the electorate approved Proposition 187. 

As told in Padilla’s exhibit, the measure, which sought to block all public services for illegal immigrants, was seen as an attack on immigrants. Courts blocked it from taking effect.

Padilla, the son of immigrants, was a recent MIT graduate who had returned home to the San Fernando Valley and was working as an engineer when the 187 campaign began.

  • “I couldn’t help but take it personally.”

He left engineering for a career in politics. Several other Latino officials similarly date their political activism to the initiative.

Padilla drew a parallel between the rhetoric in California 25 years ago and some of the Trump administration rhetoric.

  • “The way to respond to attacks is to organize. There is a silver lining.”

In 1994, 1.4 million Latinos were registered to vote. Now, more than 4 million are registered.

To see the exhibit, please click here.

GOP’s 25-year decline

The party of Ronald Reagan has fallen onto hard times in California.

California’s Republican Party has lost 682,000 voters in the 25 years since it embraced Proposition 187—the equivalent of losing the entire cities of Anaheim and Santa Ana.

Twenty-five years ago, the 5.47 million registered Republicans accounted for 37.17% of the electorate, and the 7.2 million Democrats comprised 49%, the Secretary of State reported.

Now, there are 8.9 million Democrats, 44.06% of the 20 million registered voters, and 4.79 million Republicans, 23.58%, plus 5.4 million voters who decline to state a party preference, Secretary of State Alex Padilla reports

  • Speaking of Orange County, there were 615,000 registered Republicans and 400,000 Democrats in 1994. Now there are 559,000 Democrats and 551,000 Republicans.
  • In San Diego, home city of then-Gov. Pete Wilson, Republicans outnumbered Democrats 606,000-512,000 in 1994. Now, San Diego Democrats have the advantage, 664,000 to 490,000

Republicans once mattered in Democratic bastions such as San Francisco. In 1994, there were 73,000 Republicans in San Francisco, or 16% of the voters. Now, they account for 6.5% of the electorate, 32,000.

Sharp rebuke for sanctuary law

U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott for Eastern District of California

Four men, including two Mexican nationals in the country illegally, face marijuana cultivation and firearms offenses in connection with the shooting death of El Dorado Sheriff’s Deputy Brian Ishmael two weeks ago as he investigated an illegal pot farm in the Sierra foothills near Placerville.

U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said at a news conference Thursday that investigators were unable to determine the identity of the alleged gunman and his accomplice for two days because of the 2017 California sanctuary law that limits the ability of federal immigration authorities to question county jail inmates, The Sacramento Bee’s Sam Stanton reports.

  • The Bee: “Eventually, Scott said, he was able to speak with California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who helped pave the way for the FBI to seek information about the suspected gunman and his alleged accomplice, both who were eventually identified as Mexican nationals who were in this country illegally.”
  • Scott: “We shouldn’t have to go through these hurdles to try to figure out who two guys are from Mexico who just killed a deputy sheriff.”
  • El Dorado County Sheriff John D’Agostini, at the news conference: “Please call this what this is. Don’t soften it. … This tragedy was due to an illegal alien tending an illegal marijuana grow who murdered my deputy. That’s what it is.”

In addition to the federal charges, the four men face murder charges in El Dorado County.

State focuses on THC as a toxin

California paid family leave expansion
California is considering whether THC must come with a Proposition 65 warning.

Marijuana’s mind-bending ingredient, THC, soon could come with a Proposition 65 warning that it’s toxic to fetuses.

Remind me: Voters approved Proposition 65 in 1986. It requires the state to place warnings on products known to cause cancer or are reproductive toxicants. In 2016, voters legalized the commercial sale of marijuana.

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment is responsible for assessing research into the toxicity of chemicals, and placing Proposition 65 warnings on products. Scores of products have such warnings ranging from charcoal, lead and second-hand tobacco smoke to gasoline.

  • Marijuana smoke has been listed as a carcinogen since 2009.
  • On Dec. 11, the office intends to consider whether THC is a developmental toxicant. 
  • THC is one of thousands of organic and inorganic chemicals in marijuana smoke.
  • Those other chemicals could be analyzed in the future, the office notes in its analysis.

Cannabis use by pregnant women is associated with a variety of reproductive problems with their babies, including low birth weight and cognitive deficits.

People can comment on the question through Nov. 18.

Meanwhile: The California Department of Public Health now reports 153 Californians have been hospitalized with vaping-related lung disease since June. Most were vaping cannabis. The 153 cases are more than double the number from this time in September.

Newsom promise tracker

How has Gov. Gavin Newsom fared on his to-do items?

On the campaign trail, Gov. Gavin Newsom was full of promises. A little under a year into the job, is the governor delivering?

CalMatters reporters have been keeping track of 27 gubernatorial to-do items. As compiled by CalMatters’ Ben Christopher, we count six successes, six pledges that have yet to be acted on, 14 works in progress and one failure—though a failure in one year can become a success later.

There is only so much a governor can do. The Legislature can take some credit for promises kept and blame for promises not yet achieved.

For the rundown, please click here.

New laws in 60 seconds

#CALaws2020 video

California’s new laws taking effect Jan. 1 include one that will cap interest rates on consumer loans of less than $10,000. What does that mean for borrowers and lenders? 

CalMatters video producer Byrhonda Lyons and reporter Ben Christopher break it down in a 60-second video. It’s the first of several #CALaws2020 videos Lyons will be producing in the coming weeks. To subscribe to our YouTube page, please click here.

Take a number: $1.6 billion

PG&E Chief Executive William Johnson answered reporters’ questions earlier this week.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. lost $1.6 billion in the third quarter of 2019 as the company struggles with costs related to fires in 2017 and 2018 sparked by its lines, the company reported Thursday.

  • The bankrupt utility disclosed it intends to spend $90 million in the fourth quarter to provide rebates averaging $122 to 738,000 residents and businesses whose power was shut off in blackouts on Oct. 9.

Commentary at CalMatters

Dean Drescher, policy director at EdVoice: Policy leaders have been loud and clear stressing patience and incremental improvement and cheerleading increased funding. But California’s children, the majority of whom live in poverty, cannot sit and wait at the bottom of the nation’s barrel. They deserve more than crickets.

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Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected], 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up for WhatMatters here.

Follow me @danielmorain, like CalMatters on Facebook, and follow us @CalMatters.

Honor veterans every day, especially on Monday.

See you on Tuesday.

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