Mental illness as a campaign issue + oil spends big on legislative races + UC drops tuition hike, for now

Good morning, California.

“Made In Space’s move to Florida is more evidence of Florida’s success and growth in the aerospace industry. My administration remains committed to supporting that growth and ensuring we maintain an economic climate that allows companies like Made In Space to prosper.”—Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ statement, after the Mountain View company founded in 2010 at Moffett Field announced it was relocating to Jacksonville.

  • The San Francisco Chronicle: NASA awarded Made in Space a $73.7 million contract in 2019 to build a self-assembling satellite that can be built in space using 3-D printing and robotics technology.
  • Made in Space has participated in eight missions at the International Space Station and hopes to construct structures on the moon by 2024, The Chron noted.

Mental illness and campaigns

Screenshot of Assemblywoman Susan Eggman’s ad about her Aunt Barbara

Reflecting voter frustration with chronic homelessness, candidates are using campaign ads to tell deeply personal stories about family members who suffer from mental illness and end up on the streets.

Los Angeles City Councilman Herb Wesson, seeking a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, was the first, using a campaign spot to detail his son’s battle with substance abuse and Wesson’s effort to save him from homelessness, as The L.A. Times columnist Sandy Banks wrote.

Now, Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, seeking a state Senate seat, is airing a spot detailing the sad story of her Aunt Barbara, who suffered from mental illness, often was homeless, and died of AIDS after being raped in San Francisco’s Tenderloin in the 1990s.

As encampments proliferate, homelessness was cited as the most pressing issue by 23% of voters in the latest Public Policy Institute of California poll, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reported.

Politics is one thing. Policy is another matter.

Eggman told me some of the policies she has focused on and hopes to focus on:

  • Eggman: “When doors open, you go through them … The conversation has changed. The time is now to change LPS.”

Campaign money gusher

Chevron oil refinery in Point Richmond

Oil companies have spent more than $1 million in recent days to help Democrats running for Senate seats in Santa Clara County and the Stockton-Modesto area win one of the top-two spots in the March 3 primary.

Remind me: Under California law, the top two vote getters in the March primary face off in November election regardless of party

Santa Clara seat: Since Jan. 1, the oil company-funded Coalition to Restore California’s Middle Class dumped $620,000 into an independent campaign for former Assemblywoman Nora Campos, a Democrat running against former California Fair Political Practices Commission Chairwoman Ann Ravel, also a Democrat. The seat is held by termed-out Sen. Jim Beall.

Central Valley: That same committee has spent $445,000 to help Modesto City Councilman Mani Grewal, a Democrat running against Assemblywoman Susan Eggman, a Stockton Democrat. The seat is held by termed-out Sen. Cathleen Galgiani.

Expect more money to be disclosed soon in those and other races.

Why: Oil companies and their allies, unions that represent oil workers, increasingly feel under attack in Sacramento.

Knowing Republicans have little power in the Capitol, oil companies, like other business interests, identify and seek to elect Democrats who will cast votes supportive of their interests.

New-old oil fight

Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, right

Assembly Democrats have revived legislation aimed at curtailing oil drilling in urban areas, a measure that seemed dead last year.

The bill by Assemblyman Al Muratsuchi, Torrance Democrat, would require new or enhanced oil wells be located at least 2,500 feet from homes, schools, playgrounds, hospitals or health clinics.

The legislation stalled last May but recently was set for a hearing in the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

An Assembly staff analysis said the bill could cost government $350 million to $3.5 billion in lost revenue. The restrictions would fall hardest on Los Angeles County and such cities as Long Beach, though it also would affect Kern, Orange and Ventura counties. 

  • 15,733 oil and gas wells in California would be affected.

UC scraps tuition hike, for now

UC Davis Egghead art

The University of California has put off a vote by the Board of Regents originally set for today on whether to raise tuition in the coming school year, while Gov. Gavin Newsom and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis denounced the proposal.

UC President Janet Napolitano’s office announced it would move any vote to a later date to be determined.

  • UC requested a $447.1 million increase from the state.
  • As part of his new budget, Newsom proposed a $217 million increase for the 10-campus university system for the 2020-21 fiscal year, pushing the state contribution to $3.9 billion. 
  • UC responded Friday by announcing it was considering either a $328 tuition increase, or one of $606 for incoming students.

Newsom spokesman Jesse Melgar on Tuesday: 

  • “Given the major increase in higher education funding provided in last year’s budget and the similar increase proposed by Gov. Newsom for next year’s budget, he believes that the proposed tuition increase is unwarranted, bad for students and inconsistent with our college-affordability goals.”

Kounalakis, who like Newsom is a regent:

  • “During a time of record economic growth in our state, it is incomprehensible that we would consider further raising the cost of tuition for our students. While I commend the UC for working to increase the predictability of the cost of a UC education, predictability should not come at the expense of affordability.”

Kabuki: UC’s tuition proposal had the effect of grabbing Sacramento leaders’ attention. But that it was announced and quickly withdrawn suggests it was part of the annual budget dance. Newsom must sign the new budget by the July 1 start of the new fiscal year.

Take a number: 1 million

Like a bullhorn, hundreds of millions of campaign dollars are amplifying the message from key industries to California voters.
Nearly $4 million has been raised so far this year for Prop. 13 (Photo illustration)

California’s public university boosters are all in for Proposition 13, the measure on the March 3 ballot to spend $15 billion to build and rehab public schools, community colleges, California State University and University of California campuses. 

  • In a filing Tuesday, the campaign committee for the bond measure disclosed receiving $1 million from the California Coalition for Public Higher Education, which is funded primarily by University of California and Cal State University campus foundations. 
  • The bond measure campaign committee reports having raised $3.9 million so far.
  • Expect the campaign to raise as much as $15 million.

Commentary at CalMatters

John McManus, Golden State Salmon Association: Californians are in danger of witnessing extinctions and permanent damage to the salmon fishing industry, the Bay-Delta, and Central Valley Rivers. Gov. Newsom should lead state agencies to counter the Trump administration’s attack on California’s environment.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: The state’s newest budget is, like others, very dependent on personal income taxes on the highest-income Californians, and that’s dangerous.

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