Senator slams Facebook, ethnic studies stalls, what’s in store for PG&E customers, and spreading California-style democracy

Good morning, California.

“There’s not a law enforcement officer that’s not familiar with this, so already I think it’s having an impact. It would be nice to see that manifested in the short term. But I think realistically this is a longer-term prospect.”—Gov. Gavin Newsom, telling CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall how he will judge the impact of legislation he signed earlier this week altering the standard for police use of force.

Senator rebukes Facebook

Sen. Richard Pan speaks out against over-the-top rhetoric.

California Sen. Richard Pan accused Facebook of “deliberately giving a platform to this violence,” after the social media giant refused to take down a video posted by a man who shoved the lawmaker and suggested he should be “hanged.”

Pan, a pediatrician and a Sacramento Democrat, is carrying legislation to ban physicians from granting bogus medical exemptions to parents who don’t want to have their kids vaccinated.

Anti-vaxxers have likened Pan to Hilter and Dr. Josef Mengele, and he has been depicted in photos with blood on his face. On Wednesday, anti-vaxxer Kenneth Austin Bennett, 54, shoved Pan and posted video of it on Facebook.

The normally low-keyed senator gave an especially pointed speech on the Senate floor, much of it aimed at Facebook. Senators from both parties, including ones who voted against his bill, applauded when Pan ended his speech.

Pan’s aides requested that Facebook remove the video, contending it violated Facebook’s policy against inciting violence. 

Facebook refused, saying in an email Thursday: 

  • “… pushing is low severity violence which is not covered under this policy.”

On the video, Bennett says: “If [Pan] got what he deserved, he would be hanged for treason …” 

  • Facebook’s response: “This does not violate our … policy because there is not a direct threat.”
  • Pan: “They should be responsible for what they post.”

Would Pan have introduced the bill if he knew he would face such a backlash? 

  • “Oh, yes. No doubt. My job is to protect the people of California.”

Ethnic studies fallout

photo of Jose Medina
Democratic Assemblyman Jose Medina

California’s attempt to require ethnic studies for high school graduation got delayed by at least a year, part of the fallout from a proposed curriculum that skewed far left, was too politically correct, and was viewed as anti-Semitic.

Democratic Assemblyman Jose Medina of Riverside said Thursday that he was delaying for at least a year consideration of Assembly Bill 331. The bill would require students entering high school in the fall of 2020 to complete an ethnic studies class to graduate.

Medina was one of the lawmakers who signed a letter protesting the draft curriculum. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond also criticized the draft.

That 300-page draft included a definition of Islamophibia but not anti-Semitism or the Holocaust, and used such jargon as misogynoir, cisheteropatriarchy and hxrstory, as CalMatters’ Elizabeth Castillo reported in this story.

  • Medina’s statement: “It is not a question of whether the subject itself is necessary but rather, how do we ensure the curriculum is comprehensive, rigorous and inclusive enough as a high school graduation requirement.”

Prepare to pay more for electricity

Photo by Zach Copley/Flickr
PG&E is seeking a $2 billion general rate increase.

PG&E’s customers are paying some of the highest electricity rates in the country. So CalMatters’ Judy Lin wondered how much higher could PG&E rates go?

The bad news: The average residential customer could pay nearly $300 more a year in the next three years in two ways.

  • PG&E is asking for a $2 billion general rate increase to make fire-safety improvements.
  • The utility wants to increase profit margins for capital investments from 10.25% to 12%.

Combined, the requests would raise the average monthly bill of $165.94 to $190.36.

The California Public Utilities Commission will need to approve the rate increases, and PG&E may not get everything it wants. The commission, which is expected to announce a decision next year, is hearing an earful from residents in Santa Rosa and Fresno overwhelmingly opposed to paying more. To read Lin’s piece, please click here.

Padilla seeks to go national

California Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla
California Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla

Note: This item has been updated and corrected.

For advocates of expanded voting rights, California is the gold standard. Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who oversees California’s elections, is evangelizing the state’s approach.

Padilla, chair of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, has announced a project to get other states to adopt vote-boosting policies, and boot Republican secretaries of state from office, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.

Once a largely a-political post, Democrat donors, many of them Californians, came to see secretaries of state as pivotal after the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections when Republican secretaries of state were perceived to have helped tip the scales to George W. Bush. 

Major donors funded the Secretary of State Project to elect Democrats to the posts. Now, organized labor is the major funder of the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State, the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics reports.

  • Paul Nolette, Marquette University political scientist: “Secretaries of state are in the cross hairs because voter rights have risen much more on the agenda both for Republicans and Democrats. … These state-level positions are just much more tied to national politics now.”

By the numbers:

  • In 2015 when Padilla took office, California had 17.7 million registered voters, including 7.6 million Democrats, 4.9 million Republicans and 4.1million no-party preference voters. (Corrected, see below.)
  • Now, there are 19.68 million registered voters, including 8.6 million Democrats, 4.7 million Republicans and 5.6 million no-party preference voters.

Correction: An earlier version incorrectly stated the year Padilla took office. It was 2015.

Enfranchising 17-year-olds

Seventeen states permit 17-year-olds to vote in some elections.

Understanding that young people skew more liberal, Assembly Democrats approved legislation Thursday that would ask voters whether 17-year-olds should be permitted to vote in primary or special elections so long as they turn 18 before the general election.

  • Separate legislation is pending that would ask voters whether to grant full voting rights to 17-year-olds.
  • Seventeen states permit 17-year-olds to vote in primaries and special elections. 
  • The Assembly approved Assembly Constitutional Amendment 4 58-13.
  • One Republican, Randy Voepel of San Diego County, voted for it. One Democrat, Marc Levine of Marin County, joined Republicans casting no-votes. The bill heads to the Senate.

Democratic Assemblyman Kevin Mullin of South San Francisco, the author, said the bill would “empower California’s youngest voters, encouraging them to become lifelong participants in the most fundamental act of democracy.”

By the numbers: The Secretary of State reports that of the 142,717 pre-registered voters, 31.66% signed up to be Democrats to 10.42% Republicans and 51.5% no-party preference.

Kamala Harris watch

Harris speaks to reporters in front of a campaign backdrop in San Francisco
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ rivals are poking holes in her health care plan and accusing her of putting political calculation before true conviction, Politico’s Christopher Cadelago and Dan Diamond report.

Remind me: Harris supported Sen. Bernie Sanders’ single-payer plan at its 2017 unveiling. She since has developed doubts, and offered her own universal coverage plan. Several health policy experts and former Obama administration officials praised the California Democrat’s coverage plan.

  • Politico reports: “Joe Biden’s campaign dismisses it as a ‘have-it-every-which-way’ plan while Bernie Sanders’ camp ripped it as ‘cobbled together to address various poll numbers.’”

The question: Sanders’ single-payer advocates are noisy, but will primary voters make up their minds based on the nuances about arcane proposals—especially when the Trump administration is siding with Texas, against California, in a case that could unravel the Affordable Care Act.

Commentary at CalMatters

Assemblyman James Gallagher, Republican from Yuba City: Wordsmithing has become anathema. It has been replaced by raw and incendiary language; the stronger the better. Nowhere is this more apparent than the debate over immigration.

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