Trump’s tax returns, high-speed politics, ICE detention and large sharks

Good Morning, California.

“Marijuana use up and perceived risk down.”—Headline of a report by the San Diego Association of Governments, based on interviews of youths who had been arrested in San Diego. The mean age of their first use of alcohol, tobacco or marijuana was 12.

Tying tax returns to ballot access

Gov. Gavin Newsom

Setting the stage for a new legal battle with President Donald Trump, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Tuesday that would make California the first state to require presidential candidates to release five years of their tax returns in order to appear on the state’s primary ballot.

Remind me: Trump has refused to release his tax returns. The bill would apply to Democrats, too, not all of whom have met the five-year standard.

CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall writes that the bill is the first of many that will land on Newsom’s desk after earlier versions were vetoed by his predecessor, Jerry Brown.

Brown was especially pointed in his veto of the Trump-trolling bill, writing in 2017:

  • “Today we require tax returns, but what would be next? Five years of health records? A certified birth certificate? High school report cards? And will these requirements vary depending on which political party is in power?” 

The bill Newsom signed would require candidates for governor to release their tax returns, something candidate Brown declined to do. But the bill’s focus is on presidential candidates, Trump in particular, as Newsom explained:

  • “These are extraordinary times and states have a legal and moral duty to do everything in their power to ensure leaders seeking the highest offices meet minimal standards, and to restore public confidence. The disclosure required by this bill will shed light on conflicts of interest, self-dealing, or influence from domestic and foreign business interest.”

Pandora’s Box or wise strategy?

caption here. Photo by Jane Camera

Gov. Gavin Newsom clearly anticipated questions about the legality of legislation that would require presidential candidates to release their tax returns to qualify for California’s primary ballot.

In a press release about the bill, Newsom included statements from nationally recognized attorneys David Boies and Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr., attesting to its constitutionality. In the statement, UC Berkeley’s law school dean, Erwin Chemerinsky, also said:

  • “It does not keep any candidate from being on the ballot so long as he or she complies with a simple requirement that is meant to provide California voters crucial information.” 

Trump campaign spokesman Tim Murtaugh, in the New York Times

  • “The Constitution is clear on the qualifications for someone to serve as president and states cannot add additional requirements on their own.”

The California Republican Party blasted out an email denouncing Newsom’s decision and seeking donations “to make sure that this unconstitutional and complete waste of taxpayer time and money is overturned.”

In other words, expect a suit soon. Legal or not, the politics are fraught.

Richard L. Hasen, a UC Irvine election law professor, didn’t speculate about how courts would rule, but offered his political assessment to the L.A. Times:

  • “If you think of this purely as a political matter and not a legal matter, what could a Republican legislature in a swing state do to hurt a Democratic presidential candidate’s chance to get on the ballot? That’s really the Pandora’s box.”
  • Jon Ralston, Nevada’s most acclaimed political reporter, tweeted: “What an embarrassment for California. This is so dumb.”

Adding fuel to anti-ICE fight

Adelanto Detention Facility.

As the Legislature considers bills that seek to toss a monkey wrench into the Trump administration’s immigration policy, a Kaiser Health News report raises questions about California’s largest immigration detention center.

The Geo Group-owned prison in Adelanto houses nearly 2,000 detainees held by U.S Immigration & Customs Enforcement. 

  • ICE hired Nakomoto Group, an 11-person company based in Maryland, to audit Adelanto. The facility passed.
  • Kaiser Health News’ California Healthline reports that Nakamoto routinely presents a rosy view of ICE detention facilities, in contrast with inspections by other government and private entities.

For example: The U.S. Office of the Inspector General conducted an unannounced inspection of Adelanto in 2018 and found several violations, including over-use of solitary confinement, insufficient medical care, and cells where inmates had fashioned “nooses.” 

A 32-year-old man hanged himself using bed sheets at Adelanto in 2017. Seven other detainees attempted suicide between December 2016 and October 2017, the inspector general found.

California Department of Justice officials inspected the San Bernardino County facility last year, but ICE refused to grant the team access to detainees or staff.

The Legislature is considering three bills aimed at battling the Trump administration’s immigration policy. 

Most notably: Assembly Bill 32 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, an Alameda Democrat, would prohibit private prisons from operating in California. It singles out those used by ICE, but would apply to all private prisons. The bill will be considered when lawmakers return from their summer recess in August.

Geo’s view: “AB 32 would unnecessarily tie the state’s hands should the inmate population grow in the future or if its own aging facilities become inoperable.”

High-speed politics

High-speed rail under construction in the Fresno area. (High-Speed Rail Authority photo.)

Led by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Los Angeles-area legislators want to shift high-speed rail funds to Southern California and away from the Central Valley plans offered by Gov. Gavin Newsom, the L.A. Times’ Ralph Vartabedian reports.

  • The Times: “Assembly Democrats see greater public value in improving passenger rail from Burbank to Anaheim, relieving congestion on the busy Interstate 5 corridor before the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and putting additional money into San Francisco commuter rail.”
  • Rendon told The Times: “I like the concept. Any project that doesn’t have a significant amount of service to the largest areas in the state doesn’t make much sense.”

If successful, the L.A. lawmakers would break from Newsom’s announced plans to focus construction from Bakersfield to Merced.

Newsom’s decision, announced in his State of the State speech, taunted President Trump, which prompted the president to withhold nearly $1 billion in federal aid for the project, which is behind schedule and billions over budget. California has sued to reclaim that money.

High-speed rail advocates will balk at any shift in funding, hoping to press ahead with the Central Valley leg that is scheduled to be completed by 2028.

Political realities: The L.A. delegation has far more clout than Central Valley legislators—and several Valley lawmakers are openly hostile to high-speed rail.

Take a number: 164

(Photo illustration by Pixabay.)

Five years after the California Fish & Game Commission rejected a petition to list great white sharks as endangered, the toothy giants are showing in up in staggering numbers off California’s coast, the San Francisco Chronicle’s Tom Stienstra writes.

On some beaches, signs warn people to swim at their own risk. 

  • Stienstra: “In San Francisco Bay, in what is believed a first-ever event, Joey Gamez of Golden Gate Sport Fishing accidentally hooked an 8-foot great white shark near Alcatraz.” 

The Fish & Game Commission‘s perspective:

  • “Shark attacks are extremely rare in California. While they don’t typically prey on humans, sharks may pose a threat if you meet them on their “turf” (or maybe in this case “surf”).

There have been 185 shark incidents since the 1950s, defined as a shark touching or biting a human. At least 164 involved great white sharks, and 13 were fatal. 

  • There hasn’t been an “incident” since May.

Commentary at CalMatters

Luis H. Sanchez, Community Resource Project: Latinos are on the front lines of the fight against climate change. Construction, farming, and manufacturing all draw heavily on Latino workers, and they are at greater risk when they must work in extreme weather conditions. Many of these workers develop health issues.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: California scored a tactical win in its climate change fight with Donald Trump over auto emissions, but the game of political chicken continues.

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 here.

See you tomorrow.

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