Good morning, California.
CALmatters’ editor Dave Lesher and I spent a great Thursday evening as guests of CALmatters’ supporter Lenny Mendonca at his Half Moon Bay Brewing Co., talking politics with a crowd of engaged Californians at his regular Brews & Views.
Cristina Garcia’s imminent return
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, a one-time leader of the #MeToo movement, said she intends to return to work as early as Monday after the Assembly said Thursday that its investigation failed to corroborate that the Bell Gardens Democrat groped a young male consultant.
The report, which was not released, did find she used vulgar language and violated other Assembly policies, CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reported. Garcia’s accuser, Daniel Fierro, has 10 days to appeal.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon: “Despite the decision that the most egregious allegations could not be substantiated, it is clear that Assemblymember Garcia has engaged in a pattern of behavior that must be addressed.”
Rendon stripped her of her committee assignments and directed that she undergo “sensitivity training,” meet with an employee assistance program counselor and get schooled on the Assembly’s sexual harassment and violence prevention policy.
Erin Lehane, the political consultant overseeing a campaign to unseat Garcia, vowed to press ahead with mailers and television spots. The State Building and Construction Trades Council and backers of charter public schools have spent more than $350,000 to unseat Garcia so far.
Her future: Garcia will find a chilly reception upon her return. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, a San Diego Democrat, and Sen. Connie Leyva, a Democrat from Chino, each told me they oppose her reelection. Sen. Kevin de Leon, a Los Angeles Democrat, is backing a challenger, Frine Medrano.
Organizations that ordinarily would endorse her have taken a pass. Planned Parenthood, for one, had given her a 100 percent rating for her votes, but didn’t endorse her.
Domestic abuse epidemic
The Fresno Bee: Fresno, the state’s fifth-largest city, had the highest rate of calls for domestic violence of the 10 most populous cities in California in 2016, according to the latest data available. Domestic violence increased by double digits in 2017. And many of the attacks were committed by repeat offenders.
Confronting California’s fiery reality
Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins didn’t hesitate when she was asked earlier this week what her top priority was for the final months of the legislative session.
It wasn’t confronting Donald Trump, feeding the poor, combating climate change or any of the other Democratic standbys.
“From an emergency standpoint, fire safety, emergency services, disaster preparedness, and everything that goes along with that,” the San Diego Democrat told a gathering hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California in Sacramento.
California faced the most destructive fire season in history in 2017. Damage exceeded $10 billion; 44 people died in the wine country fires and 21 people died in Montecito landslides that followed a December blaze.
Atkins: “This new normal that we’re all talking about. … it’s really something we’re going to have to grapple with.”
Senate Democrats are carrying at least nine fire-related bills. Gov. Jerry Brown added $100 million to his proposed budget. Altogether, the state will be spending as much as $1 billion in the coming year to prevent and prepare for mass conflagrations.
CALmatters’ Julie Cart reports: In less than one week, October’s wine-country fires discharged harmful emissions equal to that of every car, truck and big rig on the state’s roads in a year.
Duke’s wild and scenic river legacy
California’s Republican members of Congress want to raise Shasta Dam to increase the reservoir capacity and provide more water for San Joaquin Valley farmers.
To pull that off, they’d have to gut part of the legacy of Republican Gov. George Deukmejian, who died last week.
Then: In 1989, then-Assemblyman Byron Sher, a former Stanford law professor and one of California’s greatest environmentalist legislators, carried legislation designating the McCloud River near Mount Shasta status as a wild and scenic river under state law. Deukmejian, hardly a squishy moderate, signed the bill.
Now: The Westlands Water District, which represents farmers in Fresno and Kings counties, turned to House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to add $20 million to a recent appropriations measure to study raising the height of Shasta Dam.
If the dam is raised, the reservoir would inundate the valley carved by the McCloud, a relatively short river. That’d destroy sacred lands of the Winnemem Wintu Indian tribe and prized fly fishing spots.
It may never get to that, due to the legislation Duke signed. California can have no part in raising the dam and would be obligated to fight the feds in court to save the wild and scenic river designated by Deukmejian.
Call some time
The standoff between California and the Trump administration continues over fuel efficiency and clean air standards, despite reports that the president ordered two federal agencies to begin negotiating with the state, CALmatters’ Julie Cart reported.
The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times and others reported that Trump directed Environmental Protect Agency boss Scott Pruitt and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao to negotiate with California officials over fuel mileage standards. The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Pruitt intends to loosen the mileage standards set by the Obama administration without seeking input from the states.
Bottom line: Confusion over what Trump said or didn’t say aside, California and a dozen other states are suing to prevent Pruitt from acting. The state is confident that it has the power to act to clean its own air, no matter what Pruitt may do.
It is but a token
Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation Thursday granting Craig Richard Coley $1,958,740 as compensation for being improperly convicted and sentenced to life in prison 38 years ago for a murder he didn’t commit.
Coley had appealed to the governor’s office in 2015 and the governor directed his staff to conduct a full investigation into the circumstances of his conviction and the crime. That helped exonerate Coley.
In November, Brown directed the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to release Coley: “I grant this pardon because Mr. Coley did not commit these crimes.”
Rhonda Wicht was beaten and strangled on Nov. 11, 1978 and her 4-year son was smothered. Coley, who had no criminal history, had dated Wicht for a time.
The murder is unsolved.
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