Good morning, California.
In 2016, Sen. Dianne Feinstein signed the ballot argument against Proposition 64, the initiative that legalized commercial sales of marijuana. She warned the measure would increase highway fatalities, allow cultivation near schools and increase cartels. On Tuesday, Feinstein, running for reelection, changed positions, saying she’s “open to considering federal protection for state-legalized marijuana,” McClatchy’s Washington D.C. bureau reported.
California challenges Trump. Again
Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Gov. Jerry Brown, California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols, at the Capitol Tuesday.
Backed by Gov. Jerry Brown, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is suing the Trump administration to protect California’s strict air pollution standards, and defend Obama administration gasoline mileage requirements.
“This is existential,” Brown said at a Capitol press conference Tuesday, citing calamities brought about by the changing climate, and calling U.S. Environmental Protection Agency director Scott Pruitt an “outlaw.”
Then: California has been carving its own path in the fight against smog since Ronald Reagan was governor. At Reagan’s urging, the late Sen. George Murphy, a Republican, blocked efforts in 1968 by automakers and Michigan members of Congress to stop California from imposing its own rules.
Now: Becerra has sued the Trump administration 32 times; half are over the environment. The state has not lost, so far. CALmatters’ Ben Christopher keeps track of the suits, and Julie Cart detailed the guts of the environmental battles in this analysis.
Cautionary note: California’s win streak will end, at some point, warns Dean Florez, a former legislator who serves on the California Air Resources Board. If it happens in the clean air case, the state could lose its authority to regulate its own air.
Florez told me automakers, which benefit from selling into California, should help initiate discussions between California and the Trump administration. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy represents Bakersfield, which has among the nation’s worst air quality, has Trump’s ear and could mediate, too.
“Kevin should play a significant role,” Florez said.
Bottom line: California leaders are in no mood to compromise, though Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols has sought to talk with her counterparts in the Trump administration. They may see Pruitt as a short-timer, and figure that if Democrats take control of one or both houses of Congress, they can block Trump’s efforts to unravel environmental law. It’s a gamble.
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#MeToo and the courts
California judges are blocking attempts to give the public a glimpse into sexual harassment complaints that go on in their courts, according to The Recorder, which covers legal affairs. Some courts refused to answer the Recorder’s request for documents related to harassment. Others said they had no such records, even though the Recorder detailed suits and settlements involving judges or court officers in those counties. The Judicial Council, an administrative arm of the court system, is considering a rule that would require disclosure of the names of judges in settlement agreements. As any judge would tell you, no one is above the law.
Is #MeToo changing Capitol politics?
CALmatters’ Antoinette Siu details efforts in the Legislature to force an end to arbitration and secret settlements in sexual harassment cases. Many employers require new employees to agree to arbitrate workplace discrimination cases, rather than sue in open court. This year, Democratic lawmakers are carrying bills to end the practice, citing women who have been muzzled because of the agreements. Plaintiffs’ attorneys and organized labor long have opposed arbitration, but employers and the California Chamber of Commerce have prevailed in past years. The #MeToo movement may be changing the dynamic.
Cristina Garcia rides again
Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia has been on leave since Feb. 9, pending an investigation into allegations she sexually harassed men in her office. Undeterred, Garcia on Tuesday announced she was running for reelection. Her platform: anticorruption.
The Democrat comes from Bell Gardens, a part of Los Angeles County that has weathered repeated scandals. Whether she’s the ideal candidate to confront corruption is another question. Voter turnout is notoriously low in her district. She won her first primary in 2012 – tantamount to victory in the heavily Democratic district – by garnering a mere 8,517 votes in a district that has roughly 465,000 residents.
I’m told the report on Garcia’s conduct is complete, and could be discussed in a private meeting among Assembly Democrats soon. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon surprised Democrats earlier this month when he vowed to defend Garcia against an independent campaign waged by a construction trades union, which seeks to unseat her. Rendon’s support could waiver, depending on findings in the report.
Murder cases and political ‘x-factors’
In his latest commentary, CALmatters Dan Walters writes about the “x-factor” in politics. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and Sheriff Scott Jones are Republicans in a Democratic stronghold. But the dramatic arrest of Joseph James DeAngelo in the Golden State Killer case is an ex-factor that could propel their reelection this year.
“I don’t think it’s partisan. I think most Californians feel overtaxed,” Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican from Alpine and a candidate for Board of Equalization, said over coffee Tuesday, when I asked him whether the initiative to repeal the 12-cent per gallon gas tax would draw Republican voters to the polls in November. Backers turned in signatures earlier this week to qualify the measure, which would overturn the tax approved by lawmakers and Gov. Jerry Brown to generate money for road and bridge repairs. Brown has $14.8 million in his campaign account, if he chooses to lead the fight to preserve the tax he sought.
Please feel free to email or call with tips, insights and suggestions, dmorain@calmatters, 916.201.6281.
Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.