CA to Trump: Help state’s farmers

Good morning, California.

President Donald Trump is helping to fund 101 campaigns of Republicans congressional candidates including four Californians, McClatchy reports.

“I’m working on building new water storage, stopping the Sacramento water grab and fixing our broken immigration system. The president supports my efforts in the same way (House Minority Leader) Nancy Pelosi supports (my Democratic challenger) Josh Harder.”—Congressman Jeff Denham, a Turlock Republican.

CA to Trump: Help our farmers

Newly planted orchard outside Davis.

Ten California Congress members sent a letter to the Trump administration Tuesday warning that the escalating trade war is damaging farm exports and asking that this state’s growers get a share of the $12 billion bailout the president has offered to ease farmers’ pain.

Remind me: China imposed tariffs on California crops including almonds after President Donald Trump levied tariffs on Chinese products. Trump recently announced a $12 billion bailout, but that was intended to help Midwestern farmers, not California growers who produce high-value crops.

Congressman Jeff Denham, a Republican from Stanislaus County, a big almond producer, sent the letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, as first reported by McClatchyDC, Five Republicans and five Democrats, each from farm regions, signed it:

“Our growers highest priority for maintaining market share, which is incredibly difficult to regain if lost, is free and fair trade.”

Absent: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who represents farm-rich Kern County and is close to President Trump, did not sign the letter. McCarthy also failed to respond to Gov. Jerry Brown’s letter last week urging suspension of all tariffs:

“We simply cannot wait on the sidelines and allow California manufacturers and growers to suffer the consequences of these ill-considered actions.”

Why this matters: California’s farm exports are valued at $20 billion a year, a fourth of it from almonds. Denham faces a reelection fight and could pay a price if he cannot persuade the Republican president to help growers in his district.

Lobbying is a growth business

Businesses, unions, advocacy groups and trade associations spent $173 million on lobbying in Sacramento in the first half of the year, lobbying reports filed Tuesday show.

That’s a 13 percent jump from the $152.8 million spent in the same period in 2016 and a 30 percent over the first half of 2010.

Biggest spenders: Western States Petroleum Association and Chevron spent a combined $5.67 million. They sought to shape legislation on air pollution, electric vehicle mandates, oil drilling, and issues related to the cap-and-trade program and new fuel standards intended to lower the carbon footprint of oil production. Oil companies usually are among the leading spenders.

In the first half of 2018, Pacific Gas & Electric became the second largest single spender, $2.35 million, up from $642,000 two years ago. Edison, the parent of Southern California Edison, spent $1.4 million, up from $629,000 in 2016.

The utilities are lobbying for legislation limiting their liability for future wildfires. PG&E is seeking relief from costs associated with the 2017 wine country fires.

The California State Council of Service Employees’ lobbying expenditures dipped from $3.7 million in the first half of 2016 to $2.1 million in the first six months of this year.

Like many labor groups, the labor group, known as SEIU, is trimming costs in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June in the case Janus vs AFSCME, which says public employees are not required to pay union dues. The California Teachers Association spent $1.08 million in the first half of the year, and $1.16 million two years earlier.

Half the story: State law requires that interest groups and their lobbyists publicly disclose in quarterly reports the amount they spend and the bills and issues they seek to influence. Consultants, public relations firms and political lawyers and their clients are not required to file such disclosures, even if they work to influence state policy.

Effort to rein in predatory lending stalls. Again

California is said more check cashing stores than McDonald's.

California lawmakers buried five bills intended to curb predatory lending practices that target low-income people least able to repay their debts, CALmatters Antoinette Siu reports.

Payday lending is a multi-billion dollar industry, fueled by triple-digit interest rates and steep transaction fees. One in 20 Californians takes out payday loans, totaling $2.9 billion each year. Borrowers are expected to repay the loans within in two weeks, or face collection calls or court orders when they default.

Small victory: Assemblywoman Monique Limón, a Goleta Democrat, said her bills’ progress will be a “historic” win even as they stall. It was the first time bills of that kind made it out of their originating houses.

Money matters: Four lenders that would be affected by the bills—Advance America, Community Loans of America, Check-into-Cash and Axcess Financial—have spent a combined $316,000 on California campaigns since the start of 2017.

Kentucky Gov. stumps for John Cox

Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin exhorted conservative donors at a Koch Network gathering earlier this week to donate to Republican gubernatorial candidate John Cox, and called Democrat Gavin Newsom a “dirtbag,” a “joke” and an “embarrassment to public service,” NBC News reported.

Newsom spokesman Dan Newman: “We have no comment whatsoever about anyone who blames ‘all sides’ for Nazi violence, slashes healthcare, attacks teachers, and is shocked to learn that African Americans are smart enough to play chess.”

The chess reference stemmed from a report in the Louisville Courier Journal  that Bevins visited a poor part of town last month, and said:

“I’m going to go in and meet the members of the West Louisville Chess Club. Not something you necessarily would have thought of when you think of this section of town.”

Cox’s consultant Wayne Johnson said the focus of Cox’s campaign “has been less about Gavin and more about the millions of Californians who are in serious economic peril.” Cox was not at the Koch confab.

No word on whether Bevin’s pitch inspired billionaire oil magnate Charles Koch and the other rich people who were in Colorado Springs to open their wallets.

Walters: Sacramento’s role in failing schools

CALmatters commentator Dan Walters bores in on California’s education system, citing a lawsuit over low literacy rates in certain schools and mixed high school graduation rates released last week. He observes that smaller districts, including those in poorer parts of the state, seem to be doing a good job of graduating students.

Walters: perhaps “stricter accountability from Sacramento … is needed to crack down on failing districts and compel them to replicate California’s small district successes.”


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