Newsom in El Salvador, sales taxes, guns and ‘job killers’

Good morning, California.

“And I remember being told to just be very quiet. And I was in the backseat with my aunt, and we crossed.”—Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, to CALmatters Elizabeth Aguilera on crossing the border at age 5 as a refugee from war-torn El Salvador in the 1980s. The Los Angeles Democrat gained her citizenship at age 21 and is part of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s delegation to El Salvador.

Newsom begins El Salvador trip

Gov. Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom visit the tomb of Archbishop Oscar Romero at Metropolitan Cathedral in San Salvador. The archbishop, a human rights advocate, was assassinated in 1980. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)

Gov. Gavin Newsom embarked on a fact-finding mission in El Salvador and further positioned himself as anti-Trump.

CALmatters reporter Elizabeth Aguilera was traveling with Newsom and offered this report as the governor began the three-day trip. It’s his first foreign trip. He’s the first California governor to set foot in El Salvador:

Trump, who has not visited the Central American nation, is threatening to cut $500 million in aid to El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, contending they are not taking sufficient steps to curb immigration.

Newsom’s answer: “You want to end the ‘crisis’ on the border? Stabilize these countries, create economic opportunity, and you end the crisis. You don’t have to spend money militarizing your border, you don’t have to build a border wall.

The governor has no direct role in immigration. But he’s making the trip to, as he says, to gain a deeper understanding of what’s driving people to flee El Salvador and seek asylum in the U.S.

Newsom’s delegation includes Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, a Los Angeles Democrat who fled as a child from El Salvador in the 1980s as the country was torn by civil war, crossed the border and gained citizenship at age 21.

What’s ahead: Newsom plans to meet with the Salvadoran president, the U.S. ambassador and humanitarian and gang intervention advocates in his quest to better understand the immigration push factors.

Republicans join 'job killer' club

Republican Assemblyman Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley

In any given year, the California Chamber of Commerce’s list of “job killer” bills focuses on Democratic legislators’ measures to raise taxes or restrict business.

No Republican bill had made the list since 2003. But in a sign of the times, two Republican bills have gained the distinction this year.

Republicans, mired in the minority, are focusing on a topic with bipartisan appeal: privacy. That issue also strikes at the core of businesses that trade on personal information.

Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, a Republican from San Luis Obispo, is pushing Assembly Bill 288 to require social media companies to let users delete information when they close their accounts.

  • The chamber worries the bill would lead to lawsuits.

Cunningham: “Frankly, I find it somewhat humorous that the Chamber would waste a designation like this on a bill that would only apply to a few giant social networking companies that continue to prove that they cannot be trusted to adequately protect our personal information.”

Chad Mayes, Republican from Yucca Valley, is carrying AB 1035 to require companies to disclose data breaches within 72 hours.

  • The chamber worries it would subject businesses to class-action lawsuits.

Mayes: “In the past, a job killer has always been something I’ve taken very seriously. Now, to think that a job killer is defined by requiring notice to consumers if their personal data has been breached makes me scratch my head.”

Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher of Yuba City is a coauthor of both bills.

Money matters: The chamber donated $30,000 to the California Democratic Party last Wednesday, the day it released the list, and none to the GOP.

Mr. Bonius goes to Sacramento

Alan Bonius needed dental work.

Moments before he was given novocaine, his dentist recommended that he finance the cost through a promotional CareCredit program offered through Synchrony Bank. Not surprisingly, he didn’t read the fine print while girding for the needles and drills.

Bonius, who describes himself as a private citizen from Laguna Beach, paid the minimum on the $1,388 bill each month, leaving him with $600 at the end of the promotional period. The shock came after the promotional period ended. The $600 balance jumped to $949.

Long story short:

  • He was charged interest on the original $1,388 bill, not on his balance.
  • He told his story to a friend at the Western Center on Law & Poverty.
  • The legal aid attorney got word to state Sen. Holly Mitchell, a Los Angeles Democrat, who turned it into Senate Bill 639, a measure to restrict interest charged on medical credit cards, a recurrent consumer issue.

Bonius, who traveled to Sacramento to testify in favor of the bill, told me: “I don’t want it to happen to me again or to anyone else. I’m one of those strange cats who believes in democracy.”

The bill passed 9-0 in its first committee, with no opposition. But the year is new, and several more hearings are ahead. We’ll keep an eye on this one to see if a guy from Laguna Beach who believes in democracy can change a law.

How to collect $400 million

Online sellers and shoppers are about to lose breaks they get from avoiding sales taxes.

Expect the Assembly to give final approval this week to legislation that would require almost all online sellers to collect sales tax. That will generate an estimated $309 million in this fiscal year and $476 million next year.

The state Senate approved the bill 36-0 on Friday. Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to quickly sign the bill into law.

The measure, by Assemblywoman Autumn Burke of Los Angeles and Sen. Mike McGuire of Healdsburg, will implement a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Wayfair vs. South Dakota, making clear that states can tax sales made by online sellers located beyond their borders.

Smaller states are levying sales taxes on companies with sales of $100,000 or more. California, however, will require companies with sales of $500,000 or more to collect sales taxes. 

  • The higher threshold could help small online sellers.
  • Tracking down smaller sellers could be overly burdensome.

Legal sales of high-capacity magazines start, then stop

On Friday, the Turner’s Outdoorsman chain of stores across California was advertising 30-round magazines and urging customers to act fast: “Get yours today before 5 p.m.” The sales were legal for the first time since 2000, briefly.

The Turner’s was one of several companies rushing to sell large-capacity magazines, after U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez of San Diego on March 29 struck down the California state law passed in 2000 banning the sale, importation and purchase of magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

Benitez stayed that ruling effective at 5 p.m. Friday. The stay will remain in place while California Attorney General Xavier Becerra appeals Benitez’s ruling to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Becerra said at a press conference Friday that it was impossible to determine the number of large-capacity magazines sold in California between Benitez’s ruling and when the stay took effect. But several companies seized on Benitez’s ruling to offer sales of magazines holding as many as 100 rounds.

In 2016, 63 percent of the voters approved Proposition 63, an initiative promoted by Gov. Gavin Newsom when he was lieutenant governor.

In the opening line describing the initiative, the official voter handbook stated: “Prohibits possession of large–capacity ammunition magazines.”

Benitez struck down that provision in 2017.

Bottom line: It’s legal to possess but not sell or buy large-capacity magazines in California, pending the appeal.

Extra credit: CALmatters’ in-depth look at California’s gun laws is here.

Take a number: 223,000

“The count now stands at more than 223,000 children at 229 schools.”—Washington Post, counting the number of kids who have been exposed to gun violence at school since the massacre at Columbine High School, April 20, 1999

Commentary at CALmatters

Laura Capps, board member Golden State Opportunity/CalEITC4Me: As the cost of health care, housing, food and transportation continue to rise, we must make work pay better. Expanding the California earned income tax credit will do that for those who need it most.

Marlene Hoffman, caring for three young children: I’m starting over as mom by taking in my two grandsons, who are 19 months and 3 months, and my 10 year-old nephew whom I’ve raised since he was 2.  Here’s what the earned income tax credit would mean.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Managerial miscues plague state government, as three new audit reports confirm. They imply that fixing existing problems should take precedence over launching new services and programs.

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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