Clean water, gas taxes, contraceptives and gay pride

“After weeks of study, deliberation and conversations with Orange County families, I’ve decided to support an impeachment investigation of the president.”—Congresswoman Katie Porter, an Irvine Democrat who won one of seven congressional seats previously held by Republicans in November. The L.A. Times, which is counting votes, reports Porter is the first California freshman to support impeachment of President Trump. Speaker Nancy Pelosi still opposes it.

Trading emissions for clean water

$100 million from cap-and-trade funding will go toward clean drinking water.

Cap-and-trade revenue—originally intended to combat climate change—will be used in the years ahead for clean drinking water. Though it may seem like a stretch, CALmatters environment reporter Rachel Becker writes that it won’t be the last time climate change money gets diverted.

Remind me: As part of last week’s budget package, lawmakers voted to spend $100 million in cap-and-trade money to help clean drinking water for a million Californians. Another $30 million will come from general tax money.

  • More than $1 billion a year in cap-and-trade revenue comes from polluters such as refineries.
  • Anyone who buys gasoline pays about 11 cents per gallon more.

Under the budget awaiting Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signature, 5 percent of cap-and-trade revenue up to $130 million annually will be earmarked for clean water through 2030.

Some environmentalists and activists, particularly in the Central Valley where many substandard water systems exist, are celebrating the decision.

The legality is murky, however.

Money generated by cap-and-trade is supposed to “reasonably relate to the reduction of [greenhouse gas] emissions,” the Legislative Counsel, the Legislature’s attorney, said in a letter.

  • Because of 2017 legislation, however, some limits on how the money is used will be lifted in 2021.
  • At that point, “the handcuffs are off the Legislature,” Cara Horowitz, co-executive director of UCLA Law’s Emmett Institute on Climate Change, told CALmatters.  

“The Legislature may very well decide to continue prioritizing projects that reduce greenhouse gases and promote climate resilience after 2021, but it won’t be obligated to do so.”

A new gas tax hike

The price of gas will go up in California.

In their weakened state, Republican legislators in California can’t pass a bill without Democrats’ consent. But they can protest.

Republicans sought to make an issue Monday of a 5.6-cent per gallon gasoline tax hike set to take effect July 1.

To no one’s surprise, the GOP effort to cancel the increase failed on a party-line vote, although 10 Democrats, all of them from swing districts, did not to vote on the measure.

Assemblyman Devon Mathis, a Visalia Republican, said in a statement: “While Democrats claim to support Californians who face the highest living costs in the nation, their actions tell a different story.”

Remind me: The latest tax hike was embedded in legislation that raised gas taxes by 12 cents per gallon in 2017. In 2018, voters rejected an initiative to repeal that tax hike.

  • Money matters: The average price of a gallon of gas nationally is $2.67 per gallon, the Sacramento Bee reports. That’s a dollar less than the least-expensive gas in California.

Campaigning over gig work

The fight continues over how gig companies should treat workers.

The fight over the future of gig work is taking on all the earmarks of a political campaign.

Uber and Lyft announced last week they were joining forces to kill Assembly Bill 5, a bill by Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego that would force Uber, Lyft and other gig economy companies to treat their workers like employees and provide benefits.

  • The companies mobilized drivers to wage an email campaign aimed at swaying legislators to kill AB 5.
  • Today, drivers will gather outside Uber’s headquarters in San Francisco. The event is being organized by the California Labor Federation, the Teamsters, United Food & Commercial Workers and Service Employees International Union SEIU.

Union-backed drivers will be sending emails with a very different message:

“Without the protections given to other workers, drivers face low wages, labor abuses, and are denied crucial benefits.”

The bill awaits a hearing in the Senate.

Removing birth control barriers

An Assembly bill would simplify the process for obtaining contraceptives.

California legislators stepped toward removing one more barrier to contraception Monday, on a day when the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a challenge by a Catholic order seeking to limit birth control access.

First, the court case:

  • Little Sisters of the Poor Jeanne Jugan Residence based in San Francisco asked that the justices overturn lower court opinions blocking Trump administration efforts to roll back the Obamacare requirement that health plans provide contraception.
  • California Attorney General Xavier Becerra defended the Affordable Care Act requirement, and won when the court justices refused without comment to hear the Little Sisters’ appeal from the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal.
  • That case is over but not the fight. Similar cases are pending in federal courts.

In Sacramento, Democratic Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris of Orange County is pushing Assembly Bill 1264 to simplify the process for obtaining contraceptives. The bill says a person could obtain birth control by filling out a health questionnaire or self-screening tool, and not have to undergo an exam or video chat consultation.

The California Medical Association and Planned Parenthood back the bill. The goal is to reduce unplanned pregnancies and improve access to care, particularly in rural parts of the state.

Petrie-Norris: “In the same way you used to have to go to a doctor to get a prescription for Claritin and now you can get it over the counter, it does seem appropriate for us to move in that direction.”

The Senate Business and Professions Committee approved it unanimously.

Symbolic matters

Gov. Newsom tweeted this photo of the Pride flag above the Capitol.

Using not one but two exclamation points to make his point, Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted to his 1.43 million followers: “For the first time in our state’s history, the Pride flag has been raised at our State Capitol!!”

Newsom: “By flying the Pride flag over the State Capitol, we send a clear message that California is welcoming and inclusive to all, regardless of how you identify or who you love.”

The Trump Administration took the opposite side by not flying the Pride flag at U.S. embassies, something that had become tradition even in countries where homophobia is rampant.

Vice President Mike Pence defended the stand: “When it comes to the American flagpole and American embassies and capitals around the world, having the one American flag fly is the right decision.”

'Force of Law'

Force of Law profiles Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and her use-of-force bill.

In the latest episode of the Force Of Law podcast, CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall explains the compromise over legislation to regulate police use of force.

  • The issue will return to the Capitol today, when Californians whose relatives have died from police shootings are expected to testify in a show of support for a bill, Rosenhall reports.
  • The amended bill, to be heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee, says California police can shoot when “necessary in defense of human life.” That’s a steeper standard than prosecutors apply now, which says police can shoot when doing so is “reasonable.”

As a result of that compromise among law enforcement groups and civil rights advocates, the Assembly passed the bill overwhelmingly last month, but the measure lost support from Black Lives Matter.

In the podcast, Rosenhall profiles the bill’s author, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber. The San Diego Democrat is the daughter of an Arkansas sharecropper who came of age in Los Angeles during the rise of the black power movement, and gained a doctorate.

To hear the latest episode, please click here.

Take a number: 52

More working-age immigrants have college degrees.

Underscoring California’s reliance on immigrants to fill jobs, the Public Policy Institute of California reports that in 2017, 52% of working-age immigrants who had lived here for five or fewer years had a bachelor’s or graduate degree, up from 22% in 1990.

  • By contrast, 37% of working-age U.S.-born Californians has a college degree, up from 27% in 1990.
  • Only 17% of newly arrived working-age immigrants lacked a high school diploma, down from 47% in 1990.

President Trump last month proposed what he calls a merit-based immigration system in which the nation would admit a larger share of immigrants based on their skills and education.

Commentary at CALmatters

Carolyn Coleman, League of California Cities: There is no single or easy solution to address homelessness, but building more affordable housing is a major part of the answer. That is why the League of California Cities strongly supports Gov. Newsom’s budget proposals that provide more resources and Senate Bill 5 to help support the construction of more housing for low- and very low-income Californians.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Once a decade, powerful interests do battle over the system compensating workers for job-related disabilities, and a new clash may be on the horizon.


For the next two months, Barbara Harvey, a UC Berkeley School of Journalism master student, will be helping with WhatMatters. Follow her at @barbaraaharvey.

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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