In summary

Freshman Democrats back impeachment. Advocate proposes privacy bill of rights. Californians urged to ‘refrain’ from vaping.

Good morning, California.

“We’re going to see the DMV is successful when our clients are talking about the DMV’s success (and say), ‘I was able to get in, I met with the staff, they anticipated my need, and they were able to fulfill that need.’ That’s success.”—DMV Director Steve Gordon, answering a question by The Sacramento Bee’s Bryan Anderson about what success would look like at the bureaucracy Californians love to hate.

Taking plunge on impeachment

Democrat T.J. Cox upset GOP incumbent Rep. David Valadao in 2018
Democrat T.J. Cox upset GOP incumbent Rep. David Valadao in 2018.

All seven California freshman Democrats who defeated Republican incumbents in 2018 House of Representatives races—and presumably are among the most vulnerable Democrats to GOP challenges—are backing impeaching President Donald Trump.

Congressman TJ Cox, a Fresno Democrat, was the last to declare his support for an impeachment inquiry Tuesday after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced she would open one, the McClatchy-DC Bureau reported

  • Cox unseated Republican David Valadao by 862 votes in 2018. Valadao is running to reclaim the seat in 2020.

Congressman Jim Costa, another Fresno Democrat, joined the impeachment call. Costa, who faces a challenge from the left, is a GOP target in each election. 

  • “As members of Congress, we took an oath to preserve and protect our democracy and Constitution. We cannot turn a blind eye to abuse of power.”

Democrats in swing districts had resisted pressure to support impeachment, believing it would inflame the president’s base and lead to their defeat.

The turnaround occurred after a whistleblower complained to the Intelligence Community Inspector General regarding Trump’s communications with a foreign leader. The whistleblower’s identity remains confidential, as does the content of the complaint.

McClatchy: The complaint evidently centers on a July phone call, in which Trump asked the president of Ukraine to investigate the son of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden

Trump maintains he did nothing improper.

  • Democratic strategist Garry South: “It is beyond politics. … Some of these Democrats may take a hit. But I think these latest revelations about Trump and Ukraine just cross the Rubicon.”

New privacy battle ahead

State Sen. Robert Hertzberg with Alastair Mactaggart after privacy-related legislation passed an Assembly committee in June 2018. Photo for CALmatters by Dan Morain
Alastair Mactaggart, right, with state Sen. Robert Hertzberg, in 2018

San Francisco privacy advocate Alastair Mactaggart is filing a new initiative today that would create what he calls a privacy bill of rights.

If he succeeds in placing it on the ballot, it could become one of the major battles next November. At least, it will shape the privacy debate in California and beyond.

Macataggart is a developer who, alarmed at the diminution of privacy in this digital age, proposed a far-reaching initiative in 2018, only to abandon it when the Legislature approved the California Consumer Privacy Act, which takes effect Jan. 1.

After watching corporate tech lobbyists try to weaken the measure in 2019, he decided to press ahead with an initiative that would go significantly further.

It’s not clear all privacy advocates will be on board, however. 

To read my full report, please click here.

Advisory: ‘Refrain’ from vaping

Marijuana greenhouse
A marijuana hothouse

The California Department of Public Health is urging people to “refrain” from vaping, amid what officials are calling a public health emergency that has sickened more than 500 people nationwide.

The department reported Tuesday that 90 Californians have been hospitalized with lung damage because of vaping. 

  • That’s up from 70 cases only last week.

Citing the 90 illnesses and two vaping-related deaths in California, state health authorities issued the health advisory urging people to refrain from vaping, no matter whether the products are marijuana- or nicotine-related, until investigations into the causes of the illnesses are complete.

  • Charity Dean, acting state Public Health Officer: “We are seeing something that we have not seen before.”
  • The Department of Public Health: “Almost all people with lung damage from vaping say that they vaped or ‘dabbed’ the cannabis products THC and CBD in cartridges, waxes, oils and other forms.”

Dean did not differentiate between products sold by legal commercial weed retailers and those sold on the black market.

A cannabis trade group, United Cannabis Business Association, put out a competing statement saying “legal retailers are able to offer the safest products available, conducting testing for potency, production byproducts, pesticides, harmful bacteria, heavy metals and other toxins identified by the state of California.”

The issue will return to the Legislature. Assemblyman Adam Gray intends to hold a hearing next month on vaping:

  • “We have to take a good look at the technology and make sure the products are safe.”

Other states and vaping

Photo via iStock

While California health authorities urge people to “refrain” from vaping, New York and Michigan have banned flavored vape products, and Massachusetts on Tuesday imposed a four-month moratorium on sales of all vaping products.

In Massachusetts, where there have been 61 vape-related illnesses, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker said

  • “The purpose of this public health emergency is to temporarily pause all sales of vaping products so that we can work with our medical experts to identify what is making people sick and how to better regulate these products to protect the health of our residents.”

Baker’s move angered vaping advocates who contend vaping is safer than smoking.

Newsom’s housing report card

Real estate market ad in the newspaper
Photo illustration

Gov. Gavin Newsom repeatedly promised bold action to confront the issue he called California’s greatest challenge: California’s housing crisis and making housing affordable again.

The lofty promises:

  • A “Marshall Plan for affordable housing.
  • Unprecedented state action on homelessness.
  • Most audaciously, 3.5 million new housing units by 2025, a construction rate not seen since the state started keeping track of that kind of thing.

For CalMatters housing and data reporter Matt Levin’s take on how Newsom did in his first legislative term, please click here.

To listen to the latest episode of the Gimme Shelter podcast, on which Levin and the L.A. Times’ Liam Dillon discuss the Newsom’s housing report card, please click here.

Commentary at CalMatters

Joe Nation, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research: Legislative attempts at reform of public employee pensions barely made a dent in the problem.  Public pension debt will continue to grow. The question is whether California’s leaders have the courage to acknowledge and implement the aggressive and comprehensive reforms that are so clearly required.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Local officials may mislead voters about tax and bond measures, but they can’t lie to bankers without the feds investigating.

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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.