In summary

Tech amps up lobbying over data privacy. Vaccination bill passes, but future is uncertain. Newsom moves to end California’s fur trade.

Good morning, California.

“This is a jailbreak.”—Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat, quoted by Bloomberg Law, about efforts by tech companies to alter California’s Consumer Privacy Act.

Tech amps up lobbying

Tech industry lobbyists seek to alter the California Consumer Privacy Act.

Google and tech industry allies are making a late lobbying push to water down California’s data-privacy law by seeking to carve out exemptions for digital advertising, Bloomberg Law reports.

Bloomberg’s report comes as Google agreed to pay $170 million to settle Federal Trade Commission and New York state complaints that it collected personal information from children who used YouTube, and targeted ads at those children.

In Sacramento, tech company lobbyists and online advertisers have intensified efforts to alter the California Consumer Privacy Act, which was approved last year and is scheduled to take full effect Jan. 1, 2020.

With legislators scheduled to leave for the year next week, Bloomberg’s Kartikay Mehrotra, Laura Mahoney and Daniel Stoller reported that the tech companies are seeking “legislative approval to continue collecting user data for targeted advertising, and in some cases, the right to do so even if users opt out.”

  • Bloomberg: California’s new law is widely viewed as the benchmark other states will use for their own data-privacy regulations. The [privacy act] may also be a template for a future federal law. In Congress, lawmakers are already discussing language for possible nationwide legislation that would supersede California’s law.

Money matters: Tech giants Google, Facebook, Amazon and Microsoft have contributed $2.8 million to California politicians and political causes since 2018, by my count.

Vaccine bill passes; future unclear

Demonstrators outside Gov. Newsom’s office Wednesday

Legislation to crack down on bogus medical exemptions for vaccines rests in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s hands, after the Senate gave final approval to the measure Wednesday.

The 28-11 vote was along party lines, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposing, and one senator, Democrat Richard Roth of Riverside, not voting.

Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat and the bill’s author: “The purpose of this bill is to keep children safe.”

Sen. Brian Dahle, a Lassen County Republican: “This is about personal freedoms and the right of the parent to make the best choice for their children. … You’re telling everybody how to live their lives.”

Anti-vaccine activists who packed the Senate gallery broke out in chants after the vote, prompting the Senate to take a recess. Anti-vaxxers then massed in front of the governor’s office.

The bill would require that California health authorities review exemptions issued by physicians if the immunization rate at a school or daycare center falls below 95%, or if a doctor issues more than five exemptions in a year.

Newsom agreed earlier in the summer to sign the bill but on Tuesday asked for changes.

It’s not clear whether lawmakers would need to pass a separate bill, or whether he would veto the legislation and insist on the changes he wants.

Ending California’s fur trade

A proposed statewide fur ban is aimed at protecting creatures like this baby fox.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Wednesday banning all trapping of animals for their pelts, 21 years after voters approved an initiative that significantly restricted the practice.

The bill by Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego does not affect trappers who capture or kill pests, but it will end a dwindling commercial trade.

Californians have shown their disdain for trapping for years, overwhelmingly approving an initiative, Proposition 4 of 1998, that banned steel-jawed traps and poisons used to kill critters whose pelts have value.

The L.A. Times’ Louis Sahagun detailed the demise of the trapping business in California in April:

  • “A total of 68 trappers reported killing 1,568 animals statewide in 2017, according to the most recent data available from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Among the 10 species reported taken were coyote, gray fox, beaver, badger and mink.”

P.S.: Legislation by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, a Glendale Democrat, to ban fur sales is expected to come up for final votes in the Senate and Assembly next week.

Protecting horses against Trump

Horse legislation is pending.

Legislation intended to provide greater protection against the slaughter of horses for human consumption is meeting opposition from an unlikely source: backers of a 1998 initiative that banned the sale of horses from California for that very purpose.

Under the bill, people who buy horses at auctions would have to sign a sworn statement that they won’t send the animals to slaughter. 

Democratic Assemblyman Todd Gloria, running for mayor of San Diego, introduced it after the Trump administration took steps to authorize rounding up wild horses and sending them to slaughter houses

The bill’s lead supporter, the American Wild Horse Campaign, has been sounding the alarm over Trump’s policy in fundraising appeals.

Enter equestrian Cathleen Doyle, the main backer of the 1998 initiative, Proposition 6, banning the sale of horses for slaughter, and veteran lobbyist John Lovell, who worked on the initiative.

Their slogans back in the day

  • “Just say Neigh.” 
  • “Off the Table, In the Stable”

The initiative made the sale of horses for human consumption a felony. Gloria’s legislation, they say, would create a lesser alternative civil fine of $1,000. 

Gloria dismissed their contentions, and said the bill is a “direct response to the Trump administration’s movements to potentially send wild horses from California to slaughter.”

The Senate approved the bill 33-5 on Wednesday. Gloria almost surely has the votes to win final passage in the Assembly.

Study vs. study

Like a bullhorn, hundreds of millions of campaign dollars are amplifying the message from key industries to California voters.
Hedge fund spending to control PG&E

Proponents of legislation to authorize $20 billion in state bonds to help PG&E come out of bankruptcy released an analysis showing that shareholders, not customers, would pay for the costs. The study comes a day after hedge funds seeking control of PG&E issued their analysis saying the bill would amount to a bailout, financed in part by ratepayers and taxpayers.

The new report by Brad Williams at Capitol Matrix Consulting: “While the repayment of the bonds would be secured by a charge on ratepayer bills, the full cost of the debt service for these bonds would be borne by PG&E’s shareholders, through an offsetting credit to customers funded by annual company profits.”

Williams’ study was funded by a shareholder group that owns 49% of the utility’s stock, led by Knighthead Capital Management LLC, Redwood Capital Management and Abrams Capital Management. Their representative, Steve Maviglio, declined to say how much was spent on the analysis.

PG&E and its major shareholders hope lawmakers will support AB 235, by Republican Assemblyman Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley, to help pay off existing wildfire liabilities. The bill would require special dispensation by legislative leaders to be heard.

Spreading the DMV pain

A picture of a California DMV office is shown. | Photo: Flickr/Michael Ocampo
A California Department of Motor Vehicles office

An Oakland company that seeks to capitalize on Californians’ disdain for long waits at the Department of Motor Vehicles could soon face a hassle of its own: a ban on selling appointments at the DMV.

Republican Assemblyman Tyler Diep of Westminster introduced legislation to prohibit the practice:

  • “I don’t want people who have financial means to be able to cut in line or get more state services than those who don’t have an extra $50 or $75.”

The company, YoGov, offers a variety of services, including DMV appointments for $24.99. 

The company’s website notes paying customers “help subsidize free expedited appointments for low-income people, pregnant women and people with disabilities, as part of our commitment to greater accessibility for all.”

The Senate approved Diep’s bill 37-0. It returns to the Assembly for a final vote.

  • Diep: “Those who have financial means are always going to get more accommodations in life. That is just a fact. But if I can help it, I’d like to level the playing field.”

Commentary for CalMatters

JB Tengco and Kathryn Phillips, BlueGreen Alliance: There’s a hidden environmental threat from Uber and Lyft, and they need to confront it by assuming their responsibility to provide core employment protections to drivers and assume their lawful responsibility to pay for employee equipment. With that assurance in place, California can move forward in its mission to clean the air and mitigate the climate crisis by reducing tailpipe emissions.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Gov. Gavin Newsom is playing dealmaker in the declining days of his first legislative session, but the long-term effects of his deals are uncertain.

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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.

Judy serves as hub editor of the California Divide project, a five-newsroom collaboration covering economic inequality. Prior to editing, she reported on state finance, workforce and economic issues. Her...