In summary

Multi-billion dollar school bond may land on March ballot. Housing bill advances. Municipalities look to break free from PG&E.

Good morning, California

“My priority is to continue working on behalf of the people who put their trust in me to serve them in this office.”—Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, announcing she would not run for the San Diego congressional seat being vacated by San Diego Democrat Susan Davis.

  • San Diego City Council President Georgette Gomez tweeted she is considering a run.
  • San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber said she might consider running, but will talk with her daughter, La Mesa City Councilwoman Akilah Weber, a physician and potential candidate.
  • Shirley Weber: “We’ll talk about it when I get home this weekend.”

Multi-billion school bond ahead

Teachers unions and charter school advocates are battling for the future of California's classrooms.
A multi-billion dollar school bond likely will be on the March ballot.

Legislation is expected to emerge as early as today that would place a bond of perhaps $10 billion on the March ballot to pay for construction and refurbishing of public schools, community colleges and California’s four-year college systems.

  • Sen. Steve Glazer, an Orinda Democrat, has a bill seeking $8 billion for University of California and California State University campuses.
  • Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, a Long Beach Democrat, has been pushing for legislation seeking $13 billion for kindergarten through community college. 
  • Neither will get all they seek.
  • O’Donnell: “It is under construction. … I think we’ll land this deal.”

Polling generally dictates the size of bond measures.

Expect a combined bond measure for public schools, colleges and universities, probably between $10 billion and $15 billion. If voters approve it, the money would pay for new construction, rehab of existing schools and seismic safety upgrades.

Housing gets a boost, but costs rise

An apartment complex in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles

Legislation that would remove some local control over housing decisions passed the Assembly on Thursday and almost certainly will end up on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

Berkeley Democratic Sen. Nancy Skinner’s legislation would prohibit cities from:

  • Imposing a construction moratorium.
  • Changing zoning to prevent denser housing.
  • Raising fees on developers during the development-approval process.

Developers back the bill, and cities oppose it. It’s the highest-profile bill left to curtail local control over housing decisions. Several others failed.

Lest developers get too excited, there’s the matter of the Trump administration’s trade war with China.

Kate Irby of the McClatchyDC Bureau reports tariffs imposed as part of the trade war are adding $20,000 to $30,000 to the cost of new California homes. Added costs of major appliances, laminate and tile will add $2.5 billion to the cost of new homes nationwide.

Breaking free from PG&E

Electricity pylons

Update: Legislation to sell $20 billion in bonds to help PG&E pay wildfire debt is put off till Jan.

  • Steven Maviglio, of Shareholders for Wildfire Victims: “We will return in January with a renewed effort to getting this beneficial legislation the full and fair consideration it deserves.”

With Pacific Gas & Electric hobbled by billions in debt, some local officials are redoubling efforts to break away from the behemoth utility and establish their own municipal utility districts.

San Francisco officials are analyzing the prospect of quitting PG&E. There’s talk of such a move in Yolo County west of Sacramento.

The relatively small South San Joaquin Irrigation District took the lead this week by submitting a formal request to U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Dennis Montali seeking to split from PG&E.

The district has what PG&E needs: cash. It is offering $116 million for PG&E’s transmission system in its 113-square-mile territory in and near Manteca, Ripon and Escalon.

The district has hydro-power facilities and promises to charge its prospective 40,000 customers 15% less than PG&E.

  • General Manager Peter Rietkerk: “We can do it safely, and we can certainly do it with more accountability.” 

The irrigation district first began seeking to establish its own utility district since 2004. PG&E sued to block it.

PG&E has argued that if locals break away, the utility would be left to serve only hard-to-reach and less-affluent regions of the state. 

Money matters: 

  • In 2006, PG&E spent $11 million on a local campaign to block the Sacramento Municipality District from expanding into Yolo County.
  • In 2010, the utility spent $46 million on a failed statewide initiative that would have barred local entities from quitting PG&E and establishing their own municipal utility districts.

P.S. Pressure on PG&E to sell assets could build now that lawmakers declined to approve legislation this year authorizing a $20 billion bond to pay down its wildfire-related liability.

Update: PG&E calls the South San Joaquin offer “significantly below the actual value of the PG&E facilities that SSJID seeks to acquire.”

  • PG&E: “SSJID’s current bid effectively proposes that PG&E accept a discounted price for its assets that would translate into asking PG&E’s interest holders and creditors, including claimants associated with the 2017 and 2018 wildfires, to unnecessarily accept a below-market price from SSJID that does not reflect the value of these assets. 
  • “Similarly, there is no apparent benefit to PG&E in relinquishing its victory in the eminent domain litigation and forgoing the reimbursement SSJID will be legally obligated to pay.”

One cost of police use of force

Salena Manni, fiancee of Stephon Clark, holds one of their two children, in 2018.

The city of Sacramento has paid $2.4 million to settle a suit brought on behalf of the two young sons of Stephon Clark, the unarmed man shot by Sacramento police last year. The case led to an overhaul of California law governing police use of force, The Sacramento Bee reports.

The Bee: Clark family lawyers will receive $600,000, with the rest to be paid to Clark’s sons, ages 5 and 2, in three tax-free payments between the ages of 22 and 25.

  • Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg: “I know the Clark family will never stop mourning the loss of Stephon, but I am also proud of the way they have engaged as productive participants in the debate over how to make Sacramento a better city. I wish all the best for Stephon’s children.”

A separate suit by other family members is pending.

Rabbis as gig workers

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez

Rabbis have been around for millenia but evidently would be counted as gig employees under the California Supreme Court’s 2018 Dynamex decision.

Remind me: That’s the decision making it harder for employers to classify workers as independent contractors. Lawmakers are all but certain to approve Assembly Bill 5, the union-backed bill that would put into code a California Supreme Court decision.

Representatives of several professions have sought exemptions from the law, so they can continue to be considered independent contractors rather than employees. Realtors, physicians and insurance agents have been exempted.

A lobbyist for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, which represents the nation’s largest Orthodox Jewish organization‚ made a last-minute effort to carve out an exemption for rabbis.

That failed on Thursday. 

The reasoning: Lawmakers would need to extend the exemption to other religious leaders. As a result, rabbis’ legal relationship with their synagogues could change.

With the Legislature poised to pass AB 5, by San Diego Democratic Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, gig economy companies are fretting about the implications, and are hoping lawmakers forge a hybrid worker, neither employee nor independent contractor.

CalMatters’ Judy Lin provides this analysis of what could come next for Uber and Lyft drivers, the main focus of the legislation.

  • Lin: Uber and Lyft are lobbying hard to get some kind of carveout and they are pitching a new construct as a win-win-win for the drivers, the gig employers and the state.

Libs vs. mods vs. conseratives

Ken Cooley speaks into a microphone on the Assembly floor.
Assemblyman Ken Cooley, Rancho Cordova Democrat.

Where does your legislator sit on the ideological spectrum? CalMatter’s Ben Christopher put together interactive charts and maps that depict the ideological divisions that shape our state’s politics.

Who holds the center?

  • Assemblymen Rudy Salas, Bakersfield Democrat, and Tyler Diep, Westminster Republican, and Sens. Melissa Hurtado, Sanger Democrat, and Ling Ling Chang, Diamond Bar Republican.

San Diego County Assemblyman Brian Maienschein was the most liberal Republican early in his career. Then he ditched the GOP for the Democrats. Now, he votes to the left of 13 Democrats.

The equation changes when considering legislators who skip votes. Assembly Democrat Ken Cooley of suburban Sacramento ends up leaning Republican when counting votes not cast.

The analysis made use of software written by political scientists at UCLA, USC, the University of Georgia and Rice that takes legislative vote data and boils it down to an ideological value.

Commentary at CalMatters

Sen. Scott Wiener and Assemblyman Mark Stone: A law intended to create more transparency misleads voters and makes it harder to pass bond and parcel tax measures. Senate Bill 268 would fix it.

Sen. Connie Leyva and Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley: California must finally end the backlog of unprocessed rape kits. Promptly testing DNA evidence in sexual assault kits will prevent backlogs of forensic evidence in laboratories or evidence rooms and can identify an unknown assailant, link crimes together, identify serial perpetrators, and exonerate the wrongly convicted.

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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.

Matt Levin was the data and housing dude for CalMatters. His work entails distilling complex policy topics into easily digestible charts and graphs, finding and writing original stories from data, yelling...