Saddle Ridge Fire, near Interstate 210. Photo: @LACoFireAirOps, Oct. 10, 2019.

In summary

Bill signings sum up Newsom’s first year in office. Microgrids not a simple answer to state’s power problems. Authorities turn to feds for gun prosecutions.

Good morning, California.

“The biggest difference is we got a new governor.”—Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco, after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed his legislation expanding who can seek use of gun violence restraining orders to include teachers, coworkers and employers. 

  • Gov. Jerry Brown had vetoed similar measures twice.

Newsom’s first 10 months

Gov. Gavin Newsom

Californians can legally eat roadkill, and hotels must stop handing out tiny bottles of shampoo and conditioner.

CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall sums up Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s first year, taking stock of the final series of bill signings and vetoes, and what it says about his vision for the state:

  • He keeps distancing himself from Jerry Brown. 
  • Notably, Newsom signed legislation that Brown vetoed twice opening the way for more people to sue over sexual abuse they endured as children at private institutions such as churches and public schools.
  • He understands the power of image, and seizes any opportunity to bash Trump—even when he sides with Trump. 

Newsom accomplished a lot in his first 10 months in office. He has tripped, too.

For Rosenhall’s assessment, please click here.

Ukrainian indictment spreads West

Defendants in Ukraine probe reportedly tried to enter weed business.

The Donald Trump-Rudy Giuliani-connected indictment of four men accused of funneling foreign campaign donations to U.S. politicians has spread to Nevada and Sacramento, The Sacramento Bee and Nevada Independent report.

Allegations include charges the men gave campaign money to grease their way into the weed business.

The Nevada Independent reports that the four defendants started to make plans in July 2018 to start a multi-state recreational marijuana business funded by an unnamed Russian citizen, and discussed currying favor with power brokers to advance business ventures, including a retail marijuana license in Nevada.

The Sacramento Bee reports that records show one of the men indicted, Andrey Kukushkin, is partners with Garib Karapetyan, who holds permits for eight dispensaries in Sacramento. Karapetyan and his associates have become the de facto pot kings of Sacramento, controlling far more licenses than anyone else and papering the city with billboards and ads for their dispensaries.

Karapetyan, 35, who was not charged, has donated to the campaigns of local elected officials, including Mayor Darrell Steinberg. He also purchased a $1.1 million condo near the Golden 1 Center in downtown Sacramento, The Bee reports.

Two of the defendants, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, are accused in the federal indictment of using illegal campaign contributions to advance the “political interests of Ukrainian government officials…”

Expect more to come on this story.

Why not microgrids? It’s not simple

The deadly 2018 Camp Fire burns around PG&E transmission towers east of Pulga, near the source of the first report of the fire.
PG&E seeks “zero spark” from its equipment, after the 2018 Camp Fire killed 86 people.

Striving for “zero spark” from its equipment, Pacific Gas & Electric Co. cut power to millions of Californians in last week’s Diablo windstorm— prompting questions about why it has failed to create microgrids to better target power shutdowns.

Under the headline “In a High-Tech State, Blackouts Are a Low-Tech Way to Prevent Fires,” The New York Times explains microgrids involve using power sources like solar panels and diesel engines to provide electricity for a community.

  • “Depending on how the microgrid is designed, some or all of the lights can stay on, whether or not the main grid is energized.”

Michael Picker, who recently stepped down as California Public Utilities Commission president, cited complications with microgrids in an email to me:

  • Fossil fuel generators kick off pollutants, including greenhouse gases.

Batteries probably would need to be part of a microgrid.

Outside Phoenix, the McMicken fire ripped through an Arizona Public Service battery array in April, injuring first responders and raising questions about the safety of battery technology.

  • Greentechmedia: “The fire already delayed battery projects in Arizona, and has jammed safety to the top of the agenda in sales conversations with other utilities.”

Speaking of safety: CalFire believes the 2017 Tubbs Fire, which killed 20 people, was ignited at a rancher’s microgrid.

Money matters:

  • Picker: “Microgrids are and will be expensive in most cases, and require big subsidies. Should low-income ratepayers in South Central [L.A.] pick up the cost for expensive homes in Malibu?” 

Complicated though it is, San Diego Gas & Electric has made major strides, The L.A. Times wrote in March.

Edison’s partial power shutdown

Saddle Ridge Fire, near Interstate 210 (photo: @LACoFireAirOps)

As Santa Ana winds kicked up, Southern California Edison shut power to thousands of customers but not to the Saddleridge area.

The L.A. Times: Sylmar residents saw a fire at the base of an Edison transmission tower near Saddleridge Road. That fire damaged or destroyed 31 structures and forced the evacuation of thousands of people.

  • Edison spokeswoman Sally Jeun, quoted by The Times:  “Determining the cause and origin of the fire is a lengthy process. … SCE will fully cooperate with investigations.”

Tough on guns, to a point

Gov. Newsom signed 15 more gun bills into law on Friday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 15 new gun safety bills into law Friday, adding to what probably is the nation’s toughest set of laws restricting firearms.

And yet, as Barbara Harvey reported for CalMatters, local law enforcement is turning to federal authorities to prosecute one of the most basic gun crimes: being a felon in possession of a firearm. 

The reason: Felons convicted of being in possession of guns face 10-year prison terms under federal law. At most, they would face three years under state law, and might do half that time, or serve it in county jails.

  • Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert: “If we’re going to regulate the use of guns, why wouldn’t we regulate guns to the best of our ability? It’s almost like an oxymoron.”

For Harvey’s full report, please click here.

Newsom’s long weekend of bills

Gov. Gavin Newsom spent the weekend signing and vetoing legislation.

Serving as the Capitol’s unofficial but obsessively accurate scorekeeper, lobbyist Chris Micheli offers this count: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 870 bills and vetoed 172, for a veto rate of 16.5%

CalMatters’ bill tracker offers a handy overview of the legislation he signed and vetoed. A few from over the weekend that caught my eye:

Commentary at CalMatters

Stacy Torres, assistant professor of sociology at UC San Francisco: We’ve failed as a society when police are the primary responders to mental health crises. Urban police departments have begun increased training for handling interactions with emotionally disturbed people. But the efforts are uneven and inadequate.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Gavin Newsom’s first year as governor has produced some successes, but his big goals remain elusive.


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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.