In summary

Schiff is no stranger to impeachment inquiries. Health concerns mount for firefighters. Mixed signals emerge from SCOTUS DACA hearing.

Good morning, California.

“Well, bribery only requires that you’re soliciting something of value. It doesn’t have to be cash. It can be something of value.”—Congressman Adam Schiff to NPR, regarding the impeachment inquiry of President Donald J. Trump that opens today.

Schiff’s impeachment history

Former Congressman James Rogan

California Congressman Adam Schiff will become the center of the political universe today as the U.S. House of Representatives opens the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.

Schiff’s career is intertwined with impeachment, not just because he helped lead the impeachment of U.S. District judge Gabriel Thomas Porteous Jr. of Louisiana in 2010.

Schiff was a one-term Democratic state senator from Burbank and former federal prosecutor in 2000 when he defeated the last member of Congress who led a presidential impeachment fight, James Rogan. It was the most expensive race in history—although the $10 million spent is quaint by today’s standards.

Rogan was a two-term Republican congressman from Glendale, tapped by Newt Gingrich to help run the impeachment inquiry into President Bill Clinton.

The district had been trending Democratic. But Rogan told me a poll at the time showed 75% of high-propensity voters would never vote for him if he supported impeachment.

He nonetheless took a stand, focusing on allegations that Clinton perjured himself by lying about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

  • “Impeachment is what defeated me.”

Rogan knew his role would define him and that he was “going to pay a price for it for the rest of my life.”

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger had appointed Rogan to an Orange County Superior Court judgeship in 2006. In 2007, President George W. Bush nominated Rogan for a federal judgeship, but with Hillary Clinton in the U.S. Senate, his nomination died.

In 2018, Sen. Dianne Feinstein urged Trump to nominate Rogan to the federal bench, seeing him as a compromise she could support. Trump declined. The reason was never stated, but perhaps Rogan’s role in the Clinton impeachment might have somehow haunted Trump.

In a circle of political life, Rogan was elected to the Assembly in 1994, replacing former Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan, of Glendale, who had been convicted in a Capitol corruption case. Trump pardoned Nolan earlier this year.

Firefighters’ health concerns

photo of PARADISE, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 9: The Camp Fire smoke covers the Butte Creek on Honey Run Road in Paradise, Calif., on Friday, Nov. 9, 2018. (Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)
The Camp Fire, Nov. 9, 2018 (Photo by Ray Chavez/Bay Area News Group)

Firefighters battling California’s wildfires inhale a noxious cocktail of woodsmoke and toxic air pollutants from burning homes and cars, CalMatters environment reporter Rachel Becker writes.

Exactly what’s in the smoke remains to be determined.

Researchers have found a moderate increase in cancers among firefighters who work in cities. But there haven’t been any similar long-term studies of wildland firefighters. 

That’s starting to change, as climate change primes the West to burn and more people build closer to nature. Scientists are searching the smoke for threats to firefighter health. To read Becker’s piece, please click here.

Reading signs in ‘Dreamers’ case

Attorney General Xavier Becerra outside the U.S. Supreme Court building on Tuesday (AP photo)

Reporters covering the U.S. Supreme Court’s oral arguments in the “Dreamers” case Tuesday came away split on how the justices might rule.

Remind me: President Trump wants to end the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program by which people who came to the United States as children of undocumented immigrant parents can remain so long as they have clean records. 

  • 700,000 people are DACA recipients. A quarter live in California. Most work or attend school. 
  • Trump tweeted: “Many of the people in DACA … are far from ‘angels.’ Some are very tough, hardened criminals.”

The L.A. Times’ David Savage and New York Times’ Adam Liptak had similar takes after listening to the arguments in U.S. Department of Homeland Security v. University of California Regents.

  • Savage: “[C]onservative justices sounded skeptical Tuesday about the legality of an Obama-era policy that has allowed 700,000 young immigrants to live and work in the United States.”

SCOTUSblog’s Amy Howe was less sure:

  • “After roughly 80 minutes of debate in a packed courtroom, before an audience that included politicians and dozens of DACA recipients, it wasn’t clear how the case is likely to turn out.”

Attorney General Xavier Becerra was in Washington as his solicitor general argued the case.

Also there: John A. Pérez, University of California Board of Regents chairman, and UC President Janet Napolitano, who developed DACA when she was Obama’s homeland security secretary.

What’s next: A decision by June, the middle of the 2020 presidential campaign.

Trump as a fundraising tool

trump newsom clean air emissions electric vehicles
President Donald Trump

Attorney General Xavier Becerra sometimes ties his fundraising appeals to his litigation against the Trump administration. On Tuesday, few hours after Supreme Court oral arguments ended in the DACA case, he blasted a pitch: 

  • “Team: Will you make a $5 contribution today to stand with us in this fight for Dreamers? We’re taking on President Trump’s agenda at every turn, and we refuse to back down.”

Such pitches are aimed at small dollar donors. By law, he won’t report until the end of January 2020 the amount he raised in small increments in the second half of 2019.

At the end of June, Becerra had $2.1 million in the bank for his 2022 reelection. He has raised at least another $321,000 in larger donations since then, most of it in increments of $7,800.

Solar rooftop requirement, or not

Rooftop solar installation

Home builders are battling rooftop solar companies aligned with environmentalists over the California Energy Commission’s far-reaching solar requirement.

Remind me: The energy commission gained national attention last year by requiring that all new homes have rooftop solar starting in January. There was, however, an out, as The San Francisco Chronicle and L.A. Times report

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District, a nonprofit that serves 1.5 million people, is asking the energy commission to approve more community solar, a less-expensive alternative to requiring builders to install panels on all new roofs.

  • The California Building Industry Association wrote in support: “‘[C]ommunity solar’ may be the only practical and cost-efficient way for a two- or three-story apartment complex to comply with the new solar mandate, especially if it is an infill project.”
  • San Francisco-based Sunrun, the nation’s largest rooftop solar company: “SMUD’s proposal would be a substantial step backwards for clean energy in California, and risks limiting the number of homes and businesses that would benefit from rooftop solar if implemented in Sacramento or beyond.”

Energy commission staffers recommend that the commission support the Sacramento district’s request as its meeting today.

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District is relevant today as talk increases of busting up Pacific Gas and Electric Co. Thanks in no small part to a crusade waged by The Sacramento Bee, voters in Sacramento approved the district’s creation in 1923, and finally broke free of PG&E in 1946.

Taking more responsibility for fire

Californians will need to help protect their homes and neighbors as fires ravage the state. That’s the message from a panel discussion moderated Tuesday by CalMatters environment reporter Julie Cart at the Public Policy Institute of California.

  • Dave Winnacker, fire chief of the Moraga-Orinda Fire District: “One of our truisims is: help is not coming.”

Hardening homes against wildfires and removing combustible materials is key because hours after a danger has passed, embers can reignite and burn houses. It happened in Napa in 2017, and again during the Kincade fire last month: 

  • “All that good work we did — we’re talking high fives and hugs. ‘We saved it! Good job boys.’ Four to six hours later, all those houses had burned down because an ember had gotten established.” 

Also on the panel: Sen. Bill Dodd, Napa Democrat, Rebecca Miller of Stanford University, and  Steve Nielsen, a wildfire survivor.

To watch a video of the event, please click here.

Commentary at CalMatters

Josh Fryday, chief service officer of California: California is facing challenges such as homelessness, climate change, poverty and natural disasters, to name a few. If we are going to be successful in tackling these issues, we need to harness the power of our greatest asset, the 40 million people who call California home. This is why California Volunteers is hard at work mobilizing Californians to serve in their communities.

Eloy Ortiz Oakley, California Community Colleges chancellor: Our military veterans transitioning to colleges and universities face far too many challenges. This Veterans Day, when we honor the brave women and men who have served in our armed forces, all candidates seeking to become Commander in Chief should remember their duty to look after those who have looked after us. More must be done, not just in California, but for the 18.2 million military veterans nationwide.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Two reports from state Auditor Elaine Howle frame the fiscal distress being felt by many school districts and cities.


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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.

Rachel Becker is a journalist reporting on California’s complex water challenges and water policy issues for CalMatters. Rachel has a background in biology, with master's degrees in both immunology and...