United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit. Headquartered in San Francisco, California, the Ninth Circuit is by far the largest of the 13 courts of appeals, with 29 active judgeships.

In summary

Assemblyman’s fundraising scrutinized by state watchdog. Family-planning ruling hits low-income women hardest. Trump judges begin to leave their mark.

Good morning, California.

“This is not a Republican thing, or a Democrat thing. It’s about giving people housing with services, addressing the problems that made you homeless so you don’t become homeless again. Services are the secret sauce, not just the roof. They have to be tied together.”—Robert Marbut, President Trump’s homeless czar, to The San Francisco Chronicle’s Kevin Fagan

  • Marbut attended a conference on homelessness in Oakland but didn’t announce himself or address the gathering.

Evan Low’s fundraising inquiry

Assemblyman Evan Low, Democrat from Campbell

The California Fair Political Practices Commission, the state’s political watchdog, is investigating fundraising practices by Assemblyman Evan Low, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports.

The inquiry focuses on a nonprofit organization affiliated with the Legislature’s technology caucus chaired by Low, a focus of Rosenhall’s report that ran last Thursday.

The inquiry focuses on whether Low violated a law that requires elected officials to disclose donations of $5,000 or more given to other groups at their request.  

Remind me: Low reported soliciting $290,000 in donations to the Foundation for California’s Technology and Innovation Economy in 2017 and 2018, but stopped reporting behested payments to the foundation in 2019.

Low says he stopped personally fundraising for the foundation, instead hiring one of his legislative staffers to take over a job outside her duties at the Capitol.

Galena West, the chief of enforcement for the Fair Political Practices Commission, wrote to Low that she had begun “a commission-initiated investigation.”

  • West: “At this time, we have not made any determination about the possible violations. We are simply providing you with this information as a courtesy and may be contacting you to discuss the matter.”

West wrote the letter on Thursday, the day of CalMatters’ report.

Unlike campaign donations, which are capped at $4,700 for legislative candidates, there is no limit on the amount of money donors can give to nonprofits.

To read Rosenhall’s latest report, please click here.

Trump rule’s impact on women

California’s teen-pregnancy rate has fallen with the help of Title X funds. (Photo illustration)

Low-income women will be hit hardest by a federal appellate court decision Monday upholding the Trump administration’s rule denying federal family-planning funds to clinics that provide abortion-related services, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra tells us.

Remind me: 

  • Title X of the Public Health Service Act provides federal funds for clinics to provide family-planning services to low-income and uninsured people.
  • The Trump administration last year prohibited clinics that provide abortions or referrals for abortions from receiving the funds.
  • Planned Parenthood reacted by dropping out of the program. 
  • Family planning groups and Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued to block the rule.
  • District court judges in California, Oregon and Washington struck down the rule.

On Monday, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned those decisions on a 7-4 vote.

Nationally, about 4 million women a year receive care at Title X clinics.

In California, Essential Access Health receives the federal funds, and provides money to clinics. Title X clinics served 375,000 fewer patients in 2019 than in 2018, because providers withdrew.

Julie Rabinovitz, of Essential Access, called the ruling “devastating.”

Mollie Timmons, of the U.S. Justice Department:

  • “Congress has long prohibited the use of Title X funds in programs where abortion is a method of family planning, and (the Department of Health and Human Services’) recent rule makes that longstanding prohibition a reality.”

P.S.: CalMatters’ Elizabeth Castillo reported that Title X funds helped dramatically reduce California’s teen-pregnancy rate.

Trump’s court takes shape

U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, San Francisco headquarters

The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeal’s decision upholding the Trump administration’s “gag” rule on abortion providers is a striking illustration of the power of Trump’s judicial appointees.

Trump has appointed 10 of 29 active judges to the San Francisco-based 9th Circuit, which oversees the Western states, including California.

An 11-judge panel ruled 7-4 in California v. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar that the Trump administration was within its rights to withhold federal Title X health care funding to clinics in California, Oregon and Washington that provide abortion-related referrals.

  • President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, appointed the four dissenters to what had been a Democrat-dominated court.
  • Republican presidents appointed the seven judges who sided with Trump, including four by George W. Bush, one by Ronald Reagan, and two by Trump.

One of those Trump judges, Kenneth Lee, replaced one of the most liberal judges, the late Stephen Reinhardt, an appointee of President Jimmy Carter. 

The second Trump judge, Eric Miller, replaced Judge Richard Tallman, a Clinton appointee. 

  • Simple math suggests the decision would have been 6-5 against the Trump rule, if Reinhardt and Tallman were on the court.

The L.A. Times’ Maura Dolan dug deep inside the 9th Circuit, reporting this weekend on the impact of the Trump appointees.

Judge Milan D. Smith Jr., a Bush appointee and one of the seven judges who formed the majority on Monday, told Dolan:

  • “Trump has effectively flipped the circuit.”

When home is a health hazard

Tanya Harris

Between 2006 and 2018, the median household income in California grew 6.4%, but the average real income for the lowest 20% of households dropped by 5.3%. And housing costs increased by more than 8% from 2017, Kate Cimini of the Salinas California reports.

For people at the lowest economic rungs who have a place to live, that housing can be unhealthy.

Tanya Harris and her three daughters live in a converted motel room in Salinas, just large enough for a bunkbed and a desk.

The motel is infested with mice, rats and cockroaches, and mold grows along the shower walls and floors. Harris and her children have asthma.

  • Harris: “I feel like a bad mom because I can’t give them everything they deserve.”

Cimini’s story is part of CalMatters’ California Divide project, and was done in collaboration with USC Annenberg Center for Health Journalism, and the nonprofit Catchlight.

A plan to cut developer fees

Assemblyman Tim Grayson outside the Capitol

Some Democratic lawmakers are pushing legislation that would force local governments to cut fees charged to developers for new housing developments, CalMatters housing reporter Matt Levin tells us. 

California builders say impact fees levied by local government on new housing drive up the cost of homes unnecessarily. Cities use the money to pay for parks, police and other services. 

  •  A UC Berkeley study found that impact fees in the Bay Area suburb of Fremont average $35,300 for a single-family home. 

Assemblyman Tim Grayson of Concord: “There is strong evidence that fees are ultimately passed along to the public in the form of higher rents, inflated home prices and stalled projects that intensify our chronic housing shortage.” 

Grayson and others are calling for a cap on fees, dramatically reducing fees imposed on low-income housing, and forcing local governments to provide more fee transparency. 

What’s ahead: Expect cities to oppose the bills, though the League of California Cities has not taken a position yet.

Take a number: 15

Sen. Bernie Sanders at a campaign rally at Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, CA on February 17, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Sen. Bernie Sanders in Richmond earlier this month

Democratic presidential candidates must hit at least 15% of the votes to win delegates in California’s presidential primary, to be held one week from today.

CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports recent polls show only one candidate is at that all-important threshold: Sen. Bernie Sanders. But polls can change.

California’s 415 pledged delegates are awarded based on the statewide vote, and how each candidate does in each of the state’s 53 congressional districts. Candidates must receive 15% of the vote in individual districts to pick up delegates in those districts.

To watch a video explaining the delegate-selection process, please click here.

Erasing $137 million in debt

Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, Los Angeles Democrat

Legislation would wipe away $137 million in debt that California parents owe to counties for the cost of their children’s time in the juvenile justice system, CalMatters’ Jackie Botts tells us.

Remind me: California was the first state to stop charging parents, but the new law didn’t require counties to forgive outstanding debt, Botts recently reported

Sens. Maria Elena Durazo and Holly Mitchell, Los Angeles Democrats, introduced SB 1290, which would vacate all unpaid balances.

  • Counties have defended the fees as funding sources for crucial services.
  • The bill would affect 22 counties that seek $137 million from families of juveniles who have served time.
  • San Diego County has $41 million in outstanding debt, most in the state. 

San Diego County Board of Supervisors Chair Greg Cox intends to introduce a measure to eliminate juvenile fee debt:

  • “This burden has followed these families for long enough.”

A call for information

CalMatters is collecting stories of life on the brink, as part of the California Divide collaboration.

We want to hear from people who are one rent increase, medical bill or car breakdown away from poverty. 

If this sounds like you or someone you know, please fill out this questionnaire

Please share widely. We want to hear from as many people as possible.

Commentary at CalMatters

Liane Randolph, California Public Utilities Commission: California policy makers are considering how to manage the long-term transition away from fossil fuels. This highly complex undertaking will have tremendous potential economic, social and environmental impacts. But California can make the right decisions that keep our energy system safe, affordable and reliable.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Gov. Gavin Newsom is staking his political career on solving California’s housing and homelessness crises.


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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.