CALMatters: The state's most controversial housing bill in years just died. Here's your key takeaways
The most controversial state housing bill in recent memory died with a pretty resounding thud.
Senate Bill 827, which would have forced cities to allow taller, denser development around public transit, got only four votes on the 13-member Senate Committee on Transportation and Housing. Both Democrat and Republican lawmakers voted against the bill.
Authored by state Sen. Scott Wiener, Democrat from San Francisco, the bill would have allowed developers to build five-story apartment buildings near major public transit stops, including neighborhoods previously zoned for single family homes. The bill received a ton of media attention, including a fairly flattering write-up on the front page of the New York Times.
Urbanist “Yes In My Backyard” (YIMBY) groups mourned the bill’s death as yet another roadblock to building the new housing the state so desperately needs. Cities and anti-gentrification groups cheered the demise of what they viewed as an unprecedented inroad on local control.
Los Angeles Times: Weed bank proposal passes first legislative hurdle
California would license special banks to handle billions of dollars generated by the legal marijuana market under legislation buoyed by recent comments from the Trump administration and given initial approval by state lawmakers Wednesday.
The measure gained momentum just days after President Trump indicated that his administration would not crack down on recreational marijuana in states that have voted to make it legal. Selling and growing marijuana for recreational use was legalized by California voters under a state licensing system that began Jan. 1.
Sen. Bob Hertzberg (D-Van Nuys), who introduced the bill, said the president's policy shift makes it more likely that state-chartered banks would be used by the burgeoning cannabis market, which is projected to grow to $7 billion annually by 2020 in California.
"I've spoken to these companies about the problems their businesses face, and until last week, many were under constant threat of getting busted by the feds," Hertzberg said. "If the risk of federal intervention is eliminated, cannabis businesses will feel more confident about opening an account with our limited state charter."
Los Angeles Times: Eric Garcetti, presidential long shot, journeys to Iowa, land of dreams
Iowa grows corn, raises hogs and nurtures presidential dreams.
The state launched two exceeding long shots, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama, to the White House, giving each a look and listen when sophisticates elsewhere treated their campaigns as the stuff of cockeyed fantasy.
So when Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti set out Friday to introduce himself to Iowa with a two-day visit, the all-but-announced Democratic candidate for president was traveling a well-trod path.
He visited with firefighters and union carpenters. He met with Latino and Asian American activists, and attended a gay rights gala. He took a walk through Des Moines' hipster East Village neighborhood and picked up Iowa-themed gear at an edgy boutique.
What he did not do was make formal his apparent candidacy.
Under what circumstances would he run for president, an Iowa reporter asked Garcetti as he toured the carpenters training center in Altoona. He smiled and rocked back on his heels, as if buffeted by an unexpected wave.
"I'm listening this year," he said, promising a final decision in 2019 as a small audience of millwrights looked on from the shop floor. Then, moments later, he asked for a do-over.
"I'm not here looking for a new job for me," Garcetti said. "I'm looking for more new jobs for Americans."
Politico: GOP maneuver could roll back decades of regulation
Republicans are preparing to open a new front in their push to roll back regulations across the government, using a maneuver that could enable them to strike down decisions by federal agencies that reach back decades.
As soon as Tuesday, GOP senators, backed by President Donald Trump, will use the Congressional Review Act to topple safeguards issued by the CFPB in 2013 that were intended to discourage discrimination in auto lending.
While Republicans in the Trump era have already taken advantage of the 1996 law to remove more than a dozen recently issued rules, this would be the first time that Congress will have used it to kill a regulatory policy that is several years old.
Now, actions going back to President Bill Clinton’s administration could be in play under the procedure GOP lawmakers are undertaking, forcing numerous agencies to reconsider how they roll out new regulations.
“It’s a hugely important precedent,” Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the architect of the effort, said in an interview. “It’s potentially a big, big opening.”
While conservatives are applauding the effort as a way to rein in rogue bureaucrats and boost the economy, consumer advocates are warning that the consequences could be dire.
Los Angeles Times: As lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom has had few duties - and he skipped many of them
After Gavin Newsom was elected lieutenant governor, he repeatedly made clear his frustration with the job and its lack of responsibilities. The official portfolio for the office is thin, including sitting on boards that oversee the state's higher education system and public lands, leading an economic council and serving as acting governor when California's chief executive is out of state or otherwise unavailable.
Newsom, now the front-runner in the governor's race, missed scores of meetings held by the University of California Board of Regents, the California State University Board of Trustees and the California State Lands Commission, according to a Times review of attendance records.
He attended 54% of UC Regents meeting days, 34% for Cal State and 57% for state lands, according to a Times review of attendance records between 2011 and 2018. The Times included in the tally days when Newsom was present for only part of the day, and excluded days when Newsom had no committee meetings or other official business to attend.
Membership of the three panels is the most prominent duty of a lieutenant governor, a post considered to be largely ceremonial.
"There's no denying that the official responsibilities of the lieutenant governor are more modest than some other constitutional offices — the English call it an 'heir and a spare,'" said former California Gov. Gray Davis, who was lieutenant governor before being elected to lead the state. "But 43 states have a lieutenant governor whose primary function is to step in if something happens to the governor."
Politico: Kamala Harris' rapid rise confounds California
Kamala Harris has been called “the female Barack Obama.” She’s built a national following with her outspoken criticism of Donald Trump and prolific fundraising for fellow Democrats.
But the California senator’s rapid rise — she’s just 15 months into her first term — has created an awkward issue: Even as progressives tout her as one of the top 2020 contenders, Harris remains something of a mystery back home.
Her approval ratings are solid, but not stratospheric. And 28 percent of California voters say they don’t know or have no opinion about Harris, according to a recent Morning Consult poll — placing her in the bottom 10 of name recognition among U.S. senators in their home states.
A Berkeley IGS Poll in September found California voters — by a more than 2-to-1 margin, 49 percent to 22 percent — would rather Harris stay in the Senate than run for president in 2020.
That disconnect could be a problem with California preparing to host an early presidential primary just after Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.
“There’s an old saying: ‘You’ve really got to secure your base before you start wandering off to do other things,” said Larry Stone, a longtime Democratic fundraiser in California.
Stone, a former Sunnyvale mayor and now Santa Clara County assessor, said, “I like her, I could support her.” But since co-hosting an event for Harris in 2016, Stone said, he hasn’t heard once from the senator or her advisers.
For most Californians, Stone said, “I don’t think they know Kamala to any great degree.”
Sacramento Bee: California lawmakers consider healthcare coverage for low-income undocumented immigrants
Buried in the heated statewide debate over sanctuary protections for undocumented immigrants and single-payer health care, a pair of health care bills advancing again in the Legislature would grant health care to more than a million immigrants living in California illegally.
Bills from state Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, and Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, would expand full-scope Medi-Cal to undocumented adults, allowing an estimated 1.3 million eligible residents to use the state's low-income health care program for primary and specialty care.
At present, low-income undocumented adults are covered for very limited services – emergencies and pregnancy-related care. Lara's 2015 bill signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown expanded Medi-Cal to undocumented kids and teens.
The proposals for low-income adults are flying somewhat under the radar, as President Donald Trump rips California for its "sanctuary state" law, and Democrats attack each other over their positions on more expansive health care ideas like single-payer.
Lara's Senate Bill 974
passed the Senate health committee April 5. Arambula's Assembly Bill 2965
cleared the Assembly's health committee this week. Both head next to fiscal committees where the projected cost will be the major focus. Lara's Senate Bill 1005 in 2014 died in the Senate Appropriations Committee, which had estimated increased Medi-Cal costs to the state of $500 million to $900 million a year.
CALMatters: Inside the fight for the 'soul' of the California GOP
With the June primary approaching, there is a fight underway for the identity of the California Republican Party.
“We need bold ideas,” President Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, told cheering GOP activists at the state party convention last fall. “Ideas like Donald Trump ran on, like build the wall, right? Protect our southern border. Reduce legal immigration.”
Six months later, and 25 miles north, Republican Assemblyman Chad Mayes led a smaller gathering to offer an opposite message.
“For us to be able to grow and expand, we have to move beyond this nationalist model,” said Mayes, elected in 2014 to represent parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “We’ve got to start having conversations with folks of all different colors, creeds, sexual orientation. We have to go to folks who we don’t traditionally go to.”
Bannon gave the convention’s keynote address in a plush hotel ballroom room in Anaheim. Mayes organized his event at a youth center in Boyle Heights, a low-income, largely-Latino neighborhood just east of downtown Los Angeles. About 200 people sat on folding chairs laid out across the center’s basketball court, their backs to the tattered ropes of a boxing ring.
The contrasting scenes featured contrasting solutions to the same problem.
Behind Bannon, the convention’s backdrop read, “Electing Republicans in a Blue State” — a testament to how much ground the GOP has lost to Democrats in California over the past two decades.
While state party officials and activists have aligned themselves with President Trump’s brand of conservatism to tap the enthusiasm of their base, Mayes wants to broaden the party’s appeal leftward, by taking stances that run counter to Trump’s and Bannon’s. Advocates for the two approaches are at odds.