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Read about the latest decisions at the state Capitol and how they impact your life (Fridays)
Legislators are taking on California’s NIMBYs, Sempra is spending big in Sacramento, another diaper bill goes down and more in our weekly roundup of news from the capital.
Assemblyman Todd Gloria wants to make sure every candidate for county office faces voters in the fall. Right now, candidates for county office can win outright during a primary if they get a majority of the vote.
Gloria’s bill, AB 901, originally only applied to county supervisors, but now it covers the district attorney, sheriff, tax collector, members of the county Board of Education and the county clerk.
Even if Gloria’s bill becomes law, county voters would still have to approve an amendment to the county charter to change election law, unless the Board of Supervisors votes to change the charter itself. Critics of the current county election process, particularly Democrats who see their voters show up to the polls in the fall but not during the primary, say the current system doesn’t allow enough voters to be heard.
“I don’t know why we should have county supervisors selected differently than we do our mayor, our governor or our president,” Gloria said at a hearing this week, which passed out of the Elections and Redistricting Committee on a 5-2 vote.
Gloria got a helping hand during the hearing from Assemblywoman Shirley Weber and former state Sen. Steve Peace, who helped pass a similar citywide measure last year that requires the top two primary vote-getters to run in a November runoff.
The County Board of Supervisors has lobbied against Gloria’s bill. The county says the bill is unnecessary because the county can amend its own charter without a new state law. But an analysis by legislative staff disagrees and says, “Without this bill, it is unclear whether amendments to San Diego County’s election procedures will pass constitutional scrutiny.”
“I guess this’ll be a full employment act for the lawyers,” said Jonathan Clay, a lobbyist for the county, during his remarks opposing the bill.
The county also argues that candidates who overwhelm their opponents in a primary should be able to take office without a runoff, that the bill only applies to San Diego County and that it limits the range of changes county supervisors and voters can make to election law.
– Ry Rivard
In each session since she was elected to the Legislature, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher has pushed measures that would make diapers more affordable to low-income families. In more recent years, she’s tried to make feminine hygiene products like tampons more affordable too.
Many of those efforts have failed, including a bill that was killed this week that would have exempted diapers, tampons and other necessities from California’s sales tax. It would have made up the difference by hiking taxes on hard liquor.
“No one can claim liquor is a basic necessity of life. My period is not optional,” Assemblywoman Cristina Garcia, co-author of the bill, said at a Tuesday hearing before the Assembly Committee on Revenue and Taxation.
Ultimately, though, lawmakers were wary of raising taxes and voted down the bill.
A similar bill from Gonzalez Fletcher passed last year, but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.
So far, Gonzalez Fletcher has tried two paths to increasing diaper affordability: exempting them from sales tax, and allowing families enrolled on CalWorks to use their benefits on diapers. The bills have taken various forms over the years, but those are the two basic approaches.
Gonzalez Fletcher still has a bill alive in the Legislature that takes the second pathway. AB 480 would add diapers to the category of expenses that can be reimbursed for low-income parents who are enrolled in CALWorks’ welfare-to-work program. That bill is headed to the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which Gonzalez Fletcher chairs.
Gonzalez Fletcher also announced this week the creation of a diaper bank within the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank, in partnership with SDG&E.
San Diego-based Sempra Energy has one of the most aggressive lobbying programs in Sacramento.
The Sacramento Bee compiled a list of the 100 biggest spenders on statehouse lobbying so far this year and found Sempra, the parent company of San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Co., to be the 10th biggest spender.
In the first three months of the year, the company has spent $439,543.11 on lobbying. Then again, it has a lot to lobby about: The company is tracking at least 46 Assembly bills and 27 Senate bills and also tries to influence the California Public Utilities Commission, the Air Resources Board, the Energy Commission and the governor.
There are few major energy bills still moving, including legislation about electric vehicle charging, a cap and trade bill and Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon’s plan to have 100 percent of the state’s electricity come from renewable energy sources by 2045. De Leon’s plan would be a big change for SDG&E. Although it has more green energy in its portfolio than other major utilities, SDG&E still gets most of its power from burning natural gas.
Christy Ihrig, a spokeswoman for SDG&E, said, “we want to ensure we are advocating for provisions that benefit all customers, and support our mission of delivering the highest levels of clean, safe, reliable energy to our region.”
– Ry Rivard
Over at CityLab, I wrote about a trend among the bajillion housing bills facing the Legislature: Dozens of them crack down on NIMBYs and localities that reject new housing.
One bill, for example, would require a two-thirds vote for any local decision that would limit the housing stock. Another would require cities that don’t build enough to pay into a special fund – the money would go to cities that do build affordable housing.
One expert told me that local governments might actually want punitive measures like those:
Counterintuitively, some local officials might secretly crave punitive measures, says Dana Cuff, a professor of architecture and urban design and director of cityLAB-UCLA. “Because the most vocal and organized housing cohort is often a conservative one, city councils and local administrators have a hard time fulfilling their obligation in terms of providing more housing,” Cuff says. With state enforcement, she adds, “the local administrators will have a means to argue back that they have to do this or they will be punished.”
Despite the wave of housing bills in the Legislature, housing went unmentioned in Gov. Jerry Brown’s big budget reveal this week.
“Brown reiterated Thursday that he would only be willing to spend money on housing if legislators also agreed to reforms that lower construction costs,” Liam Dillon reported in the L.A. Times. “The average cost of building a low-income housing unit is $332,000.
• Meanwhile, CalMatters examines why a staggering 38 percent of 18 to 34-year-olds in California live with their parents.
• Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher’s bill to provide legal assistance for deported veterans was unanimously passed out of the Assembly.
• A bill by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein that would allow physicians to take a course on mental health as part of their continuing education requirements passed out of the Assembly.
• Sen. Joel Anderson’s bill that would have let residents cover their license plates while parked in order to avoid license plate readers did not make it out of committee.
Former San Diego reporter Dave Maass, now with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, testified at a committee hearing this week that the bill represented a test of “whether we can exercise our constitutional right to privacy against advanced surveillance systems logging our travel patterns.”
Law enforcement groups said the bill would simply allow criminals to evade detection. It lost on a close 6-5 vote, with San Diego Sen. Toni Atkins voting no.
A spokeswoman for Anderson told me he’s not giving up, and plans to revive the bill.
“The plan for the bill is to make it a two-year bill, continue to educate legislators, stakeholders and the public on the privacy rights at stake with the current practices and bring the bill back up for a vote in January 2018,” said Lea Park-Kim.
• The L.A. Times spotlights Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s fight to reform teacher tenure rules.
• IRS data shows not many people are leaving California for other states. (Orange County Register)
• It’s tough being a Berkeley Republican, say Berkeley Republicans. (New York Times)
• California has prided itself in recent years on expanding voter access as other states impose limits. But there’s room for improvement: One new survey says voters with limited English didn’t get the help they needed to cast a ballot during the last election, and voting rights groups have filed suit against the California DMV for what they say are unnecessary voter registration hurdles. (L.A. Times)
• The actual drought has ended, which is good news for Central Valley farmers. But now they’re facing a drought of a different kind. (Yahoo)
Correction: An earlier version of this post said Sen. Pat Bates voted no SB 712. She was a no vote on the measure, meaning she did not record a vote.