For Clients & Friends of The Gualco Group, Inc.
IN THIS ISSUE – “Jungle Primary” Election Turned Out Tame
- Newsom Promises Universal Health Care & Affordable Housing
- Cox: All Business & Gas Tax Repeal
- State Senator Recalled for Gas Tax Support
- California’s “Jungle Primary” Turned Out Pretty Tame
- Proposition Results:
- Voter Turnout Rises; 2.6 Million Ballots Remain Uncounted
- Nationwide Campaign to Liberalize District Attorneys Fails
- Legislative Staff Globe-Hops With Senators
- Brown Pushes to Close Delta Tunnels Deal Before Leaving Corner Office
- Wastewater Recycling is Simply Sustainable
- California Transportation System Primer
Capital News & Notes (CN&N) harvests California legislative and regulatory insights from dozens of media and official sources for the past week, tailored to your business and advocacy interests. Please feel free to forward.
FOR THE WEEK ENDING JUNE 8, 2018
READ ALL ABOUT IT!!
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s victory speech promised plenty as he moved into position Tuesday to become California’s next Democratic governor.
As it became clear that he and Republican John Cox would face off in November, he called for a universal health care system.
In outlining a broad plan for helping Californians struggling with the high cost of housing, he evoked American efforts after World War II to stabilize Western Europe.
“Guaranteed health care for all. A ‘Marshall Plan’ for affordable housing,” Newsom said. “A master plan for aging with dignity. A middle-class workforce strategy. A cradle-to-college promise for the next generation. An all-hands approach to ending child poverty.”
Newsom launched his political career in San Francisco as a moderate, business-friendly Democrat, but during his campaign to succeed Gov. Jerry Brown, he has seized the left flank of the California Democratic Party.
He says he wants to take “audacious” and “bold” action on major issues affecting California, especially its housing affordability and homelessness crisis.
“No family should ever lack a roof over their heads,” Newsom said. “No child should ever be raised below the poverty line. No patient should ever be denied access to basic health care. And no Californian should ever have to choose between the three.”
Should the former San Francisco mayor fulfill expectations and become California’s next governor, he would bring with him a policy agenda more liberal than any other blue-state governor.
He wants health care for everyone, including immigrants in the country illegally. He supports universal preschool and at least two years of tuition-free community college. He wants to get rid of California’s cash bail system. He would seek to run the state’s energy grid solely on renewable energy.
Newsom’s wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, also wants to take on major policy initiatives, including ending early childhood poverty, ensuring access to affordable child care and working to end the gender pay gap.
It would not be the frugal path pursued by Brown, who over his last two terms leading the nation’s most populous state has brought California back from a recession, built a strong state budget with $9 billion in reserves and shepherded a booming economy that is now the fifth largest in the world.
Newsom’s biggest goals, on homelessness, health care and education, would be expensive, and Brown has warned the state can expect an economic downturn. To pay for government-financed single-payer health care alone, for example, Californians would be on the hook for huge tax increases to cover the estimated $400 billion price tag.
Cox was unapologetic about running with President Donald Trump’s endorsement in a heavily Democratic state.
“It wasn’t Donald Trump who made California the highest-taxed nation in the country, it was Gavin Newsom and the Democrats,” Cox told his supporters on Tuesday evening. “It wasn’t Donald Trump who piled on the fees, taxes, the regulations, the delay that has made our housing the most expensive in the country …”
Newsom acknowledged in an interview with reporters last week that tackling his full platform would be costly, saying about his health care goals that “you can’t do that in your first legislative session.” He said he’d first establish a blueprint outlining the direction he wants to take California on universal health care, early childhood education, homelessness and housing, and build a budget around those priorities over time.
On homelessness, he said he’d first start by appointing a secretary-level “homelessness czar” to coordinate the delivery of mental health, welfare and other services to the needy, fund jail programs to prevent inmates from becoming homeless upon release and support so-called homelessness “navigation centers” — centrally located hubs across the state where homeless people could access a broad spectrum of services.
Newsom also wants to establish a more business-friendly environment for homebuilders to help spearhead his goal of constructing 3.5 million new housing units by 2025. A core part of his goal is creating incentives for developers to put new projects near public transit, further transforming major metropolitan areas into job centers where people don’t have to rely on car travel for work.
“I’m ready to hit the ground running,” Newsom said last week. “I think demonstrably you’ll see what those priorities are when that budget is submitted to the Legislature, and that process happens days after you get sworn in.”
Unless they are transplanted Chicagoans, few Californians know about Jays potato chips.
That’s about to change.
The Windy City snack plays a crisp, upbeat part in the biography of John Cox, the Rancho Santa Fe Republican who finished second in Tuesday’s primary for California governor.
In 1994, the chips were down for Jays. Six years earlier, the founding Japp family had sold the company to the Borden corporation. With sales of chips, popcorn and other goodies turning stale, Borden announced it was set to bail.
That’s when Cox, an Illinois native, helped the family reacquire the company, saving it from bankruptcy and possible relocation.
“There were other snack companies interested in this business,” Cox told the Chicago Tribune in 1994, “and they could have moved the jobs here to their plants.”
While only a temporary reprieve — Jays closed for good in 2007, after Cox had moved on — this episode echoes his campaign themes of fiscal responsibility and free enterprise. Cox will face primary winner Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, in Tuesday’s primary, in November.
“This means something to Californians who are struggling with the highest taxes in the country,” Cox said during one of his many TV interviews Wednesday morning.
“This election will set up a clear choice between Venezuela, which is what Gavin Newsom wants California to look like, and the California Dream restored, which is what I am aiming to do.”
Both Cox and Newsom need to quickly define themselves and their campaigns, veteran political observers say, or their opponent will portray them in the ugliest possible light. Newsom, thanks to his two terms as San Francisco mayor and then two terms as lieutenant governor, has spent decades honing his political image.
Not so for Cox. At the Republicans’ election-night party in San Diego’s U.S. Grant Hotel, it was not uncommon to find party faithful who were unfamiliar with their standard bearer. And his endorsement by President Donald Trump could be more hindrance than help in California, where polls routinely show most voters disapprove of the White House’s current occupant.
“Running for governor of California by embracing Trump is like telling the Rebel Alliance: ‘Vote for me. I’m with Darth Vader!’” said John Pitney Jr., professor of American politics at Claremont McKenna College.
“Pretty quickly, Newsom is going to define Cox as a Trump clone. To continue the ‘Star Wars’ analogy, it’ll be the, ‘Attack of the Clones.’”
Cox, 62, pushes back against any criticisms of his White House ties.
“Donald Trump didn’t create our housing crisis,” he told one interviewer, “Donald Trump didn’t make our schools 45th in the nation, Donald Trump didn’t destroy the California water project by tearing down reservoirs, Donald Trump didn’t make us the poverty capital and the homeless capital of the country and the laughingstock of the country with businesses and people wanting to move out.
“Gavin Newsom wants to blame Donald Trump? He ought to look in the mirror, because the people of this state know who is responsible for the quality of life here.”
Cox, a self-proclaimed “Californian by choice,” was born on Chicago’s South Side. Raised by a single mother and later a stepfather, Cox grew up poor but with a strong work ethic.
“He wasn’t handed anything,” said Tim Van Damm, a real estate agent who met Cox at the Church of the Nativity, the Catholic parish in Rancho Santa Fe where both men worship. “He went to law school at night because he had to work to support himself.”
After an undergraduate education at the University of Illinois, he completed his studies at the Chicago-Kent College of Law and began his legal career at Coopers & Lybrand. Less than two year later, he founded his own law firm in Chicago, John H. Cox and Associates.
He became active with various charities and nonprofits — today, he’s on the board of the USO San Diego — and Republican politics. He ran for a series of offices: the House of Representatives (2000), the U.S. Senate (2002), the Cook County Recorder of Deeds (2004) and the presidency (2008).
While Cox lost every race, he didn’t lose his enthusiasm for politics. Since relocating to San Diego County in 2011, he tried to qualify two initiatives for the statewide ballot. Neither effort succeeded.
In 2017, he announced his candidacy for governor. Few pundits gave him much of a chance, many predicting that the November election would pit Democrat Newsom against Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, a former Los Angeles mayor and state assembly speaker.
They misread the mood of the electorate, Cox said.
“All around the world,” he told Fox News the morning after the primary, “people are rising up against corruption in government. … I’m going to clean out the barn in Sacramento.”
San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer likes Cox’s chances. “It’ll be change vs. the status quo,” said Faulconer, a Republican. “And we need a lot of change.”
And while a Republican hasn’t won statewide office in California for 12 years, Tony Krvaric predicted that could soon change.
“The Democrats in November will be for sanctuary states and the gas tax,” said Krvaric, chair of the Republican Party of San Diego County. “The Republican position will be just the opposite. That will be a clear line between the two parties.”
Others, though, wonder if Cox is the right candidate for this race. Morgan Murtaugh, the Republican running against Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego, in the 53rd Congressional District, had backed Cox’s main Republican rival, Travis Allen.
“He shakes things up a little more,” Murtaugh said of Allen, “he’s not the traditional Republican candidate and I think, in a state like California, that’s what you need. I think John Cox will run a very traditional Republican campaign. I hope he doesn’t.”
And while a measure repealing the 2017 gas tax increase will be on November’s ballot, Pitney believes this will be of limited benefit to Cox.
“It might help some of the Republicans running for down-ballot offices,” the professor said, “but it’s not nearly enough to elect Cox.”
Especially when Newsom begins this election cycle with more than five times as much as the $6.5 million Cox has raised for his campaign — most of that coming from Cox’s own savings.
“He’s wealthy, but he’s not Meg Whitman wealthy,” Pitney said of the Silicon Valley billionaire who was the Republican’s losing gubernatorial candidate in 2010. “He can run a lavish campaign for state Assembly, but he just doesn’t have the means to run a lavish campaign for governor.”
Cox’s chance in November?
“If he breaks 40 percent,” Pitney said, “he can claim a moral victory.”
Others aren’t so quick to write off Cox. Tom Shepard, a longtime San Diego political consultant, has worked on campaigns for both Republicans and Democrats and noted that there will be no perfect candidates on the November ballot.
“Gavin Newsom has shown himself to be a charismatic and attractive candidate,” Shepard said, “but he has also shown himself to be a high-risk candidate. He’s had a tendency to make statements that are not well thought out.”
Shepard, who is not working on either gubernatorial campaign, agreed with Cox’s supporters that the gas tax and, to a lesser degree, “sanctuary city” issues work against California Democrats. And yet…
“He has his own vulnerabilities,” Shepard said of Cox. “He’s taken some interesting positions in the past and they have not been as thoroughly investigated as they will be in this election.”
This year, Cox went from opposing a border wall to becoming a supporter of Trump’s project. He recently took some heat for 2007 statements that seemed to link homosexuality to bestiality and polygamy; he said he’s changed his views. In March 2017, he discouraged the San Francisco Chronicle from comparing him to the man who is now his most prominent supporter.
“I know my opponents will try to tie me to Mr. Trump. I am not Mr. Trump,” he said. “I’m analytical, I’m policy-oriented. I read five newspapers a day. I’m not a reality TV star that’s going to insult people. I’m going to try to rally people.”
That rally now begins in earnest. From the sidelines, Shepard is eager to see how this race plays out between now and Nov. 6.
“Politics is a strange business,” he said. “Over a period of four months, lots of things can happen.”
Efforts to recall Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman were prevailed by a broad margin with nearly 70 percent.
In first place to take the seat when the Newman recall is confirmed was Republican former Assemblywoman Ling Ling Chang, whom Newman upset to win the seat in 2016. She held a solid lead over fellow Republican Bruce Whitaker and Democrat Joseph Cho, who were running neck and neck for second. A majority vote is not needed to win in the recall race.
Newman, a Fullerton resident, was targeted for removal by Republicans shortly after a 2017 vote that helped pass a 12-cent-per-gallon increase to the gas tax, which will pay for a 10-year, $52-billion roads and transportation improvement package. State Senate terms normally last four years.
Recall proponents were celebrating early.
“Make no mistake about it: State Sen. Josh Newman’s political career is over because he supported the car and gas tax hikes,” said Carl DeMaio, a San Diego talk show host who helped spearhead the recall. “No amount of special interest money could save Josh Newman because voter anger over the gas and car tax hikes is so intense.”
Newman’s campaign hadn’t responded to calls when the tally appeared conclusive, but earlier in the evening expressed frustration with GOP tactics.
“The Republicans spent a lot of money lying to voters to get this on the ballot,” said Derek Humphrey, a Newman campaign consultant — a reference to Republicans laying responsibility for the tax at Newman’s feet and suggesting a recall would lead to repealing the increase. “And they got exactly what they wanted – a re-do of the 2016 election but with only half the number of voters participating. That’s the definition of an undemocratic, special interest power grab.”
The gas-tax hike was passed with the bare two-thirds majority required for tax increases. The GOP went after Newman because he was seen as the most vulnerable Democrat in the Senate and his removal could be key to the GOP’s effort at breaking Democrats’ two-thirds legislative majority. Democrats’ advantage among the three-county district’s registered voters is less than 3-percentage points.
California’s most wide-open primary in two decades ended Tuesday with contests from governor to seats in the U.S. House that seemed focused, even fixated at times, on the race for second place.
The rules of the top-two primary — in which a cluster of candidates gets whittled down to two semifinalists — seemed almost to eclipse everything else about the campaigns being waged this year.
Gamesmanship was everywhere. Could a feared opponent be shut out of a spot on the fall ballot? Might a political party’s leaders convince some hopefuls in crowded races to step aside and thus avoid splitting the vote?
In the end — either because of those efforts or in spite of them — the playing field looked very much like a traditional primary. Unofficial returns Tuesday showed that only two statewide races, at most, will end up as a same-party showdown in November. Otherwise, and in the overwhelming majority of California’s races, the two-party system seems to have survived.
The candidates who succeeded were largely staunch defenders of either liberal or conservative principles — moderation was not the big winner in California on election night.
And yet backers of the top-two primary, who in 2010 took a wrecking ball to the idea that spots on the November ballot should be reserved by political party, seemed to envision consensus-building candidates who could bridge the partisan divide.
“This primary would certainly cast some doubt on that idea,” said Eric McGhee, a researcher at the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.
No candidate needed those moderate-minded voters more than Antonio Villaraigosa. The former Los Angeles mayor labored mightily but unsuccessfully to find some sort of coalition in the governor’s race that would get him into a one-on-one showdown with Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.
But party labels survived. And a $22.7-million boost for Villaraigosa from an independent political action committee couldn’t match the power of two tweets from President Trump in endorsing Republican John Cox. That may have helped even wavering GOP voters stick with the San Diego businessman rather than split their votes among other candidates — the kind of split that could have allowed Villaraigosa to leapfrog into second place.
“This is why parties are useful,” McGhee said. “Parties and their leaders provide information for voters, a shortcut that allows them to simplify their decision.”
Evidence of a party’s imprint in a crowded field of candidates — in this case, its absence — also was clear in the U.S. Senate race. There, the silence of GOP leaders gave party voters no clear sign on what to do with a long list of unknown prospects. Two Democrats, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and state Sen. Kevin de León, probably will face off against each other in November as a result.
That may have been a casualty Republicans were willing to accept. In an election season where their place in California’s pecking order fell below that of unaffiliated voters, GOP leaders could be forgiven for celebrating their relatively strong showing Tuesday.
Not that the primary results suggest the road ahead is any easier. Cox begins the final round in the race for governor as a decided underdog, probably at the level of Neel Kashkari, the GOP challenger in 2014 to Gov. Jerry Brown. Even then, Kashkari offered a pragmatic GOP stance on issues like poverty and education. (He lost to Brown, 60% to 40%.) By contrast, Cox has suggested little, if any, daylight exists between himself and Trump on hot-button issues such as illegal immigration.
If Democrats dominate in November, the 2018 primary may have done little to change the perception that California is solidly blue on the political map. Grumblings about the rules of the top-two system will fade until 2020 rolls around. And ultimately, the major political parties will be faced with the same dilemma that kept them from trying to scrap the rules in 2018: If they want voters to revamp the rules, what are they willing to give them in return?
After all, a recent USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found strong support for a systemthat allows more than just the narrow choices that were once offered by traditional primaries. A ballot full of names may be confusing, but the idea of fewer choices could be seen by Californians as a nonstarter.
California voters decided five propositions on the statewide ballot Tuesday.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 68 passed. The measure authorizes the state to borrow $4.1 billion for investments in outdoor recreation, land conservation and water projects. It required a simple majority.
The initiative was authored by state Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, in response to what the U.S. Senate candidate called the “under-investment” in parks, wildlands and water systems in poorer communities. It focuses mostly on upgrading sites in Southern California.
However, the measure also sets aside $200 million for restoring and improving water quality in San Francisco Bay and the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, $3 million to restore habitat along the Russian River, and $3 million toward protection of Los Gatos Creek and the Guadalupe River. At least $10 million is aimed at improvements at state parks in the East Bay.
Proposition 69 passed – The measure reassures voters that the $5 billion raised annually by the 12-cents-a-gallon tax that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature approved last year will go toward fixing roads and not other unrelated projects.
Proposition 70 failed. It stipulated that the Legislature would need a two-thirds vote starting in 2024 when determining how to spend revenue from its cap-and-trade fund. The idea was to give the minority party in Sacramento a say in how to spend the money.
Proposition 71 passed. The measure calls for delaying the implementation of election results until after all votes are counted — and not merely what is tallied on election night.
Proposition 72 passed. Homeowners who add a rainwater capture system to their homes after Jan. 1, 2019, will not be taxed on the increased value of their property under the initiative.
California elections officials have another 2.6 million votes to count from the June primary – and that number could grow by the end of the week.
Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office on Thursday released its first report of the estimated number of unprocessed ballots across the state, including more than 2.1 million vote-by-mail ballots and nearly 380,000 provisional ballots.
The total reflects figures provided to the state by county election offices late Tuesday and early Wednesday. It could rise as more ballots arrive by mail. Under California law, ballots postmarked by election day and received within three days must be processed.
Elections officials already have counted nearly 4.2 million votes statewide. If all 2.6 million unprocessed ballots are verified, then voter turnout for the primary would be about 36 percent, a significant jump from a record low 25 percent in 2014.
The largest chunk of unprocessed ballots, more than half a million, come from Los Angeles County, which had problems with voters being left off the rolls on election day. Sacramento County, which experimented with a new system of all-mail voting, reported about 220,000 unprocessed ballots, which would put its voter turnout figure at more than 46 percent.
As they poured millions of dollars into district attorney campaigns, New York billionaire George Soros and other liberal donors seemed poised for victory in California.
They enjoyed the political momentum, having helped elect more than a dozen prosecutors from Florida to Texas.
They had experience with the state’s voters, who overwhelmingly approved ballot measures in recent years to reduce the number of people behind bars.
And the prosecutor races were in counties that solidly backed Hillary Clinton for president less than two years ago.
But voters in three closely watched district attorney elections in California appeared to deliver a sharp defeat this week to the national network of wealthy donors and activist groups that is attempting to reshape the criminal justice system by electing liberal prosecutors.
Incumbent district attorneys in Sacramento, San Diego and Alameda counties were well ahead of Soros-backed challengers in unofficial results posted Wednesday.
In the only race where Soros backed an incumbent, the results were too close to determine whether the Contra Costa County district attorney managed to avoid a runoff in the November general election.
The results suggest the campaigns failed to energize like-minded voters to turn out against entrenched incumbents backed by police unions in a midterm primary election, in which conservatives historically are more likely to vote. And they appeared to underestimate the deeply rooted support that law enforcement enjoys in a state as politically blue as California.
The network’s past victories in Chicago and other parts of the country often relied on tapping voter anger over police shootings of African Americans or other hot-button issues. In Sacramento, the strategy didn’t work for a Soros-backed candidate who attempted to ride a wave of public outrage over the recent killing of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man shot by officers searching for a burglary suspect.
“People were angry enough, but it did not last to the polls,” said the Rev. Shane Harris, founder of the National Action Network’s San Diego chapter, who said he was speaking on his own behalf and not for the organization.
Harris faulted a reliance on television ads bought by Soros’ political action committee in San Diego, noting that the ads were pulled in the final week before the election.
“Soros, if you’re going to put money into something, put it into people and activists and groups and leaders who can really mobilize and get people to the polls,” Harris said. “You can pay for all the ads in the world, but if people don’t go to the polls, it really doesn’t matter.”
The campaign spent a significant effort to engage people who don’t normally vote, giving grants to the American Civil Liberties Union to craft and hone messaging. But in Sacramento, roughly 113,000 voters cast ballots for a district attorney candidate, compared with more than 183,000 four years ago, according to preliminary voting figures, though approximately 220,000 ballots remain uncounted.
Whitney Tymas, the strategist who directed Soros’ efforts in the campaigns, said she believed the final count in San Diego and other counties will show a higher level of engagement in the district attorney race there than four years ago.
“California reminds us that this is hard work,” Tymas said in a statement to The Times. “Across jurisdictions, prosecutor candidates are no longer competing to be toughest on crime, but smartest on crime.… The work continues.”
The elections, typically local affairs, garnered national attention this year after a consortium of liberal donors, headlined by Soros, pumped money into the races. Many of the players joined forces in California four years ago to pass Proposition 47, which turned drug use and most theft convictions from felonies to misdemeanors.
Targeting district attorney elections highlighted the enormous influence elected prosecutors wield within local criminal justice systems, deciding what charges to prioritize for prosecution and when to seek rehabilitation or lengthy incarceration. By supporting the election of like-minded district attorneys, the consortium hoped to secure many of the sentencing and bail policies they have struggled to realize through laws or ballot initiatives.
Soros-backed candidates pledged to reduce incarceration, crack down on police misconduct and revamp a bail system they contend unfairly imprisons poor people before trial.
The proposals alarmed some law enforcement officials who expressed relief Wednesday but said it was unclear what the results mean going forward.
“You expect incumbents to win absent some scandal,” said Michele Hanisee, head of the union that represents L.A. County prosecutors. “It’s hard to say if this is a rejection of Soros candidates or if this is just par for the course, but I think a larger policy issue needs to be asked…. Do we want big outside donors funding elections?”
Since 2014, Soros has spent more than $17 million in 18 races outside California, winning in all but a handful. Private foundations and donors provided another $11 million in largely unreported grants to nonprofit advocacy groups.
In California, Soros spent nearly $3 million. His heavy bet on California races drew money from other wealthy donors. The spouses of executives at Netflix, Instagram and Facebook rallied around the same candidates, joined by Steve Jobs’ widow, Laurene Powell Jobs.
On the other side, police unions, businesses and prosecutors spent to defend incumbents. Campaign finance reports show the state’s prison guard union also rallied to their defense. A former owner of the San Diego Padres, Jennifer Moores, put up $300,000 to back the county’s district attorney.
Tuesday’s results marked the consortium’s most significant loss in the national campaign for prosecutor races. In Sacramento County, Anne Marie Schubert, a prominent conservative voice in statewide politics, had won 63% of counted ballots as of Wednesday evening, compared with 36% for Noah Phillips, a career prosecutor in the same office. Phillips has not conceded, citing the large number of uncounted ballots.
In San Diego County, incumbent Summer Stephan prevailed by a similarly wide margin over Geneviéve Jones-Wright, a deputy public defender. Unofficial results showed Alameda County Dist. Atty. Nancy O’Malley comfortably avoiding a runoff with nearly 60% of the vote.
And in Contra Costa County, the Soros-backed incumbent, Dist. Atty. Diana Becton, had 49.6%. A candidate must win more than 50% to avoid a runoff. It’s unclear how many ballots remain to be counted.
Experts on political and district attorney campaigns noted the difficulty in taking on incumbents who have the support of powerful police groups.
“So much of the California criminal justice system is dominated by law enforcement, and it’s hard to get their support, and yet they have a very strong voice,” said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson. “Money alone won’t do.”
Anne Irwin, a former San Francisco public defender who started a nonprofit advocacy organization that helped a network of donors identify candidates to support, said the election results weren’t a reason to despair.
She pointed to San Bernardino County, where defense lawyer Jason Anderson ousted Mike Ramos, a longtime district attorney, as a sign of hope. Anderson, a moderate Republican, did not receive Soros’ backing, but Irwin’s organization endorsed him, citing his support for bail reform and sentencing alternatives to incarceration.
Irwin said she plans to visit San Bernardino as part of an election postmortem, and she remained adamant that California voters will support liberal district attorneys.
“The 2018 campaigns were just the beginning,” she said.
Led by former Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, eight California senators visited Japan last summer to discuss high-speed rail, renewable energy and climate change. The lawmakers met with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, toured the National Diet and spoke to the Japan National Press Club.
Senate officials said at the time that the week-long trip would be paid for through the legislators’ campaign accounts, and each attendee spent an average of $6,524 in political donations on their travel.
But state taxpayers also wrote checks: The Senate spent $13,635 in public money to send two legislative staff members to Japan with the delegation, in addition to staff time involved in planning the trip.
The Japan tour was among about two dozen over the past five years — to locations including Paris, Brazil, Mexico City and Cuba — on which the California Legislature has spent more than $192,000 in public funds for international travel by staff members, according to a Sacramento Bee analysis of travel records since 2013.
The trips were primarily for official legislative delegations, Senate and Assembly representatives said. Staff accompanied the lawmakers, whose costs were not covered by taxpayers, to provide logistical support and security.
“There’s always a legislative purpose when they’re doing these trips,” Secretary of the Senate Danny Alvarez said. The lawmakers “need to have exacting agendas and itineraries” to justify the travel, he said, and the staff keeps them on schedule.
Staff foreign travel represents a tiny fraction of the Legislature’s annual expenditures, which topped $267 million last year, primarily for salaries and benefits. But the arrangement is not common to other statehouses, according to travel policies provided by the offices of legislative leaders in seven states.
In the Florida Senate, the Texas House of Representatives, the New York Senate and the Washington Senate, legislative or administrative officials must approve any out-of-state travel involving taxpayer dollars. All said they had used no public money for foreign trips by lawmakers or their staff in the past five years.
The Nevada Legislature has no formal policy on staff travel, but lawmakers can reimburse up to $1,000 per year to attend meetings of certain national legislative organizations outside the state. A spokesman said the Arizona Legislature eliminated its travel budget during the economic recession and has not approved foreign or domestic trips for anyone since 2009.
Only the Oregon Senate said it had reimbursed any international travel in the past five years: for two senators who participated in official state delegations to Canada and China, and for a staff member who accompanied the China delegation in 2015.
While calling the money spent on international travel “budget dust” for the California Legislature, Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association President Jon Coupal said the “importance is not so much in the dollar amount as it is indicative of an elitist attitude,” that lawmakers need to be accompanied by aides at the taxpayers’ expense.
He questioned why, if the travel is legitimately in the public interest, lawmakers are using campaign funds to pay for it — and why the public is then still on the hook for staff costs.
The Senate accounts for the bulk of the spending: In response to a records request from The Bee, it provided receipts and reimbursements forms related to 21 different foreign trips over the past five years, totaling $154,138.
Assembly records show that it sent sergeants-at-arms on four trips abroad since December 2015, at a cost of $38,364. Spokesman Kevin Liao said travel for members and other support staff was funded by outside sources, but it “is practice that sergeants’ travel are paid out of Assembly funds because of their official security role.”
In addition to campaign accounts, lawmaker travel is occasionally funded by nonprofit organizations or foreign governments.
Environmental group Climate Action Reserve raised money from PG&E, BMW, The Nature Conservancy and more to take a legislative delegation to the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, where they were accompanied by two Assembly sergeants. Fundación Nueva Generación Argentina brought a Senate delegation to Buenos Aires in 2015, while the Senate paid for two staff members to attend. The host countries covered some transportation, security and interpreting costs for an official legislative delegation to El Salvador, Guatemala and Panama in 2014.
Legislative officials say the trips are an important opportunity for California lawmakers to develop relationships with their counterparts in other countries.
“They bring back quite a lot,” said Ezilda Samoville, director of the Senate Office of International Relations, who often accompanies the delegations abroad. “They learn from each other what has worked and what hasn’t. And I think it’s always a positive experience for them.”
Her four-person office, which was established in 1987, plans programs for foreign dignitaries visiting the Senate and serves as a liaison between senators and consulates in California.
It also organizes the international travel for Senate delegations. While some of those trips are requested by lawmakers interested in studying particular issues, Samoville said, the majority are the result of invitations from foreign governments. Her office fields those offers.
In 2016, a legislative delegation to Mexico and El Salvador, focused on immigration issues such as a recent surge of unaccompanied minors, met with the Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto and Óscar Ortiz, vice president of El Salvador, among other top officials, Samoville said.
Senators traveled in 2015 to Argentina to examine trade and energy issues, such as hydroelectric power, she said, and to Denmark, Sweden and Norway to learn primarily about their criminal justice systems.
“We act as security and staffing the senators” on their trips, she said. “We work with the security in those countries, and we make sure, to the extent possible, that our Senate officials are as secure as we can have them. And we make sure that the planned program goes as we had organized.”
Hotel accommodations make up the largest cost for international travel by legislative staff, totaling about $92,000 in the past five years. Some locations where they’ve stayed, such as the Hotel Bellevue Palace in Bern, Switzerland, or the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo, run more than $300 per night.
Samoville said her office books lodging based on the recommendations of the United States embassy in the country the delegation is visiting or the foreign government that is hosting them.
The Legislature has also spent $49,098 on airfare; $24,576 on per diem payments, the daily allowances for public employees on business trips to cover living expenses such as meals; $10,686 on transportation such as train tickets, ferry rides and taxis; and $6,737 on interpreting services.
The remaining expenditures, about $7,300, encompass miscellaneous items like overweight baggage fees, tips for drivers, concierges, and porters, and tickets to cultural sites.
During the 2016 trip to Mexico and El Salvador, Samoville bought a laptop charger from Best Buy for $43.59. An employee’s tour of the ancient city of Tikal in Guatemala with a 2014 delegation to Central America cost $371.65. The Senate spent $144.10 on See’s Candies to provide gifts on visits to Japan and to Portugal and Spain in 2014.
Samoville said staff members are reimbursed for anything they need to accompany the official delegation.
“It’s whatever is appropriate to travel,” she said. “Those are things that are expected.”
The Assembly sent sergeants-at-arms as security on three official trips in the past six months: to Germany last November for a global climate summit hosted by the United Nations; to Mexico in January for trade and climate change discussions; and to El Salvador in February for talks about immigration.
Liao said in a statement that “these delegations are not ‘one-off’ visits. We have established relationships that allow legislators to have continued discussions and substantive exchanges with their counterparts.”
Since the Mexico visit, Liao said the Assembly has been developing a plan for biannual meetings between elected officials from California and Mexico about the “most pressing challenges in our relationship.”
After meeting with the environment minister from Baden-Württemberg last fall, he said, the Assembly expects to host officials from the German state later this year to continue their discussions on the development of clean energy and electric vehicles.
The most frequent destination for international travel is Japan; Senate employees have been there six times in the past five years. Four of those trips were for official legislative delegations and two were to supervise the California Japan Scholars Program.
The student exchange program, which is overseen by the Senate Office of International Relations, was created in 1996 at the suggestion of then-Ambassador Walter Mondale, who wanted more California students to visit Japan as a way to foster stronger economic and cultural ties.
While originally drawing participants from across the state, Samoville said, it is now primarily an exchange between the Elk Grove Unified School District and Osaka, Japan, who in alternating years send about 30 students overseas for a few weeks.
“Our office assists with some of the arrangements,” she said, and “one of our staff members accompanies as a chaperone.”
“That is to create more understanding between the two countries,” she said.
Water officials and members of Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration rushed to seal the deal on a multibillion-dollar plan to build two tunnels to move water south from Northern California partly out of fear that Gavin Newsom could undo the whole plan if he becomes governor, newly released documents show.
In fact, the jockeying was so intense, watchdog groups have alleged the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California broke state open meeting laws when it approved the project two months ago, and now Metropolitan is planning to re-vote.
Jeffrey Kightlinger, the longtime general manager of Metropolitan, thought he and the Brown administration had a deal in early April. Despite Brown’s support for a $17 billion plan to build the tunnels, there was only enough money on the table to build one tunnel, not two.
So, instead of trying to do both, they would just build one – but they had to get things moving fast enough that neither Newsom or Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti could team up to kill the project. Brown has been working on some version of this water project since the 1980s.
For several generations, water officials have been trying to ensure water continues flowing south from the rivers of Northern California, but a combination of environmental opposition, concerns about cost and Northern vs. Southern California politics has killed previous plans.
Newsom has said he wants a “more modest” water project than the twin tunnels, and Garcetti only wants to build one tunnel, not two. After studying the project for years, the Brown administration argues building both tunnels is the best way to protect the water supply for millions of Southern Californians and billions of dollars’ worth of Central Valley farmland.
The recent jockeying shows how desperate officials are to get something done before Brown leaves office and the project is dead for another generation. It’s no secret that Brown is worried the next governor would drop the project, but a specific worry about Newsom has rarely been stated clearly or publicly.
Kightlinger said in a text message on Monday, April 2 that Brown administration officials felt “Gavin could be free to revisit the issue if a final project not decided upon now,” according to documents released by Metropolitan in response to a public records request from watchdog groups and Voice of San Diego.
He added, “And a Gavin revisit likely supported by Garcetti.”
So, one tunnel it was.
But Kightlinger ran into unexpected opposition from his 38-member board.
“You have thrown in the towel; the governor has thrown in the towel,” Brett Barbre, a Metropolitan board member from Orange County, texted back to Kightlinger.
According to the texts, at 5:30 that evening, Kightlinger told Barbre he hadn’t truly given up on building two tunnels – even though at a 2 p.m. press conference, Kightlinger had said he was recommending a one-tunnel plan, with the option of building a second one later.
The next day, Tuesday, Barbre wanted to talk with Kightlinger by phone because he didn’t want to “blindside” Kightlinger with what Barbre had begun doing: rounding up votes to pay for two tunnels.
By the end of the day, Barbre thought he had 28 percent of the board’s support to build two tunnels, even if that meant Metropolitan would be on the hook for billions more.
Metropolitan gathers water from Northern California and the Colorado River and then resells that water to smaller water agencies across Southern California, including San Diego. When Metropolitan’s costs go up, so do water bills.
By Wednesday, Barbre was telling Kightlinger how Brown could get involved and help get more votes.
Barbre suggested that the governor call Leticia Vásquez-Wilson, a board member who represents a water district in Southeast Los Angeles. Barbre said Brown should remind her of a photo she took with the governor the year before.
“Make sure the governor reminds Leticia that they took a selfie together,” Barbre told Kightlinger. “Could be enough to flatter her into a yes vote.”
In an email the next day, Barbre rued that Stephen Faessel, a Metropolitan board member and Anaheim city councilman, was still on the fence. Barbre told another board member that Faessel needed to a “grow a pair.”
By the end of the day, Faessel said “yes” and gave Barbre a slim majority – 52 percent of the board, according to records Metropolitan and Barbre provided to VOSD.
Brown himself began making calls to try to persuade Metropolitan board members to support paying for both tunnels.
It worked: On Tuesday, April 10, the Metropolitan board voted to spend $11 billion to build both tunnels. The rest of the money will come from smaller water agencies scattered throughout the state.
Except now there’s questions about whether all the behind-the-scenes work was illegal.
This week, Metropolitan said it would re-do the April vote, following allegations that Barbre and others violated California open meetings laws.
Barbre says he was just doing his job, but two watchdog groups – Food & Water Watch and the First Amendment Coalition – accused Barbre and other Metropolitan officials of illegally working behind closed doors.
Barbre said he did nothing wrong and was just doing what good politicians do, which is figuring out if they have support for their ideas.
“It’s not against the law to count votes, and I always count votes,” he said in an interview. “If it’s against the law to count votes, then you shouldn’t teach people how to count.”
Brenna Norton, an organizer for Food & Water Watch, said Barbre needs training in open meetings laws, which are designed to prevent decisions from being made in private.
“It’s too bad that watchdog groups like ours have to force water agencies like the Metropolitan Water District to follow the law,” she said.
Public agency decisions can be overturned by the courts if they are done in violation of open meetings laws. Metropolitan maintains it didn’t act illegally. But, while Metropolitan may simply be trying to avoid a lawsuit that could further complicate the project, its plan to hold another vote on July 10 is an embarrassing setback for the agency and the governor’s project.
Wastewater recycling doesn’t have to be a fancy affair. Sometimes it can be as simple as building a pipeline.
That is more or less the full description of the North Valley Regional Recycled Water Project. Only a year after starting construction, at a cost of around $90 million, the project is already delivering recycled urban wastewater to farms and wildlife refuges in California’s San Joaquin Valley, providing a reliable new water supply to a drought-plagued region.
“Everything seems to be working great,” said Anthea Hansen, general manager of Del Puerto Water District, the farm irrigation agency that receives most of the recycled water. “We knew the benefits would be incredible, and we’re seeing it already.”
The project, which began delivering water in December, provides farmers in Hansen’s district with about 10,000 acre-feet of water. That’s roughly a 25 percent increase over what they were allocated this year by the federal Central Valley Project (CVP).
And since the source is a steady stream of urban wastewater, it’s an irrigation supply that won’t change much from year to year. In comparison, allocations of federal CVP water, managed by the U.S.Bureau of Reclamation, vary enormously depending on drought conditions, environmental issues and other factors.
“Because it’s not subject to pumping restrictions or measurements of snowpack or water in storage, the supply should be very constant,” Hansen said. “So it’s very meaningful.”
The water comes from the city of Modesto, population 213,000. The city was under regulatory pressure to upgrade its wastewater treatment to a so-called “tertiary” level, because its discharges to the San Joaquin River posed a threat to water quality and wildlife.
Hansen’s agency piggybacked on this need by offering to buy some of the newly refined wastewater for the district’s 200 or so farmers, who irrigate almonds, walnuts, peaches, pistachios and other crops. This offer helped Modesto finance the treatment plant upgrades. All Del Puerto had to do was build a pipeline 7 miles from Modesto’s treatment plant to the Delta-Mendota Canal, the federal ditch from which Del Puerto already diverts its federal irrigation water.
Building the pipeline didn’t take long, but the deal didn’t happen overnight. Del Puerto signed an initial agreement with Modesto in 2010 to cooperate on the project. Then there were regulatory hoops to jump through. Construction started on the pipeline in summer 2016 and took only a year to build.
Modesto’s initial recycled water deliveries to the project are expected to be about 15,000 acre-feet annually. Del Puerto farmers get about two-thirds of this water, which satisfies California’s Title 22, the state law that ensures treated wastewater is fit for landscaping and crops.
Some of the recycled wastewater is also going to state, federal and private wildlife refuges in the valley, thanks to a federal law known as the Central Valley Project Improvement Act. The law, passed in 1992, requires the United States Bureau of Reclamation to buy additional water supplies to benefit wildlife impacted by operation of the CVP irrigation system.
Reclamation has fallen far behind its obligations under the law, partly because of inadequate funding and scarce water supplies available for purchase. The availability of Modesto’s recycled water was a unique opportunity to acquire a firm new water supply.
“This is substantial,” said Ric Ortega, general manager of Grassland Water District, which delivers CVP water to a number of public and private wildlife refuges in the northern San Joaquin Valley. “This is a large quantity of water at a fraction of the cost of water on the open market. I would say less than half the cost.”
Ortega said he expects to get about 5,000 acre-feet of recycled water this year. This will benefit the private landowners in his district, including a number of duck club owners. It will also go to government wetland areas in the San Joaquin Valley such as the state-managed Grasslands Wildlife Area and Kern National Wildlife Refuge, which have suffered water shortages for decades due to the diversions caused by the Central Valley Project.
Legislative Analyst’s Office Summary
California’s transportation system helps to move people and goods around and through the state. Driving, of course, is the predominant mode of transportation in California, with the vast majority of driving-age Californians holding licenses and owning vehicles. But other modes of transportation also are key to the state’s transportation network. For instance, local bus and rail transit systems make over a billion passenger trips annually, while intercity rail and commercial air travel help to move passengers across longer distances. And, increasingly, the state and local governments are encouraging more people to travel by bicycling and walking, in lieu of driving.
In this primer, we present key data on these different modes of transportation, as well as information on transportation governance and funding. The primer primarily uses visual charts (accompanied by explanatory bullets) to present the data. The aim is to provide policymakers and the public with an accessible overview of California’s multifaceted transportation system.