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My Current Projections:
Welcome back legislators (and staff and lobbyists who stretched their vacations right up to the end of summer recess. Senate Appropriations kicked off the fun at 10am with 288 bills. The Assembly Floor convenes at 1pm, with the Senate Floor at 2pm.
There is an interesting event on Wednesday morning for those of you who work on campaigns. There's a national program called "One Million Cups," which showcases entreprenuers and promotes interaction with that community and help them hone their businesses. It is funded by the Kauffman Foundation, and which has a mission of strengthening education and entrepreneurship. The foundation was created by Ewing Marion Kauffman, the late pharmaceutical entrepreneur who also brought major league baseball back to Kansas City by building the Royals.
At each coffee-fueled event, entrepreneurs from two companies share their pitch in 6 minutes, followed by 20 minutes of questions from the audience. Think of it as a mini "Shark Tank," without the investment or sales pitch.
On Wednesday, the pitches will be shared from 9-10am, with coffee beginning at 8:50 and following the pitches from 10-10:30am. Why is it particularly interesting? Well Warchest is presenting. The company provides an online budgeting suite for progressive campaigns, has worked with many Democratic campaigns across the country, and is founded by Bera '12 alums. I'm hoping to make it, although it's a challenge given my writing time.
The event is at COWO Campus, 1507 21st Street here in Sacramento. COWO Campus is a co-working space for start-ups with free office space. The space is free and they charge for coffee, food and event space. (Coffee is free at Wednesday's event). I'd really like to check it out. And, they serve Insight Coffee, brewed three blocks from me, so they have got to be cool.
FIRE AND WATER: Yesterday had some small isolated tragedies of lost houses and other structures, but no new deaths and I haven't seen any reports of new serious injuries.
There was a strange TrumpTweet yesterday. "California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!"
First, NOONERific people can agree to disagree on whether to circumvent the Bay Delta with tunnel(s) to provide more water to Southern California.
In the most recent PPIC poll, among all adults, "water supply, drought, reservoirs" was the top environmental issue among all adults. It was second in two regions - Los Angeles and the Inland Empire, who answered "air pollution, vehicle emissions, smog" on the open-ended question. That's because air quality is an issue faced daily, whereas water conservation is just an inconvenience of brown lawns and lesser-filled pools in drought years.
The real pressures from the Metropolitan Water District (MWD) is from developers and business generally. New, large projects could be imperiled under CEQA if there is insufficient water to meet the needs of the project. MWD serves about 50% of the state's population and is governed by a 38-member board. The board is appointed by the 26-member agencies, with the largest getting additional appointments. Terms appointed to MWD are not limited and few are or have been elected public officials.
MWD has offered to be the largest financial supporter of the tunnels project, which would lead to a trickle down of rates to residents and commercial users. Those rates are set by the agency on whose behalf MWD is securing the water. So, when rates go up to pay off the bonds to pay for the tunnel(s) project, the local electeds to water agencies can just waive their palms and say "our costs went up." Interesting discussion for a political science class.
Okay, back to the TrumpTweet. First, there's the obvious issue that there are two big water projects on the table -- the Sites Reservior proposed in Colusa County about 9 miles west of I-5. The other, of course, is the governor's proposed tunnel(s) project. Neither one would directly assist fighting wildfires in Northern California (including the Yosemite region). Water for those fires are being brought in by "water tenders"--tanker trucks and helicopters and "super scooper" airplanes are refilling from area lakes. There's plenty of water in, uh, Lake County, and Shasta Lake is one of the largest reservoirs in the country.
Sure, Sites would add to that availability, but there is no limit in the amount of water available for the firefights. Equipment and personnel perhaps, although I haven't seen much clamoring about that. You can only have so much air power over the fire line for the safety of the crews in the air and on the ground. The only things that have held back air power has been dense smoke and the fact that the damn sun goes down every night. Pilots must be able to see the fire line and to know that ground crews (and civilians tending pot plants) are away from the drop.
On to dead trees, which is certainly a problem as identified in the President's tweet. As I wrote before, amidst the human tragedy, there is a ray of sunshine as dying forests are given a chance to rejuvenate, which is good for climate change and wildlife. But, President Trump types "Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!" Well, the four biggest fires this year have significant National Forest/National Park land in them, so tree-clearing is the federal government's responsibility in conjunction with utilities. They are Carr (Shasta-Trinity National Forest), Cranston (San Bernardino National Forest), Ferguson (Sierra National Forest), and Mendocino Complex (Mendocino National Forest). I don't have acreage of the federal land vs. state/local wildland, but it is significant and is likely the majority (particularly Mendocino and Ferguson).
Finally on the tweet, the President takes on California's environmental laws. Now, the vast majority of people likely agree that CEQA tweaks are needed, as the governor has suggested. However, once that conversation starts, it's obvious that different folks want to change CEQA in different ways. Thus, deals haven't been reached on major changes, but rather on minor ones and single-project changes for things such as state buildings and sports venues.
I always hear from you when I am wrong, so please let me know if I think that CEQA has nothing to do with the wildfires. The most damaging (Carr) was caused by a flat tire and rim sparks on I-5. Mendocino Complex (Ranch and River) is suspicious and may be arson following the first four days of the nearby Carr Fire. Cranston was arson. Ferguson is unknown and is suspicious for power lines. The point is that the start of, spread of, and damage created by these fires have nothing to do with CEQA.
That tweet was the only tweet California has gotten from @realDonaldTrump. There was no tweet about four dead firefighting heroes, the four civilians who died, or even when he signed the emergency declaration. That's frankly disappointing--blame California and don't console or tout the assistance you are providing. I don't know how that helps the seven vulnerable GOP seats on November 6.
UPDATE: Wildfires in the last 12 months in context of recorded California history. All data from CAL FIRE.
FERGUSON (Yosemite Area): While Yosemite Valley and other parts of the park were scheduled to reopen yesterday, that has been changed to be "closed until further notice."
MENDOCINO COMPLEX (Colusa/Lake/Mendocino): The Mendocino Complex has jumped up to 2nd largest wildfire in recorded California history, and will almost certainly become #1 by tomorrow.
Stories below . . .
WHO'S ON STAFF? In the Bee, Alexei Koseff looks at the April California Supreme Court decision that likely reclassifies many of the state's 2 million independent contractors as employees. The case originated from "independent" drivers against Dynamex, a nationwide package and document delivery service.
The court held that a person doing work affiliated with an entity can be classified as an independent contractor only if:
"(A) that the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact;
(B) that the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
(C) that the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity."
The previous standard had 9 different factors. The drivers won in this case and labor is happy with the new standard. However, business interests say that it is confusing and wants statutory changes to increase clarity and flexibility.
Hmmm...in the last 24 hours, I have had deliveries from a contractor for Amazon and the Co-op through Instacart. I did spend far more at farmers' market than the two deliveries combined and my feet were my delivery service. Regardless, I know I just pissed off many labor folks.
From a labor and employment perspective, it's a whole different world from when I was in law school. I don't see Democrats in the Legislature pushing back on SCOCAL's ruling perceived to favor employees, but there will likely be several bills introduced by the GOP members next session.
NOTHING NEW: For CALmatters, Dan Walters writes that elected officials find ways to spend money on local bond and tax measures, even though direct expenditutes to urge a vote are illegal under the Government Code. I've counseled local electeds for years on this issue and the law is pretty clear, even if it doesn't like good. Don't expect any change in the law unless their is a ballot measure.
CHOO-CHOO: Ralph Vartabedian reports for the Times that tensions are strained between the California High-Speed Rail Authority contractors and Union Pacific Railroad, which the contractors claim is using its federally-granted right of way to deny plan approval for the building of the rail project. That is leading to increased costs through delays and plan redesign, according to contractors.
Now, they are not in direct competition, as one hauls freight and the other is envisioned to haul people. However, Amtrak currently leases the rails it uses in California that are owned by Union Pacific. High-speed rail will compete for the Amtrak traffic, particularly in the Central Valley and connecting routes from the Bay Area.
Just another high-speed headache.
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Isabel Barreras!
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Judge Is The Undisputed Center Of Attention At Paul Manafort's Trial
Chris Megerian, Eliza Fawcett @ latimes.com
Impatient, jovial, stern and verbose, Judge T.S. Ellis III emerges as the star of the show at the trial of Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman.
In Ohio Election, Republicans Test a Midterms Rescue Plan: Polarization
An Ohio congressional special election has revealed the strategy Republicans will use to keep power in the House âÂÂ or to ensure Democrats win only a small majority.