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E-144 - Friday, October 11, 2019, presented by SYASLPartners
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RECENT AURAL PLEASURE:
SCOTUS WATCH: Look for the next update on this week's oral arguments and next week cases in Sunday's Nooner.
LEGISLATIVE DIRECTORY UPDATES:
IN TODAY'S NOONER:
Well, it's Friday. No celebratory exclamation points as we conclude this particular week. It's 10:37am and I just saw the news of multiple stabbing outside the Capitol South Metro station in DC, which is next to the Cannon and Longworth HOBs. I'm listening to hip-hop to power through this morning and don't have the news on, but I hope it is just a scuffle.
If you're someone who knew me from community college days, I have a message for you that I'm not wasting everyone's time with here. It's no secret and long-time Noonerites have seen much of it here, but I don't care for this particular letter to be indexed by the search engines. I If you didn't get an email from me about it last night otherwise have been my personal journey over the last six years, email me and I'll send you the info w/ password.
Oh hell, anyone who wants more explanations of the roller-coaster ride can read it here. The password is "orangecoast". I owe it to many of you beyond the community college world. Being an open book is an important part of recovery and I sure as hell don't know who all I need to make amends to. And by mentioning it that way, the search engines won't be able to put two and two together.
Northern California appears to have emerged largely unscathed from the wind and low humidity event and absolutely nobody can tell you whether or not the power shutoffs were necessary. I do agree with Gavin Newsom's ire expressed during his press availability at the state's Office of Emergency Services operations center last night, which you can watch it there. I agree with his ire at PG&E's past behavior and the conclusion that the broad Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) should not be necessary in the country's fifth largest country. We should not have to deal with this, period.
Has the grid been neglected for decades? I think nobody can deny that. Was the PSPS necessary and, if so, to the breadth executed? We will never know. We can just be thankful that there were no major fires and no deaths. Remember, we lost at least 153 Californians to wildfires in 2017-2018, the majority of which were definitively linked to power lines.
If you think you had a better plan than what PG&E did this week under current conditions of the grid, well you can STFU, as the kiddos like to text.
I don't want to hear uninformed positions on any side as my sister's community of Simi Valley is currently under threat by the Saddleridge Fire which was 4,600 acres and 0% contained as of 8:07am. The fire started in northern Los Angeles County and is burning northwest toward southern Ventura County. We won't know the cause for some time, but it sure ain't PG&E territory.
My sister and I grew up in Placentia and wildfires were common place in the hills just to the north separating Orange County from the San Gabriel Valley and the gateway to the Inland Empire. How many days did we have to stay in during recess because the sky was orange and ash was falling?
We'll have plenty of time to figure out what was done right and wrong in this event, those accountable will be held so and things can always be done better. We don't know what the future of PG&E is as a "going concern," as Governor Newsom made clear last night. That's a battle between equity holders and debt-holders, largely out-of-state interests battling over money.
For now, thank you to the public safety and governmental employees and the utility workers who are literally on the front lines across the state to protect us. They have absolutely nothing to do with past negligence by utilities or what's happening in two federal courtrooms in San Francisco (San Bruno gas explosion probation and bankruptcy).
For now, Namu Amida Butsu.
LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: With a deadline of tomorrow to act on bills, Governor Newsom took several actions yesterday. Okay, for you legal geeks like me, yes, the constitutional deadline is Sunday since the Legislature adjourned for Joint Recess on the morning of September 14 after "the incident," but I'm told by good sources that biz will be wrapped by tomorrow. I'll highlight a few high-profile bills and the full list is available on the subject link. Many of these bills were vetoed previously by Jerry Brown.
The governor also signed AB 539 (Limón), which caps interested rates in short-term consumer loans ("payday loans"). This broke a logjam that's been around Sacramento for as long as I have been here, as some of the traditional opponents in the industry broke with others considered the worst actors. Congratulations to those who worked for years to finally realize the opportunity.
SB 696 (Umberg): Elections: political parties. Earlier this week, Governor Newsom vetoed the bill by Senator Tom Umberg to prohibit the use of the words/phrases "no party preference," "decline to state," or "independent" in the official name of a qualified political party. The bill's primary purpose was to force a change in name of the "American Independent Party," a far-right party often mistakenly chosen by California voters during registration thinking they are registering as an independent, rather than choosing the "No Party Preference" box.
In his veto message, Governor Newsom writes:
"The American Independent Party of California has been using that name for more than 50 years. This bill would force that entity to change the name it has used since its inception. By requiring one existing political party to change its current name, this bill could be interpreted as a violation of the rights of free speech and association guaranteed by the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution."
I must take umbrage with the veto argument on Senator Umberg's bill. (Ha, get it? Friday linguistic humor.) I could have just called bullshit on my friend and know he'll giggle at that. After all, it's all in the game, yo'.
On July 30, Governor Newsom signed SB 27, the "Trump tax returns" bill. The bill prohibits a presidential or gubernatorial candidate from appearing on the California primary ballot without disclosing the candidate's most recent five years of tax returns to be redacted by the state to exclude personal information before being released to the public.
As expected, President Trump as an individual, the campaign, the California Republican Party and its chair, and several others filed a total of five lawsuits against the bill alleging that the bill violated the First Amendment rights of members of political parties (association) who desired to vote for the candidate of their choice (speech).
Oral arguments were heard on the cases on September 19. Judge Morrison C. England Jr. gave an oral ruling followed by an October 1 written ruling. In the ruling, he found that California's law was pre-empted by the federal Ethics in Government Act ("EIGA"), as well as Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution, the "Qualifications Clause" as to who was eligible to run for President. He further wrote that SB 27 violated the rights of the plaintiffs guaranteed under the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution.
The state has filed a notice of appeal in the case, which will go to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Fortunately for you as taxpayers, the case is being argued in-house by the AGs office and not contracted out, so it's really just a waste of time and minimal state money.
I wrote about the constitutionally suspect of SB 27 in this space on July 12 when the bill was sent to the governor, citing Callifornia Democratic Party v. Jones, the open primary challenge where the parties joined together to argue that Proposition 198 violated the Association and Speech rights of party members. I also wrote about the Qualifications Clause. The statutory pre-emption by EIGA was icing on the cake that I didn't even think about and later emerged in the plaintiffs' filings.
I felt sorry for the deputy Attorneys General representing the state who were walloped in the October 1 ruling. They had to argue against basically a second-year law school fact pattern. Yes, the amazing constitutional law professor Erwin Chemorinsky wrote an op-ed arguing otherwise, but did you see him actually appear to argue in court? Uh, no. I was there and he was not in the courtroom. While UC has constitutional autonomy, at the end of the day he is the dean of the law school at UC Berkeley.
As you can surmise, there are few people that want to see Trump's tax returns more than me, but I have a loyalty to the United States Constitution that far exceeds personal politics. I think we may see them because of the NYC investigation into whether he paid "hush funds" during the campaign that violated campaign finance law, something the U.S. Supreme Court basically green-lighted this week. And this morning in a case I haven't read yet, the DC Circuit ruled that the President's accounting firms must disclose financial records short of tax returns to the U.S. Congress upon subpoena.
All that said, if SB 27 is unconstitutional under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution according to a respected federal judge and every constitutional law expert I have talked to, how is it that Governor Newsom can sign SB 27 and then veto SB 696 arguing that it's unconstitutional?
Asking for a friend, or rather every student of constitutional law out there.
To put it in college baseball parlance for a friend, SB 27 was a home run on unconstitutionality, while SB 696 would have been a call review sent to New York for video review.
CADEM SETTLEMENTS: For the LAT, Christine Mai-Duc reports that the California Democratic Party has spent more than $430,000 in attorneys' fees and 378,348 in settlements to three former employees arising out of the harassment claims against the party and its former executive director, Eric Bauman.
LEGISLATIVE LOVE: On Twitter this morning, there was an interesting interaction that involved some of my friends that is a great lesson for young staff and lobbyists. For the people that make it around this town to survive long-term, treat people kindly and know that there is no "us-them."
Employer-side lobbyist, who is a former chief consultant of Assembly Labor, Ben Ebbink tweeted:
"Win with humility.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez replied:
"You, Ben, are a much more dignified than most of us. No matter which side you’re on. 😉
That’s why we still love & respect you."
If you don't understand how you can play the big game and then have that post-game embrace between quarterbacks mean something other than for the television cameras, you have no place in this business. I tell that to all of the kiddos I've talked to in various groups over the years. Some heed the advice and some don't. The latter mostly aren't still around.
Ben and his wife Christine were in my law school class and let me tell you that is truly who he always has been. After the legislative year we have had, let's just say that the town would be better if we were all like him.
CAKEDAY and CLASSIFIEDS after we pay some bills...
If you're one of those smart people who catches up on The Nooner after the weekend, good for you and have a great weekend. For the rest of you obsessed geeks, talk to you tomorrow and you should have a new podcast in your feed this evening.
Please no breaking news before we get behind the mics at 3:30. Send your items and thoughts until then.
If you've made it this far, thank you for your patience through 2,350 words that likely could have been edited down had I not run out of time.
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Reggie Fair, Tim Nader, and Lisa Silverman! And, yesterday I knew it was Dan Walters birthday, but for some reason didn't include it in my final edits!