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IN TODAY'S NOONER:
Happy Saturday! If you found this in your spam box, you can likely find the solution for your specific email program by googling it. For Gmail, click the gear in the upper right above your messages and select Settings. Click Filters and Blocked Addresses. Click Add a new filter. Enter email@example.com and click Create Filter. Check the box for Never send it to Spam and then click Create.
I sounds like a lot of steps but really only takes about 30 seconds.
PG&E: Late yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom rejected Pacific Gas & Electric's plan for exiting Chapter 11 bankruptcy, reports Dale Kasler in the Bee. Kasler writes:
In a letter to PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson, the governor declared that the company’s proposal doesn’t go far enough to make it “positioned to provide safe, reliable and affordable service.”
“The resolution of this bankruptcy must yield a radically restructured and transformed utility that is responsible and accountable,” he wrote. Among other things, he demanded an entirely new slate of directors who are subject to state approval, and a structure that would allow PG&E’s operating license to be transferred “to the state or a third-party when circumstances warrant.
Just a week ago, PG&E announced what it believed was a breakthrough that would ease its way out of bankruptcy: a $13.5 billion settlement agreement with lawyers for more than 70,000 wildfire victims.
But the utility wasn’t home free after all. It still needed Newsom’s approval of its bankruptcy plan. Now it will have to overhaul the proposal, and quickly.
According to AB 1054, which creates a $21 billion insurance pool to help utilities pay for damages from future wildfires, PG&E needs to exit Chapter 11 by June 30 in order to participate in the fund.
Taryn Luna writes for the Times:
Newsom’s approval was not required under state law, but PG&E asked the governor to weigh in after reaching a $13.5-billion settlement with victims of some of California’s worst wildfires on record last week.
The request was a political gamble for the company, which gave Newsom and his team of advisors five days to review whether the proposal fulfilled the requirements of a new state law that allows utilities that meet certain requirements to dip into a fund to pay costs from California wildfires. Without access to the fund, Newsom said the company’s plan isn’t feasible.
PG&E pushed back and said it believes the plan conforms to requirements under state law. Jennifer Robison, a spokeswoman for the company, said PG&E was committed to working “diligently in the coming days to resolve any issues that may arise.” The company has until Tuesday to revise its proposal.
WILDFIRE & INSURANCE: The state's industry-backed homeowners' insurer of last resort has sued Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara over his order to broaden coverage as homeowners in wildfire-prone areas are finding it more difficult to maintain coverage, reports Dale Kasler in the Bee.
The lawsuit, by the industry-backed California FAIR Plan against Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, is the latest twist in a deepening crisis over property insurance in rural areas prone to wildfires. Earlier this month Lara imposed a one-year moratorium banning traditional carriers from canceling homeowners’ insurance in the Kincade Fire zone in Sonoma County and other areas struck by wildfires this year.
That moratorium won’t help the thousands of homeowners who’ve lost coverage after the devastating fires of 2017 and 2018 cost the industry $25 billion. Many of those homeowners, unable to get replacement coverage from traditional carriers, have been forced to purchase insurance from the FAIR Plan, which was established by the Legislature but is privately run and funded by insurers. More than 30,000 homeowners in California have FAIR Plan insurance.
FAIR Plan coverage can cost two or three times as much as traditional insurance and only offers bare-bones coverage. FAIR Plan customers typically have to buy additional insurance to cover theft and other risks, adding to their cost burden. The skyrocketing price of homeowners’ coverage has depressed real estate markets in many rural areas.
Last month, Lara ordered the FAIR Plan to offer comprehensive policies, saying the plan’s customers “deserve the same coverage provided traditional insurers.” He also ordered the plan to double the amount of coverage a customer can buy, to $3 million.
In the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the FAIR Plan demanded that both orders be blocked. The organization said ordering the plan to offer comprehensive coverage violates the FAIR Plan’s charter.
DRILL, BABY, DRILL: KQED's Kevin Stark reports on the Trump Administration's plan to open up more federal land for drilling:
The Bureau of Land Management finalized the plan, which ends a federal moratorium on offering new leases in the state. The move follows a similar October ruling to open up nearly 800,000 acres for gas and oil extraction in parts of the Central Coast as well as land in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, although the likelihood of new production there is slim.
Thursday's action further inflamed tensions between the federal government, which is barreling ahead with policies to expand domestic oil and gas production, and California and environmentalists, who want to scale back fossil fuel extraction. The state is pursuing increased oversight of fracking, for instance, recently moving to review its permitting process for drilling and passing a moratorium on some types of high-pressure well injections.
FEEDING THE HOMELESS: In the LAT, Benjamin Oreskes reports that the city of Lancaster in eastern Los Angeles County is looking to sharply limit the manner in which charitable organizations feed homeless people in public spaces.
Through the years, cities and counties across the country have instituted restrictions similar to those proposed in Lancaster. The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty recently surveyed 187 cities across the country and found that 9% had some form of a ban on food sharing, an increase from when it last researched the subject in 2016.
After the outcry in Lancaster, the City Council led by [longtime mayor R. Rex] Parris — the city’s longtime outspoken mayor — postponed a vote on the proposal. But he insisted the council would revisit the measure soon in order to bring more structure to how food is distributed to homeless people.
Parris said officials would take some time to study the issue and then come up with a new plan.
The version of the ordinance that was shelved would have required volunteer groups to get permits to set up shop in certain parts of public parks, pay rental fees and get a certification from the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.
Proponents of the measure said they worry about food-borne illnesses that could stem from these drives and mounds of trash that could be left behind. The 2019 Los Angeles County homeless count found just under 3,300 homeless people living in the Antelope Valley, which includes Lancaster and Palmdale. That was up 3% from 2018.
The issue of feeding homeless along with the right to sleep and camp in public spaces is an emerging legal issue, as we talked with Professor Carlton F.W. Larson in Monday night's discussion at Capital Books. As I wrote earlier this week, the Supreme Court of the United States is considering a petition to review the Ninth Circuit decision in City of Boise, ID v. Martin in which the appeals court upheld a district court ruling finding that a generally applicable ordinance prohibiting sleeping or camping on public spaces and imposing fines for doing so with no reasonable alternative was cruel and unusual punishment under the Eighth Amendment.
Professor Larson thought that a better argument which was not made by the plaintiffs in Boise was that such an ordinance violated the due process to liberty under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Thus, such ordinance would be subject to the highest standard of strict scrutiny, requiring the city to demonstrate a compelling state interest for the ordinance and that it was narrowly tailored solely to meet that interest. A large homeless camp in a public space without sanitation facilities that creates a public health threat would clearly be such a threat. A couple of homeless people sleeping in Southside Park across the street from Nooner Global HQ would not.
NPR's Leila Fadel reports on how the Boise case is reverberating across the West Coast.
Third parties feeding homeless presents an additional issue. You can make the same argument of the right to liberty (and perhaps life) for the homeless receiving the food. However, the organizations providing the food would be alleging infringement of First Amendment rights, as the ordinances are really time, place, and manner restrictions placed on those serving the food. Clearly, a city can establish restrictions in a public park for events. College campuses can create "free speech zones" but can't ban religious organizations outright from handing out literature completely from a campus.
While there are cases making their way through the courts testing outright bans, from my read Lancaster's ordinance likely meets constitutional muster as a compelling state interest of public health with reasonable restrictions of place within the park and manner through fees, assuming the fees are the same for park reservations for similar events.
Meanwhile, Rich Ibarra reports for CapRadio that, with an additional $400,000, Stockton will have an additional 100 shelter beds this winter.
AD72 (Fountain Valley-Garden Grove-Westminster): Brooke Staggs in the Register reports on the division among the GOP over former state senator Janet Nguyen's challenge of fellow Vietnamese Republican Tyler Diep. Staggs writes:
Former Orange County GOP chair Scott Baugh prompted Nguyen to run with a Dec. 5 email to local party leaders that blasted Diep’s voting record on issues such as charter schools and his recent comments in support of organized labor, which Baugh termed “a step ladder into the penthouse of the leftist elite.”
“He brought this fight to us by campaigning as a conservative and betraying us in Sacramento,” Baugh said in a follow-up email obtained by the Register. “There is a rat in our cellar and I am turning on the light.”
But by Friday, Dec. 13, some leading Californian Republicans had jumped to Diep’s defense. California Republican Party Chairwoman Jessica Patterson, Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove and Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron issued a joint statement calling Nguyen’s bid “a distraction” that “plays directly into the Democrat speaker’s playbook.”
“We call on everyone who is committed to the party to put differences aside and join us in keeping this district Republican,” the women wrote.
In an emailed response to local GOP leaders, first-term Assemblyman Diep blamed Baugh for Democrat Harley Rouda’s 2018 win in the formerly Republican-held 48th Congressional seat. The result came after Baugh challenged longtime GOP Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in the 2018 primary.
“Our Assembly Republican caucus is now down to just 18 members. We had 32 members just 12 years ago,” Diep of Westminster said. “Infighting and purity tests are not going to make us stronger.”
With one Republican and eight Democrats in a D+26.31 district that was Clinton+37.5 in 2016, AD57 will be decided in March. Arguably, Republicans should have urged Jessica Martinez to pull out of the race to let the Democrats fight through November. But, Martinez will get enough votes that will leave too few for the plentiful Democrats to share for there to be a two-Dem runoff.
However, any way you look at it, the suspense in AD72 won't end in March. The question is whether it will be R-R or D-R in November.
Let's look at some numbers. In the 2018 primary election, Democrat Josh Lowenthal garnered 36.8% of the vote and the four Republicans shared 63.3% (rounding). Assembly member Tyler Diep was elected and faced Lowenthal in November.
In November, Diep prevailed 51.6% over Lowenthal's 48.4%.
There's a lot of debate about turnout in March with speculation that Republicans don't have much reason to vote until NovemberI They are being re-written. We believe 75% of the likely voters will have their ballots in their mailbox the day after the Iowa Caucuses taking place on February 3. Orange County is a Voters Choice Act county and thus AD72 voters will have their ballots and Election Day is just a return by date and passion about stopping by a polling place is no longer a factor.
AD72 will have turnout among Democrats fueled by a tight presidential primary, while Republicans will likely be jumping into a camp of either Tyler Diep or Janet Nguyen.
So, let's assume turnout is an average of the primary and general turnout in 2018. An average of the two elections finds 42.6% voters voting for the Democratic candidate for Assembly and 57.4% voting for the Republican. That is NOT a prediction of the general election, which we'll talk about after March results. Rather, it is just a sense of the share of voters that might be expected to cast ballots for the two Democrats and two Republicans in the race.
If there was only one Democrat or one Republican, it would be a traditional Democrat vs. Republican general (and without top two, the minor parties). But, we have top two and have to look at it that way.
Here are the candidates once again:
You can cut this three ways--ethnicity, party, and divisions within parties. Alignment is uncertain and unpredictable.
Diep and Janet Nguyen are likely fighting over roughly 57% of the vote. Mohseni and Deidre Nguyen are fighting over around 43%. Assuming they divided equally, that would be Republicans Tyler and Janet each with around 28.5% and around 21.5% for Democrats Bijan and Diedre. Of course, it won't be equal. We know very little at this point about money and endorsements, even with the election only 80 days away and ballots landing in mailboxes in 53 days.
Anybody who tells you today what's going to happen in AD72 also has a free email Costco anniversary gift card for you if you click a fraudulent spam link. We'll be watching it closely, but that's about all I can say at this point and the election is pretty damn close after the political black hole known as the holidays with a twist of impeachment.
As a footnote, I think I wrote the other day of the political allegiance between Supervisor Andrew Do and Janet Nguyen. Do was Janet's chief of staff when she was supervisor. They had a political falling out. I'm still working on gathering all sides on this to completely understand the dynamics.
FOX'S BRIGHT BART AWARD WINNERS: Yesterday, Joel Fox announced the winners of the annual Bright Bart Award for most influential legislators of the year:
Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez and state Senator Scott Wiener are the F&H Black Bart Award Winners for 2019.
As Joe Mathews wrote in suggesting Gonzalez and Wiener as co-nominees: “Wiener and Gonzalez represent the growing power and ambition of the California legislature, for better and for worse. They played the game best in 2019.”
John Wildermuth promoted Scott Wiener for the recognition: “Scott Wiener is a legislator. And his willingness to take up important but controversial issues and fight hard to do what he believes is best for the state is what makes him my nominee for Californian of the Year.”
DOTSON! Yesterday, Governor Newsom appointed E. Dotson Wilson to the Fair Political Practices Commission. Dotson recently retired as chief clerk and parliamentarian of the State Assembly.
This is great news for a strong oversight body. Unfortunately, they don't have the authority to Investigate the $2,000 in mileage claims by Omar Navarro, the alleged perennial grifter candidate in AD43 allegedly preying on retirees for his own benefit. I don't know the facts, I just report on FEC reports.
The FEC is a dead agency without a quorum and there's bipartisan jubilation about it among many. The FPPC, however, is alive and well. I beat up Democrats and Republicans alike for contributions and point out the loopholes (Prop. 34 legal political party laundering), but that is not where the story really is. It's people like Omar and without an FEC at least as strong as the FPPC, will continue to see people claiming they drove 3,448 miles in the third quarter in a district stretching from Inglewood to Torrance while also filling their cars up around their homes in Torrance.
This is why people hate politics, which you all know is my passion along with policy. It just hurts my Republican friends by sucking up retirees money for personal benefit and not campaigns for electable candidates.
Of course, for congressional races, US Attorneys don't care about the guppies like Omar in the fish tank. They want the betas like Duncan.
A few more items and Cakeday y Classifieds after the jump...
BUTTIGIEG BUCKS: For AP, Brian Slodysko reports on a private fundraising dinner for with big donors that Mayor Pete Buttigieg will attend this weekend that is likely to provide more fodder for criticism from his fellow presidential candidates:
The Hall Rutherford wine caves in the hills of California’s Napa Valley boast a chandelier with 1,500 Swarovski crystals, an onyx banquet table to reflect its luminescence and bottles of cabernet sauvignon that sell for as much as $900.
It is also where Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic presidential candidate, will dine privately with donors following a Sunday fundraiser hosted by Craig and Kathryn Hall, the winery’s billionaire owners, according to an invitation obtained by The Associated Press.
CANNABIS: For AP, Michael R. Blood reports that state officials report that they conducted dozens of raids of unlicensed cannabis shops in Los Angeles this week. Blood writes:
The state has been under pressure from California’s legal industry to do more to stop the underground pot economy, which in Los Angeles and other cities often operates in plain sight. According to some estimates, roughly 75% of sales in the state remain under the table, snatching profits from legal storefronts.
Investigators from the state Bureau of Cannabis Control and the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Cannabis Enforcement Unit served search warrants at 24 unlicensed shops from Tuesday through Thursday. They seized $8.8 million in cannabis products, confiscated nearly 10,000 illegal vape pens and $129,000 in cash, the bureau said.
RAIDER NATION: As the Raiders prepare for their final game in Oakland, Ken Belson writes for the NYT that Las Vegas is waiting with open arms. Belson writes:
As the Raiders prepare to play their last home game in Oakland this weekend, fans and businesses across this region of 2.3 million people in southern Nevada are eager to welcome their newest professional team, following the arrival of the Golden Knights of the N.H.L. and the Aces of the W.N.B.A. For years, Las Vegas was thought to be too small and too transient to support sports teams, even though boxing, mixed martial arts, and other big sporting events have drawn crowds here for decades.
But that has changed as the city has grown and its economy has become less centered on gambling with more family-oriented tourism and, increasingly, technology companies. After long shunning Sin City, the N.F.L. two years ago gave the Raiders the green light to move here from Oakland.
Meanwhile, Matt Kawahara reports for the Chron on the impact of the large union and working class group of fans left behind with the move.
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Patrick McCallum!