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IN TODAY'S NOONER:
Hello folks! This is my last day in SacTown for a week as I head to Portland to hang with mom and that side of the family as we watch lots of college football. My Southern California swing will be after the new year, but I'm just happy for some good family time after being a recluse for too long. I won't be in Portland for the big Rose Bowl game of Oregon v. Wisconsin, but I'll be back in Sacramento to ring the bell at the Sacramento Buddhist Church on New Year's Eve before catching the game on New Year's Day.
PG&E: In the LAT, Jaclyn Cosgrove reports that the Public Utilities Commission and Pacific Gas & Electric have reached a propososed settlement of $1.625 billion in fines related to the 2017 and 2018 wildfires.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, PG&E would also be required to spend $50 million in shareholder money on system enhancements that regulators hope will lessen the risk of the utility’s equipment causing further disastrous wildfires.
If approved, this would be the largest dollar amount ever imposed by the California Public Utilities Commission in a wildfire-related enforcement proceeding, according to the commission. The settlement must be considered and approved by the agency’s commissioners.
Meanwhile, the judge overseeing the PG&E Chapter 11 bankruptcy has approved the company's major settlements with victims and insurers, reports Michael Liedtke for AP. Liedtke writes:
A federal bankruptcy judge on Tuesday approved two Pacific Gas & Electric settlements totaling $24.5 billion to help pay the losses suffered by homeowners, businesses and insurers in the aftermath of catastrophic Northern California wildfires that sent the nation’s largest utility into a financial morass.
The decision by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Dennis Montali at the end of a five-hour court hearing bolsters PG&E’s chances of following its preferred path for getting out of bankruptcy by a make-or-break June 30 deadline. Montali also handed the utility another victory by rejecting attempts by a competing group to offer an alternative proposal to steer PG&E out of bankruptcy instead of the company’s plan.
Dan Brekke reports for KQED that the judge also allowed the Ghost Ship warehouse file to move forward. PG&E, along with the city of Oakland and the warehouse owners, are defendents in the lawsuit with allegations that the utility's negligence contributed to the fire.
Dan Walters asks what's next for PG&E after Governor Gavin Newsom came out in opposition to the company's bankruptcy reorganization plan.
AB 5 (Gonzalez): The American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association filed suit yesterday against the state challenging the bills application to independent contractors who serve as writers and photographers. The conservative Pacific Legal Foundation is representing the association in the suit, which argues that AB 5 violates First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the contractors.
Cartoonist Mark Fiore draws the issue.
AD57 (Whittier): While observers have been wondering how interest groups will land on the Lisa Calderon v. Sylvia Rubio race to succeed Ian Calderon, the business PAC Californians for Jobs and a Strong Economy reports the primary max of $4,700 to Sylvia. In 2018, the PAC conducted a large independent expenditure campaign for Sylvia's sister Susan in SD22 over former Assembly member Mike Eng, who was backed by labor. The Calderon and Rubio families are considered moderate business Democrats, so it's unclear if labor will pick one, stay out of it, or side with one of the six other Democrats in the race.
VAPING: Melissa Healy writes in the LAT that the number of high schoolers reporting vaping has doubled in the last year.
In a yearly poll of U.S. high school students, 14% of 12th-graders acknowledged they had used an e-cigarette to “vape” marijuana at least once in the past month. That’s nearly double the figure from the year before, when 7.5% of high school seniors said they had vaped marijuana in the past 30 days.
In the 44 years that 12th-graders have shared details of their tobacco, drug and alcohol use with public health researchers, only one substance has taken hold more quickly: The share of high school seniors who had used an e-cigarette to inhale nicotine in the previous month jumped from 11% in 2017 to nearly 21% in 2018.
CANNABIS: The Legislative Analyst's Office is recommending a different manner in taxing legal cannabis, reports Michael W. Blood for AP:
The plan recommended by the Legislative Analyst’s Office would nix existing taxes, including an across-the-board, 15% levy paid by consumers at the retail counter. They say it could be replaced with one based on potency or a tiered system, with different rates linked to potency or product types.
The office concluded that anchoring taxes to potency could reduce harmful use more effectively.
The plan was welcomed by the California Cannabis Industry Association, which said the recommendations mirror priorities the group’s members have been advocating for over three years, including removing weight-based taxes on cultivation.
HIGH SPEED RAIL: The LAT's Steve Lopez opines that it's time to shift the funding for high speed rail from the Central Valley to San Francisco and Los Angeles.
THE SUBURBS: For the WaPo, David Wiegel looks at the suburban California congressional districts that flipped in 2018.
SURGEON GENERAL: For Capitol Weekly, Chuck McFadden profiles California's Surgeon General--Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. McFadden writes:
Harris, 44, a San Francisco Democrat, is a nationally recognized expert on the effects that childhood trauma (Adverse Childhood Experiences, or ACEs) has on victims during their entire lives – even into old age. She was appointed to the position in January by Gov. Gavin Newsom. California is the fourth state to have a surgeon general, joining Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Florida. Michigan eliminated the position in 2010.
DE LA FUENTES-ES: Michael Smolens writes in the SDUT on the candidacies of San Diego businessmen Rocky De La Fuente and son Ricardo De La Fuente for CA21. Rocky is also running for President under the Democratic, Republican, and American Independent Party flags while Ricardo is also running for Congress in Texas. In the California congressional race, Rocky is running as a Republican and Ricardo is running as a Democrat. Smolens writes:
The father’s political activity in recent years has gained him some national attention, though mostly as a curiosity. But by jumping into the congressional election at the last minute, the father and son have put themselves in the middle of one of the most hotly contested House campaigns in the nation. It’s not so much that one or both might advance to the November general election — anything can happen, but the odds would be long — but how they might affect the dynamics of the race.
The 21st District was one of seven Republican-held districts in California that Democrats flipped last year to take control of the House of Representatives. Democrat TJ Cox defeated then-Rep. David Valadao, a Republican, winning the race during a drawn-out vote count after trailing on election night. With Cox now the incumbent, Valadao is seeking a rematch in 2020.
Ricardo's current campaigns for congressional seats in both California and Texas brings up interesting constitutional issues. Article I, Section 2 provides that a Member of Congress must be an "inhabitant of that state in which he shall be chosen." So, the general is November 3, 2020. How can one be an inhabitant of more than one state on Election Day?
BLOOMBERG: Christopher Cadelago reports on Michael Bloomberg's campaign in California:
They know California is littered with rich people who thought their infinite wealth and wisdom in the private sector would carry over into electoral politics — only to be soundly rejected by the electorate for the most powerful offices. Sparing no penny, Bloomberg is the latest out to prove himself the exception — in large part by leading with his dozen years as mayor, his philanthropy and holding out a list of liberal accomplishments that portray him as a self-made slayer of Big Oil, Big Tobacco and the National Rifle Association.
His push comes as he takes incoming from the party’s liberal flank, led by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Bloomberg’s bet hinges on none of his opponents consolidating support and building unstoppable momentum in the first four states.
A few more items, Cakeday, and NEW Classifieds after the jump...
PELOSI: A team at Politico looks at how Nancy Pelosi is faring amidst the impeachment process:
This vote comes at a critical moment for Pelosi, who just a year ago was clawing her way back to the speakership in the face of opposition from some within her own party. Several Democratic candidates declared they wouldn’t support her in the run up to the election and some rank-and-file members openly questioned whether she would be up to the job.
Through a mix of dealmaking and arm twisting, Pelosi won over many of her most vocal critics and triumphantly returned to the speaker’s chair in January. Almost immediately, Pelosi was buffeted by the question of impeaching Trump, which sharply divided the party’s progressives and centrists, and which she feared could threaten her hard-won majority.
THE RENT IS TOO DAMN HIGH: For the Bee, Andrew Sheeler writes up the new landlord/tenant laws taking effect January 1.
DISNEYLAND EXPRESS TO END: The Disneyland Express bus service from John Wayne Airport and LAX to the resort operated by Coach USA is scheduled to discontinue service January 7 reports Brady MacDonald for the OC Register. This follows the cessation of Super Shuttle service at Sacramento International Airport as airport transportation changes.
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to fellow December 18 babies like my Valencia High School buddy Scott Goodgame, Jennifer Racadio, Tim Robertson, and Mark Taylor!
FAREWELL: Retired Capitol staffer and communications guru Bob Sanders, counsel to several speakers and education lobbyist (1940-2019)