Welcome to the AM Alert, your morning run-down on California policy and politics. To receive it regularly, please sign up here.
It seems like almost daily California lawmakers are scrambling to address a new proposal or respond to the latest tweet from President Donald Trump. Democrats, who far outnumber Republicans in the Golden State, have quickly – and proudly – earned California the reputation as a “state of resistance,” with some promising a fight and others proposing bills to protect immigrants and welcome refugees. Less flashy is work underway to find a way this year to address the state’s widening housing crisis and fix crumbling roads.
With the bill introduction deadline just a week away, lawmakers are fine-tuning proposals to dramatically increase the supply of affordable housing, lower development costs and streamline permitting. They are also working to identify a source of transportation funding. The issue is the subject of an online forum today hosted by the Public Policy Institute of California titled “Building California’s future.”
Elected officials and policy experts will explore potential actions the state can take on housing, roads, schools, water projects and more. Speakers include Mark Baldassare, president of the Public Policy Institute of California, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, Santa Clara Supervisor Joe Simitian and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who is weighing whether to run for governor in 2018.
The webcast is 12:05 to 1:45 p.m. Friday. Register here to watch online.
PRICED OUT: Speaking of housing, Assemblyman David Chiu, D-San Francisco, and Eduardo Garcia, D-Coachella, convene a hearing in the Southern California city of Indio this afternoon on housing affordability. Skyrocketing housing costs are pricing people out all over California, Chiu says, but the middle- and low-income families have been hit the hardest by the state’s housing challenges. Chiu and other lawmakers are proposing several bills this year to address the crisis, including Assembly Bill 71 that would eliminate the state mortgage interest deduction on second homes and divert it the revenue to an affordable housing fund. Chiu says his bill would assist low-income people and spur new affordable housing projects by eliminating some tax benefits from those who can afford vacation homes.
The current deduction for second homes disproportionately benefits those with higher incomes and larger mortgages, Chiu says. State figures show that 195,000 Californians claim a mortgage interest deduction on a second home, resulting in $300 million annually that could be used for affordable housing programs.
The hearing is from 1 to 3 p.m. at Indio City Hall. Dates and locations for future housing hearings are still being worked out. Stay tuned.
FUTURE OF MARIJUANA: One of the greatest challenges for California’s burgeoning marijuana industry is the inability of businesses to use federally-regulated banks because marijuana use remains illegal under federal law. The state’s Cannabis Banking Working Group, made up of representatives from law enforcement agencies, banks, taxing authorities, cities and counties and the cannabis industry, will meet at 10 a.m. in Los Angeles to discuss possible solutions.
F-GRADE FOR STATE HEALTH PLANS: A new report identifies industry-wide problems for nearly all the 40 health plans monitored by state health care regulators. Health plans were faulted by the Department of Managed Managed Health Care for not providing timely access to care or accurately reporting the size and availability of their provider networks.
Out of the state’s 40 health plans monitored by the agency, 36 have been referred to its enforcement unit for potential fines or corrective action, according to the report.
“Health plans appear to be shirking their decades-long obligation to provide timely access to care,” said Anthony Wright, executive director for Health Access California. “These health plans must be held accountable for their obligations to consumers...Patients demand accountability, and health plans should be fined for failing to comply with the law and forced to meet their obligations.”
CAMPAIGN SEASON: Love dim sum and politics? Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León are featured guests at a fundraiser for Assemblyman Evan Low, D-Campbell, this Sunday in Cupertino. Low was elected to his second term in the Assembly in November. He’s up for re-election in 2018.
WORTH REPEATING: “That could be a potential option – to let the people vote.” – Senate leader Kevin de León, considering a ballot measure to lock in his “Secure Choice” private sector retirement plan amid opposition from Congress.
Angela Hart: 916-325-5528, @ahartreports