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Motor Voter audit + Ann O’Leary speaks + Fighting Trump’s ‘anti-student agenda’

Happy Wednesday! I’ve had “rain, rain go away,” in my head all week. We begin today with some reporting from Bryan Anderson on “another day” in the DMV/Motor Voter saga.

Anderson writes...


Last spring, California election officials warned Secretary of State Alex Padilla not to move forward with launching a program to automatically register people to vote when they visit the Department of Motor Vehicles. The state went ahead anyway, despite the warnings. Since then, over 105,000 registration errors have occurred.

In response to a Sacramento Bee report last month, lawmakers from both parties have reached an agreement to request an audit into the Motor Voter program.

Assemblymen Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, and Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, met privately Tuesday afternoon. The lawmakers said they will co-author a bipartisan audit request in May after they hold a special hearing that month. A final committee vote for the audit into the Motor Voter program will be scheduled for June.

Why the delay? They want to wait and see what comes out the Department of Finance’s ongoing performance audit into the DMV, which is scheduled to be released to the public by the end of March. Patterson and Salas also want to wait on findings from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s strike team, which should be released shortly after the audit.

Patterson and Salas said they’ve also been in touch with State Auditor Elaine Howle.

“The appropriate time for this standalone hearing would be after we receive the information from both the Department of Finance and the strike team,” Patterson said. “That just makes perfect sense to inform where we’re headed with respect to the scope of the audit.”

Salas said he’s looking forward to the May hearing and said it was important for Democrats and Republicans to come together when pressing for answers on the botched implementation of the Motor Voter program.

This unlikely partnership comes after Patterson fell one vote shy of an audit request into the DMV in August 2018. Some Democrats, including state Sen. Ben Allen, D-San Monica, saw Patterson’s proposal as too partisan. It appears Patterson doesn’t want to give off that impression this time around.

Salas comes from a swing district in the Central Valley, where he won his June 2018 primary by less than 1 percentage point. If he came out in opposition to a Motor Voter audit or refused to hold a hearing as chair of the Joint Legislative Audit Committee, it could hurt him politically.

After some back and forth among the lawmakers behind the scenes, a bipartisan investigation into the Motor Voter program will soon be approaching.


Ann O’Leary, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s chief of staff, is scheduled to talk with Public Policy Institute of California’s president and CEO Mark Baldassare today. The “wide-ranging conversation” is scheduled to cover the state’s greatest issues, both current and future.

You can register to watch the event from 11:45 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. through the PPIC website.


A group of seven Assembly members are introducing a bundle of bills this morning that aim to “curb predatory marketing schemes that saddle students with debt and worthless degrees, and bring increased oversight to the for-profit college industry. “ Several of the measures restore former President Barack Obama-era student protections that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and President Donald Trump have since rolled back.

DeVos eliminated many regulations against the for-profit college industry last year, much to the dismay of critics of the business-run institutions, which enroll 2.3 million students per year. For-profit colleges often face criticism for utilizing greedy, borderline fraudulent tactics that deeply affect the financial well being of and employment prospects for students.

“If it’s the right fit for the student, then it’s the right education,” DeVos said last summer, noted by the Washington Post.

Assemblyman David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat, is introducing a bill to limit the ability of “bad deals” by for-profit colleges that force students to incur student debt incomparable to graduate salaries. Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, is also championing a bill that would allow tuition reimbursement for students enrolled in a school that ends up closing, and Assemblywoman Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, D-Orinda, is also focusing on greater inspection of how online colleges that recruit California students into their distance-education programs.

Assembly members and Democrats Marc Berman from Palo Alto, Evan Low of Campbell and Stockton’s Susan Talamantes Eggman, have bills that expose how for-profit schools evade oversight and take advantage of legal loopholes to make money at their students’ expense. Kevin McCarty, D-Sacramento, is leading the initiative for California to “better protect students by prohibiting colleges from paying admissions representatives and marketers in ways that reward deception and are not in the best interests of students.”

The group of lawmakers will host a press conference today at 10 a.m. in Room 317 at the California State Capitol.

Now if only the package of bills could retroactively pay off my student loan debt...that’d be great.


Interested in knowing how your lawmaker scored on the California Environmental Scorecard? The California League of Conservation Voters released its annual report yesterday, and you can view it here.

Star students: Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, both scored 100 percent, and former Gov. Jerry Brown earned an 80 percent grade.

“We need bolder action than ever before to transform our economy and challenge what is possible. With legislative leaders in both houses – and a majority of state Senators – earning 100 percent scores, the Newsom Administration and legislature have a unique opportunity to meet the unprecedented moment our world is facing with 12 short years to act,” said Mary Creasman, chief executive officer of CLCV.

The scorecard offers useful information regarding individual voting patterns, policies that passed last year and what some of the state’s greatest environmental issues are.


Chief Justice of California Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye will, metaphorically speaking, gavel in the Legislative-Judicial Summit today. The event will offer an opportunity for some of the state’s most powerful lawmakers and judicial leaders to discuss civic and policy challenges facing their offices, and will create the “open exchange of ideas between the two branches of government.”

Big names: In addition to Cantil-Sakauye, presenters at the summit include Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, University of California, Berkeley, School Law, Dean Kevin Johnson, University of California, Davis, School of Law, Judge Consuelo María Callahan, Judge, United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, and Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar, California Supreme Court, and Justice Ming Chin, California Supreme Court.


CA State Auditor (@CaStateAuditor) — “Despite reports of serious issues at the detention facilities, the three cities that use private operators to house detainees pursuant to ICE contracts have provided little to no oversight.”

MUST-READ: 22-hour confinement, no bathrooms: Immigrants face harsh conditions in California ICE facilities, study says by yours truly, Hannah Wiley

Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.