Capitol Alert

AM Alert: Latino Caucus political arm brings in bucks

Anthony Rendon, center, stands with Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon after he was sworn in as the new Assembly speaker on Monday, March 7, 2016, giving both houses Latino leaders.
Anthony Rendon, center, stands with Gov. Jerry Brown, left, and Senate Pro Tem Kevin de Leon after he was sworn in as the new Assembly speaker on Monday, March 7, 2016, giving both houses Latino leaders. rpench@sacbee.com

The growing numbers and clout of the California Latino Legislative Caucus, paralleling the state’s booming Latino electorate, has become a key dynamic in Sacramento.

You can see it in the fact that both the Senate and the Assembly are led by Latinos. Or in the frequency with which press conferences also include Spanish remarks. Or in the floor debate over a landmark farmworker overtime bill that saw member after member invoking immigrant farmworker ancestors.

“My grandparents came to this country without papers and worked every day of their lives in the fields,” said Assemblyman Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, a key supporter.

Power and money being inextricably linked in politics, the California Latino Caucus Leadership PAC also has a role to play in raising money to elect and defend caucus members. The organization had raised about $630,000 from the start of 2015 through the end of June, and the money has flowed from an A-list of power players: not just traditional liberal allies like the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the United Nurses Association but also Native American tribes, major utilities (both Pacific Gas and Electric and Sempra) and businesses like Facebook, SolarCity, McDonald’s and AT&T.

That total will grow over the next couple of days thanks to a PAC golf tournament fundraiser in Napa, where donors will get a chance to mingle with attending caucus members.

VIDEO OF THE DAY: He’s not up for election, but Gov. Jerry Brown gets challenged to a debate.

BY THE NUMBERS: Outside spending in legislative races on the Nov. 8 ballot is closing in on $2 million. Independent expenditure committees had injected almost $1.7 million into 15 Assembly and state Senate contests as of Thursday. Topping the list are a pair of all-Democrat races: San Bernardino County’s 47th Assembly District, where there was $585,000 in outside spending, and the San Francisco East Bay’s 14th Assembly District, with $177,000. The highest-spending IE committee is the oil industry-backed Coalition to Restore California’s Middle Class, which has spent $473,000, all of it in the 47th.

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BREATH: The Jerry Brown climate change victory tour continues today. Having already held ceremonies to sign measures expanding California’s greenhouse gas reduction goals and to spread cap-and-trade funds to disadvantaged communities, today the governor will be in Long Beach signing a measure to limit short-lived pollutants like fluorinated gases and methane – including the gases that dairy cows emit. Brown will sign Senate Bill 1383 during a 10:15 a.m. event.

EXONERATION NATION: One of the most potent arguments of death penalty opponents is the risk of executing the innocent. Supporters of repealing the death penalty via Proposition 62 will punctuate that point today with an 11 a.m. press conference in Los Angeles marshaling 17 one-time death row denizens whose names were cleared. You can watch a livestream here, but in the meantime you should take a few minutes to read this look at California exonerees struggling to get compensated for their wrongful imprisonment.

DRUG DEAL: High pharmaceutical prices came in for a gubernatorial scolding on Friday, when Brown signed a bill to make more EpiPens available while also decrying the “rapacious corporate behavior” of price-hiking sponsor Mylan. Drug prices will be in the spotlight again today as the Proposition 61 campaign launches a statewide bus tour with a noon Los Angeles event featuring proponents from the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the California Nurses Association and the AARP.

Jeremy B. White: 916-326-5543, @CapitolAlert. Jim Miller of the Bee Capitol Bureau contributed reporting.

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