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While California lawmakers were debating bills to raise the excise tax on liquor and relax booze rules at sports venues, a liquor company was the largest single donor to their campaign accounts.
Liquor companies, gambling tribes, utilities and other special interests donated more than $1.43 million to California lawmakers during the first three months of the legislative session, according to new disclosure reports filed with the state.
Lawmakers likely took in more money during that time, but no one will know exactly how much until the filing deadline for semiannual reports at the end of July.
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Yet more than a hundred major donors – a person or entity that gives more than $10,000 a year – had to report their activity for the first quarter of 2017 on Monday. Those filings showed more than 650 contributions to members of the California Assembly and Senate.
The most active major donor was Union City-based Southern Glazer’s Wine and Spirits, which gave more than $149,000 to about three-dozen state lawmakers in March.
According to the company’s latest lobbying report, it focused on two bills during the first quarter of the year: Assembly Bill 479, which would raise the excise tax on hard alcohol to make up for the loss of revenue from a proposed sales tax exemption for tampons and diapers; and Senate Bill 56, which would loosen rules on advertising at sports entertainment facilities by beer, wine and liquor manufacturers.
The next-largest donors to lawmakers during the first part of 2017 were the Pechanga Band of Luiseño Indians, which runs a major casino near Temecula and gave $114,000 to lawmakers, and AT&T Corp., which donated almost $79,000.
The top legislative recipients of major donor money from January through March were Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, who received $94,100; Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley, who received $52,400; Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, who received $40,300, and Assemblyman Adam Gray, D-Merced, who received $34,700.
Major donors also gave heavily to the Democratic and Republican parties, trade groups’ political action committees, and 2018 candidates for statewide office, including Democratic gubernatorial candidates Gavin Newsom and John Chiang and Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
WORTH REPEATING: “None of your business.” – Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, asked for his position on emerging federal health care legislation in the House, as reported by The Hill
MONEY WOES: The political hits for the University of California kept coming this week as lawmakers dragged President Janet Napolitano into a 4 1/2 -hour hearing on Tuesday to answer for the recent state audit slamming her office’s budgeting practices. Napolitano apologized for interfering in the audit process, a sensational claim that dominated the hearing, but she continued to object to the report’s conclusion that her administration had secretly squirreled away hundreds of millions of dollars for pet projects. Many legislators said UC still had a long way to go to earn back their trust. Will the latest controversy impact the university’s state appropriation this year as final budget negotiations draw near? We’ll get our first sense when the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Education reviews UC funding, upon the adjournment of floor session in Room 3191 of the Capitol.
VIDEO OF THE DAY: Gov. Jerry Brown attended a memorial this week for a fallen California Highway Patrol officer
RIDE ON: Officials from the California Department of Public Health and Department of Health Care Services will celebrate three years of their bike-share program, which provides bicycles for employees to travel around town, 9 a.m. at the west steps of the Capitol. The program has been popular enough that the Department of General Services bought a dozen bicycles last year for any state worker to rent for business purposes in Sacramento, and a bill this session proposes expanding that state employee bike share across California.
READ MORE: How California is changing its bicycling laws – including a controversial proposal to let riders roll through stop signs
TRANSIT-ION: Part of California’s strategy for reducing its carbon footprint is to expand development around transit corridors, where housing and jobs could be easily accessed from emissions-reducing public transportation. How has that worked out where Los Angeles tried it? Douglas Houston, an associate professor of planning, policy and design at UC Irvine, will present his research, noon at the UC Center Sacramento on K Street.
WE’RE NOT GONNA TAKE IT: Though President Donald Trump was elected promising to be a friend to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans, he’s expected to sign an executive order today expanding “religious liberty” protections that the LGBT community says will provide a license to discriminate against them. The details have yet to be released, but the Stonewall Democratic Club of Greater Sacramento is already planning a protest at 6 p.m. on the east lawn of the Capitol.
CELEBRATIONS: Happy birthday to Assemblyman Jim Frazier, D-Oakley, who turns 58 today.