Capitol Alert

Democrats delay, Republicans head to court in Josh Newman recall fight

California Secretary of State Alex Padilla speaks at the California Democratic Party’s state convention earlier this year. Republicans criticize Padilla for not certifying valid signature counts to qualify a recall measure against state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton.
California Secretary of State Alex Padilla speaks at the California Democratic Party’s state convention earlier this year. Republicans criticize Padilla for not certifying valid signature counts to qualify a recall measure against state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton. AP

But for a sprint of legislating last week, today would have been the deadline for California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to certify that proponents of ousting state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, had turned in enough valid voter signatures to qualify a recall measure for the ballot.

Instead, today marks the debut of Democrat-crafted revisions to state election law that significantly extend the recall timeline and delay any certification until early next year. That means a Newman recall election would be consolidated with the June 2018 primary instead of a standalone special ballot this fall, when likely low turnout would hurt Newman’s chances.

Yet last week’s Senate Bill 117 won’t be the last word in the increasingly bitter recall fight. Republicans accuse Capitol Democrats of a political power play to deny Newman’s constituents their rights. Democrats argue that Republicans tricked voters into signing recall petitions.

Within hours of Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing the measure Thursday, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and several voters in Newman’s district sued Padilla to block the changes. It was the second legal challenge – the first came after Brown signed a June bill with the same recall law changes, prompting a judge Aug. 14 to put them on hold because they did not comply with the state’s single-subject rule.

In their latest filing, plaintiffs claim that SB 117 violates the due process rights of Newman recall proponents. In addition, they contend that the legislation was wrongly passed as a majority-vote budget trailer bill when it should have required a two-thirds vote normally required of urgency legislation.

The suit also makes clear recall proponents’ dissatisfaction with Padilla who, like Newman, is a Democrat.

Election officials in the three counties covered by the 29th Senate District reported Aug. 18 that recall supporters had filed 66,289 valid voter signatures – more than the 63,593 valid signatures needed to qualify a measure for the ballot. That started the 10-day clock for Padilla to certify the count, after which Brown would have had to call the election.

In a statement Friday, Padilla’s office cited the “unprecedented” legal and legislative fight. Padilla wanted to consult with attorneys on the implications of the Aug. 14 ruling out of an abundance of “prudence and due diligence.”

“During the interim, however, the passage and signing into law of SB 117 clarified the Secretary of State’s responsibilities,” spokesman Sam Mahood said. People who signed recall petitions now have 30 days to withdraw their signatures.

Plaintiffs say it’s clear that Padilla dragged his feet.

The legislation, they said, should not be allowed to prohibit Padilla “from performing his ministerial duty, which at this point is the simple process of adding up three numbers to confirm what everyone knows: that the recall petition is sufficient to compel an immediate election.”

No court date has been set.


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WORTH REPEATING: “Take out your pens and cross out ‘continuous.’ 

– State Sen. Bob Wieckowski, D-Fremont, during Thursday’s hearing on how to spend up to $1.4 billion in cap-and-trade auction revenue available for discretionary programs. But any appropriation covers 2017-18 only and would not be continuous, Wieckowski told a room crowded with lobbyists for groups seeking money.

PROTECTING DACA: “Dreamers” in the country face an uncertain future under President Donald Trump and his administration. A bill in Congress, proposed by two Democratic senators and two Republican senators, would change that by providing temporary legal status and a path to full citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have entered the U.S. before the age of 18. Former President Barack Obama first authorized the program, called the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, in 2012, but it does not allow the federal government to sanction full citizenship for those who currently receive temporary legal protections.

The DREAM Act, introduced this year by Democratic Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois and Chuck Schumer of New York, and Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona, would change that. California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris are among the co-sponsors.

Harris will be in downtown Los Angeles at the UCLA Labor Center beginning at 9:45 a.m. to discuss the legislation.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday sent a letter to Trump asking him to maintain the DACA program and “seek a more permanent solution to help these young people continue to contribute to their communities and to our nation’s prosperity in the years to come.”

“To uproot these young people from the only country they have known as home is to turn our back on the future,” Brown wrote the president. “It is cruel and it runs counter to the ideals this country was founded on. I urge you to maintain this program and to work with Congress to pass the DREAM Act of 2017 so that DACA recipients may have a pathway to permanent legal status and eventual citizenship in the United States.”

BY THE NUMBERS: California took in $258.2 million in taxes from professional athletes in 2015: $102.9 million from baseball players, $57.6 million from basketball players, $35.1 million from hockey players, $57.9 million from football players, and $4.7 million from other professional athletes. The Franchise Tax Board numbers were compiled by New York-area certified public accountant Robert Raiola, who specializes in tax planning for athletes and entertainers.

AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: Former Vice President Al Gore’s sequel to his popular 2006 documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” is screening at the Crest Theater in Sacramento tonight. California Senate President Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, plans to watch the film, titled “An Inconvenient Sequel,” scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. De León is scheduled to speak to the audience at 6:30 p.m., before the movie begins, about efforts in the state Legislature to address climate change.

PARENTAL LEAVE: State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, will speak Monday evening at an event aimed at promoting parental leave in California, from 4:45 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Eureka Room in the Capitol.

The event is hosted by the California Endowment, First 5 California and a coalition of organizations promoting an expansion of parental leave, under discussion in the Legislature. Advocates say parental leave is “crucial” during a child’s early months, noting that “frequent, nurturing parent-child interactions are key to strong brain development in the first three months.”

The event also features a preview of the film “The Raising of America.”

CELEBRATE: Happy birthday to Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Thousand Oaks, who turns 65 today.