Capitol Alert

‘It’s time for a divorce’: Calexit supporters relaunch California independence bid

Marcus Ruiz Evans, center, vice president of the Yes California independence campaign, talks about California seceding on Nov. 9, 2016, in Sacramento.
Marcus Ruiz Evans, center, vice president of the Yes California independence campaign, talks about California seceding on Nov. 9, 2016, in Sacramento. The Associated Press

The election of President Donald Trump in 2016 had a lot of unhappy Californians considering the highly unlikely possibility of seceding.

An organization called Yes California even filed an initiative last year to hold a statewide special election asking voters if they wanted to form their own country – though the leaders ultimately abandoned their signature-gathering effort because of negative attention surrounding the motivations of campaign founder Louis Marinelli, who was living in Russia at the time.

Now “Calexit,” as they dubbed the proposal, is back. And so is Marinelli, who moved home to California this week to help relaunch their crusade.

“I enjoyed my life in Russia,” Marinelli said in an interview, “but something I care deeply about is California independence, and I was disappointed it wasn’t picking up the steam I felt it should have.”

Yes California plans to hold a Valentine’s Day rally on the north side of the Capitol at noon, urging supporters to read and sign a “declaration of independence” from the United States. Then they will march to the attorney general’s office with signs announcing, “It’s time for a divorce,” to submit their latest ballot initiative, which they hope to qualify for the 2020 election. It would establish an independence referendum vote on May 4, 2021.

Since “Calexit” fizzled, supporters of the idea have pursued two unsuccessful alternatives. Marinelli acknowledged that living in Russia created some “baggage” for the campaign, and he returned to California so he would no longer be a distraction for what he feels is a crucial opportunity to resolve the state’s “irreconcilable differences” with the Trump administration.

“California becoming a country is going to open up some doors for Californians,” he said. “It’s really going to be an impetus to change the world.”

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CLEANUP ON AISLE ONE: The Department of Toxic Substances Control has been in the Legislature’s crosshairs since a series of scandals exposed its lax policing of polluters, including a 2014 audit that found nearly $200 million in uncollected bills for cleanup costs. An independent review panel met over the last two years to evaluate the agency and will present its final recommendations on improvements to permitting, enforcement, public outreach and fiscal management during a joint hearing of the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee and the Senate Environmental Quality Committee, 9:30 a.m. in Room 112 of the Capitol. But not everyone is satisfied. Los Angeles County Supervisor Hilda Solis plans to attend the hearing to testify that the panel’s plan for addressing lead pollution from the shuttered Exide Technologies battery plant in Vernon, which also spurred the legislative oversight, is inadequate.

BY THE NUMBERS: State revenues are looking strong through the first half of the fiscal year. Controller Betty Yee reported this week that California collected $17.4 billion in January from personal income, corporation and sales taxes, outpacing Gov. Jerry Brown’s budget projections by nearly 16 percent. Total revenues since last July now stand at $74.6 billion, running almost 12 percent higher than the same period last fiscal year

ON THE ROAD AGAIN: Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, a Los Angeles Democrat who immigrated from El Salvador as a child, are leading an Assembly delegation to El Salvador for the next three days to discuss immigration, crime and urban planning. Assemblymen Joaquin Arambula, D-Fresno, and Mike Gipson, D-Carson, are also joining the trip. “We are leading this delegation because we want to work with El Salvador on immediate issues, such as protecting the rights and the futures of Salvadoran immigrants who have come to the United States, and on long-term challenges that will help both our states achieve good governance and sound policies,” Rendon said in a statement.

MAJOR ENDORSEMENTS: The state’s largest labor union, the Service Employees International Union California, has thrown its 700,000 member-strong weight behind Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom for governor. SEIU California announced its endorsement Tuesday, following a union town hall with the candidates. “We believe that California can show the nation the way forward to a society that values every person and makes real progress toward economic and racial justice,” president Roxanne Sanchez said in a statement. “Gavin Newsom will be both a visionary leader and, more important, a partner of working people in accomplishing these goals.”

The union also backed state Senate leader Kevin de León over incumbent U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein. “Kevin de León is a leader who speaks up for California values. His leadership on the most pressing challenges facing California stands in stark contrast with the dysfunctional political establishment in Washington, D.C.,” executive board member David Huerta said in a statement.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff