Capitol Alert

'Shared efforts' to kill sanctuary law draw California officials to Trump's office

Protesters hold up signs outside a courthouse where a federal judge heard arguments in the first lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump's executive order to withhold funding from communities that limit cooperation with immigration authorities on April 14, 2017, in San Francisco.
Protesters hold up signs outside a courthouse where a federal judge heard arguments in the first lawsuit challenging President Donald Trump's executive order to withhold funding from communities that limit cooperation with immigration authorities on April 14, 2017, in San Francisco. AP

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, state Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez and more than a dozen elected California officials who publicly oppose the "sanctuary state" law are expected to attend a meeting in Washington today at the invitation of President Donald Trump.

A White House official said Trump and the heads of the federal departments of justice, homeland security and immigration and customs enforcement will meet with California public officials to "discuss shared efforts to end the nullification of federal law and restore community safety."

The meeting comes as California Republican officials have mobilized to persuade city councils and county boards of supervisors in GOP strongholds to move against Senate Bill 54.

Shawn Steel, a Republican National Committeeman, described a swell of California cities and counties that filed legal objections to the measure as "an organic movement" in an interview last month. "It’s not orchestrated," Steel said. "This is totally spontaneous."

Steel called himself a Republican Party activist, acting without approval from the party, and said he sends email updates to his colleagues all over the state about local votes to oppose the law. The Los Angeles Times reported that Steel and others scheduled a meeting with county-level officials to offer advice on challenging the law earlier this month.

He makes no bones about the potential benefit to GOP election efforts.

"As a Republican party activist, it’s pretty clear to me that this is the best darn issue for Republicans in many years," Steel said. "We’re having a lot of candidates who are using this issue because it’s a wildly popular issue and it’s non partisan. It gives them a sense of definition and a sense of purpose. It excites the base. It’s going to be good for the center right in California."

Michelle Steel, a member of the Orange County Board of Supervisors that took legal action against SB 54 in March and the wife of the committeeman, is among more than a dozen other local officials expected to attend the meeting. Most represent cities and counties that have voted to oppose the state law by filing amicus briefs or their own lawsuits against California. Also scheduled to attend are the sheriffs of Stanislaus and Fresno counties.

Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, declined an interview request, and her spokesman declined to answer questions on Tuesday about her participation in the meeting.

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BUDGET BATTLE: Assemblyman Jose Medina is leading a press conference to pressure Gov. Jerry Brown to cough up more money to the University of California and California State University systems. The governor unveiled a revised a 2018-19 budget plan Friday that includes a 3 percent general fund increase, or roughly $92 million each, and a one-time allocation of $100 million for deferred maintenance to the university systems. In all, UC is set to receive $3.7 billion and CSU would be allotted $3.5 billion from the general fund under Brown's budget proposal.

A bipartisan panel of lawmakers released their own plan this week to fully meet CSU's request for an additional $171 million and UC's call for another $105 million. In a letter sent Monday to Democratic state lawmakers and signed by dozens of clubs and officials within the party, California College Democrats said the university systems "will be forced to cut course offerings, programs and services" if the requests are not met. Medina's press conference begins at 10 a.m. on the West Steps of the Capitol.

HOP, SKIP AND A JUMP AWAY: The 44th annual Capitol Frog Jump returns to the East Lawn at 10 a.m. today. Participating lawmakers and legislative employees startle their amphibian friends into three consecutive jumps. The top prize is awarded to the frog that hops the longest distance. The event, hosted by Assemblyman Frank Bigelow and Sen. Tom Berryhill, promotes the Jumping Frog Jubilee at the Calaveras County Fair, which kicks off Thursday. Assemblyman Kevin Kiley's "Frog the Bounty Hunter" won the event last year, jumping more than 12 feet.

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