Capitol Alert

Five Capitol fights for August + saving local journalism + hitting energy goals


The Legislature is back from recess today. Time to pack up your flip-flops and focus on lawmaking battles that are brewing:

Audit the DMV?

DMV wait times are on the rise, up 46 percent statewide and 60 percent in Sacramento County offices. Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, will present an audit request on Wednesday at the Joint Legislative Audit Committee. Some members think it could take too long and that a quick budgetary solution could be better. Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, has gone so far as to suggest that we could “throw more money at the problem.”

Body cam bill

Ting is working to pass a bill requiring that law enforcement agencies disclose body camera footage within 45 days, unless they provide a compelling reason for an added 15-day extension. The bill could face a tough road ahead with police groups opposed.

Who’s an employee?

A California Supreme Court ruling this spring, known as Dynamex, upended how the state determines who is an employee and who is an independent contractor. Business groups are lobbying the Legislature to suspend the decision. Unions are pushing back.

Policing the police

The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California launched a campaign last week to support Assembly Bill 931 — a measure that limits a police officer’s use of deadly force to situations where it is necessary to prevent “imminent death or serious bodily injury to the officer or to another person.”

The ACLU is pouring money into advertising this week to express support for the bill. The organization already launched a website and posted a video on Twitter urging people to demand senators pass it when they return.

Wildfire liability

Gov. Jerry Brown wrote a letter to legislators, calling for a plan that would lower PG&E’s liability for wildfire damages. PG&E, which is spending heavily on lobbying, says it can’t afford the costs of intense wildfires, which it claims are fueled by climate change.

For months, the company has been asking the Legislature to do away with the “strict liability” standard and absolve utilities of financial responsibility for fire damages if they didn’t do anything wrong to cause the blaze. More drama between PG&E and policymakers lies ahead.


We don’t blame you. The Legislature was on break, and you may have missed some headlines. Here’s a quick catch-up:

California lawmaker reprimanded for sexual ‘locker room talk’ about his colleagues // Alexei Koseff

Drivers are fed up with the DMV. So are California lawmakers. // Bryan Anderson

Jerry Brown’s plan lowers PG&E’s liability for wildfire damages // Taryn Luna

Needles, feces still litter San Francisco. Could a Governor Gavin Newsom fix it? // Angela Hart


Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-San Rafael, is floating an idea he says will support local journalism — next year.

He wants to provide newspapers with tariff relief and protect journalists by instituting freezes on newsroom layoffs before the sale or purchase of a news outlet. He said taxpayers would have little or no financial burden to pay for the plan. He noted that the Trump administration’s decision to impose tariffs on Canadian paper has forced newsprint costs to rise as much as 30 percent.

Beyond that, Levine was short on specifics, explaining that he wants to meet with media companies and industry groups over the next few months before formally introducing a bill next year.

“You don’t always get all the stories you want, right?” Levine said of the relationship between the government and the media. “But it’s nonetheless a necessary part of a democratic society, and we are all so much better for it. Our democracy thrives on the free press.”


Anti-vaccine activists are protesting at 8 a.m. today on the west steps of the Capitol. Eric Frame, an independent candidate running against Democratic incumbent Richard Pan, plans to speak. Pan recently was sued by anti-vaccine activists he blocked on Twitter.

Frame criticized Pan in a statement, accusing him of “blocking citizens from their right to free speech on a public forum.” Frame also said he will run “the most transparent candidacy of all time.” Pan beat Frame in the primary by 53 percentage points.

“The event is being organized by several concerned mothers, many of whom have vaccine-injured children,” Frame said. “I am not sure how many people will attend. I am for informed consent (on vaccinations).”


FiscalNote, a D.C. tech startup, released its annual list of the 10 most productive state senators. State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, ranked fifth on the list. Since taking office, Hill has sponsored 232 bills with a 61 percent passage rate, the company said. Last year, The Bee reported Hill had more bills signed into law than any other member of the Legislature.


A report from the California Energy Commission shows the state is on pace to meet — and likely exceed — its goals to shift toward more renewable sources. In 2017, 32 percent of electricity came from renewable sources. The commission’s goal is 33 percent by 2020.


President Donald Trump (@realDonaldTrump) — “California wildfires are being magnified & made so much worse by the bad environmental laws which aren’t allowing massive amount of readily available water to be properly utilized. It is being diverted into the Pacific Ocean. Must also tree clear to stop fire spreading!”


California schools aren’t exactly leading the nation. What should we do about it? Influencers have plenty to say.

“Beyond the presence of caring and engaged parent(s) at home, the single greatest indicator of a student’s success is a high quality and qualified teacher in the classroom. California must double-down on its commitment to public school teachers. In high-cost California, supporting teachers must include sufficient compensation that sends a message of the vital role teachers play, but must also include a school environment that helps teachers and their students — thrive. Concurrently, teachers are like all professionals — accountable for their actions that drive results in the classroom. When we put our kids first, which includes teachers that are valued, appreciated, and accountable, results will follow.”

Carl Guardino, President and CEO of Silicon Valley Leadership Group

MUST-READ: ‘No one expected a fire tornado.’ Jerry Brown says wildfires are going to get expensive.


Assemblymen Phillip Chen and Matthew Harper say some people are waiting as long as eight hours in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles. To hold the DMV accountable, they are calling on the Legislature to audit the agency.

The Bee’s Editorial Board thinks something has gone badly wrong at DMV, where wait times have increased dramatically. An audit would be a good start to find out why. The Joint Legislative Audit Committee should approve the request when it meets Wednesday.


Jack Ohman spins conspiracy theories with Rep. Devin Nunes.