Capitol Alert

What’s on tap for lawmakers? + Meet California’s first sisters in the Legislature

New California Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Beach, address the Assembly at the state Capitol on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018 in Sacramento. Norris and the rest of the Legislature was sworn in to start the two-year session.
New California Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Beach, address the Assembly at the state Capitol on Monday, Dec. 3, 2018 in Sacramento. Norris and the rest of the Legislature was sworn in to start the two-year session.

To the average onlooker, it was a simple day at the Capitol. Lawmakers got sworn-in, family members joined them for photos and then everyone left by early afternoon. But behind the scenes, it was quite an eventful day. So let’s dig in…


Lawmakers wasted no time on Monday placing their bills onto an empty desk.

Just minutes into the new legislative session, a number of plans emerged in response to gun violence, wildfires and rising housing costs. Some of the more interesting proposals include a halt to taxes on diaper purchases and an ambitious plan to achieve “complete electrification” of the transportation system by 2040.

Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, reintroduced a bill to make it easier for homeowners to build accessory dwelling units on their properties to house renters or family members. His bill died in the previous session in the state Senate.

He is also re-introducing his plan to expand the state’s gun violence restraining order law to allow schools to ask courts to take away guns from dangerous owners. Gov. Jerry Brown twice vetoed the bill, and Ting is hoping Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom will change his fortunes. “We’ve got a new governor. We’re hopeful that a new, fresh pair of eyes will take a cleaner look at it.”

Democratic state lawmakers are also introducing bills to expand health care access to undocumented immigrants, help more kids to attend preschool and make it more expensive to buy certain guns.

So what can we expect when lawmakers return in January? I spoke with several Democrats at the Capitol on Monday, many of whom placed housing costs and wildfire damage at the top of the priority list. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said he does not foresee tax increases passing in the near future.

Sophia Bollag describes one proposal about transportation…

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, is introducing a new version of his proposal to increase housing near transit after a previous version died in committee earlier this year.

Wiener’s plan would strip cities and counties of some zoning authority by setting new statewide density standards near transit and job centers. The intent is to allow higher density housing options, like apartment buildings, in those areas to ease the state’s housing crisis and help the environment.

Wiener said he’s been working with labor interests and groups that opposed the previous version of his bill because they worried it would displace people and disproportionately affect poorer areas.

He’s changed the bill this year to include more protections against displacement, including delaying implementation in some communities. He’s also adding provisions to increase zoning density near job centers as well as public transit in an effort to also target more wealthy communities.

“We’re optimistic that we’ll have a better shot this year,” Wiener said. “It’s still going to be a hard bill.”


As we mentioned yesterday, a pair of Baldwin Park Democrats made history on Monday, becoming the first sisters to serve in the California Legislature. Assemblywoman Blanca Rubio is 14 months older than her newly elected sister, Sen. Susan Rubio. The two spoke at length with The Bee about their immigrant background, legislative priorities and hostility toward President Donald Trump.

Blanca put things most bluntly: “We’re essentially Trump’s worst nightmare. We are those bad Mexicans that he talks about. We were undocumented, and then we fought hard, we got an education and now we’re sitting here.”

As for Susan, Blanca advised her to be a good listener to her colleagues and constituents.


The Latino Legislative Caucus on Monday unanimously elected Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez,D- San Diego and Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, D-Los Angeles, as chair and vice chair. This is the first time two women will lead the group.


Democratic state Sen. Ricardo Lara is giving up his seat to take over as insurance commissioner. On Monday, Lara announced who will be leading his transition team. Catalina Hayes-Bautista and Michael Martinez will be in charge of his transition. Michael Soller — Lara’s current communications director — will continue to handle media relations during the transition.

Lara will replace Dave Jones as insurance commissioner effective Jan. 7, 2019.


Barring unexpected surprises, it looks like Democrats will control the Senate and Assembly with 29-11 and 60-20 advantages, respectively. The party expanded its power in both chambers, regaining a supermajority in the Senate.

On the floor of the Assembly, I asked the state’s incoming governor — Gavin Newsom — to weigh in on whether he think Democrats have too much power. His answer: “I don’t think we have (gone too far away from the middle). There’s an enormous amount of common sense represented here in the Assembly and state Senate. … I’m more confident than some of the critics are.”


When I spoke with Orange County Registrar Neal Kelley last week, he told me the area’s 71 percent turnout among registered voters was the highest in a non-presidential year in at least four decades. He explained that he’d need to use microfiche to circle back further. True to his word, he got back to me Friday afternoon, hours before the county finished counting all of its 1.1 million ballots.

This year, Orange County saw its highest turnout in a midterm general election since 1970, when the turnout among registered voters was 76.3 percent. Kelley traced the results back to 1922. The highest turnout on record is 81 percent, which occurred in 1958.

Los Angeles County: If you’re reading this, please get back to me. Be awesome like Neal Kelley!


State Sen. Ben Allen (@BenAllenCA) — “Grateful to be able to serve as your State Senator for another four years. Even more grateful to have my son beside me today.”

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