Capitol Alert

Rebuilding after fires + UC president weighs in on scandal + Election Day bill movement

State and federal governments should cooperate on fighting wildfires, says Gov. Newsom

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, that he’ll ask the Legislature to spend $105 million on containing wildfires. He also reached out to President Donald Trump on fire safety.
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Gov. Gavin Newsom said Tuesday, Jan. 8, 2019, that he’ll ask the Legislature to spend $105 million on containing wildfires. He also reached out to President Donald Trump on fire safety.

Good morning alerters! Happy Pi Day! I hope you celebrate this Thursday with a favorite slice of what I consider the best dessert in the world.

REBUILDING AFTER A FIRE

How do you begin the rebuilding process when all that’s left in fire-ravaged communities is gutted cars, charred trees and a sense of hopeless despair?

Time to go back to the city planning drawing board.

During a joint hearing between the Senate Natural Resources and Water and the Governance and Finance committees on Wednesday, fire chiefs, urban planners and local leaders testified on what they think is the best path forward in mitigating future catastrophic fires in communities that have already suffered disasters.

Their message to the California Legislature was clear: We need your help.

Local jurisdictions have the ability to administer more stringent regulations when rebuilding, but the panelists said they need the state to step more aggressively with solutions for problems that can’t be solved by code enforcement.

That strategy should include a combination of launching a major public awareness campaign and requiring better land use planning. The initiative should also include mandating cities to harden their infrastructure, upgrade emergency technology, analyze urban environments for potential hazards, meet with community members, and beef up conversations with insurance companies.

It’s a monumental task that will require putting “some money on the table,” state Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, said.

Gov. Gavin Newsom already appropriated $1 billion for wildfire cleanup over five years, millions of which will go toward local outreach and education efforts.

Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, said the money will be most effective if the state can use the appropriated funds to prod local jurisdictions to make the tough calls.

“The hitch is going to be local government has jurisdiction over land use planning. If we just keep building further and further into the mountains and rural areas, there’s no amount of money to take care of that risk,” Stern said. “They have to be going up to code. We don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past.”

AN “UNCONSCIONABLE” SCANDAL


In his letter to University of California President Janet Napolitano, Assemblyman Kevin McCarty spared no detail of his dismay over a UCLA soccer coach’s reported involvement in the admissions scandal in which wealthy people allegedly paid bribes to help their kids cheat their way to a choice college.


The Sacramento Democrat is calling for Napolitano to open an investigation into whether employees at other UC campuses also accepted bribes and urged the president to report how many students were affected.


“As a state funded post-secondary university funded by taxpayers, this is unconscionable,” McCarty wrote in his letter. “I’m confident that you are equally appalled by this developing story, and believe that a thorough investigation by your office is warranted to determine the full magnitude of this scandal.


Napolitano’s office said it would take “swift and appropriate disciplinary actions” in a statement released late Wednesday evening.


The UC president said her department has already begun the investigation process, which includes initiating a critical review of admissions policies, looking in to SAT and ACT administration protocol and communicating with U.S. attorney offices in California. Napolitano said the university is collaborating with local and federal authorities to “to unearth the full breadth and scope of this problem.”

EVICTION NOTICE

A group of assembly members is scheduled to announce legislative proposals to combat evictions and unfair rent increases at 10:30 this morning in Room 1190 at the Capitol.

The seven Democrats, Rob Bonta, Richard Bloom, Wendy Carrillo, David Chiu, Laura Friedman, Kevin McCarty and Buffy Wicks have all introduced legislation related to the housing crisis in California.

Catch up: Lawmakers are definitely taking advantage of the friendly environment Newsom’s created for the Legislature to tackle ambitious housing goals. As The Bee explained in February, Newsom wants to create more housing with state funding, $300 million of which is set aside for low-income housing developers.

Earlier this week, Newsom announced his plans to tie gas tax money to city affordable housing plans, thereby pushing local governments to get on board with his vision.

You can watch the livestream here.

ELECTION (HOLI)DAY

California voters turned out in droves during the 2016 presidential election and last November’s midterm.

Assemblyman Evan Low wants to keep the momentum going. The Campbell Democrat earned a victory for Assembly Bill 177, which would make Election Day a holiday in California, on Wednesday when it cleared the Assembly Committee on Elections and Redistricting.

“Making Election Day a holiday will ensure more people are able to participate in the electoral process by giving them the time and opportunity to vote,” Low’s office released in a statement. “This is especially important to low-income voters because it removes financial roadblocks that keep them from taking unpaid time-off to vote, and will ultimately help engage more voters.”

This is Low’s third attempt to pass the legislation. Although there’s no formal opposition on file for the proposal, the bill has historically hit roadblocks in other committees.

TWO SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT

A week after the governor signed a bill to increase transparency of charter schools, The California Charter Schools Association announced its own sponsorship of two bills today during its Stand for All Students rally at the Capitol on Wednesday.

The association is sponsoring Assembly Bill 575 and Senate Bill 614. The bills push for increased funding to help close achievement gaps for African American students and prioritize placing students with disabilities in inclusive settings.

For your radar: A “No Power, No Peace” march for Assembly Bill 392 is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. today. AB 392 would create a stricter statewide police use-of-force policy for law enforcement officers. The rally will start at Crocker Park and is scheduled to end at the Capitol.

TWEET OF THE DAY

Like father, like son.

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