Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

Does bail belong in the Constitution? + Return of the soda tax + Lunch is on Uber

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, left, and Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, celebrate Monday after the bill they co-authored to end cash bail was approved by the Assembly.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda, left, and Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, celebrate Monday after the bill they co-authored to end cash bail was approved by the Assembly. AP

It’s Thursday, California! Enjoy your weekend, get outside, drink some water and wear sunscreen.


Nearly a year after former Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that eliminated cash bail in California, the industry is pushing back with a ballot initiative to codify bail in the state constitution.

The initiative was submitted to the attorney general’s office on July 16 by Thomas W. Hiltachk, a political and election attorney and former legal counsel to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

According to his firm bio, Hiltachk has represented ballot measure committees on tax policy, the environment, education and criminal justice reform.

Back it up — The new law to overhaul cash bail was scheduled to take effect in October of this year, but is now in limbo after hitting a snag in January.

California voters will instead vote on the law in the November 2020 elections, after more than 400,000 signatures were collected to put the referendum on the ballot.

If passed, the new ballot initiative would give the bail industry even greater protection against the Legislature.

In his filing, Hiltachk wrote that the bail system creates a “strong financial incentive for a person charged with a crime to show up to court.”

“The proper use of bail schedules, set by the superior courts in each county,” Hiltachk wrote, “helps to relieve jail overcrowding, save taxpayers money, and assist the courts in reducing the number of pre-trial hearings so that those who cannot afford bail can secure expedited hearings to obtain their release more quickly. Yet, the peoples’ access to bail is threatened by the Legislature and the courts.”


A group of public health experts, medical professionals and lawmakers announced on Wednesday that they are “laser focused” on making sure that a law is passed — via the Legislature or a ballot measure — to reduce sugary drink consumption in California.

To do so, the coalition is touting a $0.02 per ounce sugary drink tax, with plans for 50 percent of that revenue going toward investments in “more equitable outcomes” for low-income families and kids and communities of color.

The group said the campaign’s goals are to increase local decisions over soda tax funds and to promote greater “truth in advertising.”

Haven’t we been here before? Yes, yes we have.

June 2018 — California bans local soda taxes through 2030 to avert industry-backed initiative

April 2019 California soda tax proposal shelved while lawmaker vows to try again next year

“We have large majorities in both state houses and a progressive governor,” said Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica, who has attempted soda tax legislation on more than one occasion. “If we mean what we say about public health, there’s no way we can’t win this fight. It’s just a matter of making sure everyone knows the truth about Big Soda.”

The American Beverage Association is already prepping for battle.

“Californians and the lawmakers that represent them carefully considered these bills and decided against them this year because they are an unfair burden on working families and neighborhood businesses already struggling with the state’s high cost of living,” said Steven Maviglio, spokesperson for the association. “Beverage companies continue to be committed to working with the legislature on effective ways to address its budgetary and public health concerns and to ensure that food and beverages remain affordable in California.”


Ahead of a hearing in the Senate Committee on Labor, Public Employment and Retirement, Uber and Lyft drivers from across the state flocked to the Capitol in protest of Assembly Bill 5.

The legislation, written by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego, would codify a California Supreme Court decision that reclassifies independent contractors as employees, in most cases.

Some drivers have argued the proposal would affect their flexible schedules and would force them into an employment status they don’t want.

But behind the scenes, as reported by The Los Angeles Times on Monday, the ridesharing companies promised to pay drivers to help fight against the bill.

The coalition spearheading the opposition, I’m Independent, confirmed that they paid gig workers up to $100 to organize against the measure. Uber offered a $15 lunch voucher for their drivers and Lyft offered $25 for parking.

On the other side of things, the California Labor Federation, a union coalition backing the bill, served breakfast and lunch to AB 5 organizers, and helped coordinate transportation to the Capitol.

The legislation faces a Senate Appropriations vote once the Legislature reconvenes.


Lots of cake to be had this weekend!

July 19 — Assemblyman Chris Holden, D-Pasadena

July 19 — Assemblyman Heath Flora, R-Ripon

July 20 — Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove, D-Los Angeles

July 21 — Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg

July 22 — Assemblyman Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals


Best of The Bee:

Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.