Christmas lasted all year long for state lawmakers.

San Diego’s 11 state lawmakers accepted more than 300 gifts last year, with a combined retail value of more than $84,000. Assemblyman Rocky Chavez topped the list of San Diego gift recipients with $19,408 in freebies – more than all four legislative leaders.

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Chavez’s biggest gift was a $12,552 trip to Chile paid for by the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy, a group that “draws money from unions and corporations,” according to the Sacramento Bee. Hey, the trip was just research. In his recent campaign announcement for U.S. Senate, the first-term Republican cited having “been around the world a few times” as part of his qualifications.

Chavez wasn’t the only traveling lawmaker in 2014. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez stayed in-state with trips to the Rose Parade, Disneyland and Universal Studios. Assemblyman Brian Jones and state Sens. Marty Block and Ben Hueso were the guests at the Independent Voter Project’s infamous conference held at Maui’s luxurious Fairmont Kea Lani Hotel. The conference, which is organized by an out-of-state pharmaceutical executive, provides lawmakers with thousands of dollars in free travel and lodging that is paid for by special interest groups that lobby Sacramento.

Congratulatory gifts stacked up in Toni Atkins’ new digs in the Speaker’s office. She accepted the most gifts, 86 items valued at $10,228, which included flowers, wine, cigars and an edible arrangement from well-wishing friends and colleagues. At the other end of the gift list, state Sen. Pat Bates reported just one gift in 2014, $248 in meals from the Barona Band of Mission Indians.

State lawmakers were subject to a $440 gift limit last year, but could exceed that limit for travel payments from a non-profit entity. Only gifts worth $50 or more are required to be disclosed. But, some lawmakers were enticed by the sweet smell of transparency. Jones, easily the most thorough member of the delegation, disclosed a $2.50 fragrance sachet from the International Fragrance Association, North America.

The top 5 local state lawmakers in order of total gift value:

  1. Assemblyman Rocky Chavez: $19,408
  2. Assemblyman Brian Jones: $12,680
  3. Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins: $10,228
  4. Sen. Marty Block: $9,271
  5. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez: $9,245

John Hrabe

Meet Gov. Faulconer, Climate Hero

Dan Walters thinks Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s recent stop in Sacramento might be a hint that he’s running for governor. Faulconer was in the Capitol to tout “his climate action plan” as a model, Walters reports.

How mad would you be if you were Todd Gloria – the person who willed the climate action plan into existence – reading that the mayor might use it to wield a moderate campaign against you?

About That Job-Killer Narrative …

Actual data keeps contradicting the popular narrative that California, with its environmental rules and business regulations, is a jobs assassin.

“New numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics tell a different story,” reports the L.A. Times. “Total jobs created in the 12 months ending Jan. 31 show California leading other states. California gained 498,000 new jobs, almost 30% more than the Lone Star State’s total of 392,900 for the same period.”

When we dug into the business climate in San Diego, Lisa Halverstadt similarly found evidence to counteract the idea that the region and the state chase companies out. When businesses do relocate away from San Diego, they often stay in the state.  We dismantled a few more myths about the local business climate here, including another big one: that companies relocating even matters.

The Oregon-ization of California

Last week we told you about some statewide efforts to boost voter turnout. Secretary of State Alex Padilla took those efforts to a new level this week. He wants to emulate Oregon’s recent move to automatically register anyone who makes contact with the state DMV. (Sacramento Bee)

Brittany Maynard, the terminally ill young woman who moved to Oregon to utilize the state’s Death With Dignity act and who died last year, spoke to California legislators this week via video testimony. Her words pack a powerful 1-2 punch: They are reasoned and fact-based, and yet incredibly stirring and emotional. (L.A. Times)

State News Hits

• Mario Koran explains a package of bills cracking down on charter schools. Surprise! Charter schools aren’t so pleased about them.

It’s the initiative heard round the world: A proposed measure to shoot gay people in California is, unsurprisingly, generating lots of outcry. Attorney General Kamala Harris is making moves to stop the measure from going forward, and Lakewood Assemblyman Anthony Rendon has proposed a bill in response that would make any petition signatories subject to the California Public Records Act. If you sign a petition for a bill to kill gay people, the thinking goes, you should at least be opening yourself up to public shame. (Guardian)

Plastic bag-makers from around the country pumped $3.1 million into the effort to delay California’s plastic bag ban. And they’re primed to spend much, much more before the 2016 election. (Reveal)

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber introduced two bills this week that would require law enforcement officials to collect racial data during traffic stops, and to report use-of-force incidents to the state Justice Department. Our 2014 investigation revealed SDPD had stopped collecting racial data, violating its own policies. The department has vowed to collect it again.

The state Assembly has passed a bill that would create a “Yellow Alert” system to help catch hit-and-run drivers by broadcasting their information on freeway signs. The bill now moves on to the Senate. As Mario Koran revealed in an investigation last year, 87 percent of drivers responsible for hit-and-run deaths and injuries in San Diego between 2009 and 2012 were never punished. (NBC San Diego)

John Hrabe is a Voice of San Diego contributor. He writes on California politics at

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