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Most political watchers keep a close eye on campaign contributions – they can give a window into a candidate’s viability (lots of money alone can’t win an election, but no money can lose one), and they indicate who’s trying to curry favor with certain politicians. A KQED report this week found California legislators raise an astonishing $1,000-plus a day.

But few people keep tabs on so-called behested payments – something a little different from a direct contribution to a candidate or cause. In a new Voice of San Diego story, John Hrabe ran the numbers and found state politicians have reported $33.7 million in these payouts over the last 18 months.

“Where traditional campaign contributions are pretty direct – Person A gives money to Politician B – behested payments are more roundabout – Person A gives money to Group C, to curry favor or goodwill with Politician B,” Hrabe writes.

Politicians have to disclose behested payments that are over $5,000. One San Diego pol stands high atop the pack on these payments.

“Republican Assemblyman Brian Maienschein has reported $9.6 million in behested payments so far this year … To put that number into perspective, state constitutional officers, state senators, Assembly members and members of the PUC reported $8.8 million in combined behested payments for all of last year.”

Maienschein says us he’s proud of the money he’s brought to various companies and causes. “The more state funding I can help bring to San Diego, rather than Los Angeles, San Francisco or other cities in the state, the better the quality of life will be for the residents of my district,” he told Hrabe.

The West Coast Can Do Health Care News, Too

On the same day the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act for a second time, California made some big health news of its own when the Assembly passed an explosive measure that will require schoolchildren to be vaccinated, killing off the “personal belief” exemption that allowed parents to skip vaccinations without a medical reason.

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez is principal coauthor of the bill, and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber spoke out in favor of the measure:

Asmb Shirley Weber (D-SanDiego) supports #SB277 .. Remembers world prior to vaccines. Iron Lungs, TB, polio .. @KMJNOW

— blake taylor (@kmjblake) June 25, 2015

When polio #vaccine introduced “I don’t even know if they asked my momma for permission” sez @DrShirleyWeber

— Jeremy B. White (@CapitolAlert) June 25, 2015

Earlier this month, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez and Sen. Joel Anderson spoke out against the bill at a rally in Oceanside.

‘California Does Not Count’

Couldn’t help but include this gem of a quote from Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissent in the same-sex marriage case released Friday. He argues that the nine justices on the Supreme Court don’t represent real America (emphasis mine): 

“Four of the nine are natives of New York City. Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States. Only one hails from the vast expanse in-between. Not a single Southwesterner or even, to tell the truth, a genuine Westerner (California does not count).”

Art Imitates Life, or Something

We’ve known for a while now that the plot of season two of “True Detective” would involve the construction of a high-speed rail line linking NorCal and SoCal. But on Sunday, we finally got to see what that looked like.

Unsurprisingly, some shady characters like Vince Vaughn see an opportunity to line their own pockets. And plenty of critics of the actual high-speed rail line are pretty gleeful about a fictional depiction of something they think is also happening in real life.

.@drolland I love that American pop culture depicts CA bullet train with this angle. It matters. Couldn’t happen to more deserving target.

— Chris Reed (@chrisreed99) June 22, 2015

The AP takes a look at the real-life high-speed rail project and finds there are less-sexy problems than Vince Vaughn’s interference: “the state’s long-term financing plan relies heavily on federal money that is unlikely to materialize in a Republican-controlled Congress.”

Taking Offense

If there was a theme to news this week, it might’ve been offensiveness.

Offensive symbols and actions have dominated the national conversation as the debate over the Confederate flag reached a fever pitch. But as faraway as that seems, California and San Diego worked themselves into the debate in a few ways.

First, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez took a stand against something many folks were surprised to learn even existed – a local elementary school named after Robert E. Lee (who, KPBS hilariously notes, “left a mixed legacy on race and slavery”). Gonzalez is calling for the school to be renamed.

And though the Confederate flag isn’t much of an issue in California, one journalist makes the case in the Los Angeles Times that the California state flag is itself outdated and offensive. It’s “a symbol of blatant illegality and racial prejudice,” writes Alex Abella.

One Washington Post columnist took things even further and managed to find fault with all 50 state flags – though her quibble with California’s is pretty minor and she rightly gives it credit “for containing a bear.”

Then there’s another item that we can hopefully all agree is hateful and deserves to get shown the door – a proposed “Sodomite Suppression Act” that sought to legalize the killing of gay people. A judge, at least, agreed it was “patently unconstitutional” and gave Attorney General Kamala Harris the green light to kill it.

Assembly Speaker Toni Atkins is glad that’s over: “The court has brought an appropriate end to this disturbing episode,” she said in a statement. “LGBT Californians shouldn’t be threatened and our initiative process shouldn’t be hijacked. Let’s hope it’s the last time our system is abused to promote the political equivalent of toxic waste.”

Golden State News

• An Orange County teacher is the lead plaintiff in a group asking the U.S. Supreme Court to stop unions that represent government employees from collecting fees from workers who choose not to join, reports the Associated Press.

• A bill from Assemblyman Brian Maienschein that’s sponsored by USD’s Children’s Advocacy Institute passed both houses and is headed to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk. The bill requires courts to notify children in juvenile dependency hearings that they have the right to speak up.

• Calendars from disgraced lawmakers Ron Calderon and Leland Yee seem to confirm the two “met with undercover FBI agents at steakhouses and a lobbyist’s office,” reports the Associated Press.

• A bill by San Diego Assemblywoman Shirley Weber moving through the Legislature would require public hearings before a school accepts military gear. For background, check out this great Mario Koran explainer of San Diego Unified’s MRAP debacle.

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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