This is exactly what Toni Atkins didn’t want to happen.
At a caucus meeting Thursday afternoon, Assembly Democrats unanimously voted to replace Atkins as speaker with Assemblyman Anthony Rendon, who represents Lakewood, near Los Angeles. Rendon will take over in January.
“With the crush of business facing us in the coming final week of the legislative session, I decided it’s time to end all the suspense and speculation so we can focus our undivided attention on the critical issues before us,” Atkins said in a statement after the vote. “The Caucus has made an excellent choice, and I’m delighted to see everyone uniting behind Assemblymember Rendon. I know he will find the job as rewarding and challenging as I do.”
Less than a week earlier, though, Atkins was maneuvering to prevent precisely this scenario from taking place — she’d circulated a letter to fellow Dems asking them to hold off on voting for a replacement until January.
Atkins’ future beyond her tenure as speaker has been the subject of lots of whispers lately. CityBeat has a rundown of the latest rumors that Atkins plans to challenge state Sen. Marty Block next year. In that piece, local labor leader Mickey Kasparian is quoted as hoping an Atkins-Block, Dem-on-Dem bloodbath doesn’t take place: “We don’t need that shit.”
Kasparian also hasn’t had the kindest words for Atkins lately. He was upset that she didn’t work harder for a larger statewide minimum wage increase, saying this in a Facebook post to friends:
Couldn’t be more DISAPPOINTED that SB3 Authored by Senator Leno. The bill to increase the California State Minimum Wage to $13 in 2017 and indexed for inflation in 2019 was KILLED today by the Appropriations Committee in our State Assembly. 65% of Californians approve that the minimum wage be raised to $15 an hour. This was all on the watch of our Speaker of the Assembly, Toni Atkins. When you’re in a position of power, you’re supposed to be standing up for workers.
• Assembly Republicans tapped Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley as their next leader earlier this week. Assemblywoman Kristin Olsen will stay in charge until the end of the session. (Sac Bee)
Atkins’ Role in the Stadium Process Wasn’t That Big After All
Back in July, Speaker Toni Atkins pledged she’d use all her powers to help the city of San Diego with its plans for a new Chargers stadium. Mayor Kevin Faulconer and his two stadium amigos – City Attorney Jan Goldsmith and County Supervisor Ron Roberts – touted Atkins’ help as a major new development.
Now that the city has formally applied for state assistance for a new stadium, what did Atkins actually do?
Not much, it turns out.
“I believe her role is simply to help ensure that the city’s application is in tip-top shape,” her spokesman Dave Rolland said.
It didn’t used to be this way. Other major sports projects, like moribund stadium efforts in Los Angeles and the city of Industry, needed special legislation to get the same deal San Diego is applying for now. In essence, the state allowed these proposals to get a speedy review in the court system for CEQA lawsuits filed against them. This is a major advantage because environmental lawsuits could take years to wind their way through the courts and appeals process, making it difficult if not impossible to start construction. If special rules applied, the court effort would go much quicker.
In 2011, the state created a process for projects to get this expedited CEQA review without a special law. Now, the governor determines whether a project meets certain job-creation and clean-energy requirements, and then he’s allowed to sign off on the expedited review. The city says the stadium project checks off all the boxes and is promising to buy carbon credits to meet environmental goals.
So, in short, Atkins didn’t need to use her powers as speaker to do anything, other than give the plan a thumbs-up. The governor is expected to make his decision on the stadium project after a public comment period closes at the end of this month.
– Liam Dillon
Lawmakers Make New Laws
Sen. Ben Hueso scored a nice little hat trick on Tuesday, when Gov. Jerry Brown signed three of his measures into law, including one that could give a huge boost to cities with sagging voter turnout.
SB 415 forces local governments with sagging voter turnout to consolidate their races with statewide elections. It will impact cities where turnout has been 25 percent less than the average for that city in the past four statewide general elections.
“While this won’t have as broad an impact as reforms like motor voter, I think it will have a more profound impact on the cities that fall under the bill’s scope. Consolidated elections are likely to change not only the size but the shape of their electorates, making them significantly more representative,” Thad Kousser, a political science professor at UCSD, told me in an email.
The other Hueso measures signed into law allow the state to sell off two parcels of land – one in Fresno County and one in Shasta County – and another that addresses fees charged by the Public Utilities Commission.
Other bills from local legislators made it to the governor’s desk this week, where they’re awaiting Brown’s signature or veto (Warning: Things are moving fast in Sacramento this week, so this list might be incomplete):
• A bill from Assemblyman Brian Maienschein would require governments that voluntarily post data online to do so in a format that’s accessible and searchable.
• Bills from Speaker Toni Atkins would use Prop. 47 savings for programs aimed at reducing recidivism, clarify processes for Enhanced Infrastructure Financing Districts, make the San Diego River Conservancy permanent and help small businesses use R&D tax credits.
• A bill from Sen. Marty Block would protect the voting rights of people under a conservatorship.
Last-Minute Pushes for the Big Bills Still on the Table
Police Racial Profiling Bill
A sizable group of supporters rallied outside Gov. Jerry Brown’s office Wednesday urging him to pass Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s AB 953, which require police to keep data on who they stop and why in order to guard against racial profiling. Speaker Toni Atkins was there, and said on Twitter that she supports the measure.
The gold standard for collecting such data has been San Jose – and that system was created by William Lansdowne, who went on to become San Diego’s police chief and instituted a similar system here. The problem: Officers eventually stopped using it, until our investigation revealed that fact, and the department vowed to collect it again.
Police here used to insist that they don’t hear complaints about racial profiling and still tell citizens who attend their training sessions why they’re wrong to believe racial profiling exists. A San Diego State professor is trying out a new method locally to gauge whether police engage in racial profiling.
San Jose seems to think its system deserves to be tried out statewide. From a Mercury-News editorial this week:
In communities wracked by racial and ethnic divisions, no facts could be worse than imagined outrages that become real in people’s minds. When civilians and police can look at a set of numbers everybody agrees is accurate, the conversation is very different and solutions become possible.
The bill will be heard on the Senate floor next week.
Another San Diego-area legislator is concerned about law enforcement and data, and he got some back-up this week from the L.A. Times editorial board.
The Times urges lawmakers to pass SB 179, co-written by Sens. Mark Leno and Joel Anderson.
The bill would “require state and local law enforcement agencies to obtain warrants before hoovering up a person’s emails and text messages, as well as location information and other digital ‘metadata,’” the Times writes. “These safeguards are overdue in an increasingly interconnected world, as broadband providers and online services become repositories for an enormous amount of data about their customers.”
Aid in Dying
Assemblyman Brian Maienschein became one of the first Republicans to support the aid-in-dying bill – which found new life in the health-focused special session. He and Republican Assemblywoman Catharine Baker were the only two Republicans on a special health committee to vote for the bill.
More Transportation Funding
The biggest ticket item remaining on legislators’ agenda is a potential major new funding plan for road and other infrastructure repairs. On Thursday, Gov. Jerry Brown backed an proposal that would include a $65 annual vehicle fee and a statewide vote in 2016 to enshrine certain changes in the state constitution. The plan would need some Republican support and GOP legislators are balking. (KQED)
Cheers to a Solution?
Last week I described how those who provide services for the developmentally disabled are getting desperate to see more funding. A new proposal put forward this week would help fund those services by taxing cocktails.
“Taxing food and drink to create positive changes in the community is not a new concept,” writes Eater. “In March, the Navajo Nation added a two percent sales tax to all junk food items such as chips, soda, and candy. The estimated $1 million revenue from the tax will go towards building parks, wellness centers, basketball courts, trails, swimming pools, and creating health education classes in the community.”
Golden State News
• California will drastically cut back its use of solitary confinement, thanks to a settlement brokered this week. (New York Times)
• California doesn’t get a lot of hurricanes, but the Golden State’s version of Katrina is coming, says Wired. CityLab follows up: “measured in terms of possible loss of life and property, the risks surrounding the city of Sacramento are what are most alarming.”
• The fate of historic climate change legislation being championed by Gov. Jerry Brown rests not on Republicans but on moderate Dems. (L.A. Times)
• Powersearch, the new tool for looking up campaign donations in statewide races and ballot measures, is real and it’s spectacular.
A Bolo to Make Philip Rivers Proud
Amid the rush of getting everything done by the end of the session next week, Assemblyman Rocky Chavez took some time to support a resolution recognizing July 28 as National Day of the Cowboy:
— Chris Tapio (@ctapio) September 3, 2015
Correction: This post originally misidentified the community represented by Assemblyman Anthony Rendon.