One of the most significant pieces of legislation lawmakers and the governor agreed to last session was the so-called New Motor Voter bill, by San Diego Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. Now, when citizens sign up for a driver’s license or an identification card through the Department of Motor Vehicles, the state will automatically register them to vote.

Signature-gatherers — quickly becoming another branch of government in California and San Diego — took notice. The measure may be a boon for the industry. I got in touch with Andrew Jacobs, a professional petition-circulator and coordinator for 15 years, who told me it could be huge but eventually might be a negative for signature-gatherers who do a lot of work in California.

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Jacobs said if everyone becomes registered to vote, it will increase the validity rates on the petitions he and his counterparts gather. That is, fewer of the signatures they gather will be thrown out. Signature-gatherers will also be more productive — bagging far more per hour than they could now.

But in the long run, it could make their job harder. More registered voters might mean more voters. That is, after all, the point.

“That will cause the number of signatures to place issues on the ballot to increase,” Jacobs told me. If more people vote, the threshold for qualifying petitions will go up.

But he’s optimistic. “I think this should be a good thing overall. It is very frustrating to be out gathering signatures and encounter so many people who are not registered,” he said.

I got a little window into how it works. Do they really only get paid on valid signatures collected?

Jacobs said some campaigns only pay for valid signatures. But they have to pay a lot per signature. What usually happens, he said, is coordinators delay payments for a few days, do a sample check of the signatures a petitioner gathers and if they are above 75 percent valid, they are paid for all of them.

Signature-gathering has become a force in major land-use and development decisions in San Diego — the controversial One Paseo project is being re-worked after a successful referendum push and a Carlsbad developer tried to sidestep environmental laws and permitting processes entirely with a signature-gathering campaign. People opposed to that shopping center tried their own petition effort to force it to a ballot — it’s not clear yet whether they had enough valid signatures.

— Scott Lewis

Block: After You Spend Several Minutes Telling Voters About Atkins’ Weaknesses, I’m Ahead!

Sen. Marty Block released a, um, strange poll late last week. Rather, it wasn’t the poll itself that was strange but Block’s interpretation of what it said.

First, there was the subject line: “Poll Shows Block With Double-Digit Lead in 39th Senate Race.” The poll does not show this. In fact, it shows just the opposite: that Atkins holds a double-digit lead over Block, 40 percent to 26 percent.

Block is relying on follow-up questions that showed when presented with both pols’ bios, the gap started to close, and then, when told that Atkins supports easing CEQA requirements in order to build a new Chargers stadium, voters appeared to shift in Block’s favor.

The poll is revealing in that sense – many Democrats have complained that there’s no difference between Atkins and Block in terms of how they vote, and that the race is simply a personality content that wastes time and money. Here, Block has pulled out one issue – the Chargers stadium – on which they actually differ. Block has said he’d like to see the Qualcomm site become an annex for the San Diego State campus.

• Block elaborated on the stadium issue and his poll in a visit to the VOSD Radio podcast Friday. He called money for a new Chargers stadium “corporate welfare” that Atkins supports and he doesn’t.

He said he agrees the December fundraising deadline is very important, and he’s sure he’ll show he has enough to educate voters — which his poll makes clear he must do in order to hang in the race. Block also said he’s certain to get a funding boost from the leader of the state Senate, Kevin de León.

Atkins Gets a C+

The L.A. Times has taken stock of Assemblywoman Toni Atkins’ reign as speaker, and has given her a C+. They applaud her work getting a strong but frugal budget passed, particularly the inclusion of an earned income tax credit.

But the Times ultimately concludes that Atkins gave too much autonomy to lawmakers, and didn’t flex enough muscle when it counted — both on her own measures (her big affordable housing measure stalled) and big bills written by other members. “We were disappointed that she couldn’t find a compromise on the crucial petroleum piece” of the big climate change legislation, SB 350, the Times writes.

The Lowdown on Brown

The latest Field Poll has voters weigh in on Gov. Jerry Brown. Their view: They love the gov – they just don’t want him to run for president.

Meanwhile, journalists are reading the tea leaves of Brown’s last-minute moves this past week. The L.A. Times says they offer a clear glimpse at his priorities for the rest of his tenure:

Sprinkled throughout his signing statements and veto messages were clear indications of his next priorities. Brown emphasized his wish to find firmer financial footing for public healthcare; ease voter-approved restrictions on the cost of water in the face of an unrelenting drought; and begin a wide-ranging examination of the state’s criminal justice system.

And John Meyer believes the takeaway from Brown’s vetoes is that he’s pissed about the failure of the special sessions. (KQED)

The Sac Bee editorial board has a pretty rosy view of the Legislature and Brown’s accomplishments:

Centrist though Brown’s politics may seem from California’s blue-state standpoint, they no doubt strike much of the rest of the country as alarmingly progressive. All the more reason for the rest of the country to take note of the momentum here.

Power abhors a vacuum, and that’s what’s the federal government’s paralysis has created. Left to its own devices, California is filling that vacuum, one big, national issue at a time.

The Final Bill Batch

Gov. Jerry Brown finished his big signing and vetoing spree this weekend, putting a bookend on the legislative session.

Brown signed a big batch of bills related to voting, most notably the New Motor Voter bill, but also Gonzalez’s AB 547, expanding a San Diego pilot program that uses all mail ballots for special elections, and Sen. Marty Block’s SB 589, which protects the voting rights of people living under a conservatorship.

Brown also signed:

• Bills by Assemblyman Brian Maienschein that make online government records more easily accessible, and clarify rules for limited liability companies;

• A bill by Block that adds rules for commercial loan referrals; and

• A bill by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber that boosts educational support for students in foster care.

Among Brown’s vetoes:

• A bill by Assemblywoman Marie Waldron that would have granted Medi-Cal patients an urgent appeal when certain epilepsy drugs are denied;

• Two bills by Maienschein that addressed care for care for the mentally ill and those under conservatorship; and

• A bill by Weber would have required state college administrators to submit a report on campus climate every two years.

First Come the Laws, Then Comes Reaction

Now that we know which laws will be on the books, the rest of the country is getting down to Monday (and Tuesday, and Wednesday …) morning quarterbacking certain measures. A sampling:

• Under the Fair Pay Act, a Harvard economist says that women will now know that “when you walk into your supervisor’s office, your boss’ office, you have the state of California behind you.” (Fortune)

 Crisis pregnancy centers are suing for the right to keep misleading patients, after Brown signed a law that requires them to disclose information about abortion service providers. There is some legal precedent that might back the centers up. (Los Angeles Times/Slate)

• The legal wizards at Above the Law say the new package of bills regulating the medical marijuana industry “mean that California will be entering a new era where the Department of Justice (hopefully) finally cools its heels in the Golden State.”

• If you thought Old People Annoyed at Youngs on Skateboards was bad, wait until you see Old People Annoyed at Youngs on Hoverboards, which are now legal in California. (The Next Web)

Golden State News

• Oceanside Assemblyman Rocky Chavez raised about $93,000 for his Senate bid, the L.A. Times reported – basically peanuts for such a high-profile race. Chavez was ready with a positive spin on the sum, though: “Politics isn’t all about money, and it shouldn’t be. We’ve seen time and time again Republican candidates in California raise and spend astronomical sums of money, only to lose by double digits.”

• This New York Times piece offers a look at how teaching affirmative consent to California teenagers actually works.

• Attorney General Kamala Harris announced a new program this week to combat revenge porn. (Disclosure: My husband works for the attorney general’s office.) (Buzzfeed)

 California’s future is filled with photogenic, male mayors: former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and former San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, currently the lieutenant governor, lead an early poll for the 2018 governor’s race. L.A. Mayor Eric Garcetti is close behind. San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer is the top-ranking Republican. (Sacramento Bee)

Sara Libby

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

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