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State regulators are taking action on one of the craft beer industry’s biggest gripes.

For years, small breweries have complained about anti-competitive and illegal practices they’ve said are common among the big distribution companies that sell brands like Budweiser, Coors and Miller.

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Generally, the long-alleged pay-to-play tactics include paying bars, restaurants or retailers to carry a specific brand of beer, and not its competitors. That could include paying for a bar’s new draft system –  if the bar ensures that draft system is always stocked with one company’s offerings, or offering a free keg of one brand to make sure its closest competitor isn’t on tap right next to it.

Last week, the state’s Alcohol and Beverage Control division issued one of its largest ever punishments against companies doing that.

If the punishment signals what’s to come, it could give a boost to a San Diego craft beer industry that’s growing into an influential player.

The agency that issues and enforces liquor licenses across California reached a settlement with Anheuser-Busch – makers of brands like Bud Light, Shock Top and Goose Island – for $400,000, and a distributor called Straub Distributing Company for $10,000.

The ABC said the wholesalers were covering all or part of the cost of refrigeration units, TV sets and draft systems for bars and restaurants in exchange for carrying their products. Thirty-four retailers in Los Angeles, Riverside and Orange counties were also punished by the ABC, after a year-long investigation into over 100 establishments.

John Carr, a spokesman for the ABC, said the agency isn’t necessarily planning to ramp up enforcement on these types of practices, but that it will be a part of the agency’s overall regulatory enforcement.

“What we always expect is compliance,” he said. “These trade practice laws were put in place to ensure there’s a healthy, safe and fair marketplace for ABC licensees to compete in.”

Increased enforcement has been a persistent lobbying request in Sacramento by the California Craft Brewers Association.

Jill Davidson, president of the San Diego Brewers Guild and western regional sales manager for Pizza Port, said the enforcement was a result of years of effort, as the guild pushed for things like an anonymous forum for people to report shady tactics.

“I would anticipate this to continue for a while,” she said. “It’s something that needs to happen in San Diego County. It’s great that it happened in Southern California, but these are business practices that are so deeply embedded in these organizations, that it’s a hard thing to overhaul. The hope is they straighten out, but we probably need to see more people made an example of before it stops being a common practice.”

– Andrew Keatts

Atkins Backs Parks Bond; Voepel Says This Isn’t One

Lawmakers are taking another stab at a $3.5 billion bond for a host of outdoor projects, including creating and maintaining parkland.

The Senate version of the bill would allow the state to borrow hundreds of millions for competitive grants to create parks in poor neighborhoods. It also has $13 million already set aside specifically for the San Diego River Park Conservancy, a local nonprofit that creates recreational space along the river.

During a hearing on the bill this week, Sen. Toni Atkins said the numbers will keep changing as the bill winds its way through the Legislature, but that the money is important for the region.

“Seven to eight miles from the ocean, some of those kids in those communities have never seen the ocean, and yet they see the urban canyons and the watershed,” Atkins said.

The bill, SB 5, is another stab at a “parks bond.” A similar bill failed last year. In a column, Assemblyman Randy Voepel said the “parks bond” name is a misnomer, since lots of money in the bond wouldn’t  go to parks.

Its official title is the California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access For All Act of 2018.

The bill also has $40 million to help save the dying Salton Sea in Imperial County, which is also a key concern for San Diego water officials. San Diego gets about 20 percent of its water from Imperial. Without a healthy Salton Sea, the deal to get that water could eventually fall apart. The restoration of the sea is estimated to cost billions of dollars, though.

“It’s going to take a lot over time, and we’ve got to chip away at that and continue, because we are way behind the eight ball on the environmental impacts that are happening there,” Atkins said.

If the bill became law, Californians would vote on the bond measure in June 2018.

Ry Rivard

Numbers Reveal Just How Minuscule Voter Fraud Is

CalMatters dug deep into the secretary of state’s voter fraud cases and found the problem – alleged by President Donald Trump to be in the millions of cases in California – is virtually nonexistent.

“Together, the cases the Secretary of State is investigating and those it referred to counties amount to one one-thousandth of one percent (0.001%) of the more than 23 million votes cast in California’s primary and general elections last year,” writes Laurel Rosenhall.

Not only does that not jibe with the president’s statements, it contradicts what some local officials have said, too.

State Sen. Joel Anderson recently suggested on Fox News that illegal immigrants were engaging in identity theft in order to vote illegally.

But Anderson told CalMatters he was delighted that the numbers proved him wrong:

“If those are the numbers and those hold true, that’s a phenomenal job. We should hold up those numbers to 49 other states,” he said.

Another San Diego-area lawmaker, Assemblywoman Marie Waldron, has a bill this session called the Voter Integrity Protection Act, aimed at solving a problem the numbers show isn’t much of a problem.

It would require county officials to send voters a notice by mail or text any time their information has been updated online – that way if someone updates a voter’s registration fraudulently, he or she will know about it. Because it would impose a new cost on the counties, the state would be required to pick up the tab.

Meanwhile, a bill from Assemblyman Evan Low would allow 17-year-olds to vote in state and local elections. Last year, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher wrote a bill that would let 16- and 17-year-olds vote in school board and community college board races, but it died in committee.

– Sara Libby

Golden State News

The Schwarzenegger for Senate rumors have begun. (Politico) And already faced a backlash.

Census data shows that poorer people are moving out of California (often to Texas) and the rich are moving in. (Sacramento Bee)

If California wants to meet its climate goals, cities will have to get much denser – quickly. (L.A. Times)

The University of California has proposed capping out-of-state students at 20 percent of the student population. (Wall Street Journal)

In Southern California, criminals with money can do their time at private facilities with far more amenities than regular jails, creating a “two-tiered justice system that allows people convicted of serious crimes to buy their way into safer and more comfortable jail stays.” (Marshall Project)

Sen. Kamala Harris and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti made the invite list for an event considered to be a gathering of the biggest emerging leaders in the Democratic Party post-Trump. (Politico)

President Donald Trump’s travel ban and immigration crackdown could cost California billions in tourism dollars, according to a new report. (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

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