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California has been clear in its rejection of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric on undocumented immigrants and the border wall, but the state also stands to lose a lot if the U.S. pulls out of the North American Free Trade Agreement – another Trump campaign promise.

San Diego Sen. Ben Hueso held an informational hearing Tuesday on California-Mexico relations, focusing on NAFTA and trade. Speaker after speaker reinforced how much of Californians’ economy is tied to Mexico.

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“There’s been lots of rhetoric in the community out there in which people have begun to question the efficacy or the effectiveness of NAFTA to the U.S. and in particular, we’re concerned with the California economy,” said Hueso at the hearing.

Mexico is California’s largest export market. In 2016, trade between California and Mexico surpassed $71 billion. Upwards of 600,000 jobs in California are dependent on free trade with Mexico – the highest number of any state in the U.S.

San Diego came up several times during the hearing. The second-largest export product from California to Mexico is solar turbines – an industry concentrated in Southern California, according to data presented by Paola Avila, vice president of binational international business affairs at the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce.

Avila said Taylor Guitars, a San Diego company, started a new brand of lower-end guitars that could be produced more cheaply in Tecate after NAFTA. The new product helped the company expand and created jobs in Mexico and California, she said.

“We’re not trading with Mexico, we’re producing together,” Avila said.

Sid Voorakkara, deputy director of external affairs for the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, cited a Mexican tire recycling company his office recently helped to expand into Vista, where it plans to initially provide 30 local jobs and hopefully more as the enterprise expands.

Hueso and others highlighted some of the innovative border infrastructure in the San Diego region, like the Cross Border Xpress that connects San Diego to the Tijuana airport and the Otay II Port of Entry, a new planned toll border crossing east of the existing Otay Port of Entry that is expected to be built in the next several years.

“I think the political will exists in California,” said Hueso. “Californians support Mexico, the Legislature supports Mexico. We want to improve our state as much as we want Mexico to improve their communities as well. I don’t believe it’s a zero-sum game. The evidence suggests that working together, we can create products together, we can create jobs together.”

Maya Srikrishnan

Bills Moving Forward

The state Senate unanimously passed Sen. Toni Atkins’ SB 230, which would allow prosecutors to introduce character evidence in sex trafficking, pimping and pandering cases.

Last week, San Diego Chief Deputy DA Summer Stephan, who is running for DA, testified in favor of the bill.

The bill “would allow victims who are able to escape and become survivors of this horrific form of sex trafficking exploitation to help support the current victims who are not yet strong enough to testify, and are still trapped in the cycle of abuse and manipulation,” Stephan said at an Assembly hearing.

•  The Senate also passed a bipartisan bill from Atkins and Sen. Pat Bates that would lower the costs of building medical facilities to treat veterans with brain injuries and PTSD.

• A bill co-written by Assemblymen Todd Gloria, Richard Bloom and David Chiu letting local governments resume the use of inclusionary housing policies passed the Assembly.

•  The Assembly passed a resolution by Assemblywoman Shirley Weber emphasizing the importance of ethnic studies courses in K-12 education and urging schools to work those courses into graduation requirements.

• A bill by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher that requires expanded notifications for parents of English-learners passed the Assembly.

Voepel Fired Up Over UC Audit

Assemblyman Randy Voepel was outspoken this week about the explosive audit that found University of California administrators hid $175 million in a secret fund.

Voepel was among a handful of GOP lawmakers who requested an independent investigation, and subpoenas for documents and invoices related to the fund.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported Thursday that on top of the secret fund, UC President Janet Napolitano likely interfered with campuses’ compliance with the audit, and appears to have lied about it to lawmakers.

Voepel wrote an op-ed Thursday outlining what he’d like to see happen going forward, including “an immediate freeze of any increases in UC tuition.”

Golden State News

 California has a handful of immigrant state legislators, who bring their own unique approaches to the issue. (KQED)

• Oakland is trying to even the playing field for those making money off of legalized marijuana by allowing those convicted of marijuana-related crimes to have the first shot at business permits. (CityLab)

• Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t been a big fan of sanctuary policies in the past. Has his thinking evolved? (CalMatters)

• It makes sense that a state obsessed with media and entertainment wants a spot in prime time: The California Senate voted to move up the state’s presidential primary. (AP)

• A Republican assemblyman from Orange County is raising money for a ballot measure to appeal the state’s gas tax hike. (Sacramento Bee)

• In an op-ed, Secretary of State Alex Padilla and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez make the case for their bill to fund modernized voting equipment. (Pasadena Star News)

Sara Libby

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

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