Todd Gloria / Photo courtesy of the California Assembly

Sacramento Democrats are again pursuing a bill to clean up their legislative attempts to reform elections in San Diego County.

It’s yet another arcane dispute between Republicans and Democrats over changes to local elections that would force county candidates to run in general elections, instead of winning outright in primaries. That change would give Democrats a better chance of winning control of the County Board of Supervisors in 2020 and at countywide seats like district attorney in the future.

This time around, some Sacramento Republicans got fiery.

The Assembly Budget Committee this week took up AB 1846. It states that a bill from last year – AB 901, by Assemblyman Todd Gloria – contained an error and was always intended to let a ballot measure changing local election rules qualify with the same number of signatures as any other initiative.

“We think it’s abundantly clear what our intent was, and this bill make sure that’s enacted and recasted into law,” said Nick Serrano, a spokesman for Gloria. “It has been made abundantly clear that the county and GOP is dead set on making sure this measure doesn’t make it on the November 2018 ballot.”

In June, the Legislature used a budget trailer bill to retroactively fix AB 901 after County Registrar Michael Vu ruled the measure didn’t have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, thanks to what Gloria says was a mistake.

Tony Krvaric, chair of the local Republican Party, sued over that move, arguing it violated a provision in the state Constitution requiring that legislation address only one subject.

A Superior Court judge last week ruled against Krvaric and ordered the county to put the measure on the November ballot.

Guarding against an appeal, the new bill calls out Krvaric’s lawsuit by name and says “to eliminate any question” about the relevant provisions on which the lawsuit is based “it is the intent of the Legislature to repeal those provisions relating to charter amendments and to reenact them in this act.”

In the committee hearing on the latest changes, a few Republicans had seen enough.

“You might ask yourself, ‘Why is this a budget bill?’ And I submit that the only reason it’s being proposed as a budget bill is that that’s the only way we can apply this change with immediate effect, without a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, as the Constitution requires,” said Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, vice chair of the committee. “I think this is a deplorable interference in a local election, I’m kind of ashamed that we’re doing it. It’s exactly this kind of action that erodes our constituents’ faith and trust in the integrity of their state government.”

Assemblyman Rocky Chavez said the change should go through the proper committee process.

“This is clearly wrong,” he said. “This should not be being heard. And when we reflect back on ourselves, this bill right here shows the problem in Sacramento. We are going to use our political influence to influence something down there. And we know the reason we’re doing this – because there are leaders within this Assembly who come from San Diego, and they are able to push these things through.”

Andrew Keatts

Major Police Reform Bills Still Alive

AB 931, Assemblywoman Shirley Weber’s bill to limit when police can deploy deadly force, did not advance out of the Senate appropriations committee this week and was instead tossed back to the Senate Rules Committee.

In a statement, Weber said the decision was “good news” that will allow for further debate. A spokesman for Weber said the move does not kill the bill’s chances of passing this session.

The move comes after an intense week of lobbying by proponents and opponents of the bill.

The voice of Brian Marvel, formerly the head of San Diego’s police union who’s now president of the Police Officers Research Association of California, blanketed radio airwaves urging legislators to vote against the bill. (Marvel also says in the ad that officers have “embraced wearing cameras for transparency,” though law enforcement groups officially opposed several measures that would have required officers to publicly post policies regarding the cameras’ use and to make more of the videos public.) Marvel argues in the ad that the bill would “handcuff” police and force them to allow criminals to retreat or escape.

As Mother Jones noted this week, “The state law governing police use of force hasn’t been amended since it was enacted—in 1872. It’s the oldest untouched use-of-force law in the nation, according to Amnesty International, which supports the bill.”

San Diego County Cities Lobby Against Proposed Pot Rules

This week, officials in San Marcos and El Cajon spelled out their opposition to proposed state rules that could give the marijuana industry a legal pathway into their cities.

The California Bureau of Cannabis Control has been accepting public testimony on a number of regulatory changes, including a provision that would allow licensed retailers in one municipality to make deliveries in another municipality, regardless of whether marijuana sales are legal there.

Borrowing language and talking points from the League of California Cities, San Marcos and El Cajon argue that the state is undermining Proposition 64, which gives municipalities the power to police and regulate marijuana.

“What they’re proposing right now is to circumvent the concept of local control,” said El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

In a letter to the state, the El Cajon City Council complains of the “traffic, noise, litter and disregard for neighborhood quietude” that marijuana businesses bring. “More importantly,” the letter adds, the city’s ongoing prohibition is “necessary and appropriate to protect our most vulnerable – the youth – from easy access to cannabis, and from the effects of criminal activities related to easily accessible cannabis.”

California is also proposing to let drivers carry as much as $10,000 worth of product at a time, and it significantly reduced the window for ensuring that a new marijuana business is legitimate. Applicants for a state license must produce proof of local permits, and then the state asks the city or county to verify. If the city or county doesn’t respond within 10 days, the state assumes the permits provided are good.

El Cajon warned that “unscrupulous operators could fabricate evidence of ‘authorization’ to conduct business in the city.”

Supporters – many of whom would benefit financially from the rule change – have argued in recent days that borderless delivery services are necessary to bring an underground, multibillion-dollar marketplace into the daylight. They say the nation’s largest marijuana marketplace is struggling because only a small number of cities and counties has actually legalized dispensaries, even though Proposition 64 passed with 57 percent of the vote.

Pointing to the experience of other states, those supporters say the demand for the black market will continue to thrive so long as the supply is kept artificially low by elected officials.

At the end of this month, state regulators will hold a third hearing on the proposed changes in Sacramento. The rules are expected to go into effect by end of year.

Jesse Marx

Golden State News

Fair and Balanced Coverage of the World’s Greatest University

The Assembly this week honored the USC women’s 4×400 meter relay team, which, if you need reminding, was responsible for one of the greatest moments in sports history earlier this year.

“Their victory allowed USC to clinch its second team title in program history,” said Assemblyman Reggie Jones-Sawyer, a USC alum.

And lest you think me a biased reporter, here is some stellar L.A. Times reporting revealing that Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, who resigned abruptly from the Assembly late last year, was the subject of two sexual harassment complaints when he was hired as a professor at USC. He was fired last month over questions surrounding a donation his father, politician Mark Ridley-Thomas made to the school.

Sara Libby

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

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