Assemblyman Brian Maienschein / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

Assemblyman Brian Maienschein’s announcement Thursday that he’s leaving the GOP and becoming a Democrat naturally left Republicans across the board feeling hurt.

But the way they responded to the news mirrored the larger tensions roiling the party.

Republican Assembly Leader Marie Waldron of Escondido called Maienschein a “turncoat,” and said in a statement: “Unfortunately some people run for office simply because they want a job, regardless of political philosophy. It appears that Brian falls into this category.”

“While Brian is enjoying the perks of his new status as a member of the Democrat majority in the Legislature, we Republicans will continue to stand for the people of California,” she added. (Waldron and Assemblyman Randy Voepel are now the lone Republican Assembly members in San Diego’s delegation.)

About an hour later, Maienschein released a statement of his own, and said his reasons for serving have never changed. Instead, he put part of the blame on President Donald Trump and laid out his positions on gun control, health care, labor, LGBT rights and more.

Maienschein’s district has moved to the left in the time that he’s been serving. When he was first elected to the Assembly in 2012, there were approximately 80,000 Democrats to 100,000 Republicans. The number of Democrats skyrocketed in 2016, giving the party an edge in the 77th District today.

Still, there’s reason for the rage that seemed to underlie Waldron’s words.

Maienschein has $1.3 million left in his campaign account, almost all of which came from conservatives. He also relied on the California Republican Party and its volunteers just a couple months ago to monitor the ballot-counting process.

Assemblyman Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley – who’s been outspoken about the party’s future and has suggested Republicans should be more inclusive – offered sympathy and conciliation. He was ousted from a GOP leadership position in 2017 for working with Democrats on climate change legislation. With Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, he went on to launch a group for Republicans and centrists committed to restoring “true Republican values” in the Trump era.

“Brian Maienschein is a good man with a principled heart,” Mayes wrote on Twitter. “He’s a great legislator that represents his district well. I’m sure this decision did not come easy for him. He didn’t leave the Republican Party, the Party left him.”

Maienschein defeated Sunday Gover by about 600 votes — out of nearly 200,000 cast — in November, a paper-thin margin.

As disappointed as elected Republicans sounded Thursday, the news wasn’t a total shocker around the Capitol. Indeed, there have been indications for months that Maienschein wasn’t completely comfortably in the GOP and that Democrats would be happy to have him.

In the last election, two of San Diego’s top Democratic leaders — state Sen. Toni Atkins and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez — declined to get involved because of their strong working relationship with Maienschein in Sacramento. On occasion, he’s been to cross party lines and support them on controversial votes, as he did in 2017 on a major housing bill championed by Atkins.

So what are the Dems getting in Maienschein?

One thing that’s been overlooked in the discussion of Maienschein’s big switch is what he’s actually accomplished in Sacramento.

By far his biggest priority as a legislator has been a constituency that can’t actually vote for him: pets. He’s written bills to regulate animal shelters and adoptions and to crack down on dog fighting.

“I’m very passionate about animal rights issues. And so I have I’ve done a lot of I’ve done a lot of bills that that impact pets and animals. I care about it. And interestingly there’s not really a lot of attention to that,” he told us on a 2017 episode of the VOSD Podcast.

He’s also written several bills that address regulatory changes to trusts and estates, and mental health services.

His measures are rarely overtly partisan or controversial.

Last year, perhaps Maienschein’s most high-profile effort was a pair of bills aimed at helping mothers with postpartum depression – something that certainly wouldn’t have looked out of place on a Democratic lawmaker’s slate.

Both passed with overwhelming Democratic support.

Jesse Marx and Sara Libby

Gloria Bill Aims to Prevent Issues That Dogged Hep A Response

Assemblyman Todd Gloria this week followed through on a pledge to take legislative action after a blistering state audit panned local governments’ response to San Diego’s devastating 2017 hepatitis A outbreak.

Gloria on Thursday introduced AB 262, which aims to clarify public health officials’ responsibilities and powers during health crises like the deadly hepatitis A outbreak that left 20 dead and sickened hundreds.

Gloria’s bill states that health officials must promptly notify other public agencies and share relevant information about outbreaks, including case locations and ways those agencies can assist, areas Voice of San Diego previously revealed were major impediments as the outbreak raged. Gloria’s bill also says health officers can issue directives to other governments to force actions meant to quell an outbreak.

The state audit requested by Gloria had documented San Diego County and city officials’ confusion and foot-dragging in responding to the deadly outbreak and recommended that state legislators consider clarifying state law.

The December audit concluded that county and city officials might have reduced the spread of the unprecedented hepatitis A outbreak had they responded with more urgency.

“The recent state audit confirmed many of our worst fears: People fell ill and died that didn’t have to. We want to make sure an outbreak like this never happens again,” Gloria wrote in a statement. “The public should feel confident that its officials know what to do and how to handle public health emergencies.”

– Lisa Halverstadt

Newsom Budget Addresses Migrant Shelter, But Concerns Remain

At the urging of San Diego leaders, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed budget includes $25 million over three years to aid nonprofits helping asylum-seekers coming to California’s border.

Now Newsom and a group of San Diego legislators are pushing for $5 million of that proposed allocation to flow immediately to help pay for a new, yet-to-be-identified migrant shelter and other efforts to aid migrants.

Assembly members Todd Gloria, Lorena Gonzalez and Tasha Boerner Horvath and state Sen. Ben Hueso earlier this month wrote a letter to leaders of the Senate Committee on Budget & Fiscal Review and the Assembly Committee on Budget to urge them to act quickly to release the $5 million.

“The plan right now is to use that pretty much immediately,” Gonzalez said. “We worked to put it into the budget bill, we’re working with the budget chair to get it in, we’re working with the administration so it can be used immediately.”

Gloria’s office said it expects the $5 million request to be discussed at a budget hearing next Tuesday.

The Rapid Response Network, a coalition of nonprofits and service providers in San Diego, has been providing shelter and care to asylum-seekers being dropped off in San Diego before they connect with sponsors elsewhere in the United States. In late October, the Department of Homeland Security changed its policy of reviewing post-release plans for asylum-seeking families, creating a nightly scramble for those trying to aid them.

But the organizations have been raising alarms for months that they’re running out of resources. A city permit for their temporary shelter location is also set to expire in February. Some options for a permanent location have been floated, including a shuttered juvenile detention facility in East County, but they’ve all had issues.

The county also sent a letter to the governor’s office last week asking Newsom to reconsider the use of a state armory as a shelter. The county has also identified one of its properties to potentially use for the shelter, the old family courthouse building downtown, which will go before the Board of Supervisors Tuesday for a vote.

“That is one thing we didn’t make much headway with,” Gonzalez said. “I think we have these small starts on being able to find a location. I feel a little concerned that we’re not going to get where we need to be.”

Though shelter needs are most dire, a spokesman with the state Department of Finance said the governor opted to dub the proposed program the Immigration and Human Trafficking Rapid Response Program to ensure the new state dollars could also address trafficking issues some have feared could rise if chaos continues at the border.

Maya Srikrishnan and Lisa Halverstadt

Bill Would End Private Prison Contracts in California

San Diego lawmakers Todd Gloria and Lorena Gonzalez have joined Northern California Assemblymen Rob Bonta and David Chiu to co-w a bill that would pull state inmates out of private prisons.

The bill, AB 32, would require the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to stop entering into contracts with private prison operators starting Jan. 1, 2020, and move all inmates housed in private prisons to state facilities by Jan. 1, 2028.

Nick Serrano, Gloria’s spokesman, pointed to a 2016 review by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of the Inspector General that found federal private prisons were less safe and less efficient than government-run facilities. The two largest private prison operators in the U.S., CoreCivic and Geo Group, have contracts with CDCR to house roughly 3,818 inmates.

“It shouldn’t be a practice that a company can make money off of incarceration,” Serrano said. “It isn’t in line with California’s values, especially since the state has moved towards rehabilitation.”

AB 32 isn’t the first time legislators have sought to end California’s relationship with for-profit prisons. In 2017, Bonta introduced AB 1320, which, like AB 32, would have prohibited CDCR from renewing contracts with private prisons. The bill was vetoed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who wrote in a veto message that CDCR needed to have flexibility “in the short term” to maintain 137.5 percent of prison capacity mandated by the U.S. Supreme Court. As of this week, state-run prisons are at 133.9 percent of capacity.

Gonzalez is also co-author of a bill Bonta recently introduced that would require California’s Public Employees’ Retirement System and the State Teachers’ Retirement System to divest from private prison companies. (The state teachers system on its own voted in November to divest from CoreCivic and GEO Group.)

On Jan. 23, the same day Gloria announced AB 32, the PAC for the California Correctional Peace Officers Association, the union representing state prison guards, contributed $100,000 to the California Democratic Party. Serrano said the timing was purely coincidental. The week prior, the PAC gave $25,000 to the California Republican Party.

Kelly Davis

It’s Official: Pot Deliveries Are Legal Across California

After seven months of hearings and debate, marijuana home delivery is legal everywhere in California. That means an employee of a licensed dispensary in San Diego can drive into a place like Poway, where marijuana businesses are prohibited, and sell directly at one’s door.

The change — which officials have described as a mere technical tweak to the regulations — got the blessing this week by lawyers working for the Bureau of Cannabis Control. But the League of California Cities and other municipal groups have argued that the change should have required a vote of lawmakers in Sacramento, suggesting that a lawsuit might be in the works.

Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana statewide in 2016, gave cities and counties the ability to decide whether to allow marijuana businesses in their jurisdictions. Many have opted not to. El Cajon Mayor Bill Wells has complained that state regulators are undermining the intent of the voter-approved law, but he didn’t think it was worth litigating.

Even though his city doesn’t permit marijuana businesses, he said a majority of residents throughout the state have said yes to legalization, “and I don’t see much changing.”

Instead, he’s encouraged residents of his city who want to purchase pot to simply find it someplace else. But as the head of delivery services for a San Diego-based dispensary responded, not everyone has the means or capability to travel to purchase marijuana.

  • The Sacramento Bee also reports this week that a pair of former California Highway Patrolmen who run a licensed marijuana distribution business, but were stopped and arrested on I-5, filed a lawsuit. They’re asking the San Francisco Superior Court to direct state and local governments not to interfere with legal marijuana distribution efforts.

— Jesse Marx

Golden State News

Correction: An earlier version of this post misstated the district Maienschein represents, and cited incorrect registration numbers for the district.

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