Assemblyman Brian Maienschein / Photo by Adriana Heldiz

The California Assembly put some of its members in a tough political situation this week when the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee refused to advance a bill that would have made trafficking of a minor a serious felony.

Now, San Diego Assemblyman Brian Maienschein and others with political campaigns underway are feeling some pulling-at-the-collar heat.

Background: The bill, SB-14 would close a loophole in the law and passed the Senate unanimously. But Democrats on the Assembly Public Safety committee, led by Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), had concerns it would ensnare other victims of those traffickers, who sometimes feel compelled to help them.

Angered by the committee’s decision, Republicans pushed for a full floor vote on the bill and Maienschein didn’t vote. Later, the Assembly pushed it back to the Public Safety committee where Jones-Sawyer oversaw a complete reversal (with two Democrats walking out). The bill is now back on track.

Why it matters in San Diego politics: Maienschein is running for city attorney. That’s a prosecutorial role and the political dial right now is decidedly turned toward the “tough-on-crime” side. That vote became went viral on social media as an example of Dems being soft on stuff like this and Heather Ferbert, the current chief deputy city attorney running against Maienschein jumped on it.

“He’s either soft on crime or isn’t willing to take a position on these things because he didn’t vote at all,” Ferbert said. “It’s a really serious crime, a heinous crime and the Assembly should have taken a vote to make sure it gets the punishment it deserves.”

It doesn’t take a genius to see the political mailer clearly.

Maienschein has a different take: The Assemblyman said the floor vote push was a Republican stunt. Had a full floor vote happened and passed the bill, he said, it would have actually doomed the bill because it needed to go through the Assembly Appropriations Committee first.

“This is why my opponent’s inexperience and desire to be relevant is a huge problem. She doesn’t understand what she’s talking about it and her grandstanding is dangerous to kids who are being sex trafficked,” he said.

He does not share some of his colleagues’ substantive concerns about the bill and actually is a co-author of it, he said. The bill didn’t show him as a co-author Friday. His office later clarified that the bill hasn’t been updated to reflect that but will when the author submits amendments soon.

He said he would have voted to support the bill if he were on the Public Safety Committee and he thinks a majority of his Democratic colleagues would. But they didn’t.

What’s the truth: I asked around about Maienschein’s take that the bill would have died if it had passed on the Assembly floor. It seems like there may be some merit to that but also the Legislature can do what it wants to do. If it wants to pass the law, it can pass the law.

“The only rule is that there are no rules,” said Jonathan Clay, a lobbyist from San Diego who manages the Carpi & Clay Sacramento office.

Dem Defects on Desperate Push to Make Water Divorce Harder

Dispatch from MacKenzie Elmer: The city of San Diego and the region’s water wholesaler may not have the support it needs to pass a law that could stop two small farming communities from ditching the regional agency that supplies water for everyone in San Diego. The first vote on a bill in the Legislature that aims to undo a controversial divorcing of San Diego water districts was strictly partisan.

Five state Senate Democrats on the Government and Finance Committee voted in favor, and the two Republicans, against. But, at the end of the six-hour meeting, the committee reopened its voting period allowing previously absent senators a chance to weigh in. Enter Sen. Steve Glazer, a Democrat from Orinda, who cast a “no” vote.

Until that moment, the city of San Diego and the San Diego County Water Authority appeared to have their ducks in a row in the Democratic Party, buttressed by California’s powerful labor unions who also voiced support of AB 399 during the July 12 bill hearing.

Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner, a Democrat from Encinitas, has been pushing this bill through with an urgency clause attached. That means the bill would become law immediately upon enactment. It also means she needs a two-thirds majority vote on the Senate floor, or 27 favorable votes instead of just 21.

Why this matters: A two-thirds vote is not easy and if this is becoming partisan, it’s a bad sign for the bill if any Democrats don’t support it.

The Water Authority and the city of San Diego don’t want any of the 24 member water districts to leave. Not only does it add costs to the growing water rates already shouldered by Water Authority ratepayers, but it affects San Diego’s voting power at the most powerful water wholesaler in the nation: the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.

They heavily lobbied the Local Agency Formation Commission or LAFCO against approving the divorce. But the mostly-conservative and rural representation on LAFCO, chaired by Republican San Diego County Supervisor Jim Desmond, pushed up their own vote on the matter because of Boerner’s bill and approved the divorce Monday 5 to 3.


More notes on the Union-Tribune: We’re seeing our first departures. Joshua Emerson Smith, the U-T’s environment reporter, changed his profile on Twitter to indicate he is now a former reporter there. There seems to be some conservatives joyful the U-T is going through this, but I’m not sure I understand why. The new owners are not going to hire anyone to replace someone like Smith, let alone someone with some kind of more conservative outlook. We will now just not get his reporting on the border sewage crisis, transit decisions and water rates.

I wrote a column about what I think is the real tragedy here (which is not necessarily the buyer). spoke about the news on KPBS’ Midday Roundtable Friday and with Darren Smith on XTRA Sports 1360 Tuesday.

Scott Lewis oversees Voice of San Diego’s operations, website and daily functions as Editor in Chief. He also writes about local politics, where he frequently...

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1 Comment

  1. Maienschein, is a professional politician whose finger is always up in the air to see which way the wind is blowing. He beliefs are as changeable as the wind as is his party.

    If he is unsuccessful at his latest switch to a different public trough, he can always apply back to the United Way of San Diego. Perhaps they would be willing to give him another ‘do nothing job’ like they did over a decade ago, while he waits for another trough to open up.

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