Left and Lefter in California

california-flagThe California Democratic Party’s refusal to endorse the re-election of Senator Dianne Feinstein represents a breaking point both for the state’s progressives and, arguably, the future of the party nationwide. Feinstein symbolizes, if anyone does, the old Democratic establishment that, while far from conservative, nevertheless appealed to many mainstream businesses and affluent suburban voters. The rejection of Feinstein reveals the eclipse of the moderate, mainstream Democratic Party, and the rise of Green and identity-oriented politics, appealing to the coastal gentry. It offers little to traditional middle-class Democrats and even less to those further afield, in places like the industrial Midwest or the South. In these parts of the country, bread-and-butter issues that concern families remain more persuasive than gestural politics.

To its many admirers back east, California has emerged as the role model for a brave new Democratic future. The high-tech, culturally progressive Golden State seems to be an ideal incubator of whatever politics will follow the Trump era.

Certainly, California is an ideal place to observe this shift, as radicalism faces no restraints here. The Republican Party has little to no influence in politics and culture and not much even among business leaders. For the Democrats, this vacuum allows for a kind of internecine struggle resembling that of the Bolsheviks after the death of Lenin. And just as happened then, a new Stalinism of sorts seems to be emerging—in this case, to the consternation not only of conservatives but also of traditional liberals and moderates of the Feinstein stamp.

Yet as California Democrats exult in what they see as a glowing future, they are turning away from the models that once drove their party’s (and the state’s) success — a commitment to growth, upward mobility, and dispersed property ownership. California’s current prosperity is largely due to the legacy of Governor Pat Brown, who, a half-century ago, built arguably the world’s best transportation, water, and power systems, and created an incubator for middle-class prosperity. Ironically, the politician most responsible for undermining this achievement has been Pat’s son, Governor Jerry Brown. Long skeptical of his father’s growth-oriented, pro-suburban policies, Brown the Younger put strong constraints on growth, especially when these efforts concerned the fight against global warming — a quasi-religious crusade. Battling climate change has awakened Brown’s inner authoritarian; he has lauded the “coercive power of the state” and embraced “brainwashing” on climate issues.

Brown’s stridency on climate, however, does not extend to all leftist issues. Like Feinstein, Brown has some appreciation of the importance of infrastructure, such as the need to increase water supplies, and he exercises at least a modicum of caution on fiscal matters like the state’s gargantuan pension debt. He is not a strict identitarian, having vetoed an attempt to enact Title IX standards of evidence for campus sexual-assault cases, a measure embraced by the state’s vocal feminist leaders.

As Brown prepares to depart, and Feinstein struggles to retain office, a new dominant coalition — led by tech oligarchs, identity politicians, and Greens — is rising to usurp control of the party. This new coalition of the privileged and aggrieved marks a departure both from Pat Brown’s social democracy and his son’s more elitist but still measured politics.

State senator Kevin de León, the emergent leader of this new configuration and cat’s paw of billionaire Tom Steyer, the San Francisco hedge-fund billionaire epitomizes the new approach. Having made much of his fortune in oil sands and coal, Steyer is now the Democratic Party’s prime bankroller, and his largesse extends to the drive to impeach President Trump. He has made common cause with hard-Left politicians like de León, and even embraced unionism—as long as labor follows his extreme position on climate change.

Steyer and other oligarchs are working to eliminate the last vestiges of the old Democratic Party. Climate activists have been targeting, with some success, the so-called Mod Squad — centrist Democrat legislators from the state’s less-prosperous interior and working-class suburbs. This shrinking group, occasionally financed by energy, homebuilding, and other pillars of the old economy, sometimes holds the balance of power in Sacramento, and has managed to slow some of the most draconian climate measures.

De León’s enthusiastic embrace of climate-change dogma may seem odd for a politician whose impoverished district suffers from Los Angeles’s continued de-industrialization, hastened by strict environmental regulation and high energy costs. Instead of backing policies that would create more high-wage jobs, de León’s priorities are largely redistributive. This jibes with his support among public employees and from the militant California Nurses Association. He endorsed the union-backed single-payer health-care plan, a measure that assembly speaker Anthony Rendon tabled as impossibly expensive (it would more than double the state budget). Immigration is another key de León issue. He is a fervent supporter of illegal immigrants, in a state that houses one in fourof the nation’s total, bragging about his own relatives’ use of false IDs.

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, the former San Francisco mayor and frontrunner in the governor’s race, also embraces these policies. After briefly trying to appeal to mainstream business, Newsom has fallen into line with Bay Area-dominated progressives and the big public unions on virtually every issue, including single-payer. His likely election suggests a continuation of California’s current drift, but without Brown’s occasional restraint and intelligence.

The Golden State’s progressive tilt would not be possible without demographic change. The state’s majority-minority makeup has made the capture of middle-class and moderate voters less important. As middle-class families leave California, the electorate is increasingly dominated by racial minorities — with whites, 70 percent of the population in 1970, now less numerous than Hispanics and destined to be roughly one-third of the population by 2030. California’s demography is more and more dominated by the poor and near-poor (roughly one-third of the population), the young and unattached, and a residual population of older whites, many luxuriating on generous state pensions or inflated property values.

What makes all this work is the growing power of the tech oligarchs and their more glamorous cousins in the Hollywood glitterati. The tech boom of the last decade has obscured the decline of California’s basic industries, such as energy and manufacturing. California’s above-average job performance since 2010 is almost entirely a combination of high-income employment growth in the Bay Area and the swelling ranks of low-wage service workers who serve them. The oligarchs, including tech investor Sam Altman, LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman, and philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs, widow of the late Apple founder, have lined up behind de León. Tech will likely bankroll the pliable and well-heeled Newsom, who already gets cash from Airbnb, Twitter, and Salesforce.com.

This marriage of the poor and the new rich appears to be the dominant theme emerging in California. The oligarchs, as Greg Ferenstein has reported, don’t even pretend to believe in upward mobility for the masses. Instead, they favor policies — such as forced densification — that will house their largely young, childless workers, including the nation’s largest population of H1-B visa-holders. Measures such as State Senator Mark Wiener’s SB 827 would largely strip cities of their ability to control development anywhere near transit stops. Civil rights groups, mainstream environmental organizations, neighborhood associations, and cities themselves have come out in opposition, and even Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti, a dedicated densifier, fears a backlash in the city’s remaining single-family neighborhoods. Yet the oligarchs and their YIMBY (“yes in my backyard”) allies, whom they generously fund, have backed the bill.

At its core, the oligarchs’ vision for California represents a kind of high-tech feudalism. Tech companies are starting to dominate sectors like electric and autonomous cars, even seeking monopolies in dense urban areas. They support limiting ownership and consumer choice, even as the bulk of automobiles remain gas-powered. In the longer term, the oligarchs have little interest in creating blue-collar jobs and would prefer to replace employment with algorithms. Deprived of work and unable to pay for housing, the working class and an ever-shrinking middle class would be bought off with income-maintenance payments — twenty-first-century alms for the poor.

Opponents of this new gentry agenda should appeal to the remnants of the middle class and the unsubsidized portions of the working class. Feinstein could win reelection by rallying such voters; her name recognition and ample campaign war chest could help her fend off de León this year. But even if she wins, it will likely be a last hurrah for the old Democrats. Tech oligarchs and activist CEOs have committed themselves to extreme environmentalism, identity politics, and open-borders immigration policy. California’s bevy of clueless celebrities, now celebrated by Time as “suddenly serious” for following the identitarian party line, have also climbed aboard.  As anyone knows who has suffered through awards shows or listened to interviews with stars, the entertainment industry—much like tech — has become homogeneous in its views.

The key issues for the glitterati are not income inequality, upward mobility, or the preservation of middle-class neighborhoods but the feverish pastimes of the already rich: gender and racial issues, climate change, guns, and anything that offends the governesses and schoolmarms of intersectionality. To the ranks of these over-exposed but influential voices, you can also add California’s media and most of its intelligentsia, who seem to get their talking points from progressive sources and work assiduously to limit the influence of moderate (much less conservative) views. With Silicon Valley increasingly able to control content and ever more willing to curb debate, the policy agenda of the state’s new elite may well become reality — a nightmarish one for millions of ordinary Californians.

CA Democrats Reject Feinstein; Signal State’s Leftward March Will Continue

Dianne FeinsteinWhat a difference a few decades make: in 1990, Dianne Feinstein was apparently too far left for California voters, losing a gubernatorial race to Republican Pete Wilson. Nearly 30 years later, she’s not left enough — at least for the state Democratic Party, which has refused to endorse her for a fifth term in the U.S. Senate. She received only 37 percent of delegates’ votes at the late February annual party convention — far short of the 60 percent needed for an endorsement. Supporters of State Senator Kevin de León, who nearly won the endorsement, serenaded Feinstein with the chant “Your time is up! Your time is up!” at the end of her speech.

Feinstein is often characterized as a centrist Democrat, though she has been reliably left of center. According to the American Conservative Union’s most recent congressional rankings, she scored an 8, on a scale where 100 represents a perfect conservative voting record. Her lifetime rating is 9.15. On the other side, left-leaning Americans for Democratic Action gives Feinstein an 85 rating, on a similar 100 scale. She scored 75 in 2015, 90 in 2014, 100 in 2013 (when she made the list of ADA Senate “heroes”), and a 95 in 2012.

With such a reliably left-wing voting record, why did Feinstein lose the support of the California Democratic Party? Maybe it’s because the party — though not necessarily its voters — is listing so far to port that it’s falling into the deep end. De León’s popularity at the convention was driven by several factors. He’s taken a harder line against the Trump administration than Feinstein, and he’s promoted himself as a young leader with more energy to fight the battles that the party is picking in 2018. De León is a steamrolling union organizer, while Feinstein is a comfortable-in-her-wealth multimillionaire. Insiders believe that de León could be an insurgent candidate who would stir up Trump’s Washington more than Feinstein has.

Since the Golden State became the Cerulean State, public-employee pensions have become a fiscal time bomb, taxation continues to increase, businesses have fled a hostile commercial and regulatory environment, the middle class is finding refuge elsewhere, the poverty rate is the nation’s highest, and the state’s quality of life has been ranked the worst in the nation. The state’s homeless problem is a national embarrassment, its housing crisis goes unaddressed, and its public school system is failing students and parents.

If the state Democratic Party’s shunning of Feinstein is any indication of how voters will mark their state and local ballots this year and in coming elections, these problems will only grow worse. California could become a 2020s version of a 1980s Rust Belt state, where economies, prospects, and populations recede at alarming rates. If the Democratic Party’s leftward swing indeed resonates with voters, California is in more trouble than anyone has previously thought.

Kerry Jackson is the Pacific Research Institute’s fellow in California studies.

This article was originally published by City Journal online

California Democratic Party isn’t backing Dianne Feinstein

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein failed to win the official endorsement of the California Democratic Party as she seeks her fifth term in Washington, but her supporters say it won’t hurt her with a broader swath of voters.

Party activists were more eager to back her primary challenger, state Senate leader Kevin de Leon, who is crafting himself as a fresh face with stronger progressive credentials. However, he too failed to earn the 60 percent support he needed to win the endorsement.

That means neither candidate will get the party’s seal of approval or extra campaign cash leading into the June primary. The decision came from more than 3,000 activists gathered for the party’s annual convention this weekend, an event aimed at generating enthusiasm for the midterm elections.

None of the four Democrats running to succeed Jerry Brown as governor secured an endorsement either. …

Click here to read the full article from CNBC

Democrat State Sen. Tony Mendoza resigns before facing expulsion vote

State Sen. Tony Mendoza resigned late last week as colleagues prepared to vote on whether to expel the Los Angeles County Democrat from office, days after an outside investigation found the Los Angeles County Democrat had engaged in a pattern of unwanted “sexually suggestive” behavior toward six women, including his subordinates, while serving in the Assembly and Senate.

In a letter to Senate members, Mendoza said he was resigning immediately, saying: “I refuse to participate any further in the farcical ‘investigation’ against me that ignores the Senate’s own rules, invents processes, criteria and standards as needed, ignores due process and constitutional rights to self-defense all for the purpose of playing to election-year politicking.”

In the letter, Mendoza accused Senate leader Kevin de León of seeking his ouster to show his “‘sincerity’ in supporting the MeToo cause.” De León, Mendoza’s former roommate, is running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

A resolution introduced late Wednesday night by de León called for Mendoza’s expulsion. If approved, it would have been be the first time a state legislator has been removed from office since 1905. Mendoza would have been given the right to speak on the Senate floor before a vote. …

Click here to read the full article from the Orange County Register

IRS could easily block Democratic scheme to increase CA tax deductions

Tax formDemocratic state lawmakers’ interest in pursuing an unprecedented plan to minimize the hit that California’s high-income residents face because of the federal tax overhaul’s $10,000 cap on deductibility of state and local taxes may be losing momentum – undermined by strong warnings from Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who oversees the Internal Revenue Service, and by a new analysis that says the IRS could easily squelch the maneuver.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles introduced Senate Bill 227 early this month. It would allow the estimated 6 million Californians who itemize their federal income taxes to effectively continue to write off state and local tax deductions in excess of $10,000 by allowing them to pay their state taxes to a state charitable foundation, the California Excellence Fund.

Tax experts note that states have long allowed tax deductions for charitable donations and say de Leon’s ploy is protected by the fact that tax laws are traditionally subject to stricter interpretation than most federal laws because of concerns that a rogue IRS could target individuals or companies it didn’t like.

Democratic lawmakers embraced de Leon’s proposal, saying the move would allow the 6 million state taxpayers who itemize deductions to save an average of more than $8,000 a year.

Washington Post: California shows how to take on Trump

But after Washington Post coverage of the legislation asserted it could create a “national boilerplate for skirting Trump tax changes,” the Trump administration took notice of what California was up to.

Politico reported that Mnuchin called the proposal in California and similar proposals in other high-tax states “ridiculous.” Mnuchin emphasized that the IRS was allowed to decide what qualifies as an IRS-recognized charity.

“Let me just say again from a Treasury standpoint and IRS, I don’t want to speculate on what people will do, but I think it’s one of the more ridiculous comments to think you can take a real estate tax that you are required to make and dress that up as a charitable contribution,” Mnuchin told reporters at the White House. He described the ploy as an obvious attempt by states “to evade the law.”

Mnuchin’s comments were backed up in a report by the Washington, D.C.-based Tax Foundation.

“This proposal, while interesting, is fairly obviously in violation of existing law and jurisprudence,” wrote veteran tax analyst Jared Walczak. “Just because the IRS has not consistently cracked down on some minor efforts here and there does not mean it would turn a blind eye to a concerted effort to contravene the tax code by providing a contribution in lieu of taxes program.”

Walczak warned state lawmakers that when it comes to de Leon’s Senate Bill 227, the IRS could readily thwart it under precedents that allow it to block deductions for charitable donations if the agency concluded there was no “charitable intent” to the donations.

Given that de Leon and other backers of the bill have openly described it as being designed to reduce Californians’ payments to the U.S. Treasury, lawyers defending the bill if it became law and was rejected by the IRS would face a difficult task: making a plausible case that a “charitable donation” that was undertaken with the goal of reducing an individual’s or family’s tax obligations meets the requirements set by the IRS for allowable charitable deductions.

The latest IRS overview of which deductions are allowed – Publication 526, released in 2016 under the Obama administration – doesn’t seem to allow such self-serving deductions.

It says that for a donation to qualify for a deduction, it must be “made without getting, or expecting to get, anything of equal value. … Qualified organizations include nonprofit groups that are religious, charitable, educational, scientific or literary in purpose, or that work to prevent cruelty to children or animals.”

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

To Avoid Trump Tax Reform, California Dems Want to Convert State Taxes to Charitable Contributions

Tax formCalifornia’s Democrat-controlled state government wants to re-classify state taxes as charitable contributions to avoid the new $10,000 cap on state and local tax (SALT) deductions in President Donald Trump’s new tax reform.

For decades, California Democrats have demanded higher and more progressive tax rates as a social justice cure to address income inequality. But they are appalled that President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act progressively hurts the state’s highest income earners by capping SALT deductibility.

Gov. Jerry Brown called limiting SALT deductibility to about an upper middle-class income level as “evil in the extreme,” and hissed at Trump’s Republican allies for “acting like a bunch of Mafia thugs.” California Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) snarled, “Republicans in Washington have once again zeroed in on California to punish us and make our state the single biggest loser in their reckless tax scheme.”

California is the most populous state, but only has the fourth-highest percentage of residents that claim SALT deduction, at 34.5 percent. The Golden State’s “per-filer” average SALT deduction is a middle-class $12,682. But due to rich coastal and multi-property owners, California has the highest “per claimant” SALT deduction of any state, at $36,802. For California’s rich, tax reform means an effective increase in state taxes.

De León is promising to introduce legislation next week that would allow California’s highest income earners to continue deducting 100 percent of state and local taxes over the $10,000 limit by renaming them charitable contributions.

Final negotiations between the U.S. Senate and House versions of tax reform maintained deductions for actual charitable contributions to support popular programs to support poverty relief, non-profit schools, and the arts.

But IRS Publication 526, which defines what qualifies for federal charitable contribution deductions, specifically allows deductions for “federal, state, and local governments, if your contribution is solely for public purposes (for example, a gift to reduce the public debt or maintain a public park).

It is not clear that California’s gambit would pass the test — but Democrats may try.

This article was originally published by Breitbart.com/California

Kevin de León’s handling of sexual harassment scandal an issue

kevin de leon 2SACRAMENTO — Two days after state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León announced he would challenge fellow Democrat U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein in next year’s election, a sexual harassment scandal broke under his roof.

More than 140 women in and around the state Capitol signed an open letter on Oct. 17 and launched the We Said Enough campaign decrying the pervasive sexual harassment and abuse they have faced in their jobs in politics. But it didn’t take long for the women to hear the theory that their efforts were part of a well-oiled Feinstein machine kicking back an insurgent de León campaign.

“Yep, we’ve heard that rumor,” said Samantha Corbin, a leader in the We Said Enough campaign.

And, to be clear, Corbin said it’s not true. De León’s campaign said they didn’t start the rumor, nor do they believe it.

Corbin said the group has no intention of swaying any election. But she’s unapologetic that the sexual harassment scandal in Sacramento is creeping into California’s U.S. Senate race.

“Any candidate that puts themselves forward should be asked if they support finding solutions to ending systemic harassment and abuse, and what, specifically, they would advise,” Corbin said.

That’s why all eyes are on de León’s handling of the flood of accusations in the state Legislature. So far he’s getting mixed reviews on what some say could be a defining moment in his uphill campaign. De León has promised to have no mercy on any senator found to have violated the Senate’s sexual harassment policy. …

Click here to read the full article from the San Francisco Chronicle

California Lawmakers Have Enabled Culture Of Sexual Harassment

CapitolThe issue of sexual harassment has jumped to the forefront of public discourse in a relatively short period of time, with revelations about alleged sexual misconduct ranging from the inappropriate to the illegal.

The accusations have flown from the studios of Hollywood to the halls of Congress, from film executive Harvey Weinstein to longtime television news personality Charlie Rose; from National Public Radio news chief Michael Oreskes to Senator Al Franken (D-MN); from Congressman John Conyers (D-MI) to Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore.

With each passing day, more stories are coming out, and the California State Capitol, while a relative side-show compared to some of the more newsworthy persons dominating national politics, has been turned on its head.

In mid-October, a bipartisan group of more than 140 women – lawmakers, lobbyists and consultants – signed a letter calling attention to pervasive sexual harassment in California politics. Since that time, two California state legislators – Senator Tony Mendoza (D-Artesia) and Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra (D-Pacoima) — have been embroiled in scandal, with multiple women coming forward making scathing accusations about each.

In the case of the former, Mendoza has denied allegations. Senate President Kevin DeLeon (D-Los Angeles) recently suspended Mendoza’s chairmanship of the powerful State Senate Banking Committee, pending further investigation. With regards to Bocanegra, he has admitted wrongdoing. Facing increasing scrutiny, he has announced that he will be resigning from the legislature – albeit on an arbitrary date he picked in September of next year. Assembly Speaker Rendon (D-South Gate) has removed him from his leadership position, and his committee assignments.

I won’t take the time in this column to detail the specific allegations against both, but suffice it to say they paint an alarming picture of a culture in the State Capitol that has been permissive of such bad behavior, or worse. One can assume that this will only snowball in the coming weeks and months, as more revelations occur. (For example, DeLeon, it has been revealed, was roommates in Sacramento with Mendoza, moving out just days ago – which is significant in that accusations against Mendoza include inappropriate activities taking place in his residence).

The California legislature, however, has taken steps to make sure that the permissive culture of sexual harassment would thrive – embracing the idea that that legislators not only make the law, but are above the law.

For decades, the only way that someone who was harassed or abused could bring it to anyone’s attention would have been to go to legislative leadership – never mind the obvious conflict of interest there. What legislative remedies have been pursued by some have been bottled up in committees. A great example is legislation pursued for years in a row by Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-Temecula) to protect whistleblowers who report unethical or inappropriate behavior. It has never made it to the Governor’s desk.  It should come as no surprise that laws were passed giving all other state government employees whistleblower protection, but the legislature was exempt.

Speaking of exemptions, the Los Angeles Times put in a request for details on any formal investigations of allegations of sexual abuse on the legislature. It received a brief summary indicating that in the last decade there have been 31 such investigations — 15 in the State Senate and 16 in the State Assembly – but the legislature has refused to provide any more detail, and is not obliged to provide any more detail.  That is because the California legislature exempted itself from the Public Records Act, which applies to the rest of state government.

There are some actions that the governor and legislature can take to try to regain some credibility here, and try to end Sacramento’s toxic culture. And while Democrats in the Capitol control all of the levers of state government – and are the only ones that can create laws in a partisan fashion – Republicans have the bully pulpit and can publicly call for Governor Jerry Brown to call a special legislative session to deal with this issue immediately.  In the special session, the legislature should send several bills to Brown for his signature, including:

  • A bill to establish that a law enforcement agency (perhaps the California Highway Patrol) has jurisdiction over investigations of allegations of sexual harassment in the Capitol. The idea is to put someone in charge of such investigations who is not beholden to legislators.
  • The Melendez whistleblower protection bill that has been shoved into a legislative drawer for years.
  • A bill to make sure that the legislature is subject to the California Public Records Act, like every other part of state government.

Finally, there should be a formal investigation into DeLeon’s friendship with his now-former roommate, Senator Mendoza. Perhaps DeLeon’s position should even be suspended pending the outcome.

The idea that DeLeon, as Chairman of the Rules Committee (made up of Democrats and Republicans who are his hand-picked choices), is going to clean up the Senate’s act lacks credulity.

Jon Fleischman is the Politics Editor for Breitbart California.  His columns appear on this page. You can follow him on Twitter here.

This article was originally published by Breitbart California

Outside legal firm tasked with investigating sexual harassment at state Capitol

CapitolSACRAMENTO – Will a newly announced set of Senate rules for handling sexual harassment claims help change a Capitol culture that some blame for fostering the current sexual harassment scandal?

Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, announced this week that all harassment investigations in his chamber will be handled by an outside legal firm. De Leon also announced that he was moving out of a house he shared with Sen. Tony Mendoza, the Artesia Democrat who is the latest legislator accused of inappropriate behavior.

California’s state government has been dealing with a sexual harassment scandal after 140 influential women who have worked in and around the Capitol published an open letter in mid-October stating that they have “endured, or witnessed or worked with women who have experienced some form of dehumanizing behavior by men with power in our workplaces.”

Signed by six sitting legislators, the letter decried such behavior “in a state that postures itself as a leader in justice and equality.” The California Legislative Women’s Caucus was even more pointed, as its statement alleged “a lack of accountability and remorse” and a “pervasive culture of sexual harassment within California politics.” The statement claimed that “the Legislature’s own zero-tolerance policies are not enforced.”

A couple of prominent legislators have been caught up in the scandal. First, longtime Capitol staffer Elise Flynn Gyore said that she was treated like “prey” and then groped by Assemblyman Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, in 2009, when he was a staffer. The Assembly Rules Committee investigated and disciplined Bocanegra, but didn’t release the details to a group of 11 women who sought such information when he was running for office with widespread party backing.

Bocanegra recently has apologized for the incident, but the details raise questions about an institution that some people say values secrecy over accountability. It’s also led to criticism of Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley Democrat known for her strong stance for women’s rights, who chaired the Assembly Rules Committee at the time of the incident. KPIX-TV in the Bay Area contacted one of the women who signed the letter asking for the file on the harassment complaint, but she said that “Nancy Skinner never responded to their request.”

Now Mendoza is in the spotlight. Southern California Public Radio reported that Mendoza “fired three employees after they reported his alleged inappropriate behavior toward a young female colleague, according to an attorney representing one of the staffers.”

Mendoza denies the allegations and apologized if he “ever communicated or miscommunicated anything that made an employee feel uncomfortable.” He also says the firings were based on work performance. The Sacramento Bee broke the news this week about allegations from a second intern. She claims that Mendoza took her to his hotel suite at the California Democratic Party convention and acted inappropriately toward her. Mendoza’s spokesperson told the Bee that that the woman’s recounting of what took place was “completely false.”

And the Senate president has received criticism, with some “wondering how de Leon – who chairs the Senate committee that investigates allegations of sexual harassment – could have been unaware of the reports and investigation into his roommate,” reported the San Jose Mercury News. De Leon denies knowing anything about the reports.

The scandal comes against the backdrop of Alabama’s Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who is facing sexual misconduct allegations – a nationally publicized story that’s being depicted by Moore and some of his supporters as a “witch hunt.” And, of course, sexual harassment allegations have been roiling the entertainment industry.

For California political observers, the big questions are whether the Capitol has fostered an insular environment that promotes, or at least tolerates, sexual misbehavior – and whether de Leon’s new rules have a chance of fixing that situation.

Specifically, the new approach will remove the Senate Rules Committee from dealing with harassment allegations. “Instead, an independent outside legal team will investigate any and all allegations and make findings and recommendations to resolve and, where appropriate, discipline,” according to the committee’s statement this week. “The Senate’s Rules Committee and Senate Democratic Women’s Caucus will work jointly and expeditiously to retain a highly qualified team of counsel and investigators to fulfill this obligation.”

The committee stated that the process “will be designed to protect the privacy of victims and whistleblowers, transparency for the public, and adequate due process for all parties involved.” The “general findings will be made public” even if some names and details will be withheld based on the discretion of “victims and whistleblowers.” This will apply to all current complaints. The committee has also asked the women’s caucus to make recommendations for reform and has retained a human-resources consulting firm to review its policies.

Yet some critics believe that by bringing in an outside legal firm that this could establish attorney-client privilege and shield key facts from the public. But others believe the rules will help Capitol staffers, who are at-will hires who can be fired for any reason, to feel more comfortable lodging a complaint. “The short-range plan is to pull this out of the current system where people really don’t feel their complaints will be handled appropriately,” Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, told Capital Public Radio. She is on the rules committee.

Even if the new process succeeds in dealing more forthrightly with particular harassment claims, it might just be the first step in dealing with broader problems within the Capitol.

Steven Greenhut is Western region director for the R Street Institute. Write to him at sgreenhut@rstreet.org.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California’s ‘sanctuary state’ law could be blocked by voters

From the Sacramento Bee:

Opponents of California’s recently approved “sanctuary state” measure have launched an effort to overturn the law.

Secretary of State Alex Padilla announced Monday that a referendum on Senate Bill 54, the controversial law limiting state and local police agencies’ ability to work with federal immigration authorities, has been cleared to gather signatures.

Introduced by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León in late 2016, shortly after the election of President Donald Trump, SB 54 aims to prevent California police resources from being “commandeered” by the Trump administration as it ramps up deportations.

Ben Bergquam, a spokesman for the referendum campaign, said those efforts to “undermine” the federal government amount to “sedition.”

“It’s lawless. It’s politicians protecting criminal illegals at the expense of law-abiding citizens,” he said. “It’s a slap in the face to American sovereignty and the citizens of our country.”

Proponents have until Jan. 3, 2018, to collect signatures from at least 365,880 registered voters. If they are successful, the referendum will appear on the November 2018 ballot, where voters will be asked whether or not to uphold SB 54. Bergquam said the campaign has no major funders yet, but it is reaching out to law enforcement groups that oppose the law. …

Click here to read the full story from the Sacramento Bee