Gascón Recall Effort Fails as LA Registrar Recorder Denies 200K Signatures

‘If this was my recall team, I’d definitely look into it – Something is off’

Los Angeles County Registrar Recorder/County Clerk Dean Logan announced on Monday that the recall petition of LA District Attorney George Gascon failed to reach the needed number of signatures, only garnering 520,050 of the needed 566,867 needed to be on the November 2022 ballot.

In July, LA Mayoral candidate and current Rep. Karen Bass said “My focus is going to be on the mayor’s race…I’m not going to be focused on the recall,” LAMag.com reported, and said she “then went on to characterize the chances the recall will qualify for the ballot as ‘doubtful.’”

When the second recall attempt against Gascon kicked off in January following the failed 2021 attempt, the number of signatures quickly grew. By June, so many had been collected that the safety goal was being reached and criminals in the County were so worried of it succeeding that many began asking for more plea deals ahead of such a recall being on the ballot. Around 716,000 were turned in by the early July deadline, with number of signatures widely being seen as enough, as previous petitions, such as the Gavin Newsom recall campaign in 2021, had only a 20% rejection rate.

“I wouldn’t say it’s in the bag or we’ll be complacent, but as far as public opinion is concerned, George Gascon is toast,” said Recall DA George Gascon Tim Lineberger spokesman last month.

However, on Monday, 195,783 signatures of the 715,833 turned in were invalidated, causing the recall petition to not advance.

“Based on the examination and verification, which conducted in compliance with the statutory and regulatory requirements of the California Government Code, Elections Code, and Code of Regulations, 520,050 signatures were found to be valid and 195,783 were found to be invalid,” said Logan on Monday. “Therefore, the petition has failed to meet the sufficiency requirements and no further action shall be taken on the petition.”

Of the nearly 200,000 invalidated signatures, 88,000 were not registered, 43,593 were duplicates, 32,187 were a different address, 9,490 were mismatched signatures, 7,344 were canceled, 5,374 were out of county addresses, with 9,300 being uncounted under the ‘other’ category.

Those against the recall attempt celebrated on Monday, with a Gascon campaign spokesperson saying “We are obviously glad to move forward from this attempted political power grab, but we also understand that there is far more work that needs to be done. And we remain strongly committed to that work. The DA’s primary focus is and has always been keeping us safe and creating a more equitable justice system for all. Today’s announcement does not change that.”

Gascon himself also gave a brief tweet, echoing similar sentiments.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

Taxpayers on Hook as Gascón Brings in Nation’s Highest-Paid Attorney in Legal Battle with His Own Prosecutors

 Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, whose own deputies sued him for permission to charge repeat offenders to the fullest extent of the law, has pulled out all the stops in his California Supreme Court appeal against them, retaining one of the nation’s top lawyers.

Neal K. Katyal, a former Acting U.S. Solicitor General who represented Al Gore in the 2000 election dispute and has appeared before the U.S. Supreme Court dozens of times, is also reportedly one of the country’s highest-paid attorneys.

Reuters reported in May that the Georgetown law professor and partner at Hogan Lovells was charging as much as $2,465 an hour to represent a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson in a bankruptcy case. At the time, that was more than the $2,295 an hour former Attorney General Eric Holder was billing.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón sued by Deputy DA

“That’s high, but appellate experts like him are in high demand,” said Neama Rahmani, a former federal prosecutor and Los Angeles-based trial attorney.

Katyal is one of the most accomplished lawyers in the country. He has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court dozens of times, according to his Georgetown bio. He also faced a storm of criticism in late 2020 after defending two large corporations in a child slavery lawsuit that reached the Supreme Court.

“When you hire the former Acting Solicitor General to handle an appeal, it’s a big deal,” Rahmani told Fox News Digital.

But the expenditure could amount to a waste of taxpayers’ money if Gascón fails in front of the Supreme Court.

Rahmani said Gascón’s chances of prevailing “are low,” noting that the courts have already upheld similar sentencing schemes.

“It’s unfortunate that Gascón is spending so much time and money litigating against his own front-line prosecutors and challenging California’s Three Strikes law, which is well-established and supported by the majority of California voters,” he said. “Especially as he faces a likely recall.”

SUGGESTED: DA Gascón recall effort: County officials to proceed with full review of signatures

Gascón’s office did not immediately respond to questions about how much taxpayer money is going toward paying Hogan Lovells or Katyal.

The Democrat Gascón is facing a recall effort and rising crime, as well as a storm of criticism over his handling of high-profile cases involving egregious crimes, including the 26-year-old trans child molester who was incarcerated in a juvenile facility nearly a decade after attacking a 10-year-old girl in a Denny’s bathroom.

In the past two weeks, as the recall effort cleared several roadblocks, Gascón disbanded the unit in his office tasked with notifying crime victims of their assailants’ parole hearings and taken his appeal against a lawsuit that blocked his directive banning prosecutors from charging strikes under California law to the state Supreme Court. In June, he said he had secured an “appropriate” sentence of five to seven months in juvenile probation camp for a wrong-way-driving teen in a stolen car who pleaded guilty to mowing down a mother walking her infant son in a stroller.

Katyal, who argued in appellate court that Gascón should be able to implement his unilateral directives over the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, wrote the opposite in a 2020 op-ed for the New York Times, critics said. Katyal and fellow Georgetown law professor Joshua Geltzer disputed the decision of the Justice Department, under then-Attorney General Bill Bar, to drop criminal charges against former Trump adviser Michael Flynn.

SUGGESTED: Whittier to vote on bypassing LA DA Gascón on misdemeanor crimes

“Fortunately, in our system, a prosecutor’s say-so is not enough to drop a prosecution,” they wrote. “It requires the approval of the court. And while judges rarely interfere with such decisions, this is that rare case.”

Neither Katyal nor Geltzer responded to requests for comment.

“This is diametrically opposed to his position on this case,” Eric Siddall, the vice president of the Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys, which initially sued Gascón over the three-strikes policy in December 2020, said of the Flynn op-ed Tuesday.

Eric George, the Ellis George Cipollone O’Brien Annaguey LLP partner representing the Association of Deputy District Attorneys, described Katyal as a “very good lawyer” Tuesday but said last week that he is confident in the ADDA’s case before the state’s Supreme Court.

“Each of the four respected jurists who have considered the matter has validated our client’s claims, and we are confident the California Supreme Court will take no action to interfere with the injunction against Mr. Gascón,” he said.

In June, the Second Appellate District Court upheld portions of a lower court’s injunction that said Gascón cannot refuse to charge three-strike cases, which can dramatically increase prison sentences for some of the most serious repeat offenders.

Gascón is hoping to have the court’s order overturned, arguing that it is “draconian,” creates “a dangerous precedent” and amounts to “taking the charging decision out of a prosecutor’s hands.”

“The district attorney overstates his authority,” the Second Appellate District ruling reads. “He is an elected official who must comply with the law, not a sovereign with absolute, unreviewable discretion.”

Gascón recall Proponents Deliver 717,000 Signatures to County

Former DA Steve Cooley, one of the recall organizers, called the campaign ‘a Herculean effort with a lot of moving parts to obtain the signatures’

Campaign organizers seeking to recall embattled Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón submitted 717,000 signatures to election officials Wednesday, July 6, hoping to force an election that could oust him after less than two years on the job.

A group of sign-waving recall supporters, many of them families of murder victims critical of Gascon’s policies, greeted a truck that delivered the petitions to the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office in Norwalk. Supporters need 566,857 signatures — representing 10% of the total registered voters in the county at the time of the November 2020 election that Gascon won — to qualify the recall for the ballot.

Supporters hope the extra signatures will provide a sufficient cushion to allow for disqualified signatures.

“It was a Herculean effort with a lot of moving parts to obtain the signatures,” said former Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley, who is co-chairman of campaign to recall Gascon.

Wednesday was the county deadline to submit the recall petitions. Cooley predicted that if the signatures are certified, Gascón will be turned out of office in a landslide.

30 days to verify signatures

The county will have 30 days to verify the signatures before scheduling a recall vote.

“They are still determining whether they will count the entire submission, or only a 5% sample batch,” campaign spokesman Tim Lineberger said. “If the recall ultimately qualifies, it would likely take place in a special election early next year. For it to appear on the November ballot, the process would likely need to be expedited.”

If the recall issue qualifies, the same ballot will ask voters to choose a replacement candidate for district attorney. The candidate with the most votes would capture the election outright without a runoff election.

While the initial campaign to recall Gascón fizzled early last year due to a lack of signatures and the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rebooted effort that began in October has received a groundswell of public support and endorsements from unlikely political corners.

“This effort was different from the first effort in that skilled professionals took over the reins of the effort,” Cooley said. “They were very dedicated to the cause. The first effort was buoyed by a lot of enthusiasm but not the leadership nor organization to obtain the needed signatures in the required time frame. There were lessons learned from the first unsuccessful effort, the most important of which is that certain skill sets are vitally required to succeed in a recall effort.”

Recall proponents

The Los Angeles Association of Deputy District Attorneys, the Los Angeles Police Protective League, the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association along with county Supervisor Kathryn Barger have endorsed the recall.

“I typically support election outcomes as a way of respecting the public’s right to choose, but our D.A.’s policies have led to disastrous consequences,” Barger said in a statement issued in May. “Public safety in L.A. County has visibly deteriorated. I believe Gascón must be replaced with someone that is committed to championing victims’ rights, safety and justice.”

In a stunning reversal, former Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck withdrew his support for Gascón, saying the public would be better served by a district attorney who “emphasizes the rights of victims and the safety of our police officers.”

Gascón did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday, directing inquiries to his campaign spokesperson.

“We are waiting to hear the official count of validated signatures,” Elise Moore, his spokesperson, said in an email. “This will likely take several weeks. In the meantime, we remain focused on the work of keeping communities safe and creating a more equitable justice system, as we have been since day one.”

Reform has ‘broad support’

Cristine Soto DeBerry, executive director of the Prosecutors Alliance of California, said the recall effort is being bankrolled by “fringe conservatives, political operatives, and mega-donors” that support former President Donald Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“Criminal justice reform has broad support from people across the political spectrum as voters know the status quo has failed them on every level,” DeBerry said in a statement. “This is a system defined by soaring rates of recidivism, shocking levels of racial disparities and wasteful spending of taxpayer money. It is a system that created a revolving door from the streets to our jails and prisons while ignoring the underlying problems that drive crime in the first place.”

DeBerry added that Gascón, who served 30 years with the LAPD and previously as San Francisco district attorney, was elected to prioritize “safety, accountability, healing and justice.”

Click here to read the full article in the Los Angeles Daily News

Voters Recall D.A. Chesa Boudin

Reformist prosecutor in San Francisco will not finish first term amid social problems.

SAN FRANCISCO — Embattled Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin, who became a lightning rod for debates over crime and homelessness in San Francisco, will not finish his first term as the city’s top prosecutor.

With more than 61% of voters backing the recall of the 41-year-old reformer candidate, the Associated Press and the San Francisco Chronicle called the race Tuesday night.

The bitter, expensive recall election has become a referendum on some of San Francisco’s most painfully visible social problems, including homelessness, property crime and drug addiction.

The recall campaign has painted Boudin as a soft-on-crime prosecutor who doesn’t care about public safety. It has tied his criminal reform policies to high-profile crimes, including a fatal hit-and-run involving a man on parole, a series of smash-and-grab robberies from high-end Union Square stores and attacks against elderly Asian American residents.

“Safe is not a word I’d use to describe San Francisco,” said Raj Marwari, 40, who lives in the Marina District and works in finance. He said he voted to recall Boudin because “obviously, things have gotten worse in every way,” including homelessness. He said he’s embarrassed when his parents from Texas visit the city.

Removing Boudin from office won’t solve everything, Marwari said, but “when the player’s doing bad, you’ve got to pull ’em.”

Property and violent crimes fell by double-digit percentages during Bou-din’s first two years in office. But some individual categories of crime surged in the same time frame: Burglaries rose 47%; motor vehicle theft, 36%. Homicides also increased, though the city saw its lowest number of killings in more than a half-century in 2019.

Like other prosecutors in the nationwide movement to reimagine the criminal justice system, Boudin ran on a platform to reduce mass incarceration and divert low-level offenders into drug and mental health treatment instead of jail cells.

His loss could have national implications, including for Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón, who is facing his second recall attempt in two years.

During his 2½-year tenure, Boudin has refused to seek the death penalty or try juveniles as adults. He has reduced the use of sentencing enhancements. A San Francisco police officer stood trial for excessive force this year for the first time, though the officer, Terrance Stangle, was acquitted.

Boudin and his supporters fanned out across the city Tuesday to hand out pamphlets urging a “no” vote on the recall, known as Proposition H. As he campaigned along Divisadero Street in a neighborhood known as NoPa (North of the Panhandle), Boudin said he was “feeling great.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

More S.F. Voters Supported Recall Of School Board Members Than Elected Them In 2018

More San Franciscans voted to recall three school board members than elected them in 2018, despite a relatively low turnout in the special election last week.

With nearly 175,000 votes counted, and few remaining ballots still outstanding, the tally demonstrated a clear landslide and countered claims that the recall was a Republican-fueled election dominated by white families frustrated with the board’s progressive politics.

The voter turnout as of Friday was at 35%.

More than 131,000 voters ousted board member Alison Collins, who received 122,865 votes in 2018 when she was elected to the job.

Board President Gabriela López received 123,463 recall votes compared with 117,843 in 2018, while Faauuga Moliga received 117,843 recall votes, nearly 10,000 more than the 107,989 who elected him.

The data also shows that a majority of voters in every neighborhood in San Francisco supported the removal of Collins and López, while all but one, North Bernal Heights, voted to oust Moliga.

The recall divided the city for the past year, with a grassroots effort of frustrated parents and community members pushing for the board members’ removal over the slow reopening of schools during the pandemic and the board’s focus on controversial issues such as renaming 44 school sites and ending the merit-based admission system at Lowell High School.

Opponents of the recall said that the election was a waste of time, money and energy that could have been better directed toward students and that commissioners were carrying out a racial justice agenda that many voters back and is meant to address inequity in the schools. They pointed out wealthy investors, including some Republicans, largely bankrolled the recall effort.

Voters specifically targeted Collins over racially offensive tweets she made before her election, saying Asian Americans used “white supremacist thinking to assimilate and ‘get ahead.’”

Amid calls for her resignation from city leaders and community groups, she sued the district and five fellow board members for $87 million after the board stripped her of the vice presidency and her seat on committees. The lawsuit was tossed out of court before the first hearing.

Within the next few weeks, Mayor London Breed is expected to appoint replacements to finish out the commissioners’ terms, which end in early January 2023. To remain in office, the replacements would have to run in the upcoming November election, but might have an edge as incumbents.

“The voters of this city have delivered a clear message that the school board must focus on the essentials of delivering a well-run school system above all else,” Breed said in a statement on election night. “There are many critical decisions in the coming months — addressing a significant budget deficit, hiring a new Superintendent, and navigating our emergence from this pandemic. … The school district has a lot of work to do.”

Collins and López remain in office, and will not officially be removed until 10 days after the Board of Supervisors accepts the results. New board members would probably take seats around March 11. Moliga, however, stepped down Wednesday. His seat will be vacant until Breed appoints a replacement.

Collins and López remained defiant last week, attributing the recall to white supremacy, a backlash against social justice issues and deep-pocketed Republicans.

“So if you fight for racial justice, this is the consequence,” López said Thursday on Twitter. “Don’t be mistaken, white supremacists are enjoying this. And the support of the recall is aligned with this.”

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

S.F. School Board Recall: Alison Collins, Gabriela López and Faauuga Moliga Ousted

San Francisco voters overwhelmingly supported the ouster of three school board members Tuesday in the city’s first recall election in nearly 40 years.

The landslide decision means board President Gabriela López and members Alison Collins and Faauuga Moliga will officially be removed from office and replaced by mayoral appointments 10 days after the election is officially accepted by the Board of Supervisors.

The new board members are likely to take office in mid-March. The three were the only school board members who had served long enough to be eligible for a recall.

The recall divided the city for the past year, with a grassroots effort of frustrated parents and community members pushing for the trustees’ removal over the slow reopening of schools during the pandemic and the board’s focus on controversial issues like renaming 44 school sites and ending the merit-based admission system at Lowell High School.

Supervisor Hillary Ronen said she wasn’t surprised by the results.

“We faced the hardest time of our entire lives as parents and as students in public schools and this Board of Education focused on issues that weren’t about dealing with the immediate crisis of the day, and they didn’t show the leadership that that was necessary and that parents needed to hear, and that kids needed to hear,” said Ronen.

At least a hundred recall backers had gathered in the back room of Manny’s Cafe in the Mission District on Tuesday night.

“This is what happens when you try to rename the schools in the middle of a pandemic!” exclaimed David Thompson a.k.a “Gaybraham” Lincoln, an SFUSD parent dressed in head-to-toe rainbow drag and towering platform shoes, who described his persona as a form of protest. “We wanted to show the diversity of the community behind this recall. I knew they were going to say, ‘Oh isn’t it just a bunch of Republicans?’ and I’m like, do I look like a Republican?”

Within the next few weeks, Mayor London Breed is expected to appoint replacements to finish out the commissioners’ terms, which end in early January 2023. To remain in office, the replacements would have to run in the upcoming November election, but would have an edge as incumbents.

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

Signatures for recall of Sen. Newman certified, election expected in June


Signatures calling for the Republican-backed recall election of state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, were certified on Friday by Secretary of State Alex Padilla, making it official that the effort has qualified for the ballot.

The date of the election will be determined by Gov. Jerry Brown, with many expecting it to coincide with June 5 primary. Democratic lawmakers tweaked state law last year to expand the time frame when such elections could be held. Beside the cost savings of running the elections together, the June 5 date would sidestep a freestanding special election in which Republicans typically turn out in greater proportions than Democrats.

The GOP targeted Newman after he voted to increase the gas tax by 12-cents-per gallon to pay for a 10-year, $52 billion roads and transportation improvement project championed by Brown, who has vowed to provide Newman with the help he needs to fend off the recall.

The freshman senator was singled out because he was considered the most vulnerable to being beaten by a Republican. His 2016 election gave Democrats a two-thirds supermajority that allowed them to raise taxes without a single GOP vote. …

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

Gas Tax Senator Recall Clears Legal Hurdle


As reported by the L.A. Times: 

Of the more than 70,600 voters who signed petitions to hold a recall vote on state Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton, only 849 asked that their signatures be withdrawn by the deadline, clearing a major hurdle for an election on whether to oust the Democratic lawmaker, officials said Tuesday.

Opponents of the recall needed to get more than 7,000 voters to withdraw their signatures to deprive supporters of the 63,593 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot, under a new system approved recently by the Democratic-controlled Legislature that slows down the process.

“Sen. Josh Newman has spent months lying to his constituents by claiming people were duped into signing the recall petition against him, and with today’s tally, he has been unmasked again as a pathological liar who is unfit to hold office,” said Carl DeMaio, a Republican activist heading the recall drive. “We eagerly look forward to voters having a chance to vote him out for his lies and his decision to increase the gas tax.”

Newman won a close contest last November in a district formerly represented by a Republican. He was targeted for recall by Republican activists for voting in April for a $52-billion transportation plan that raises gas taxes and imposes a new annual vehicle fee. A successful recall would deprive Democrats of a supermajority in the Senate. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times

Political fight continues over California recall rules


vote-buttonsSACRAMENTO – Most recall elections are primarily about electoral politics, as both sides duke it out with the usual broadcast ads and ground campaigns. But the burgeoning Republican effort to recall Orange County’s Democratic Sen. Josh Newman has turned into an inside-the-Capitol political fight as well as a high-profile legal battle. It could be months before the matter is debated in the context of a traditional political campaign.

Newman was elected to the Fullerton-area Senate district last November, winning by fewer than 2,500 votes in a district with nearly even voter registration between the Democratic and Republican parties. Voters there have typically sent Republicans to the Legislature, so Newman’s win was viewed as an upset. It also helped Democrats gain supermajorities in the Legislature, which lets them approve tax increases without any GOP votes.

After Newman cast a deciding vote in favor of legislation that raises the gasoline tax by 12 cents a gallon and increases vehicle license fees, former San Diego councilman Carl DeMaio, a Republican, started a campaign to boot Newman from the Senate. State Democratic leaders claim that some recall backers misled voters into thinking the recall will repeal the transportation-tax hike, so they struck back with a measure they say is about upholding the integrity of the recall process.

They passed a bill earlier this summer that retroactively changes the state’s long-standing recall-election rules by adding months to the certification timeline. It primarily gives voters 30 days to rescind their recall-petition signatures. Republicans say the new law has nothing to do with recall integrity, but is a transparent attempt to delay the election until the June 2018 primary when Democrats are expected to fare better at the polls. They accuse the Democrats of rigging the election rules to help Newman.

The governor signed Senate Bill 96 in June, but the state’s Third District Court of Appeal put portions of it on hold earlier this month, ruling that it violates the single-subject rule requiring legislation to deal with only one topic. The court, however, didn’t halt the Democratic effort to slow the recall drive. After they returned from summer recess, legislators again used a trailer bill, which is supposedly reserved for budgetary clean-up language, to quickly pass a measure to again rewrite recall election law to help Newman survive a coming vote.

Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown, Senate Bill 117 seeks “to eliminate any issue as to whether the changes to recall petition procedures made by Senate Bill 96 are enacted in violation of the single subject rule” by expressing “the intent of the Legislature to repeal those provisions and reenact them in this act, which embraces only the subject of elections.”

After the bill became law, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association and several voters again filed a lawsuit against Democratic Secretary of State Alex Padilla and the state Legislature to strike down the new law, which they say is unconstitutional.

The original lawsuit argues that “the attempted retroactive interference in a recall process that has already commenced for the express purpose of nullifying, through unreasonable delay, petitioners’ constitutionally-vested right, violates both due process and equal protection of the law.”

The new lawsuit says the new law “should not be permitted to prohibit (the secretary of state) from performing his ministerial duty, which at this point is the simple process of signing his name to a certificate to confirm what everyone knows, and indeed what the Respondent’s office has acknowledged: that the recall petition is sufficient to compel an immediate election.”

It also contends that the law should properly have been passed on a two-thirds vote rather than as majority-vote trailer bill. “While SB117 purported to address the single-subject problem of its predecessor,” the lawsuit argues, “the new bill does so in another unconstitutional vehicle – a ‘spot-bill’ designated as ‘related to the budget in the budget bill.’” But when the budget was adopted, “SB117 was not even identified as one of the budget-related trailer bills” and “had no substantive content.”

If the court rules in the group’s favor, Democrats could still appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court. Win or lose, the Democrats appear to be getting their way – using their fearsome political muscle to delay a recall of one of their senators. It’s the rare election case where the courts have as much influence as the voters.

Steven Greenhut is a Sacramento-based journalist. Write to him at stevengreenhut@gmail.com.

This article was originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Housing, Recall and Bail Reform at Top of List for California Legislature


legislatureSACRAMENTO – California’s Legislature is back from its recess and legislators kicked off the session by focusing on two highly partisan matters.

Assembly Republicans first voted to keep Chad Mayes as Republican leader, despite pressure from activists to oust him because of his vote to extend the governor’s cap-and-trade system. But Mayes said Thursday that he will step down and will be replaced by Brian Dahle, R-Bieber. Democrats pushed new legislation that would change state election rules to help Democratic Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton thwart a high-profile recall effort.

As divisive political wrangling settles down, legislators do plan to address some substantive policy issues. At the top of the list is housing. Before the recess, Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democratic leadership promised to introduce a package of bills to help boost housing supply, given that escalating home prices have reached crisis levels.

Keep an eye on Senate Bill 35, which would create “a streamlined, ministerial approval process for development proponents of multi-family housing” in localities that have “not produced enough housing units to meet its regional housing needs assessment.” A ministerial approval would spare developers from a drawn-out process before planning commissions and city councils.

Local governments are opposed to the bill because it limits their authority, but backers say the measure is needed to jump-start some types of housing projects, given that local growth controls and environmental lawsuits have slowed housing construction.

The bill recently was amended to expand its application beyond big urban centers to include smaller cities and suburban locales. It’s a rare instance where Republicans and Democrats have some common ground, with the former wanting to encourage private companies to build more and the latter hoping to see the construction of high-density housing. The building industry opposes provisions that would require paying union wage scales.

There’s more controversy over two other housing-related measures. Senate Bill 2 would impose $75 to $225 fees on property transfers (excluding home sales) to fund government-subsidized affordable housing. Senate Bill 3 would put a $3 billion housing bond on the November 2018 ballot, which also would fund housing subsidies.

Another top Capitol priority is passage of Assembly Bill 1250, which essentially would ban 56 of California’s 58 counties from outsourcing certain services to private contractors. It is backed by a vast array of public-sector unions.

“While cheaper services and employee layoffs may appear to save dollars in the short term, the savings are often illusory with hidden costs that are not accounted for and diminished services or contractor failures that require cities and counties to ultimately re-hire and/or re-train staff to provide the outsourced service,” argues author Reginald Jones-Sawyer, D-Los Angeles.

But county governments, and companies that provide myriad services to them, argue that the bill will dramatically raise costs for taxpayers and will lead to diminished services. Given increasing costs of pensions, medical care and other employee benefits, these governments say they can’t afford to hire permanent employees. This is likely to be one of the most contentious bills to make its way through the Legislature during the final month of session.

On Wednesday, activists promoting bail reform held an event on the Capitol grounds, thus highlighting a growing reform movement. Senate Bill 10 — by Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys — would replace the current system of money bail with a judicial-based pre-trial system, whereby defendants are released or kept in custody based on an assessment of their flight risk and the nature of their alleged crimes.

Opponents of the current bail system argue that it’s unfair to keep people in jail, as they await trial, based solely on their ability to post a bond. Studies show that low-income people are more likely to accept plea bargains – largely so they can get out of jail and get back to work and caring for their children. The bail-bonds industry sees the legislation as an existential threat, and Republicans fear that the new system could make it tough to keep dangerous people behind bars.

Senate Bill 54, which would turn California into a so-called sanctuary state by limiting “the involvement of state and local law enforcement agencies in federal immigration enforcement,” is another hot-button issue in the waning days of the session. As the Sacramento Bee reported, the measure “sailed through the Senate and appears likely to pass the Assembly with a majority vote,” but “it’s unclear where Brown stands on the issue.”

Its passage would put the state on a collision course with the Trump administration, which has threatened to halt crime-fighting funds to cities — and presumably, states — that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials.

Legislators and activists have talked about other, less-substantive but highly controversial issues, as well. Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de Leon promised in a speech this week to hold hearings on white supremacists in California, which he called “a cancer on our nation.” Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Draper, who had failed to qualify for the November 2016 ballot a measure to break up California into six states, filed a new measure to split up California into three states.

There’s plenty to watch as the legislative session winds down – and as political battles heat up for the 2018 election.

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