California Decriminalizes Jaywalking Due to Alleged Racial Bias

Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a law Friday that will decriminalize jaywalking across California, ending the familiar practice of police handing out tickets to pedestrians on the argument that the law is enforced more often against minorities than other people.

The new law, AB 2147, known as the “Freedom to Walk Act,” could bring an end to a cultural difference that has marked otherwise libertine Californians as being uniquely deferential to laws governing pedestrian traffic. The difference between Californians, who ostensibly tend to obey “don’t walk” signals, and urban dwellers elsewhere in the country, who are notoriously defiant when it comes to crossing against traffic signals, was lampooned in the 2011 film Friends with Benefits, starring Mila Kunis and Justin Timberlake:

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), celebrated the governor’s action in a statement on Friday: “It should not be a criminal offense to safely cross the street. When expensive tickets and unnecessary confrontations with police impact only certain communities, it’s time to reconsider how we use our law enforcement resources and whether our jaywalking laws really do protect pedestrians,” said Ting. “Plus, we should be encouraging people to get out of their cars and walk for health and environmental reasons.”

AB 2147 is Ting’s second attempt to decriminalize jaywalking in California, as he pursues fairness in the way fines are assessed and prevention of potentially escalating police stops. Jaywalking is arbitrarily enforced throughout California, with tickets disproportionately given to people of color and lower-income individuals who cannot afford tickets that can often total hundreds of dollars. When the law goes into effect on January 1, 2023, fewer working families will struggle to pay the costly citation, and police would not be able to use jaywalking as a pretext to detain someone.

Click here to read the full article in BreitbartCA

Gavin Newsom says Gas Prices are Skyrocketing. His Solution? A New Tax

As California experiences an historic surge in gas prices, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday proposed a new tax on oil companies that would fund rebates for Golden State taxpayers getting squeezed at the pump. Newsom said in a statement that he was working with members of the California legislature to charge a windfall profit tax on companies engaged in the extraction, production and refining of oil. Under the proposal, the companies would pay a higher tax rate on their earnings above a set amount each year. The funds collected would then be directed to California taxpayers in the form of rebates or refunds, the statement said. “Crude oil prices are down but oil and gas companies have jacked up prices at the pump in California. This doesn’t add up,” Newsom said in a release. “We’re not going to stand by while greedy oil companies fleece Californians.”

The governor did not hold a news conference about the proposal so many questions remain unanswered, including his timeline for implementation, what the earnings threshold would be for companies and how the rebates would be distributed. In a joint statement released late Friday afternoon, Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said that they are going to work with the members of their respective caucuses to “take a hard look at any proposal to go after windfall profits that oil companies are raking in by bilking consumers.” “We know this is something Californians want action on, and we are acting,” the statement read.

The announcement came just hours after Newsom directed the California Air Resources Board to “take whatever steps are necessary” to permit refineries to begin making and distributing winter-blend gasoline, which is easier to make and cheaper for consumers. As of Friday, California’s price at the pump is an average $6.29 — more than $2 above the national average of $3.80, according to data from AAA. While the price of crude oil has declined, California’s cost-per-gallon has risen by a record 84 cents in the last 10 days. Some of that disparity can be attributed to the Golden State’s 54-cent gasoline excise tax, which is the second-highest in the country, and the state’s rigid environmental regulations. But Newsom said oil companies have “failed to provide” a complete explanation for the unprecedented divergence between California’s price at the pump and those in other parts of the country. The California Energy Commission on Friday sent a letter to refinery executives at Chevron, Marathon Petroleum, PBF Energy, Phillips 66 and Valero to request comprehensive explanations for the recent spike in prices. Legislatures quickly weighed in both in support — and in opposition — of Newsom’s tax proposal. Assemblymember Alex Lee (D-San José) wrote on Twitter, “glad (Gavin Newsom and I agree: Fossil Fuel Corporations are ripping us off and it’s time we redistributed their profits to the people.” Lee unveiled a similar proposal earlier this legislative session. Assemblywoman Laurie Davies (R-San Juan Capistrano), meanwhile, took issue with the governor levying even more taxes in tax-heavy California.

Click here to read the full article at the FresnoBee

Caruso Exceeds $62 Million in Mayoral Race

Rick Caruso has spent more than $62 million since launching his Los Angeles mayoral bid in February, nearly all of it his own money.

It’s a figure that — save for fellow billionaire Michael R. Bloomberg’s three successful New York mayoral campaigns — is all but unrivaled in the annals of local politics in America.

His opponent, Rep. Karen Bass, has spent just over $6 million since entering the race more than a year ago, meaning the real estate developer has outspent her by a factor of 10.

With a little more than five weeks before the Nov. 8 election, campaign finance disclosures released late Thursday paint a revealing picture of how both campaigns have regrouped since the primary.

Without independent wealth, Bass has little chance of matching Caruso’s prodigal war chest. But over the summer, the congresswoman had what appears to be her most impressive few months of fundraising yet.

During a roughly 12-week period, Bass took in nearly $2.2 million in contributions and more than $250,000 in city matching funds, according to filings covering July 1 through Sept. 24 submitted to the Los Angeles City Ethics Commission. She spent just under $1.2 million during that period.

Caruso spent a little more than $21 million during the same time period, according to his filings.

Caruso upended the race in the spring as a first-time candidate who entered the field with little name recognition and inundated the city with ad spending. He succeeded in introducing himself to Angelenos, and his centrist, “clean up L.A.” messaging seemed to find a foothold with an electorate frustrated by homelessness and crime.

But Bass finished with a 7-point lead in the June primary. Two weeks later, the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade — ensuring abortion rights would remain at the center of the conversation through the November election and creating a far less favorable political environment for a former Republican hoping to lead a deep-blue city.

After his unstinting ad spending in the spring, Caruso remained off the airwaves until mid-September, leading many political watchers to wonder through the summer whether he would dump a similar ad blitz in the fall, or pivot to a different tactic.

The answer appears to be both. The TV ads will be plentiful, but his latest campaign filings also reveal a gargantuan investment in field efforts.

These efforts, which accounted for nearly half of the campaign’s spending during the most recent filing period, are central to a broader November strategy banking on the campaign’s ability to turn out voters who probably sat out the primary and are less likely to cast a general election ballot.

Personal communication, combined with culturally competent outreach, is key to a successful field effort, said Sara Sadhwani, an assistant professor of politics at Pomona College.

“Having those folks come out to knock on doors, we can anticipate it will have some effect,” Sadhwani said.

The campaign has spent nearly $10 million on its canvassing program over the last few months, according to filings covering July 1 through Sept. 24.

Caruso’s most visible areas of focus since the primary have been with Latino voters, Asian American voters and voters in the San Fernando Valley.

Caruso is slated to spend at least $20 million on TV advertising through the November election, according to data from media tracking firm AdImpact. Of that planned total reservation, he spent about $5.5 million on TV airtime during this filing period, in the form of payments to TV stations made by his media planner.

Building a field effort is more uphill for an outsider like Caruso, L.A.-based political consultant Mike Murphy said, because he can’t tap into the union infrastructure that will probably aid Bass. Murphy supports Caruso and has worked for him previously.

Caruso gets “criticized for the spend, but it also is a form of freedom. Which makes it easier to be the change candidate,” Murphy said.

Bass has been heavily favored by local labor groups during the campaign, and several are likely to provide volunteer support in the weeks ahead.

“Karen Bass has always fought for the average worker, not just the rich and big corporations,” Pete Rodriguez, executive secretary-treasurer of the Southwest Regional Council of Carpenters, said recently.

The union — one of several outside groups backing Bass — plans to spend more than $1 million on Spanish-language TV advertising to support her. Union members are also phone-banking and door-knocking for Bass in a volunteer capacity.

Campaign money from the primary can’t carry over to the general, meaning Bass essentially had to start from scratch on June 8, the day after the primary. Fundraising appears to have been one of her primary focuses during the summer months.

Over $200,000 — nearly a fifth of Bass’ spending during this period — went to fundraiser Stephanie Daily Smith’s Daily Consulting. The prominent Democratic fundraiser joined the Bass campaign after the primary.

Donors who maxed out their giving to Bass during this period include Steven Spielberg, former Meta Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, Emily’s List President Laphonza Butler, businessman Danny Bakewell, Washington, D.C., lobbyist Heather Podesta, filmmaker Barry Jenkins and Showtime Chief Executive David Nevins.

In a testament to the national focus on the race to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti, the congresswoman’s summer fundraising drive included stops in New Orleans, Atlanta and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, according to finance disclosures and social media posts.

Caruso took in about $152,000 in donations during this same period and spent more than $21 million of his own money on his campaign, bringing the total he has put into the campaign since February to more than $61 million — representing nearly all of his total spending.

Outside spending will also continue to play a potent role in the race. Bass will be aided by a number of independent expenditure committees, including Communities United for Bass for LA Mayor 2022.

That political action committee, whose major funders include unions and Hollywood donors, took in more than $700,000 during the filing period and spent several hundred thousand on a digital attack ad characterizing Caruso as a liar.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Hackers Set Monday Deadline for LAUSD to Pay Up or Have Private Data Posted on Dark Web

A criminal syndicate has set a Monday deadline for the Los Angeles public school system to pay a ransom or have its data released on the dark web, which could potentially expose the confidential information of students and employees.

In response, L.A. schools Supt. Alberto Carvalho said Friday that the district would not pay the ransom and would not negotiate, following the advice of law enforcement and federal officials.

The deadline was posted on the dark web site maintained by Vice Society, which had informally confirmed to at least three reporters that it was responsible for the hack that L.A. Unified uncovered while it was in progress on Sept. 3, during the Labor Day weekend when most district employees were off work for four days.

District and law enforcement officials have declined to name Vice Society as the culprit, but federal officials posted a warning to education institutions about the syndicate immediately after the attack on the nation’s second-largest school system.

Carvalho has acknowledged that the attack came from a group that is familiar to law enforcement and known for attacking school systems. On Friday, Carvalho did not contest media accounts identifying Vice Society. He continued his previous practice of not naming the amount that is being demanded.

“What I can tell you is that the demand — any demand — would be absurd,” Carvalho said. “But this level of demand was, quite frankly, insulting. And we’re not about to enter into negotiations with that type of entity.”

In a statement released later, he added: “Paying ransom never guarantees the full recovery of data, and Los Angeles Unified believes public dollars are better spent on our students rather than capitulating to a nefarious and illicit crime syndicate.”

The claim of responsibility became official with a posting on the dark web. A screenshot shows the Vice Society logo and its catchphrase “ransomware with love.” The site lists as “partners” the entities that it claims to have victimized. These now include the L.A. Unified School District, which is listed along with the district logo.

“The papers will be published by London time on Oct. 4, 2022, at 12 a.m.,” the webpage states. A countdown clock ticks down the time to the deadline. Midnight in London would translate to 4 p.m. Monday in Los Angeles.

Hackers this year have attacked at least 27 U.S. school districts and 28 colleges, according to cybersecurity expert Brett Callow, threat analyst for the digital security firm Emsisoft. At least 36 of those organizations had data stolen and released online and at least two districts and one college paid the attackers, Callow said.

Vice Society alone has hit at least nine school districts and colleges or universities so far this year, per Callow’s tally.

“What we now know is that whatever data Vice Society has will be released on the dark web in a little under four days,” Callow said. “We don’t, however, know what that data is, how much of it there is or, for that matter, whether this is a bluff and they obtained no data at all.”

When the attack was discovered, district technicians quickly shut down all computer operations to limit the damage and officials were able to open campuses as scheduled on the Tuesday after the holiday weekend. The shutdown and the hack combined to result in a week of significant disruptions as more than 600,000 users had to reset passwords and systems were gradually screened for breaches and restored.

During this rebooting, technicians found so-called tripwires left behind that could have resulted in more structural damage or the further theft of data. The restoration of district systems is ongoing, but there also was another element of the attack: the exfiltration of data.

The hackers claim to have stolen 500 gigs of data — a claim that is impossible to verify unless the hackers returned a copy to district officials as proof. This is the information that the syndicate says it is prepared to release publicly.

Carvalho repeated on Friday that he believes confidential information of employees was not stolen. He is less certain about information related to students, which could include names, grades, course schedules, disciplinary records and disability status.

Whatever the case, he said, the district will provide assistance to anyone who is potentially harmed by the release of data, including by setting up an “incident response” line at (855) 926-1129. Its hours of operation are 6 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding major U.S. holidays.

The district also has set up a cybersecurity task force, and the school board has granted Carvalho emergency powers to take any related step he feels is necessary.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Report: Ex-Cal State Chancellor Mishandled Misconduct Claims

The former chancellor of California State University, the nation’s largest public university system, mishandled sexual misconduct allegations while he headed the Fresno campus, according to a report released Thursday.

Joseph I. Castro failed to deal properly with complaints against Frank Lamas while Castro was Fresno State’s president because he had a “blind spot” for his friend, according to the results of a months-long investigation commissioned by the CSU system.

Lamas, the campus vice president of student affairs from mid-July 2014 until his retirement in 2020, was recruited by Castro, according to the report.

During his tenure, the campus received at least nine complaints that Lamas improperly touched women, made sexist comments and harassed or retaliated against workers, the report said. 

Most of the complaints were informal or anonymous. The report said some involved behavior that wasn’t specifically barred by the system’s policy prohibiting sexual or other harassment of employees.

No action was taken against Lamas until a formal complaint was filed in 2019, when he was barred from campus and later found to have violated a CSU harassment policy.

While Castro and others repeatedly talked to Lamas, counseling him not to engage in such conduct, the president “consistently did not take any significant action against but instead supported Lamas throughout his employment even in the face of multiple allegations, growing evidence, and ultimately, confirmed findings of Lamas’ alleged misconduct,” the report said.

From 2016 through 2019, Castro made eight recommendations of Lamas for presidential positions both inside and outside the CSU system without making reference to the misconduct complaints, the report said.

Lamas, who has denied the misconduct allegations, retired in 2020 as part of a settlement agreement granting him a $260,000 payment equivalent to a year’s salary and barring him from CSU work. The settlement, which was approved by the CSU chancellor at the time, didn’t violate system policies and there were legitimate reasons for supporting it, including the risk and cost if Lamas sued, the report said.

However, Castro acted inappropriately when he agreed to write Lamas a “very positive” letter of recommendation to help find work elsewhere, the report said.

Castro disputed the report’s findings in a statement issued Thursday and cited by the Los Angeles Times, saying he had made decisions based on the advice of CSU’s lawyer and previous chancellor.

“I have been a steadfast champion for gender equity throughout my career and will redouble my efforts in this important area going forward,” Castro said.

The 10-page report was conducted by a law firm that also investigated Lamas.

Click here to read the full article at AP News

Despite outcry, Fresno will spend $600k on ballot campaigns. Is it a conflict of interest?

It took a couple tries, but the Fresno City Council on Thursday voted to spend $600,000 on voter education materials for two November ballot measures, despite criticism from a coalition of community organizations. The city will pay a consultant $450,000 to produce voter education materials for Measure M, a Fresno city proposed sales tax that would raise money for veterans facilities and services. Measure M is proposed as a 0.125% sales tax, or one-eighth of a percent, on sales of taxable goods and services in the city. The city also will pay an advertising firm $150,000 to produce materials for Measure C, a countywide proposed $7 billion, 30-year transportation spending plan renewal.

Funding the Measure C educational materials is what drew criticism from many members of the No on Measure C Committee. They argued it was unlikely the education materials would be impartial and ultimately would amount to using taxpayer money for campaign materials, which is illegal. Many community members spoke during public comment in opposition to the agenda item. City officials disagreed and said the city attorney’s office reviewed the spending proposal to make sure no laws would be broken.

Before Thursday’s vote, City Manager Georgeanne White said she personally would oversee the contracts to ensure all laws are followed. The council’s ultimate approval hinged on the condition that all materials must be reviewed by the city attorney’s office before they are distributed. “I’m giving my commitment on this dais that we will follow the direction that no materials will be going out without the city attorney having reviewed them,” White said. “So we will be very cautious. We’re very clear on not only what the government code says and what the FPPC guidance says. …We all want to stay out of trouble.” Measure C was prepared by local political leaders, including Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer. Citing internal polls that show that Fresno County voters want, first and foremost, their neighborhood streets improved, the plan’s proponents want to spend the majority of Measure C’s revenue over the next 30 years to repave local roads. The No on C Committee argues that the plan does not do enough to build new sidewalks, improve public transit or fight climate change.

Click here to read the full article at the Fresno Bee

Am I A Water hog? Here’s What Could Land You on California’s List of Homes Using Too Much Water

With California’s water supply shrinking and the drought dragging on, Bay Area water agencies are getting serious about persuading their customers to use water responsibly.

At least one, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, on Tuesday started releasing the names of those guilty of what it considers “excessive use” of water. Three homes made the initial list but it’s expected to grow to hundreds by the end of October.

So how does someone wind up on this list?

Leaks

According to Andrea Pook, a spokesperson for EBMUD, the circumstances that land most people on the list are leaks and outdoor water use, primarily for landscaping.

Leaks — ranging from drippy faucets to corroded pipes to seeping irrigation systems — exist in about one out of every four of the residences in the district’s service area. Leaks can go unnoticed, particularly if they’re underground or in an area that’s not seen regularly.

“It can be obvious, but it can also be a pain to discover these,” Pook said.

Landscaping is also a major cause of excess water use, she said, particularly during the summer when people are trying to keep their lawns green and their plants from turning to twigs.

People should avoid watering their lawns and plants more than three times a week, Pook said, and should check their irrigation systems to make sure they’re not leaking, that streams from sprinklers are reaching vegetation and not pavement and that automatic programs are set efficiently so they’re not watering too often or too long.

Landscaping is responsible for about two-thirds of wasted water, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

How to stay off the list

How can people best conserve water and stay off the excessive use list? Here’s some advice from experts:

• Check for — and repair — leaks.

• Monitor your water use so you’ll notice if there’s an unexpected spike in use. EBMUD offers rebates on flow meters, devices that can be connected to your water meter and display real-time water use. The district also answers questions during office hours, will conduct audits of your water use and send representatives to your house to look for problems and solutions.

“We find that most people underestimate their use of water,” Pook said.

• Inspect your irrigation system. Turn it on and see if you’re watering the sidewalk instead of the plants. Check the programming to see if it’s set to water efficiently for the weather and the season.

The state Department of Water Resources offers similar advice, but also suggests:

• Get rid of your lawn , or reduce its size, and replace it with drought resistant plants or landscaping that requires little or no water. Grass uses twice as much water as other yard plants, the department says.

• Replace irrigation systems that use sprinklers with drip irrigation systems.

• Change some household practices and equipment: installing high-efficiency toilets, recycling indoor water — from showers and bathtubs, washing machines and sinks for use in the garden, turning off water when brushing teeth or shaving and running only full loads in washing machines and dishwashers.

Still worried about making the list? EBMUD’s policy allows a relatively generous amount of water to be used before a penalty is applied and a warning is issued — an average of about 1,646 gallons per day over the 60-day billing cycle. Average daily use in the district is 200 to 300 gallons per day, Pook said.

According to data released this week in response to a public records request, about 2,250 households received warnings for going over the limit during their early-summer billing period while at least three continued to exceed the threshold for a second period.

Names of violators are made public only after a warning is sent out and a 15-day appeal period has lapsed. The list of offenders released Tuesday reflects just three days of bills being sent out over the continuous two-month billing cycles — the days in which the appeal deadline has passed. The district said it won’t provide another list until late October.

As the drought worsens, and if Northern California has another dry winter, Pook said, the water allotments will shrink.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

Housing Crisis Prompts First Joint San Diego County-City Meeting In decades

Goal is new era of cooperation; agencies aim for 10,000 subsidized units built on government land

The region’s housing crisis is prompting San Diego city and county elected officials to hold an unusual joint meeting Monday to spur construction of 10,000 subsidized housing units on public land by 2030.

The move comes after years of friction and lack of cooperation between the county and the city on a variety of issues, most notably the Hepatitis A health crisis five years ago.

The joint panel will take the kind of leadership role typically expected of the San Diego Association of Governments, a regional agency that also includes officials from the county and all 18 local cities.

It will be the first time in more than 22 years that the San Diego City Council and the San Diego County Board of Supervisors have held a joint meeting, and only the second such meeting in nearly 32 years.

Leaders said Wednesday that such a meeting is necessary because of the severity of the housing crisis and its impact on the economy, homelessness, social equity and general quality of life.

The two largest government agencies in the region must come together to set an example of cooperation and leadership on building more affordable housing, said council President Sean Elo-Rivera and board Chair Nathan Fletcher.

The San Diego Association of Governments, or SANDAG, has been mentioned in recent years as a potential leader on cooperative housing efforts. But Fletcher and Elo-Rivera said a county-city panel is a better bet.

“What makes this especially important is some of the dysfunction we see at SANDAG,” Elo-Rivera said. “I sit on the board, and it’s the opposite of collaboration at many times. There are obstructionists who are trying to prevent actions from being taken.”

Elo-Rivera was referring to battles within SANDAG over funding, ballot measures, housing goals, possibly charging drivers fees to use roads and how to connect San Diego International Airport to transit.

Several cities have resisted state-mandated housing goals, with Coronado, Solana Beach, Imperial Beach and Lemon Grove unsuccessfully appealing the mandates to the state Supreme Court.

Click here to read the full article in the SD Union Tribune

New California Abortion Laws Set Up Clash With Other States

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed more than a dozen new abortion laws Tuesday, including some that deliberately clash with restrictions in other states — a sign of the coming conflicts that must be sorted out as lawmakers rush to set their own rules now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned.

Most abortions are now illegal in 13 states, and others — including Texas, Oklahoma and Idaho — allow people to sue anyone who performs or aids in an abortion. Meanwhile, Democratic-led states like California, New York and Connecticut have been writing and passing laws to make it easier to get an abortion, with California promoting its abortion services on a state-funded website designed in part to reach women who live in other states.

Conflicts seem inevitable as more people travel for abortions in the coming years, especially with California and Oregon prepared to spend millions of taxpayer dollars to help pay for things like travel, lodging and child care. On Tuesday, Newsom signed a number of laws meant to thwart investigations from other states seeking to prosecute or penalize abortion providers and volunteers in California.

The laws block out-of-state subpoenas, empowering the state insurance commissioner to punish health insurance companies that divulge information about abortions to out-of-state entities. They ban police departments and corporations from cooperating with out-of-state investigations regarding abortions that are legally obtained in California. And they shield prison inmates from other states’ anti-abortion laws.

“An alarming number of states continue to outlaw abortion and criminalize women, and it’s more important than ever to fight like hell for those who need these essential services,” Newsom said in a news release announcing the signings.

If another state tries to apply its laws against someone in California, and California officials say they can’t do that, there is “a lot of gray area as to who is right in that situation,” said Mary Ziegler, the Martin Luther King Jr. professor of law at the University of California, Davis.

“If you are talking about a state applying its criminal laws outside its borders, there’s just not a lot of guidance about how that plays out,” Ziegler said.

It’s not just California. Democratic governors in Colorado, North Carolina, Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, Washington, Rhode Island and Maine have all signed executive orders aiming to protect abortion providers and volunteers. Connecticut was the first state to pass a law protecting abortion providers and others, signed in May even before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Newsom this year signed a law that would block the enforcement of some out-of-state court judgments against doctors and volunteers for legally obtained abortions in California — a law anti-abortion activists argue is illegal because of a clause in the U.S. Constitution that requires each state to give “full faith and credit” to the laws of every other state.

California Democrats say the law is legal because federal courts have recognized some exceptions to that clause, including when laws in one state violate the public policy of another state.

Still, the legal uncertainty could end up hindering people who work in the field of abortion, Ziegler said.

“What that would mean is the person from California would have a hard time traveling to a lot of places, especially if the judgment is out against them,” she said.

Public opinion polls have shown a majority of California voters, including Republicans, support abortion protections, making it difficult for opponents to stop such bills from becoming law. Still, California Family Council President Jonathan Keller said the group is “investigating which of these laws are ripe for a court challenge.”

One early candidate: a law that requires religious employers to tell their workers about publicly available abortion services. Keller noted a previous California law that instructed crisis pregnancy centers to tell patients about abortion services was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2018.

Newsom is expected this week to sign a law that would authorize as much as $20 million in public spending to help pay for women in other states to come to California for an abortion, something Keller said he and his group are the most concerned about.

“He’s not inviting (women) to get a state-paid trip for labor and delivery if they live in a county or state with poor maternal mortality, instead (he’s) saying you can come here on the taxpayers’ dime, but only if it is to end your pregnancy,” Keller said.

Democratic Assemblymember Cristina Garcia said California’s new laws would save lives, arguing that abortion bans don’t stop abortions but instead lead to “unsafe and deadly abortions for communities of color, low-income communities, trans and other marginalized communities,” adding: “We promise to be a refuge state for anyone seeking an abortion.”

Most of the laws Newsom signed Tuesday were inspired by the California Future of Abortion Council, a group of 46 public officials and abortion rights groups that began planning last year on what to do if the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Newsom approved several of the group’s ideas Tuesday, including new laws to let some nurse practitioners perform abortions without a doctor’s permission, establish scholarships for students studying to provide abortions, stop officials from prosecuting women for pregnancy loss and make vasectomies cheaper for men with private insurance.

“California is showing what is possible when leaders listen to experts, facts, science, and from the people who are directly impacted,” said Jodi Hicks, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California.

But Newsom did not sign every abortion bill into law. Last week, Newsom vetoed a bill that would have paid to train staff at abortion clinics to improve care for marginalized patients. Newsom said he vetoed it because it “creates tens of millions of dollars in General Fund cost pressures not accounted for in the budget.”

Click here to read the full article at AP News

California Gas is ‘Out of Whack’ – Nearly $2 More than National Average. Who’s to Blame?

California has long been known as the country’s priciest place to fill up your tank, but these days the Golden State is “completely out of whack.”

As gas prices plummeted around the nation in recent weeks, California’s price at the pump has rebounded with a vengeance to an average of $5.58 a gallon.

That’s $1.89 more than the national average — the highest price gap in at least 22 years, according to a Bay Area News Group analysis of AAA data.

While Russia’s invasion of Ukraine drove prices higher around the world, California’s perplexing price swing is largely due to the local oil industry, experts say, which is putting the state on another planet when it comes to gas.

“The commodity price of gasoline in California has gotten completely out of whack,” said Severin Borenstein an energy economist at UC Berkeley. “If this holds, we’re just starting to see the increase. It’s going to go up even more.”

Although fuel costs are still down from their peak in June, drivers are contending with nearly seven months of average prices topping $5 a gallon.

“It’s unfair,” said Sonya Khvann, a single mother of three, who was pumping gas in Alameda on Friday. She spends about $800 a month on fuel shuttling around her children. “It’s not like you can change your career overnight,” said Khvann, a part-time real estate agent. “Not everyone can be in tech.”

Much of California’s high gasoline costs are explainable. The state’s 54-cent gasoline excise tax is among the highest in the country — only Pennsylvania’s is higher. There are also stricter environmental regulations and special fuel blends that prevent rampant smog from accumulating in cities, altogether these factors tack on roughly $1.20 to California’s gas prices.

But the widening gap between what everyone from San Jose to Los Angeles is paying compared to the rest of the country is due to the concentrated nature of California’s oil refineries, experts say. Due to the state’s special gas blend, California is often termed a “fuel island” because nearly all gas sold in the state is refined locally by a handful of companies, including Chevron, Marathon Petroleum and PBF Energy. That means mechanical hiccups at refineries can cause major price spikes not seen elsewhere in the country.

Tom Kloza, of the Oil Price Information Service, said the reduced flow of gas is likely due to refiners bringing equipment offline for maintenance. He said much of the oil industry deferred regularly scheduled maintenance in spring so they could continue reaping record profits during the energy price spike following the Russian invasion.

But it’s hard to get to the bottom of exactly why California’s oil refiners have reduced output now just as prices drop elsewhere. There has been no major refinery outage or catastrophe reported in recent months. Instead, experts glean information from oil production reports. “Because of antitrust regulations, we don’t know how individual refineries are operating,” said Kevin Slagle, vice president of the Western States Petroleum Association.

In a statement, the California Energy Commission said state refineries are seeing “temporary” production issues that, coupled with maintenance activity and “lower-than-normal gasoline inventories,” is driving the current price spike over the past four weeks.

The mysterious price surge comes as California Gov. Gavin Newsom has turned up the rhetoric against the oil industry as the Golden State moves to phase out most gas-powered vehicles by 2035 and expand restrictions on drilling. In a statement on Friday, Newsom’s office accused fossil fuel companies of “holding families hostage” while touting Sacramento’s plan to send up to $1,050 to California families to alleviate the financial pain.

“We’re phasing out the fear of gas prices and ushering in our oil-free future,” Newsom’s office added.

Borenstein has spent years studying the gap between California’s gas prices and the national average. He said the unaccounted-for difference, which he termed a “mystery surcharge,” took off in 2015 when gas prices spiked in the aftermath of a Torrance oil refinery explosion. Before the blast, the unexplainable price gap was about 2 cents, but afterward it ballooned to over 40 cents and has remained high ever since.

Kloza, Borenstein and David Hackett, an energy expert at Stillwater Associates, said there is no evidence of racketeering among the state’s oil refineries. There is an ongoing probe into gas pricing and oil industry practices in the State Assembly, however. Sacramento has a long history of accusing the industry of price-gouging and announcing investigations that yield few results.

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