Here’s what folks at the Capital Center for Law & Policy have been reading and thinking about this week. You can also hear an interview featuring McGeorge Professor, and Capital Lawyering Concentration Director, Dan Croxall on Capital Public Radio’s Insight with Beth Ruyak.

 

 

 

Leslie Gielow Jacobs

This is an interesting article about how human policy decisions outside the realm of greenhouse gas emissions exacerbate the effects of climate change.  This author studied recent home building trends and noticed that homes were placed in the likely paths of hurricanes, which will be more frequent and severe with climate change.  The research shows that development decisions should be made with the growing threats posed by climate change in mind.

New York Times

Opinion: This Map Show How the Carolinas Became More Vulnerable to Hurricanes by Stephen M. Strader (Stephen M. Strader is an assistant professor in Villanova University’s geography and environment department)

 

 

 

Jon Wainwright

This story started about two months ago with some excellent reporting by Matt Pearce, Richard Winton and David Montero about how MGM sued the survivors of the Las Vegas shooting last October. MGM “Sued survivors to claim immunity under a federal law passed in the wake of Sept. 11 that was designed to protect corporations from lawsuits after terrorist attacks. Experts said it was the first time such a lawsuit had ever been filed under the law.” The update to the story is that MGM is telling survivors that if they waive their legal notice that MGM will make a $500 donation in the survivors name to a charity that supports survivors or families of slain victims. It’s like the old saying goes: You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

Associated Press (published in the Chicago Tribune)

MGM offers $500 donation to charity for each shooting survivor who waives notice of lawsuit by Regina Garcia Cano

 

I’m trying out something new for CAP·impact. If you like – or don’t like – this kind of post let me know in the comments, or on Twitter or Facebook.

We’re going to let you all know what news has been capturing our attention over the past week. This week, we’ll start with the news I’ve been chewing on for the past week, and in the coming weeks, I’ll add some other familiar CAP·impact contributors. The news stories may or may not be political in nature. With no further ado, here are my top stories from the past week.

Former lawmaker under sexual misconduct investigation sues accuser for defamation

Earlier this week, Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times reported that former Assemblymember Matt Dababneh – who resigned eight months ago after allegations of serious sexual misconduct – filed a defamation lawsuit against his accuser, Pamela Lopez. Mason’s report came one day after Scott Lay discussed some positive things Dababneh could do with leftover campaign money that was transferred from Dababneh’s Assembly account to an account for a run at Lt. Governor in 2022 in his daily newsletter, The Nooner (start about halfway down the page, after the wildfire coverage for his thoughts on Dababneh). Lay discussed the defamation suit that Dababneh filed in Wednesday’s edition of The Nooner.

I remember a certain somebody else threatening to sue women who accused him of sexual assault, but never making good on that threat. Personally, I don’t like the look or smell of all of this lawsuit one bit, and I completely agree with Scott Lay’s assessment that we are “going to be deep in the gutter here.”

Capitol Weekly’s 10th Top 100 List features three McGeorge alumni

Earlier this week, Capitol Weekly announced their annual Top 100 list. It’s their “annual look at people who aren’t elected to office but who wield decisive influence on California politics or policy – or both.” This year was the 10th anniversary of the Top 100 and we were happy to be at the party announcing the honorees.

We were also very happy to see three McGeorge alumni make the list this year. Coming in at number 8 this year was Alan Zaremberg, President and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce. At 38th is Rex Frazier, President of PIFC – short for Personal Insurance Federation of California. And coming in at 57th is Mike Belote, who is President of the contract lobbying firm California Advocates and a noted philanthropist.

Congratulations to the McGeorge alumni on the list, as well as all the honorees on this year’s Top 100 list!

 

 

 

As I’ve discussed before, the #MeToo and We Said Enough movements are starting to bring change to the California legislature’s persistent culture of sexual assault and harassment. That process of bringing change has been slow, perhaps too slow.

Furthering that concern are the reports about state Senator Tony Mendoza. He is under investigation for sexual harassment and misconduct and agreed earlier this month to take a paid leave of absence. However, after taking his leave, he has returned to the Capitol to work on legislation as well as attend and host events. He’s remained active in his district as well, posting pictures from a boat tour he hosted for high school seniors this past weekend. It needs to be noted that he has consistently denied the allegations against him. His actions – which fly in the face of the spirit of, if not the letter of, taking a leave of absence – are in line with these denials.

Mendoza’s actions led to current Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León stating that Sen. Mendoza “does not have an understanding of the gravity of the situation with no decency and little respect for the institution.” My feeling is that statement driven as much by De León’s need to create space between the sexual harassment scandal that came to light while he was Pro Tem and the rest of his record in the California legislature if he wants to have any chance of being competitive in his campaign against incumbent U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein as it is by outrage at Sen. Mendoza’s actions.

That leads me to an interesting report by Melanie Mason of the Los Angeles Times about local Democratic Party activists who are asking candidates “in explicit terms to divulge any history of sexual harassment.” This development could be a tipping point in changing the culture in the California Legislature and rooting out bad actors.

I’ve worked with candidates and shepherded them through the party endorsement process in the past. Questionnaires sent to candidates by local party clubs are the first, and sometimes the only, step in gaining that group’s endorsement. That endorsement means access to volunteers, it means potential campaign contributions, and it makes securing the party’s endorsement easier. When it comes to earning the party’s endorsement, these local club endorsements are beneficial because they send delegates to the party convention who are bound to vote for the candidate their club endorsed. By racking up club endorsements it becomes much easier to get the requisite number of votes at convention to receive the party endorsement. That’s the background to why these endorsements matter. The main reasons they matter are the access to volunteers that their endorsements bring, and more importantly, the potential access to money.

Campaigns run on volunteers. They are the foot soldiers who are out knocking on doors and calling voters. The more volunteers that a campaign has access to, the more voters it is able to directly contact. But these local clubs also collect membership dues and fundraise and can donate to candidates’ campaigns. Party endorsed candidates – and again, local endorsements help lead a state party endorsement – can receive contributions from the state party. More importantly, the state party can raise unlimited amounts of money, and through independent expenditure councils (I.E.’s), spend unlimited amounts of money. If sexual harassment becomes a line in the sand for local activists there is potential for incumbents who have sexual harassment in their history to lose support that they previously had. If that happens, volunteers go to other campaigns or stay home, money for direct mail or TV or radio ads dries up, and I.E.’s either disappear or fail to materialize.

All of that combines for a much harder reelection bid, and potentially, lead to a new wave of elected officials replacing an older crop of bad actors.

This is a slight departure from our usual content. That said, last night’s event – the Belote Lectore on Journalism in the Era of Fake News – warrants the change of pace. The video above is of the entire one-hour discussion. Please enjoy the fantastic conversation between three stellar political journalists who know their craft inside and out.

The Annual McGeorge School of Law Mike Belote Endowed Capital Lecture was held last night at the Sterling Hotel in downtown Sacramento. The topic of last night’s event was Journalism in the Era of Fake News.

A full house of attendees enjoyed a dynamic, frank, and funny discussion which featured three influential journalists discussing the role of journalism today, as well as ethics in the journalism profession, the impact of Facebook and Twitter, and what members of the legal community can do to help journalists with combating the issue of fake news.

McGeorge Dean Michael Hunter Schwartz gave the opening remarks and then handed the discussion off Professor and Associate Dean for Experiential Learning Mary-Beth Moylan, who expertly moderated the evening’s discussion. The speakers were Jonathan Weisman, Deputy Washington Editor for the New York Times; John Myers, Sacramento Bureau Chief for the Los Angeles Times; and Joe Mathews, California columnist and editor for Zócalo Public Square.

The Mike Belote Endowed Capital Center Lecture series was made possible by a generous donation from Mike Belote (McGeorge Class of ’87), who is President of California Advocates, Inc. and a longtime Pacific McGeorge alumni donor and volunteer.

To stay up to date with the McGeorge Capital Center for Law and Policy and CAP⋅impact, you can subscribe to email updates by scrolling up and typing your email into the form just to the right of this post. You can Like CAP⋅impact on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @CAPimpactCA.

With California’s newly legalized  recreational marijuana industry set to begin January 1 and projected to generate $7 billion annually by 2020, devising a banking system for all that money is a priority.  The problem is that banks, which are regulated by the federal government, won’t touch it for fear of being prosecuted criminally.

Last month, James Rufus Koren of the Los Angeles Times reported on ideas from California Treasurer John Chiang’s task force formed to study the issue.  These included a state-owned bank to handle the money, creation of “a multistate group to lobby Congress to ease federal regulations on cannabis,” and state-hired “armored car services to pick up tax payments from businesses.”

Earlier this week, Patrick McGreevy – also of the Los Angeles Times – reports that another potential solution to the federal/state law dilemma, this time out of the governor’s office, is a private collaboration of banks and credit unions working with a central “correspondent bank.” The plan is to meet federal banking regulators’ concerns in a way that protects the financial institutions from punishment.  Whether they feel comfortable enough to sign on remains to be seen.

And as my colleague, Professor Mike Vitiello, pointed out in an earlier blog post, even though marijuana will be legal in California, “use or possession of the drug in any form and in any amount remains illegal under federal law, regardless of state law.”  This reality shadows all efforts to identify “safe” banking practices that meet the needs of the producers and retailers, while also assuaging the concerns of the financial institutions considering diving into this newly legalized industry in California.

The Role of the Media in California’s Legislative Process

Today’s podcast focuses on the role of the media in California’s legislative process. The media’s role is so important that they’re considered a fourth branch of government and sometimes referred to as the Fourth Estate.

Their coverage – or lack thereof – can have great influence over the fate of legislation. The media can bring to light what goes on behind the scenes during California’s legislative session. They can use their coverage to draw attention to a particular piece of legislation and make the public aware of it. The media also play a large role in the ethics of legislature by covering FPPC investigations and fines, and scandals – such as in 2014 when three State Senators were suspended due to alleged criminal conduct or, more recently, in their coverage of the #WeSaidEnough movement that is bringing to light the issues of sexual harassment in the Legislature working to make this arena a safer place to work. The opinions of newspapers’ editorial boards – sought after by candidates and ballot measures in campaigns – are also important in the legislative process.

This is why taking the media into account is a key part of legislative strategy. Whether responding to a headline with a timely piece of legislation to address an issue in their local paper, or trying to get their viewpoint on a bill out to the public via an opinion piece or a letter to the editor, the media are an important means for legislators, staff, and special interest groups to have their viewpoint heard. Social media has also become important for doing this.

Prop 54, which I talked about in an earlier podcast, has also changed the dynamics with the media. Effective now, any person is authorized to take video or audio recordings of legislative proceedings – closed session excluded – and can use that for any legitimate purpose without needing to pay a fee to the State of California. Effective January 1, 2018, the Legislature will have to make audio/visual recordings of all its proceedings available online – again, excepting closed sessions.

If the role of the media are something that interests you, you should also plan on attending the McGeorge Capital Center for Law & Policy’s annual Belote Lecture on January 11, 2018. This year’s topic is Journalism in the Era of Fake News and features Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times, John Myers of the Los Angeles Times, and Joe Mathews of Zócalo Public Square. You can RSVP the event by emailing mcgeorgeevents@pacific.edu or calling (916) 739-7138.

 

 

 

Welcome to our In Brief series. In these posts and podcasts, we break down the key concepts in the day’s news and quickly explain why it matters to Californians.

Gerrymandering

Political Question Doctrine

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, in which a three-judge district court held that in drawing the state’s voting lines after the 2000 census, the Wisconsin Legislature engaged in unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering.

California is one of the few states to delegate the task of district line-drawing to a commission independent of the state legislature.  The California Redistricting Commission (CRC) filed an amicus curiae brief in the Gill v. Whitford case which, according to its press release, “focuses on the viability of non-partisan criteria and independent redistricting processes as alternatives to partisan districting.”

You can see a preview of the arguments on SCOTUSblog by Amy Howe, and recaps of today’s oral arguments in the Los Angeles Times by David Savage or on SCOTUSblog by Amy Howe. You can also listen to my interview with Beth Ruyak on Capitol Public Radio’s Insight  where I give my overview of Gill v. Whitford as well as other cases on the Supreme Court’s docket for this term.

Want more information?  Check out our In Brief podcasts.