California State Auditor: The Capitol’s Last Political Battle

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Although California lawmakers won’t return to Sacramento until January, political disputes are already beginning to brew.

The Final Partisan Battle: Choosing the Next State Auditor, who heads the independent, non-partisan office that assesses the performance of Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration and other government agencies.

The position will open for the first time in 21 years at the end of this year, when State Auditor Elaine Howle plans to retire. And Republican lawmakers fear the Democrats – who exercise majority control in the legislature – will exclude them from the process of recommending his successor to Newsom, according to a Wednesday letter I obtained exclusively.

In the letter to Assembly member Rudy Salas, the Democrat from Bakersfield who heads the committee responsible for sending applications to Newsom, seven Republican lawmakers called for “one Democrat and one Republican from each chamber” to be “assigned to a subcommittee to review nominations, review candidates and make a recommendation to Committee of the Whole.”

  • GOP lawmakers: “Government inefficiency, along with waste, fraud and abuse, affects all Californians, so it makes sense that this process is open, transparent, and enjoys bipartisan cooperation from the start.”

Committee staff said Thursday that Democrats and Republicans would be involved in the process of deciding which names to send to the governor, but Republican staff said there was no legal guarantee of a bipartisan process.

Political maneuvering underscores the power and influence of the office: as I said in an interview with Howle, the state auditor is the only entity under state law that has full access to all the records, accounts, correspondence, property and files of any publicly created group.

And Howle’s office shed light on the pitfalls of California’s pandemic response, uncovering – among other things – widespread fraud at the Employment Development Department, inequitable distribution of federal relief funds between cities and counties, and delays in granting federal rent relief to troubled tenants and Homeless Californians.

I spoke with Howle about California’s most and least cooperative state agencies, his thoughts on ESD and bullet train, areas of the Newsom administration that should be more closely watched, and political pressure. she is facing. For his answers, see our interview.

  • Yell : “The minute someone in that position agrees, ‘OK, I’ll wait and publish (an audit) a week later’ or, ‘OK, I won’t say that,’ the integrity and credibility of this organization are destroyed, and we cannot afford to let that happen. And I hope my successor understands that this cannot happen.

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1. Bullet train in the air

A rendering of the proposed high speed train project in California. Courtesy of the California High-Speed ​​Rail Authority

Another political battle that brings together in Sacramento: the fate of the Californian high-speed train project. Newsom’s administration and lawmakers hope to reach an agreement in January on how to spend the remaining $ 4.2 billion of California’s 10 billion voters approved for the project, but it looks like significant gaps still separate their positions. respective visions. In telephone conversations at the United Nations climate change conference in Scotland – which is due to end today – leading Democratic lawmakers told me:

  • Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from Lakewood: “The High-Speed ​​Rail Authority has changed its position and is now lying to Californians. They… tell them that the high-speed rail system is a system that connects northern Kern County to Madera. That is not what voters voted for. … We promised them Los Angeles County to the Bay Area.
  • Assembly Member Laura Friedman, a Democrat from Glendale and chair of the Assembly’s Transport Committee: People “need to have an easy connection in the Bay Area. And it was not acceptable to me that the bullet train business plan made people get on a bus and walk a few miles to another station. … If they continue to stick to their tentative business plan, I will continue to argue with them.

Melissa Figueroa, spokesperson for the California High-Speed ​​Rail Authority, told me that “the goal of the project is to connect Los Angeles to San Francisco as the voters demanded. The project was never fully funded, and as such, we need to finish what we have funding at this time. … Completing the Merced section in Bakersfield has the highest expected ridership gain and does so at the lowest cost increase.

Learn more about the lawmakers mentioned in this story

How they voted 2019-2020

Liberal
Conservative

Demographics of District 63

Race / Ethnicity

latino

76%

White

ten%

Asian

6%

Black

7%

Multi-race

1%

Voting register

Start

56%

GOP

14%

No party

24%

Other

6%

How they voted 2019-2020

Liberal
Conservative

District 43 Demographics

Race / Ethnicity

latino

23%

White

55%

Asian

16%

Black

2%

Multi-race

3%

Voting register

Start

49%

GOP

19%

No party

27%

Other

5%

To further complicate California’s transit plans, the federal government recently warned that a state pension law could block it to receive $ 12 billion in federal funds, including part of its allocation from the $ 1.2 trillion infrastructure bill that President Joe Biden is expected to sign on Monday. Money is planned for the high-speed train, but less than expected.

2. State expands eligibility of boosters

A nurse prepares a COVID-19 vaccine in Los Angeles on August 23, 2021. Photo by Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

All California adults who want a COVID-19 booster should receive one – as long as they received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine at least two months ago or the second dose of a Pfizer or Moderna vaccine at least two months ago. at least six months, according to state public health officials. educates jurisdictions and local health providers in a Tuesday letter. The guidelines mark a subtle shift in message for the state, which previously adhered to the federal government’s directive that booster injections should be prioritized for the elderly, those with underlying health conditions, or those with conditions. high-risk living or workplaces.

Meanwhile, around 147,000 Californians aged 5 to 11 received their first child-sized dose of Pfizer vaccine since it was cleared for use last week, according to data updated Thursday by the state public health service.

3. Redistribution of winners and losers

The US Capitol after sunset in Washington, DC on March 4, 2021. Photo by Alex Brandon, AP Photo

Now that the preliminary maps outlining what the congressional and legislative district boundaries of California might be for the next 10 years have finally been approved, here’s a closer look at some potential political ramifications:


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A mandate for California leaders: We have a moral and practical responsibility to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or before, writes Assembly Member Richard Bloom, a Democrat from Santa Monica.

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