The tax man cometh

Mar 28, 2019

Californians have tax blues as filing deadline approaches


Sacramento Bee's EMILY CADEI: "Californians are none too happy as they mail their 2018 tax returns off to Washington, D.C."


"A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California finds that 59 percent of registered voters in the state disapprove of the tax law passed by a Republican Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in late 2017. Just under a third — 31 percent — of registered voters approve."


"Taxpayers are in the process of filing their first federal returns under the new tax regime, which altered a bevy of popular tax deductions, including capping the state and local tax deduction at $10,000. The filing deadline is April 15."


READ MORE related to Death & Taxes: Buy stuff online? New California tax law takes effect Monday, but the rules might change -- Sacramento Bee's HANNAH WILEY


Californians continue to sour on death penalty, poll finds, feeding momentum to end it


LA Times's PHIL WILLON: "A new poll found that Californians, by a 2-to-1 margin, support sentencing first-degree murderers to life in prison rather than the death penalty, an indication that Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent decision to impose a moratorium on executions may align with public sentiment against capital punishment."


"The poll results could potentially revive efforts to abolish the death penalty in California, including a proposed constitutional amendment being considered in the state Legislature that could land on the 2020 ballot, and embolden Newsom to take additional action against capital punishment. The Democratic governor already is considering prohibiting any new death sentences in local criminal cases."


"The Public Policy Institute of California poll found that 62% of Californians, in cases of first-degree murder, favored a penalty of life imprisonment with absolutely no possibility of parole, compared with 31% who favored death sentences. Support for the death penalty in the state has steadily declined since 2000, when Californians were evenly divided on the issue, according to the institute’s polling over that time period."\


Taxpayers funded this HIV research. The government patented it. Now a company profits


LA Times's CHRISTOPHER ROWLAND: "Thomas Folks spent years in his U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lab developing a treatment to block deadly HIV in monkeys. Then, San Francisco AIDS researcher Robert Grant, using $50 million in federal grants, proved the treatment worked in people who engaged in risky sex."


"Their work — almost fully funded by U.S. taxpayers — created a new use for an older prescription drug called Truvada: preventing HIV infection. But the U.S. government, which patented the treatment in 2015, is not receiving a penny for that use of the drug from Gilead Sciences Inc., Truvada’s maker, which racked up $3 billion in Truvada sales last year."


"Gilead argues that the government’s patents for Truvada for PrEP, as the prevention treatment is called, are invalid. And the government has failed to reach a deal for royalties or other concessions from the Bay Area company — benefits that could be used to distribute the drug more widely."


Pay day: California man award $80M in lawsuit claiming Roundup causes cancer


AP's SUDHIN THANAWALA: "A U.S. jury on Wednesday awarded more than $80 million in damages to a California man who blamed Roundup weed killer for his cancer, in a case that his attorneys say could help determine the fate of hundreds of similar lawsuits."


"Edwin Hardeman proved that Roundup’s design was defective, it lacked sufficient cancer warnings and its manufacturer, agribusiness giant Monsanto, was negligent, the six-person jury in San Francisco found."


"It awarded Hardeman more than $5 million in compensation and an additional $75 million in punitive damages. Hardeman, 70, put his arm around his wife, Mary, as the verdict was read and hugged his attorneys."


READ MORE related to Energy & Environment: California gas prices spike after refinery problems -- The Chronicle's SOPHIA KUNTHARA


Pimco and other PG&E creditors reportedly pitch a $35-billion exit plan


Bloomberg: "Some of the biggest players in distressed debt are proposing a $35-billion plan that would allow California utility giant PG&E Corp. to emerge from bankruptcy within a year, according to sources familiar with the matter."


"Pacific Investment Management Co., Elliott Management Corp. and Davidson Kempner Capital Management have been meeting with California lawmakers and other stakeholders to discuss the proposal, the sources said, asking not to be identified because the discussions are private. The plan would establish a $14-billion cash trust to pay for claims tied to the deadly 2017 and 2018 wildfires that forced the utility to declare bankruptcy, according to the proposal seen by Bloomberg News."


"Since making a Chapter 11 filing in January, PG&E has become the target of investors wrestling for control over the company’s incoming board and chief executive officer. The company is facing liabilities that may exceed $30 billion from wildfires its equipment may have caused. Its bankruptcy case, the biggest for a utility in U.S. history, is expected to be contentious and complex as creditors, shareholders, wildfire victims and state officials weigh in on the remake of the power giant."


Opposition to death penalty grows in California as Gavin Newsom halts executions


Sacramento Bee's SOPHIA BOLLAG: "President Donald Trump accused Gov. Gavin Newsom “defying voters” by suspending California’s death penalty, but new polling suggests Californians are coming over to the Democratic governor’s side."


"A record share of Californians told pollsters the state’s worst murderers should face life in prison instead of execution, according to a Public Policy Institute of California survey, which gauged opinions on issues from housing to pension liability."


"Newsom faced harsh criticism from Republican leaders when he announced earlier this month he won’t allow executions during his term. Californians voted in 2016 not only to uphold the state’s death penalty, but also to speed up executions."


Audit lays bare DMV's bad habits -- 'Reactive culture,' poor planning and bad computers


Sacramento Bee's BRYAN ANDERSON: "California’s Department of Motor Vehicles has “significant deficiencies” and an “outdated” organizational structure that set conditions for poor customer service and the failed implementation of a new ID program, according to an audit released Wednesday."


"Department of Finance auditors determined the DMV was ill-prepared to implement Real ID — a federally mandated program requiring people to get special ID cards if they want to board airplanes or enter other federal facilities without a passport."


"That project “was not recognized as a priority until 2017” — a year before the program’s January 2018 launch, the audit said. Congress passed the law requiring states to create Real IDs in 2005. About 20 million Californians are expected to come in for the new ID cards by 2023. The program goes into effect Oct. 1, 2020."


READ MORE related to Transportation: DMV didn't focus resources on Real ID rollout, making those long lines longer than usual- -- LA Times's JOHN MYERS


US will reassign border inspectors as illegal crossings rise


AP's CEDAR ATTANASIO: "The Trump administration said Wednesday it will temporarily reassign several hundred border inspectors as beleaguered forces already stationed along the U.S.-Mexico border struggle to keep pace with the growing number of migrant families who are showing up at the border in poor health and turning themselves in to agents to request asylum."


"Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Kevin McAleenan said the reassignment of 750 border inspectors would mean longer waits at crossings as the busy Easter holiday nears but that it was necessary to address what he called "an operational crisis." The reassigned officers will process migrants, provide transportation and perform hospital watches for migrants who require medical attention. It is unknown when they will return to their regular duties."


"There will be impacts to traffic at the border," McAleenan said at a news conference in El Paso, Texas, which, after years of relative calm, has quickly emerged as the second-busiest corridor for illegal crossings after Texas' Rio Grande Valley. "There will be a slowdown in the processing of trade. There will be wait times in our pedestrian and passenger vehicle lanes."


READ MORE related to Immigration: Many CA law enforcement agencies are still working with ICE, despite sanctuary law -- The Chronicle's TATIANA SANCHEZ


How a couple worked charter school regulations to make millions


LA Times's ANNA M PHILLIPS: "The warning signs appeared soon after Denise Kawamoto accepted a job at Today’s Fresh Start Charter School in South Los Angeles."


"Though she was fresh out of college, she was pretty sure it wasn’t normal for the school to churn so quickly through teachers or to mount surveillance cameras in each classroom. Old computers were lying around, but the campus had no internet access. Pay was low and supplies scarce — she wasn’t given books for her students."


"She struggled to reconcile the school’s conditions with what little she knew about its wealthy founders, Clark and Jeanette Parker of Beverly Hills."


His outbursts have shutdown Sacramento council meetings. City Hall wants a restraining order


Sacramento Bee's THERESA CLIFT: "It’s been a tense year at Sacramento City Council meetings."


"Activists and residents angered over the police shooting of Stephon Clark have packed the chambers at City Hall, often giving emotional speeches over what they say is a mistreatment by police in Sacramento’s disadvantaged neighborhoods. Protesters have been ordered to leave council meetings, Mayor Darrell Steinberg has been the target of loud insults and police have increased their presence at City Hall."


"Now, the city is taking the unusual step of filing a petition for a restraining order against a man who has made threatening comments toward City Council members and police during meetings, screamed expletives at the mayor and whose outbursts have caused multiple meetings to be shut down or delayed."


Video shows LA Deputy Caren Carl Mandoyan trying to break into woman's home, leading to his firing


LA Times's MAYA LAU: "The deputy crouched down in front of the woman’s sliding glass door, wedging a metal tool in its frame to pop it loose. He stopped after glancing up, startled to see the woman recording video of him from inside her apartment."


"In another instance, the deputy is seen wielding a broomstick on the woman’s patio after using it to tap on her door. His hand is later seen opening a window to the woman’s darkened bathroom, while she yells at him to get out."


Opponents to Navigation Center on SF's Embarcadero gearing up for legal fight


The Chronicle's DOMINIC FRACASSA: "San Francisco waterfront residents opposed to Mayor London Breed’s plan to build a 200-bed Navigation Center on an Embarcadero parking lot are gearing up for a legal fight if the city moves forward."


"In less than a week, a loose coalition of residents from Rincon Hill, South Beach, Mission Bay and other neighborhoods calling themselves “Safe Embarcadero for All” has raised nearly $35,000 to hire lawyers to contest the center’s construction."


Artist building a wall of cheese on Mexico border: 'Make America Grate Again'


LA Times's ALEJANDRA REYES-VELARDE: "A Los Angeles artist has answered President Trump’s call for a border wall with Mexico."


"Vowing to “Make America Grate Again,” Cosimo Cavallaro is creating a wall of cheese next to the actual border in Tecate, Calif."


Michael Avenatti's life of luxury hangs by a thread as IRS comes calling


LA Times's MICHAEL FINNEGAN/MARK Z BARABAK: "Long before he was Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, well before he was accused of trying to shake down Nike for millions of dollars, Michael Avenatti was an Orange County plaintiff’s attorney living a luxe life adorned with fast cars, high-end properties and expensive jewelry."


"He flew in a private jet, lived in a mansion overlooking the Pacific and rang up six-figure receipts at Neiman Marcus and other sumptuous retailers."


Schiff doubles down on Trump despite Russia report: 'Undoubtedly there is collusion'


WaPo's KAROUN DEMIRJIAN: "President Trump, emboldened after the special counsel said he did not find evidence of a criminal conspiracy to sway the 2016 election, has an early target as he seeks recompense from his critics: Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank), who maintains that he’s seen evidence that Trump colluded with Russia."


"Over the last two years, Schiff, who has led the House Intelligence Committee since January, has emerged as a public foil to Trump and his supporters. He has delivered scathing takedowns of Trump for calling Robert Mueller’s probe a “witch hunt,” and he offered similar criticism of Trump’s congressional allies now leading a charge to depose Schiff as chairman on the grounds that his bias against the president makes him unfit to lead."


"Yet even as House Democrats make a clear pivot away from the collusion question, they continue to rally around Schiff — who refuses to let the matter go until lawmakers can assess the investigative materials that informed Mueller’s findings."


READ MORE related to POTUS45: What's behind all those EO's Trump loves to sign? Not much -- LA Times's NOAH BIERMAN

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