Federal judge: ‘Not really true’ that safety is PG&E’s top priority
J.D. MORRIS and BOB EGELKO, SF Chronicle: "A federal judge cast doubt Wednesday on whether Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is upholding its duty to prevent its power lines from causing catastrophic wildfires and questioned whether the state is properly regulating the beleaguered and bankrupt utility."
"U.S. District Judge William Alsup is considering imposing a series of fire-prevention requirements on PG&E, including mandates that the utility inspect and rate the safety of all its power lines in the coming months, turn off power at times of fire risk and dramatically step up its tree trimming."
"His scrutiny came the day after PG&E lawyers appeared in the same San Francisco courthouse to begin hashing out the details of its filing for bankruptcy protection, highlighting the legal and financial pressures the company is facing after being blamed for two seasons of deadly wildfires."
READ MORE on PG&E: Judge: PG&E put profits over wildfire safety -- AP's SUDHIN THANAWALA; Federal judge asks PG&E: Should I ‘let you keep killing people?’ Rules utility violated its felony probation -- MATTHIAS GAFNI and JOHN WOOLFOLK, Mercury News; 'Safety is not your No. 1 thing.’ Judge rips PG&E over California wildfires -- DALE KASLER, SacBee; Lawsuits by fire victims swept up in PG&E bankruptcy -- AP's PAUL ELIAS; San Francisco Judge Blasts PG&E for Lack of Commitment to Wildfire Safety -- RICHARD GONZALES, KQED; Should S.F. Buy PG&E Infrastructure? Supervisor Says Yes, But Union Way -- KQED Staff and wires
Election officials said DMV wasn't ready to launch Motor Voter. California went ahead anyway
Sacramento Bee's RYAN ANDERSON: "As California prepared to launch its new Motor Voter program last year, top elections officials say they asked Secretary of State Alex Padilla to hold off on the roll-out."
"The plan called for the Department of Motor Vehicles to automatically register people who came into its offices, one of several efforts by Democrats controlling California politics to make it easier for more people to vote."
"With the June 2018 primary approaching, election officials said they warned that the department that manages car registration and boat licenses was not yet prepared to register voters."
Willie Brown sees protégés rise to the top
CALmatters' DAN WALTERS: "Before being forced out of the Assembly speakership in 1995, Brown appointed (Kamala) Harris to two well-paying positions on state commissions."
"Three-decades younger than her patron, Harris was also briefly one of Brown’s serial girlfriends – something that has stirred much national media attention since she announced her White House campaign."
“I’ve been peppered with calls from the national media about my ‘relationship’ with Kamala Harris, particularly since it became obvious that she was going to run for president,” Brown said in one of his San Francisco Chronicle columns last weekend. “Most of them, I have not returned."
Poll: Kamala Harris gaining among Democratic voters
Politico's STEVAN SHEPHARD: "Kamala Harris made headlines in her first visit to Iowa as a presidential candidate with her firm support for a “Medicare for all” health care plan. A new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll suggests the California senator’s stance is connecting with Democratic voters."
"A majority of Democrats, 57 percent, said they would be more likely to support a candidate who backs Medicare for all, in which all Americans get their health insurance from the government, the poll shows. Only 22 percent would be less likely to support a candidate who would prefer Medicare for all, over preserving and improving the existing system under the Affordable Care Act."
"The poll, conducted Jan. 25-27, also shows Harris gaining steam amid the rollout of her campaign, which began on Jan. 21, when she announced on “Good Morning America” that she would run for president. She’s now the third choice of Democratic voters, who were asked to pick their favorite person for the party’s nomination next year."
Report says hate crimes rise in LA, other largest U.S. cities for 5th year in a row
DEEPAH BHARATH, San Bernardino Sun: "Hate crimes in the nation’s largest cities increased for the fifth consecutive year in 2018, according to a report released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism in Cal State San Bernardino."
"Many cities including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Seattle and San Francisco saw the highest number of hate crimes in a decade, and cities such as Los Angeles, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia saw pronounced increases in the second half of the year, particularly around the time of the November mid-term elections."
"In Los Angeles, hate crimes rose by 13 percent in 2018 compared to 2017. New York saw a 6 percent increase while Chicago and Houston saw 26 percent and 173 percent spikes respectively. In New York, the Jewish community was the most targeted."
Newsom's record offers hints about how he'll handle unions and California pensions
Sacramento Bee's WES VENTEICHER: "Gov. Gavin Newsom won election with support from the state’s unions, pledging to at least one of them that he would protect public employee pensions, yet his record and a couple of his key cabinet appointees suggest he’s open to reducing benefits for government workers if money becomes scarce."
"California public employees will soon get a sense of his priorities for labor. Six union contracts are open or expiring in July and Newsom at a January press conference hinted strongly that he won’t be a pushover."
"Just a 1 percent increase in (the state prison union) budget is about a $50 million impact to the general fund, it just puts it into perspective,” Newsom said when he unveiled his budget plan."
Thanks to Nancy Pelosi, Californians dominate the new House like never before
From LAT's SARAH D. WIRE: "The next two years may mark the peak of California’s power in Congress."
"It’s not just that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) are both Californians, the first time in U.S. history both posts have been held by leaders from the same state."
"A Californian now sits on all 20 of the House committees named so far. They chair four of those panels and lead another 20 subcommittees."
Relief for California wildfire victims tied up in fed talks about the border
Sacramento Bee's EMILY CADEI: "Disaster recovery funds for victims of California’s wildfires and other natural disasters has emerged as a bargaining chip in the battle to build President Donald Trump’s border wall."
"Members of Congress formally launched negotiations Wednesday on a spending deal to keep the government from shutting down against on Feb. 15, a discussion that hinges on Trump’s demand for $5.7 billion to build a wall — “or Physical Barrier,” as he tweeted Wednesday — on the southern border with Mexico."
"But other less-controversial government funding is also tied up in the discussions, including as much as $14 billion for communities in California, North Carolina, Florida and Puerto Rico that have beeen pummeled by fires, flooding and hurricanes in the past two years."
READ MORE related to Energy & Environment: Solemn, $2B cleanup of Camp Fire begins -- a first step toward rebuilding Paradise -- Sacramento Bee's TONY BIZJAK; Second snow survey to measure California water supply -- AP; Outdoor industry pushes political fight overt lands, climate -- AP's DAN ELLIOTT