Democrats have a mega-majority in the California Legislature. Expect them to swing for the fences
From the LAT's GEORGE SKELTON: "Californians can be forgiven if they’re slightly nervous about the new two-year legislative session that’s starting. Democrats haven’t wielded this much power in 136 years."
"Even a devoted Democratic voter should wince at the overwhelming one-party rule. It’s not exactly what the nation’s founders had in mind and bears watching closely. Exhibit A: One-party Republican control in Washington the last two years."
"In Sacramento, the Democrats’ power will be checked only by themselves. There won’t be enough Republicans and moderate Democrats in the Legislature to beat back liberals on most issues even if they wanted to team up."
READ MORE about legislative Democrats: Democrats rule California Legislature, but they may not be united -- MELODY GUTIERREZ, Chronicle; California Democrats thank Trump for legislative majorities -- AP's DON THOMPSON;
Pelosi won speaker nomination because she worked for it -- one more vote to go
The Chronicle's MATIER & ROSS: "Nancy Pelosi’s campaign to reclaim her old job as House speaker began two years ago, just days after Donald Trump’s stunning presidential win."
"It began with Pelosi’s own rallying cry to health care advocates, labor unions, veterans and others in the Democratic base to help save the Affordable Care Act."
"Even before Trump was sworn in, Pelosi — along with singer Joan Baez and several area politicians — joined in a “Protect Our Health Care” rally on the steps of San Francisco City Hall, as simultaneous events were held in 40 other cities across the country."
Are ticked-off Bay Area transplants now influencing Central Valley politics?
Sacramento Bee's RYAN LILLIS: "The mass migration of Bay Area transplants to the Central Valley is leading to stress on local services, a squeeze on available housing and longer commute times. But will it also impact the Valley’s politics?"
"Despite an influx of thousands of new residents from the typically-liberal Bay Area, the Central Valley is maintaining its moderate-to-conservative politics. That’s left some to wonder whether many of those Bay Area transplants are just plain disgruntled with the coastal ideologies that define California politics — and have found a safe haven in places like Modesto."
"There may be a revulsion against Bay Area ideologies by people who feel like they’ve been priced out of the Bay and they may have enough resentment that it starts effecting their votes,” said Thomas Holyoke, a professor of political science at Fresno State. “To some extent, the true die-hard liberals want to stay in the Bay Area. If you’re really rich and living in the Bay Area, you’re fine with the status quo.”
Newsom will inherit troubled bullet train project
From DAN WALTERS, CALmatters: "The messiest bit of unfinished business Gov. Jerry Brown will bequeath to successor Gavin Newsom is one of the outgoing governor’s pet projects, a north-south bullet train project."
"One could even say it’s a hot mess, given the revelations of a new audit of the multi-billion-dollar project’s first phase."
"That initial segment – 100-plus miles of track in the mostly flat, sparsely populated San Joaquin Valley, from Chowchilla to an orchard near Shafter, north of Bakersfield – was supposed to be the easiest to design and build."
Number of people missing from Camp Fire drops to 25
Sacramento Bee's MICHAEL FINCH II: "The Butte County Sheriff’s Office said Saturday evening that there now just 25 people unaccounted for that are related to the Camp Fire."
"The number of people missing fell into the double digits for the first time since the agency began tracking immediately after the fire started on Nov. 8 with the number being revised Friday to 49. The Camp Fire grew to more than 150,000 acres before it was contained last week, burning through the small communities of Magalia, Concow and the town of Paradise."
"Residents were scattered throughout Northern California while trying to flee. By Nov. 17, the list had as many as 1,276 people on it before it was culled to 605 people before Thanksgiving. Afterward. the number of names on the list continued to fall."
READ MORE related to Camp Fire: Paradise residents under law enforcement escort get chance to see homes -- BANG's THOMAS PEELE
Why this UC Davis gun violence researcher says the NRA did a big favor for his cause
Sacramento Bee's CATHIE ANDERSON: "With just one social media post, the National Rifle Association did something that eminent gun violence researcher and emergency room physician, Dr. Garen Wintemute, has waited years to see."
"The group’s Nov. 7 tweet, telling “self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane,” shocked, coalesced and galvanized not only a giant wave of doctors but also many other medical professionals to get involved in and actively advocate for evidence-based approaches to preventing shooting injuries and deaths."
"The NRA kicked a hornets’ nest, and there’s just been a tremendous spike in interest,” said Wintemute, who practices at UC Davis Medical Center. “What the NRA has done is get tens of thousands of people to make public declarations that they are willing to do something about this. I’m sure they (the NRA) didn’t do it on purpose but they’ve done us a big favor."
It takes a trip to Sonoma -- bill: $29,000 -- for transit commissioners to talk
The Chronicle's MATIER & ROSS: "Elected officials who serve on the Metropolitan Transportation Commission rolled into the five-star Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn resort Wednesday for an overnight retreat to talk about affordable housing and how best to spend transportation tax and toll money in the coming year."
"In all, about 16 MTC members — including Los Altos City Council Member Jeannie Bruins, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, Marin County Supervisor Damon Connolly, Napa County Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza, Redwood City Council Member Alicia Aguirre and BART Director Nick Josefowitz — made the trip."
City may extend CCSF's popular but underfunded free tuition program
The Chronicle's NANETTE ASIMOV: "More than 4,000 new students have enrolled in City College of San Francisco since all courses became free for city residents last year."
"The influx is far short of where enrollment stood before City College’s five-year accreditation crisis began in 2012, and the college has so far lost money on the underfunded, two-year Free City deal."
"But the gratis education is wildly popular, especially with students. And now that Free City is set to expire in June, students and faculty are working hard to push forward a City Hall proposal to enshrine the no-cost classes for two more decades, through 2040, and fully fund it so the cash-strapped college doesn’t have to."
'El Chapo' trial gives inside look at his rise to power
AP's TOM HAYS: "The U.S. trial of Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman has offered a screenplay-worthy picture of the lawlessness and excesses during his rise to power as Mexico's most infamous drug lord."
"Since the trial got underway on Nov. 13, witnesses have described how Guzman used tunnels dug under the border and fake jalapeno cans to smuggle tons of cocaine into the United States during the 1990s and early 2000s."
"The Sinaloa cartel, sometimes referred to by insiders as "The Federation," made hundreds of millions of dollars, most of it in U.S. currency collected in such volume it had to be stashed in safe houses while the gang figured out what to do with it. Guzman spent some of it on a private zoo, a diamond-encrusted pistol and paying off police and politicians."
Washington prepares for the solemnity and pomp of a state funeral for George H. W. Bush
LA Times's LAURA KING: "It’s been more than a decade since the nation’s capital conducted the grand and solemn ritual of bidding a final farewell to a former president."
"Now Washington is caught up in elaborate preparations for the state funeral this week of George H.W. Bush, the nation’s 41st president, who died Friday at 94."
"Four days of observances will showcase a complex interplay of politics and pageantry, sentiment and stateliness, public mourning and private grief before the late president — he was also a vice president, member of Congress, CIA chief, diplomat and war hero — is laid to rest."
Trump-Xi deal buys time but doesn't solve deep US-China differences over trade
LA Times's DON LEE: "Despite inflated White House claims of success, President Trump’s handshake deal here with Chinese leader Xi Jinping was less an end to the trade war than a tenuous truce that buys time for more negotiations but doesn’t begin to resolve deep-seated differences on trade and economic philosophy."
"Although the two leaders ratcheted down the acrimonious tone that has characterized months of tit-for-tat tariffs between Washington and Beijing, what they did mostly was kick the can down the road in the deal they forged over a working dinner Saturday night."
"That leaves the hard work ahead to aides — and the prospect of a lasting resolution on long-standing disputes as murky as ever."
New York is charmed by a stunning Mandarin duck that mysteriously ended up in Central Park
LA Times's SONJA SHARP: "He was first spotted in early October, napping in the duck pond in Central Park."
"I never saw a bird like that in my life,” said 52-year-old Joe Amato of Queens, who was among the first to film him."
"The most beautiful waterfowl most people had ever set eyes on, he had a peaked crown of plumage, fluffy violet breast and wings blocked in white, blue and orange like a cubist painting of a flame. Bird blogs lighted up as his image — the markings left no doubt the bird was male — spread across social media, and local news channels visited the pond."