California Politics: Will lawmakers give Hollywood a big new perk?

Hollywood wants money from the state of California.

Lawmakers want Hollywood to hire more of their ethnically diverse constituents.

Can they strike a deal?

It’s a discussion I’ll be watching at the state Capitol over the next few months as lawmakers review Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposal to extend California’s film tax credit for another five years. Newsom wants to give movie studios a perk they’ve long sought — a refundable tax credit that would let them convert a portion of their tax credits into cash payments. He also proposes docking tax credits from productions that don’t meet workforce diversity goals.

But the proposal is facing pushback from lawmakers frustrated by what they see as Hollywood’s insufficient progress in hiring women and people of color since the state increased the film tax credit two years ago for construction of new soundstages. Those incentives were designed to encourage the hiring of workers who reflect the race and gender makeup of the state.

Tension also is rising as lawmakers work to close a $22.5-billion budget deficit that could result in cuts to spending on public transit and clean energy, as well as delays in funding day care for 20,000 children.

“We can’t go back to our constituents and tell them why we put money in your pockets,” Assemblymember Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat who chairs the budget committee, said to film commission representatives during a hearing this week in the Capitol in which he chastised them for not being prepared to present diversity data.

“We have to tell the child care people, ‘Hey, sorry, we couldn’t give you money for child care because we gave money to movie studios.’ ”

Read more about the politics at play in the debate over giving Hollywood a big new perk in this article I wrote.

I’m Laurel Rosenhall, The Times’ Sacramento bureau chief, and here’s what else happened this week in California politics:

Workers revolt

You likely noticed that the Los Angeles Unified School District was shut down this week by massive worker strikes.

But you may not have realized that the labor unrest in the L.A. schools is part of a broader push by workers from all kinds of industries who are demanding more in wages and benefits in order to keep up with the rising cost of living in California.

Times staff writer Mackenzie Mays writes that fast-food cooks, cashiers, caretakers, housekeepers, hospital staff, custodians and state employees are also part of the movement. They are backed by a wave of Democrat-led legislation making its way through the state Capitol — converging with ballot measures and funding requests from Newsom — to create a workers’ rights moment that seems unique even for one of the most union-friendly states in the nation.

Bills introduced this year include a mandate for a $25 minimum wage for health workers; a proposal to more than double paid sick time; and new regulations for fast-food franchisees regarding wages and hours. Meanwhile, a ballot measure will ask voters next year if they support raising the statewide minimum wage to $18 an hour, which, if passed, would make it the highest in the nation.

Roadshow recap

“We are confronting extremes,” Newsom wrote in a letter to the Legislature on Wednesday.

“From extreme politics around the country that threaten to roll back the progress we’ve made — and the rights revolution of the last 60 years — to contending with extreme weather that threatens our way of life with record droughts, increasingly horrific wildfires, and now storms and flood that devastate communities like Planada, Pajaro and the mountain towns of San Bernardino. Despite these threats, my optimism in California has not wavered.”

The five-page letter marked the capstone of Newsom’s state-of-the-state roadshow that wrapped up earlier this week. Here’s our coverage of his tour:

Day 1 in Sacramento:

Day 2 in the San Francisco Bay Area:

Day 3 in Los Angeles:

Day 4 in San Diego:

ICYMI: Columnist George Skelton was not pleased that Newsom skipped giving a speech to the Legislature in favor of a tour. He talked about it with Willie Brown and John Burton, the former legislative leaders and legendary elder statesmen of the California Democratic Party, and reported their spicy comments in this column.

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Bills worth watching

The latest showdown in a proxy war between labor and business is a bill to change California election law that could become one of the most high-profile political fights at the state Capitol this year, writes The Times’ Taryn Luna.

The legislation by Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles) would make it more difficult for campaigns to mislead voters when circulating petitions to qualify a statewide referendum. It’s backed by labor unions and environmentalists who accuse corporations of lying to voters as they try to overturn progressive laws passed in Sacramento — most recently one to require buffer zones around oil drilling projects and another that could raise wages for fast-food workers. Read more about it here.

Another potentially controversial bill introduced this week aims to lay the groundwork for a state universal healthcare system. It proposes an incremental approach that departs from recent sweeping, and unsuccessful, efforts to reshape how Californians receive care, writes Times reporter Melanie Mason.

Under the measure by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), California would begin the process of seeking a waiver from the federal government to allow Medicaid and Medicare funds to be used for a first-in-the-nation single-payer healthcare system.

Universal healthcare is a leading priority for progressives, who have rallied around the “Medicare for all” plan championed by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) during his two presidential runs. A 2017 California bill to establish a single-payer system cleared the state Senate, but it was shelved by Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood). The setback galvanized the left wing of the Democratic Party, which saw single-payer as a litmus test for political candidates, and Newsom embraced the cause during his 2018 campaign. Read more about the latest push here.

Here are a few more interesting bills percolating in the California Capitol:

Keeping up with California politics

Newsom vowed to pardon LGBTQ Californians. Only one living person has benefited
Three years after Newsom announced an initiative to pardon LGBTQ Californians who were prosecuted for being gay, only one living person has benefited from the program. Gay rights advocates are calling for Newsom to issue more pardons for people who completed their prison sentences, and for broader clemency actions for LGBTQ people in prison.

Silicon Valley Bank’s demise animates early days of California’s 2024 U.S. Senate contest
The second largest bank closure in U.S. history has been a told-you-so moment for Rep. Katie Porter (D-Irvine), whose campaign to succeed Sen. Dianne Feinstein has so far been infused with themes of economic fairness and how these downturns disproportionately hurt people with low incomes.

As trial determines Ridley-Thomas’ fate, his son’s life gets dissected
He has not been charged with a crime. But in the ongoing trial of suspended Los Angeles City Councilmember Mark Ridley-Thomas, his son is in the spotlight. Jurors have seen photos of former Assemblymember Sebastian Ridley-Thomas, read his words in emails and heard about his rising debt, medical problems, education and career.

State launches probe of cannabis licensing to ‘clean house’ of corruption
Corruption in California’s cannabis industry has become widespread and brazen, as a Times investigation documented last year. Now state officials are launching an audit aimed at curtailing bribery, conflicts of interest and other misdeeds.

‘I’m emancipated now’: Nancy Pelosi enjoying life after leadership
The Times spent a day with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and her team to see how she is adjusting to life outside of leadership. She began it with ice cream for breakfast and finished it with church-style dancing to a performance of the Resistance Revival Chorus.

Editorial: Bills intended to shame and scare transgender students are despicable
Republican lawmakers across the nation have introduced more than 400 bills to restrict the rights of LGBTQ people in the current legislative cycle. One of them is a California bill that the Times editorial board calls “an odious proposal… to compel teachers, counselors and other school staff to notify parents if their kid is transgender.”

Opinion: Reopening Uber’s challenge to California labor law is just the beginning
A recent appellate court ruling on AB 5 is likely to open the door to constitutional challenges to countless state business regulations, write UC Berkeley legal scholars Erwin Chemerinsky and Catherine Fisk.

Prescription for housing? California wants Medicaid to cover 6 months of rent
Newsom, whose administration is struggling to contain a worsening homelessness crisis despite record spending, is trying something bold: tapping federal healthcare funding to cover rent for homeless people and those at risk of losing their housing.

Shasta County offers top job to secessionist leader
The Shasta County Board of Supervisors has offered the job of running the day-to-day-operations of its government to a top figure in the New California movement pushing to split California into two states.

California’s COVID misinformation law is entangled in lawsuits, conflicting rulings
The law meant to discipline doctors who give patients false information about COVID-19 is now in legal limbo after two federal judges issued conflicting rulings in recent lawsuits that say it violates free speech and is too vague for doctors to know what it bars them from telling patients.

Judge blocks key parts of California law drastically restricting sale of new handguns
A federal judge in Orange County on Monday blocked key provisions of a California law that drastically restricts the sale of new handguns in the state, saying parts of the legislation violate the 2nd Amendment.

Editorial: L.A.’s labor unions are major political influencers. Why shouldn’t they be considered lobbyists?
Under a proposal to update lobbying rules in Los Angeles City Hall, union employees would fall into a new category of paid advocate that would have fewer restrictions and disclosure requirements than a lobbyist or lobbying firm. That would allow major political players to avoid following important regulations designed to curb or disclose their influence and spending, writes The Times editorial board.

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