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Who's in Hawaii + Courage California responds + Do Uber and Lyft qualify for Prop 22?

Sacramento Bee logoSacramento Bee 4 days ago Andrew Sheeler, The Sacramento Bee

Good morning and happy Thursday! Another week almost done and dusted!

ALOHA LAWMAKERS!

Via Hannah Wiley...

Several California lawmakers have confirmed they’ve traveled to Hawaii this week for the four-day Independent Voter Project’s policy conference — where legislators mix with lobbyists and industry representatives each year — despite a COVID-19 surge and new travel advisories in California.

Assembly members Frank Bigelow, R-O’Neals; Heath Flora, R-Ripon; Jose Medina, D-Riverside; Chad Mayes, I-Yucca Valley; Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park; Jordan Cunningham, R-San Luis Obispo; and Sen. Andreas Borgeas, R-Fresno said they had traveled to Maui for the summit.

In statements to The Sacramento Bee, Bigelow, Flora, Cunningham and Borgeas defended their decision to attend the event, and said they were learning valuable ways to safely reopen California’s economy during the pandemic. They confirmed they’d been tested before flying to Hawaii, which the state requires unless a visitor is prepared to quarantine for two weeks upon arrival, and said they are following safety protocols.

“Yes, my family and I are in Hawaii for an annual, bipartisan policy conference,” Cunningham said in a statement. “This event promotes intelligent public policy in our state. In fact, we are here discussing ways we can safely reopen our society and save our small businesses, workers, and kids. We paid for my family’s tickets and COVID tests with personal money – no state funds were used.”

The Sacramento Bee contacted every lawmaker’s office to confirm whether members had made the trip, and reviewed previous financial records and reports to determine which legislators had attended the summit in years past.

As of Wednesday, the list of members who have not responded to multiple inquiries are: Senators Susan Rubio, D-Baldwin Park; Bill Dodd, D-Napa; Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita; and Assembly members Wendy Carrillo, D-Los Angeles; Bill Brough, R-Dana Point; Tom Daly, D-Anaheim; Mike Gipson, D-Carson; and Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove.

Carrillo wrote a tweet this week with a location tagged in Kihei, Hawaii, which Politico California first reported, close to where the conference is being held at the Fairmont Kea Lani resort. KRON4 News also reported that an eyewitness had seen Cooper on the island and that Cooper said he was attending a conference.

COURAGE CALIFORNIA RESPONDS TO ANTISEMITISM ALLEGATION

Progressive group Courage California issued a statement responding to Democratic Marin County Assemblyman Marc Levine’s accusation of anti-Semitism.

Levine has demanded an apology for the following paragraph, which appeared in Courage California’s voter guide released in October:

“Based on our Courage Score analysis, Rep. (sic) Levine has supported the most progressive bills that made it to a vote. That said, Rep. (sic) Levine has been a supporter of Israeli occupation. In 2018, he led a delegation of nine California lawmakers to Israel. He has previously stated that, ‘Israel is a country (he) feels a strong connection to.’ He has led multiple initiatives aimed at fostering partnerships between California and Israeli legislators.”

Levine has accused Courage California of showing “cowardice” in this moment, and called the remarks a “troubling pattern” that should be a warning for the group’s members and donors.

In a statement Wednesday, Courage California Executive Director Irene Kao acknowledged that the voter guide “included a flawed and problematic inference and bordered on an anti-Semitic trope.”

“This was a regretful failure in our process, and we apologized to Assemblymember Levine and other members of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus,” Kao said in the release.

Kao said that the language was removed from the Courage California site on Oct. 15, and that since then the group has taken steps to ensure that doesn’t happen again, “including consulting with several of our Jewish partners, board members, and advisors, including the Legislative Jewish Caucus, to learn from our mistake and be a better partner against all anti-Semitism.”

For his part, Caucus Chair Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, said that he appreciated that Courage California responded quickly and that they acknowledged the problematic paragraph.

“I really appreciate them apologizing, acting quickly and look forward to working further with them and with Assemblymember Levine to see if we can get this situation resolved in a mutually agreeable manner,” Allen said in an interview Wednesday.

That resolution might be slow in coming, however.

According to Kao, Courage California attempted to develop a joint statement with Levine, but the two parties were unable to agree on wording “because of the statement’s inaccuracies and mischaracterization of our organization and values.”

“Courage is not an anti-Semitic organization, nor has our organization ever displayed a pattern of anti-Semitic behavior, and we will not sign a joint-statement that characterizes us as such,” Kao said in a statement.

As for Courage California Institute Board Chair Lindsay Gardner’s use of the term “pound of flesh,” derived from William Shakespeare’s “Merchant of Venice,” Kao said that those close to Gardner, who is Jewish, can attest to his commitment to fighting anti-Semitism.

“We understand that we came close to crossing a line and have learned a great deal about anti-Semitism and how we can act differently in the future. We hope we can continue the process of learning and are hopeful that we can engage with Assemblymember Levine and the Caucus in doing so,” Kao said.

STATE SAYS UBER AND LYFT MIGHT NOT FALL UNDER PROP. 22

Tech companies such as Uber and Lyft spent more than $200 million successfully pushing for Prop. 22, which will allow them to exempt their app-based gig economy drivers from a state law that requires those workers to get more employment benefits.

But the state says Prop. 22 might not cover those companies.

“The core issue is whether appellants are misclassifying their drivers as independent contractors rather than employees,” said California Attorney General’s Office representatives and city attorneys of Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco in a Nov. 17 filing with the 1st District Court of Appeals. “Proposition 22, when it goes into effect, will not categorically answer this question.”

The state and cities’ attorneys argued this point after Uber and Lyft asked the court to toss its preliminary injunction requiring those companies to pay their drivers as employees (https://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article246652683.html).

Prop. 22 applies to app-based rideshare and delivery companies that don’t require workers to accept any specific service request as a condition of maintaining access to the platform.

But because Uber and Lyft penalize drivers who consistently decline ride requests by not letting them access certain features or temporarily logging them out of the app, those companies may not satisfy the condition as set under Prop. 22, the attorneys argued.

In a statement, Lyft disputed the state’s argument.

“The voters of California have spoken on this issue and overwhelmingly sided with drivers who want independence plus benefit,” the company said in a statement. “Lyft meets all conditions of Prop 22, including that we do not require drivers to accept any specific ride request as a condition of maintaining access to Lyft’s platform.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I always wanted to try this: rapid fire the ‘aye’ and ‘no’ vote buttons on the Assembly floor.”

- Assemblyman-elect Alex Lee, D-San Jose, via Twitter. It’s the little things in life that matter sometimes.

Best of the Bee:

A legislative assistant working for a state assemblywoman has been arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography after investigators tracked an illicit image to a computer at the California Capitol building, via Rosalio Ahumada.

CalPERS approved steep rate hikes for its cheapest health insurance plans Tuesday in an effort to save its most expensive plans from collapse, via Wes Venteicher.

California’s absence of a coordinated plan led to the state mismanaging and losing $2.7 billion that could have gone toward building more affordable housing, according to a report released by the California State Auditor on Tuesday, via Jeong Park.

California could see $26 billion in one-time surplus funds that will help balance the budget next year, but moving forward the state will face rising deficits, according to a new report from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, via Sophia Bollag.

California Rep. Devin Nunes has filed a second federal lawsuit against The Washington Post alleging reporters defamed him in their coverage, now the eighth defamation lawsuit he has filed in two years, via Kate Irby.

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