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Praise for the deal poured in after the vote on CA AB129 (21R) from lawmakers trumpeting their victories, like $8 million to help a conservancy buy Banning Ranch, a 385-acre parcel of land in coastal Orange County.

“This project will restore vital coastal wetlands, provide unparalleled coastal access for surrounding underserved communities and preserve this jewel for all Southern Californians to enjoy,” said Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris (D-Laguna Beach).

Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) notched eight appropriations totaling $17 million, including food assistance programs, park upgrades, an anti-Asian-hate arts program and a center for people overdosing on methamphetamines. Assemblymember Marc Levine (D-Greenbrae) secured nearly $15 million for his district, including programs for homeless veterans, highway and drinking water system upgrades, and wildfire prevention. Sen. Melissa Hurtado (D-Sanger) obtained $100 million to fix crumbling water canals plus $25 million for a firefighting training center in Fresno, among other earmarks.

Republicans, though, argued the state should have put more money into reserve and paid off growing unemployment insurance costs.

“Now is the time to plan responsibly and build up our reserves, while reducing the burdens on small businesses and families,” Assemblymember Vince Fong (R-Bakersfield) said. “This unsustainable budget ignores the lessons learned from past mistakes and fails to address basics concerns for Californians.”

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said the earmarks reflected local requests and were a response to the record budget surplus that has surpassed $76 billion.

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“The budget allocations are in direct response to what Senators are hearing from the local level,” her office said in an email. “California’s finances overall are in great shape, but we know many local communities continue to struggle in the aftermath of the pandemic. This is a common sense approach that allocates one-time state resources to help our local communities.”

Most of the earmarks are for municipal parks and buildings, water infrastructure improvements, police departments, homelessness, firefighting and wildfire fuels management. The largest single earmark is $45 million for the Southeast Los Angeles Cultural Center Project, while two earmarks are the smallest at $50,000 each: one would rename the “Eden Landing Ecological Reserve” to the “Congressman Pete Stark Ecological Reserve” in Alameda County; the other would go toward analyzing sea level rise and sediment management.

The $1.2 billion in legislator requests will flow to both local entities and state agencies. That includes $65 million for various University of California programs; $53 million for the San Gabriel and Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy; $42.5 million for the Coastal Conservancy; and $25 million for the Labor and Workforce Development Agency. The bill language prevents any of the money from being spent before Sept. 30.


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Garland pauses federal executions as DOJ reviews policies

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Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday paused federal executions as the Department of Justice reviews its death penalty policies and procedures.

“The Department of Justice must ensure that everyone in the federal criminal justice system is not only afforded the rights guar anteed by the Constitution and laws of the United States, but is also treated fairly and humanely,” Garland said in a statement. “That obligation has special force in capital cases.”

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Legal battles over the traditional three-drug protocol for carrying out execution by legal injection, and a shortage of sodium thiopental — one of the drugs — led to a two-decade lapse in federal executions. But then-Attorney General Bill Barr ordered federal prisons to resume executions in 2019, after making changes to the federal execution protocols.


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New York Assembly OKs subpoenas in Cuomo impeachment probe

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Additionally, members have taken the technical step of issuing a commission to the law firm of Davis Polk, which the Assembly has retained to handle much of the probe. That step “allows our independent counsel to take testimony under oath,” Lavine said.

The Assembly launched its investigation of Cuomo in March. It is probing a litany of allegations made against Cuomo on subjects ranging from sexual harassment to the governor’s $5.1 million book deal.

State Attorney General Tish James is examining several similar issues. She started issuing subpoenas in March.

James said last week that she does not “share information” with the Assembly investigators. But Abinanti said on Wednesday that the granting of a commission to Davis Polk opens up that possibility, “because now they are authorized to subpoena the same information the attorney general’s office is subpoenaing … so I would assume the attorney general’s office would feel more comfortable cooperating with our counsel.”

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Wednesday’s meeting was notable as the Assembly’s first mostly in-person committee meeting since state government shut down in March 2020. Since Cuomo ended New York’s state of emergency last week, the Legislature is now fully subjected to the Open Meetings Law, and the public was allowed into the room in the state Capitol for five minutes. The remainder of the roughly two-hour gathering took place in executive session.

Does the issuing of subpoenas mean that the investigation of Cuomo is nearing an end?

“Oh no, not yet, no no,” Abinanti said. “Let’s face it, we’ve given [Davis Polk] a huge task. There’s a lot of issues for them to look at.”


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Opinion | Republicans Shouldn’t Sign on to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Deal

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The conventional wisdom is that the Senate has to prove that it can work, and the test of its functioning is how much of Biden’s spending Republicans endorse.

This is a distorted view of the Senate’s role, which shouldn’t be to get on board a historic spending spree for which Biden won no mandate and which isn’t justified by conditions in the country (it’s not true, for instance, that the nation’s infrastructure is crumbling).

Besides, if bipartisan spending is the test, the Senate just a few weeks ago passed a $200 billion China competition bill by a 68-32 vote. It used to be that $200 billion constituted a lot of money, but now it doesn’t rate, not when there’s $6 trillion on the table.

The infrastructure deal lurched from gloriously alive to dead when Biden explicitly linked its passage to the simultaneous passage of a reconciliation bill with the rest of the Democratic Party’s spending priorities in it.

Then, it revived again when Biden walked this back, and promised a dual track for the two bills.

The fierce Republican insistence on these two tracks doesn’t make much sense and amounts to asking Democrats to allow a decent interval before going ahead with the rest of their spending—Democrats are going to try to pass a reconciliation whether the bipartisan deal passes or not.

At the end of the day, then, there’s only one track: Democrats are going to spend as much money as they possibly can. The bipartisan deal might shave some money off the hard infrastructure priorities (according to Playbook, the White House says it doesn’t want to double dip, on say, electric cars or broadband by getting some money for them in the deal and then getting yet more in the reconciliation bill). But the emphasis is going to blow out spending across the board.

The calculation of Republicans supporting the bill is that a significant bipartisan package can take some of the heat off of Sen. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in their resistance to the filibuster.

A deal that passes and is signed into law will certainly be a feather in their caps, but it’s hard to believe they’d change their minds on the filibuster if the deal fell apart.

They are both so extensively and adamantly on the record in favor of the filibuster that a climb-down would be politically embarrassing and perilous. They may be sincere in believing that the filibuster is important institutionally to the Senate. But the politics also work by allowing them to brand themselves as a different breed of Democrat.

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If they flip-flip on the filibuster, they release the brake on the left-most parts of the Democratic agenda and find themselves taking a lot of tough votes on priorities dear to the Democratic base.

Republicans supporting the deal also think that it will make passing the subsequent reconciliation bill harder. First, the parts of infrastructure that have the widest support—roads and bridges—will be in the deal and not in the reconciliation bill. Second, the unwelcome tax increases excluded from the bipartisan deal will be in the reconciliation bill.

This isn’t a crazy calculation, although it’s not clearly correct, either. The higher the top-line number is for the reconciliation bill, the harder it is to pass. By allowing Democrats to cleave off some of their spending into a bipartisan deal, the overall number for the reconciliation bill gets smaller. In other words, the bipartisan deal could make the partisan reconciliation easier rather than harder to pass.

If this is true, the deal is bipartisanship in the service of a partisan end.

It not as though Biden is fiscally prudent on all other fronts, except in this one area which he considers a particularly important national investment with unmistakable returns. No, he’s universally profligate. His reckless spending on all fronts (except defense) makes it more imperative for Republicans to stake out a position in four-square opposition.

It’s not as though the bipartisan bill is exemplary legislation, by the way. It resorts to all the usual Beltway gimmicks to create the pretense that it’s paid for, when it’s basically as irresponsible as the rest of the Biden spending.

Bipartisanship has its uses, but so does partisanship. Joe Biden wants to be known for his FDR- and LBJ-like government spending, believing that it’s the key to political success and to an enduring legacy. Fine. Let him and his party own it.


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