Latino cau­cus en­dorses slate of bills with broader fo­cus

Los Angeles Times - - THE STATE - By Me­lanie Ma­son me­lanie.ma­son@la­times.com

SACRA­MENTO — Latino law­mak­ers, who have in­creas­ingly flexed their mus­cle as a vot­ing bloc in the Capitol, en­dorsed a slate of pro­pos­als Wed­nes­day that in­cludes ef­forts to in­crease voter reg­is­tra­tion and pro­mote clean en­ergy.

The pack­age un­der­scores how the law­mak­ers are broad­en­ing their fo­cus from core is­sues such as im­mi­gra­tion to eco­nomic and en­vi­ron­men­tal poli­cies as well.

“The is­sues that the Latino leg­is­la­tors care about are is­sues that mat­ter to all Cal­i­for­ni­ans,” said As­sem­bly­man Luis Alejo (D-Wat­sonville), chair­man of the Cal­i­for­nia Latino Leg­isla­tive Cau­cus.

Although Lati­nos con­tinue to see im­mi­gra­tion as a key is­sue, “other is­sues are def­i­nitely gain­ing in salience,” said Matt Bar­reto, co-founder of the polling firm Latino De­ci­sions.

Those sub­jects in­clude eco­nomic in­equal­ity and cli­mate change, said Bar­reto, who teaches po­lit­i­cal science at UCLA.

The broader port­fo­lio also re­flects the am­bi­tions of Latino law­mak­ers as they cast their eye on higher of­fice, said Louis DeSi­pio, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at UC Irvine.

“In or­der to en­sure that they speak not just to their Latino con­stituen­cies but to statewide con­stituen­cies more broadly, they need to have their hand in a range of is­sues,” DeSi­pio said.

The cau­cus, con­sist­ing of 22 Democrats, has built its clout in state gov­ern­ment as the state’s Latino pop­u­la­tion has grown. Lati­nos ac­count for 38% of Cal­i­for­nia’s pop­u­la­tion, ac­cord­ing to U.S. cen­sus data.

Among the pro­pos­als the cau­cus en­dorsed is one to of­fer Cal­i­for­nia’s U.S. cit­i­zens “en­hanced” driver’s li­censes em­bed­ded with their per­sonal data to speed cross­ings at the Mex­i­can and Canadian bor­ders.

Such in­for­ma­tion would not have the same lay­ers of data pro­tec­tion that pass­ports have, said Kevin Baker of the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union, which has raised pri­vacy con­cerns about li­censes with added tech­nol­ogy.

On the en­vi­ron­men­tal front, the law­mak­ers backed a bid to of­fer re­bates for used elec­tric ve­hi­cles, mak­ing them more ac­ces­si­ble to poorer Cal­i­for­ni­ans. The cau­cus also en­dorsed a sweep­ing bill aimed at re­duc­ing pol­lu­tion that mir­rors much of Gov. Jerry Brown’s agenda for fight­ing cli­mate change.

The law­mak­ers are back­ing a num­ber of im­mi­gra­tion-re­lated bills, in­clud­ing a mea­sure that would al­low peo­ple living in the coun­try il­le­gally to re­ceive Medi-Cal, the state-sub­si­dized health­care pro­gram for the poor.

Im­prov­ing the state’s vot­ing pro­cesses is an­other fo­cus. A new “mo­tor voter” bill would au­to­mat­i­cally reg­is­ter el­i­gi­ble res­i­dents to vote when they ob­tain or re­new a driver’s li­cense.

The group also backs leg­is­la­tion that would re­quire large cities to elect their lo­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tives by dis­trict rather than in at-large elec­tions. Cities with at-large elec­tions have come un­der scru­tiny for de­priv­ing mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tions of suf­fi­cient rep­re­sen­ta­tion.

Also win­ning the law­mak­ers’ sup­port is a mea­sure that would cre­ate pro­grams sim­i­lar to re­de­vel­op­ment agen­cies to fi­nance hous­ing and in­fra­struc­ture in poor com­mu­ni­ties. Such re­de­vel­op­ment pro­grams statewide were shut down sev­eral years ago amid com­plaints they were plagued by waste and cor­rup­tion.

Alejo said the new ef­fort, which he in­tro­duced, would spur in­vest­ment in needy ar­eas and would in­clude safe­guards to en­sure ac­count­abil­ity, in­clud­ing giv­ing vot­ers the right to over­turn an agency’s plan by ref­er­en­dum.

The pro­pos­als en­dorsed by the cau­cus are:

Medi-Cal ex­pan­sion: SB 4 by Sen. Ri­cardo Lara (DBell Gar­dens)

“En­hanced” driver’s li­censes: SB 249 by Sen. Ben Hueso (D-San Diego)

Cli­mate change: SB 350 by Sen. Kevin de León (DLos An­ge­les)

Re­de­vel­op­ment agen­cies: AB 2 by As­sem­bly­man Luis Alejo (D-Wat­sonville)

City coun­cil elec­tions by dis­trict: AB 278 by As­sem­bly­man Roger Her­nan­dez (D-West Cov­ina)

Pro­tect mi­nors from hav­ing im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus re­vealed in civil lit­i­ga­tion: AB 560 by As­sem­bly­man Jimmy Gomez (D-Echo Park)

Clean ve­hi­cle re­bates: AB 940 by As­sem­bly­man Henry T. Perea (D-Fresno)

Al­low low-level drug of­fend­ers to get treat­ment be­fore en­ter­ing a plea: AB 1351 by Assem­bly­woman Su­san Tala­mantes Eg­gman (DS­tock­ton).

“Mo­tor voter” reg­is­tra­tion: AB 1461 by Assem­bly­woman Lorena Gon­za­lez (D-San Diego)

As­so­ci­ated Press

AS­SEM­BLY­MAN Luis Alejo of Wat­sonville heads the Latino cau­cus.

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