THE BUZZ: It was another year for the history books.
War, a battle for the Senate and global oil crisis captured much of the world’s attention in 2022. But, as usual, California repeatedly got the spotlight — though not always for the best reasons.
Here is our non-comprehensive list of the stories that we think shaped and shook California politics this year:
#11 — A farewell to Madam Speaker
Nancy Pelosi, San Francisco’s long time leading daughter relinquished the gavel this year, ending an era in Democratic politics and cementing her place in history as the first and only woman (for now) to serve as Speaker of the House.
#10 — Villanueva’s political feud got personal
The now-former-LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva raised eyebrows when his office abruptly searched the home of one of his most noted political opponents, County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who retired this year.
#9 — Homelessness continued to dominate
Feeling the pressure, more Democratic mayors backed aggressive measures to clear streets and sidewalks. Gov. Gavin Newsom withheld billions until cities promised better progress. And in LA, Mayor Karen Bass has vowed to move 17,000 people indoors by the end of the year.
#8 — The big bet that flopped
Gambling giants DraftKings and FanDuel poured nearly $170 million into Proposition 27, which would have legalized online sports betting, just to come up with less than 18 percent of the vote. It was the biggest losing margin for a ballot measure in 18 years.
#7 — A record state budget
Lawmakers enjoyed a nearly $100 billion surplus this year, with the total budget clocking in at a record $300 billion.
#6 — California’s big swing on climate change
Lawmakers passed a sweeping, $54 billion package of climate change bills aimed at shoring up the state’s energy supplies and slashing carbon emissions. Among them was an extension for the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant.
#5 — Gavin Newsom’s national tour
Newsom spent much of 2022 bathing in the national spotlight after taking jabs at red state leaders — most notably Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. He bought ads on Fox News, took out full page ads in Texas, and erected billboards across several states. He repeatedly insisted it’s not a trial run for 2024, but rather a mission to push back against Republicans’ narrative on gun control, abortion and LGBTQ issues.
#4 — The fallout from Roe
California responded almost immediately to the Supreme Court overturning the landmark abortion ruling with more than a dozen bills and a measure to enshrine the right to abortion and contraception in the state constitution.
Democratic Assemblyman Robert Rivas addresses lawmakers at the Capitol in Sacramento, Calif., Monday, May 23, 2022. | Rich Pedroncelli/AP Photo
#3 — A battle for the speaker’s gavel
Some thought Assemblymember Robert Rivas was finished after his first attempt to take the speakership from Anthony Rendon failed. But the Salinas Democrat triumphed in the end, securing the confidence of the caucus and the title of Speaker-elect heading into 2023.
#2 — The attack on Paul Pelosi
A conspiracy-fueled assault on one of America’s most famous political families drew condemnation from both sides of the aisle, and highlighted an increase in against public officials.
#1 — The LA City Council tapes
This is a story that won’t be left in 2022. The leaked audio of a conversation between three city council members and a labor leader, in which they made crude and racist jokes, continues to dominate the discourse around city government, and, most notably, Councilmember Kevin de León, who refuses to resign.
Today, by a vote of 225 to 201, the House passed the 4,155-page omnibus spending bill necessary to fund the government through September 30, 2023. The Senate passed it yesterday by a bipartisan vote of 68–29, and President Joe Biden has said he will sign it as soon as it gets to his desk.
The measure establishes nondefense discretionary spending at about $773 billion, an increase of about $68 billion, or 6%. It increases defense spending to $858 billion, an increase of about 10%. Defense funding is about $45 billion more than Biden had requested, reflecting the depletion of military stores in Ukraine, where the largest European war since World War II is raging, and the recognition of a military buildup with growing tensions between the U.S. and China.
Senators Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) and Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) and Representative Rosa L. DeLauro (D-CT) hammered out the bill over months of negotiations. Leahy and Shelby are the two most senior members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and both are retiring at the end of this session. Shelby told the Senate: “We know it’s not perfect, but it’s got a lot of good stuff in it.”
House Republicans refused to participate in the negotiations, tipping their hand to just how disorganized they are right now. House minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) insisted that the measure should wait until the Republicans take control of the House in 11 days. This reflects the determination of far-right extremists in the party to hold government funding hostage in order to get concessions from the Democrats.
But their positions are so extreme that most Republicans wanted to get the deal done before they could gum it up. Indeed, right now they are refusing to back Republican minority leader McCarthy for speaker, forcing him to more and more extreme positions to woo them. Earlier this week, McCarthy publicly claimed that if he becomes House speaker, he will reject any bill proposed by a senator who voted yes on the omnibus bill. After the measure passed the House, McCarthy spoke forcefully against it, prompting Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) to say: “After listening to that, it’s clear he doesn’t have the votes yet.”
The measure invests in education, childcare, and healthcare, giving boosts to the National Institute of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and investing in mental health programs. It addresses the opioid crisis and invests in food security programs and in housing and heating assistance programs. It invests in the Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service and makes a historic investment in the National Science Foundation. It raises the pay for members of the armed forces, and it invests in state and local law enforcement. It will also provide supplemental funding of about $45 billion for Ukraine aid and $41 billion for disaster relief. It reforms the Electoral Count Act to prevent a plan like that hatched by former president Donald Trump and his cronies to overturn an election, and it funds prosecutions stemming from the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“A lot of hard work, a lot of compromise,” Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) said. “But we funded the government with an aggressive investment in American families, American workers, American national defense.” Schumer called the bill “one of the most significant appropriations packages we've done in a really long time.”
And so, members of Congress are on their way home, in the nation’s severe winter storm, for the winter holiday.
It is a fitting day for the congress members to go home, some to come back in January, others to leave their seats in Congress to their successors. On this day in December 1783, General George Washington stood in front of the Confederation Congress, meeting at the senate chamber of the Maryland State House, to resign his wartime commission. Negotiators had signed the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War on September 3, 1783, and once the British troops had withdrawn from New York City, Washington believed his job was done.
“The great events on which my resignation depended having at length taken place; I have now the honor of offering my sincere Congratulation s to Congress and of presenting myself before them to surrender into their hands the trust committed to me, and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the Service of my Country,” he told the members of Congress.
“Happy in the confirmation of our Independence and Sovereignty, and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of becoming a respectable Nation, I resign with satisfaction the Appointment I accepted with diffidence.”
“Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.”
In 1817, given the choice of subjects to paint for the rotunda in the U.S. Capitol, being rebuilt after the British had burned it during the War of 1812, fine artist John Trumbull picked the moment of Washington’s resignation. As they discussed the project, he told President James Madison: “I have thought that one of the highest moral lessons ever given to the world, was that presented by the conduct of the commander-in-chief, in resigning his power and commission as he did, when the army, perhaps, would have been unanimously with him, and few of the people disposed to resist his retaining the power which he had used with such happy success, and such irreproachable moderation.”
Madison agreed, and the painting of a man voluntarily giving up power hangs today in the U.S. Capitol, in the Rotunda. It hung there over the January 6 rioters as they tried to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election and put in place their candidate, who insisted he should remain in power despite the will of the American people.
Yesterday’s release of the report of the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol reviewed the material the committee has already explained, but it did have a number of revelations.
One is that former president Trump was not simply the general instigator of the Big Lie that he had won the election, and the person egging on his violent supporters, but also that he was the prime instigator of the attempt to file false slates of electors. This puts him at the heart of the attempt to defraud the U.S. government and to interfere with an official proceeding. On page 346, the report says: “The evidence indicates that by December 7th or 8th, President Trump had decided to pursue the fake elector plan and was driving it.” In that effort, he had the help of Republican National Committee chair Ronna McDaniel, even after White House lawyers had called the plan illegal and had backed away from it.
Committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS)’s introduction to the report put Trump’s effort in the larger context of a history that reaches all the way back to the American Revolution. “Our country has come too far to allow a defeated President to turn himself into a successful tyrant by upending our democratic institutions, fomenting violence, and…opening the door to those in our country whose hatred and bigotry threaten equality and justice for all Americans.”
“We can never surrender to democracy’s enemies. We can never allow America to be defined by forces of division and hatred. We can never go backward in the progress we have made through the sacrifice and dedication of true patriots. We can never and will never relent in our pursuit of a more perfect union with liberty and justice for all Americans.”
John Trumbull, Autobiography, Reminiscences and Letters of J. Trumbull, from 1756 to 1841, p. 263, at https://archive.org/details/
As we dive into the new year, we wanted to look back and reflect on some of our incredible wins from 2022.
Here’s just some of what you helped accomplish this year to stop fossil fuel infrastructure, cut off the flow of funds to fossil fuels, and invest in climate justice:
We passed a historic climate bill in Congress
In August, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) — a climate and energy bill worth $369 billion dollars that opens huge doors for the climate movement.
We won massive investments in accelerating the transition to renewable energy, speeding up the U.S. economy’s fossil free transition, and significantly reducing emissions. This bill will:
Create up to 9 million jobs in clean energy, clean manufacturing, and green transportation
We know the bill is far from perfect, and we've got lots of work ahead of us. However, this step forward is a clear indicator that our movement-building is working. 2023 will be all about how we implement the IRA in a just and equitable way that creates millions of new jobs in renewables and shows a path forward with real climate solutions.
We defeated Manchin’s dirty deal for the third time
Earlier this year, Senator Joe Manchin proposed a bill that would require the Interior Department to sell at least 2 million acres of our public lands and 60 million acres of offshore waters for oil and gas leasing each year for a decade.
It would also make it easier to build fossil fuel projects – allowing big-polluting oil and gas companies to more easily force through dirty, dangerous fossil fuel projects in any neighborhood and community where they want to build them, limiting the voice of the public in the process.
Following the lead of frontline and grassroots groups, we made calls and signed petitions and successfully stopped this bill that would have undermined our bedrock environmental laws, fast-tracked fossil fuels, sacrificed frontline communities, and endangered public health.
We held the Federal Reserve accountable for allowing fossil fuel finance
Each year, officials from the Federal Reserve (along with influential bankers, asset managers, and government officials) gather for the Jackson Hole Economic Policy Symposium in Wyoming. The event sets important policy goals and has a huge ripple effect across the entire global financial system.
From August 25 to 28, we showed up at the meeting with our partners at 350 Colorado to peacefully demand action. Our goal was to tell the leaders at the Symposium that finance policy and the Fed have to do more to protect the climate, recognize the critical risk fossil fuel investments pose to our economy, and get on board with the imperative to keep warming under 1.5° Celsius.
The Federal Reserve is supposed to protect the stability of the U.S. economy and the financial well-being of all Americans, and there’s no bigger threat to our economy than the worsening impacts of the climate crisis.
Thanks in part to our efforts, in September, the Federal Reserve announced its plans to perform an analysis of climate change financial risks next year, and are working on ways for banks to “identify, measure, monitor, and manage the financial risks of climate change."1
We celebrated some major wins at COP27
Some of these victories include:
– President Biden pledging $100 million to the Adaptation Fund
– The final COP27 agreement including the creation of a fund for losses and damages from the climate crisis, and the U.S. committed to support it
That has never happened before and is the direct result of the pressure from the most impacted nations and our global climate movement. At the start of COP, the U.S. was reluctant to commit to loss and damage funding – but because of our movement and the leadership of advocates in the Global South, they committed to the historic Loss and Damage Fund.2
Youth climate activists march at COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh.
In 2023, we must hold Biden accountable and demand that the U.S. fulfill its climate finance pledges immediately.
We got 5 new banks and a major PR firm to pull out of EACOP
French oil giant, TotalEnergies, is attempting to build the world’s longest crude oil pipeline right through the heart of Uganda and Tanzania – the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP).
In May 2022, the #StopEACOP movement celebrated another batch of victories when five banks including Deutsche Bank, Citi, JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Morgan Stanley (and some major insurance companies) all said they wouldn’t fund EACOP.
This takes the number of banks who have rejected EACOP project loans to 20 and the number of insurers who’ve rejected to eight. The list of banks who’ve rejected the project includes seven of Total’s ten largest lenders. In addition, Total lost a major business relationship with the huge U.S. PR firm, Edelman, over EACOP.
After one of the most powerful U.S. insurance brokers, Marsh McLennan, announced that they are trying to help get this pipeline over the finish line by finding insurance for the project, 350 U.S. launched a campaign calling on the CEO to drop their involvement. In 2023 we will continue to put pressure on Marsh to drop EACOP.
There is so much more work to be done, but all of our progress thus far proves that together, we can stop this project for good.
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