California

For 50th time, California sues the Trump administration — ‘That’s a lot of lawsuits’

‘Not our first rodeo’ California AG says in suing Trump on census question

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on March 27, 2018 describes a lawsuit the state has filed against the Trump administration over census question on citizenship status. Secretary of State Alex Padilla is to the left.
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California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on March 27, 2018 describes a lawsuit the state has filed against the Trump administration over census question on citizenship status. Secretary of State Alex Padilla is to the left.

And then there were 50.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra launched another lawsuit against President Donald Trump’s administration on Monday, raising the state’s legal battles with the White House to more than four dozen filings.

“That’s a lot of lawsuits,” Becerra said during a press conference to announce the latest legal move. “That’s a lot of wrongdoing and a lot of unlawfulness by the president of the United States. But California is going to stand up. We’re going to protect everything that’s made us a place where people can live in dignity, and number 50 is one of those I absolutely intend to win.”

The lawsuits range from fighting the diversion of emergency dollars to fund a border wall and environmental protection rollbacks, as well as contesting the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act and banning transgender people from the military.

The legal efforts have cost more than $10 million, an expense the attorney general previously defended, telling The Bee in December 2018 that obtaining federal money owed to California essentially paid for the suits.

Monday’s lawsuit builds on a Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services ruling from earlier this month that removed a state’s authority to pay third parties for Medicaid provider costs, including health insurance, skills training and employee benefits.

During a press conference to announce the new filing, Becerra said the latest lawsuit aims to preserve $6.5 billion in federal funding that helps support in-home services to more than half a million Californians. The services include bathing, dressing, cooking, feeding, administering medication and offering transportation services to residents who need the workers’ help.

The department said the federal rule “interferes with states’ ability to deduct payments for worker benefits obtained through collective bargaining, like healthcare coverage or voluntary union dues, from homecare workers’ paychecks.”

Becerra has so far tallied 34 wins in the ongoing suits, with several actions inhibiting the president from fulfilling core campaign promises:

IMMIGRATION

  • DACA: Becerra fought Trump’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, a program that protects “dreamers” from deportation. California earned a preliminary injunction against the administration in January 2018, which was upheld in November.
  • BORDER WALL: The Trump administration declared a national emergency in February after failing to obtain enough federal dollars to build his promised border wall. His action would divert congressional funding to mitigate disaster costs to cover the wall’s construction. Becerra led a coalition of 16 states to block the president’s efforts.
  • CENSUS: The Trump administration is pushing to add a citizenship question for the upcoming 2020 Census. If added, California risks a population undercount because immigrants and Latinos might not participate in the official questionnaire. An estimated 2 million undocumented immigrants live in California, and the state faces losing federal funds and congressional representation if all residents are not accounted for. The Supreme Court is currently considering the case.

CLIMATE

  • PESTICIDES: Becerra challenged the Environmental Protection Agency in 2017 for its failure to enforce rules against chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that’s linked to health concerns for babies and children. A federal judge then ordered the agency to ban chlorpyrifos in August 2018, though the department failed to comply. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration stepped in for California and officially banned the pesticide on May 8, handing a victory to environmentalists and disappointing farmers that rely on the chemical to protect their almond orchards and cotton fields.
  • TRIBAL LANDS: The Waste Prevention Rule protects public and tribal lands from methane leaks by oil and gas operations, a regulation the U.S. Bureau of Land Management attempted to suspend in 2017. Becerra filed suit to protect the rule and a judge originally sided with California in February 2018. The Trump administration moved to repeal the protection altogether after the decision, and California followed with another filing in September 2018.

HEALTHCARE

  • BIRTH CONTROL: Becerra announced in January that he’d earned a preliminary injunction in a yearlong battle that halted Trump’s attempt to crack down on birth control. The president wanted to rollback a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would have allowed employers not to provide birth control in their offered benefits if they had moral or religious beliefs that banned contraceptives. Following the injunction, the attorney general said “employers have no business interfering in women’s healthcare decisions.”
  • AFFORDABLE CARE ACT: After a Texas judge declared the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional in December 2018, Becerra filed a motion with more than a dozen fellow attorneys general to challenge the opinion. The motion asked for clarification on whether the ACA was still the law of the land. The legal challenge is now in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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