LOS ANGELES — It’s been less than a week since the California Legislature reconvened for the year, and already the No. 1 issue here is emerging: what to do about Donald Trump.
In the span of three days, the Trump administration threatened California’s burgeoning recreational marijuana market, proposed drilling off the California coast and pledged to increase immigration enforcement in the state — proposing to punish cities that get in the way. That came on the heels of his signing a tax bill that hit California harder than most other states.
Following a year of provocations, the widespread feeling among Democrats is that the nation’s most populous state once again is under siege.
“This is further proof of President Trump’s war on California,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León said.
Trump — the first president since Dwight Eisenhower who failed to visit the state in his first calendar year in office — and California’s ruling Democrats have feuded since the 2016 election and remained at each other’s throats all last year. But hostilities in recent days suggest the intensity of their conflict may have no ceiling.
On Tuesday, one day before the Legislature reconvened, Immigration and Customs Enforcement acting director Thomas Homan ripped into California for its recently enacted “sanctuary state” legislation, telling Fox News that California Democrats are putting “politics ahead of public safety” and that ICE will “significantly increase” its enforcement presence in California.
“California better hold on tight,” Homan said. “They’re about to see a lot more special agents, a lot more deportation officers in the state of California.”
Homan’s remarks came a day after state laws limiting local law enforcement officials’ ability to cooperate with federal immigration authorities took effect. Homan said the Department of Justice should file charges against sanctuary cities, withhold their funding and “hold these politicians personally accountable.”
California Democrats were defiant. Darrell Steinberg, a former state Senate leader and the current mayor of Sacramento, made national headlines when he told The Sacramento Bee, “They certainly know where to find me.”
Assemblywoman Wendy Carrillo, who took her place in the Assembly chambers for the first time this week after winning a special election to complete the term of now-U.S. Rep. Jimmy Gomez, said she felt a weight of responsibility to stand up against Trump for women, minority groups and Latinos, including undocumented young people.
“This is a moment of resistance for California,” said Carrillo, a native of El Salvador who as a child in the U.S. was herself undocumented.
Not long after Homan’s warning — in fact, just days after California began allowing commercial sales of recreational marijuana — the Trump administration rolled another grenade into the state: Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced he was rescinding Obama-era guidelines that had limited marijuana-related prosecutions in states where the drug was legal under state law.
Justice Department officials said they were unaware of any connection between the timing of Sessions’ announcement and California’s shift in law — opening up what is expected to be the largest marijuana market in the United States — but state officials were incredulous. De León told POLITICO he is consulting with former Attorney General Eric Holder about how to respond to Sessions, “researching ways that we can uphold the Constitution and the will of the people of California against an overreaching federal government that is meddling in our state’s ability to govern as we see fit.”
California lawmakers have responded to the rising tensions by issuing their own broadsides and opening the 2018 session by introducing measures to preserve net neutrality rules in California and to undercut one of Trump’s main achievements — a federal tax bill that includes provisions damaging to many taxpayers in high-tax states.