The ‘Right to Try’ is one of many model bills pushed in statehouses by special interests

From 2013 to 2017, the policy thinktank named after conservative icon and five-term Senator Barry Goldwater sponsored “Right to Try” bills in statehouses throughout the country, including bills in California.

And after 41 state legislatures passed “Right to Try” bills, Congress passed its own in 2018.

The Desert Sun identified “Right to Try” legislation as part of a USA TODAY analysis that matched language in “model legislation” against bills introduced in all 50 states and Congress.

The analysis of nearly 1 million bills introduced between 2010 and 2018 identified bills authored by corporations, interest groups and lobbyists. “Copycat legislation” has become commonplace in legislatures throughout the country; more than 10,000 bills were copied and pasted almost entirely, and more than 2,100 of those were passed and signed into law. – The Desert Sun / USA TODAY

Billionaire environmentalist Tom Steyer joins inland California’s clean water fight

Tom Steyer, the billionaire philanthropist and Democratic Party donor, took a break from trying to impeach President Donald Trump on Friday to visit the eastern Coachella Valley and learn about the water quality issues plaguing the region’s residents.

Steyer joined a delegation of local and state leaders on a tour of areas that have, for years, lacked clean drinking water, including a Thermal elementary school whose water source is an old, unreliable well. And while his efforts may not seem connected, Steyer said opposing the president’s agenda and pursuing impeachment stemmed from the same motivations that inform his environmental advocacy about issues including ensuring access to clean drinking water. – Desert Sun

London patient revealed as cured joins Palm Springs man, who was the first

Timothy Ray Brown was standing next to his doctor, Gero Hütter, as they waited for an elevator at a Berlin hospital in August 2006. The elevator dinged, and the opening door sounded as if it sighed. They stepped in as Brown processed the news Hütter just delivered: there could be a cure that would address Brown’s HIV and leukemia simultaneously.

“I was like, ‘Yeah, whatever,’” said Brown. “It was like a fantasy idea that I wouldn’t have to worry about HIV again.”

But it wasn’t a fantasy. The Palm Springs resident, now 52, would become known to the world as the Berlin patient.

Now, more than a decade after Brown became the first person cured of HIV in May 2007, a patient in London has reportedly been cured by a bone-marrow transplant as well. The London patient has yet to speak publicly but Brown said he already feels a deep connection with him. – Desert Sun, with Nicole Hayden

Bird scooters: traffic and climate change disruptors or toys for privileged urbanites?

Only three days after Bird Co. dropped off hundreds of sleek black stand-up electric scooters early in the morning, city government issued a cease-and-desist order then took the surprise, two-wheeled Birds captive.

With its more than 10 million e-scooters, Bird is the latest cash-rich tech startup aiming to disrupt traditional modes of transportation and Palm Springs was hardly the first city subjected to a surprise avian invasion.

Eight years after Uber first launched in San Francisco without permission from the city, Bird and its competitors are instigating the latest battles between cities and tech startups. In cities throughout California and elsewhere, the company has taken a page from Uber’s playbook, frequently deploying its e-scooters without warning, sending city governments reeling to try and regulate them and then only later attempting to negotiate the terms of their presence.– Desert Sun

Chad Bianco elected in heated Riverside County Sheriff’s race

In January, there will be a new sheriff in town.

With 100 percent of Riverside County precincts reporting, Lt. Chad Bianco defeated 11-year incumbent Sheriff Stan Sniff in a heated intra-agency struggle for control of the county’s expansive law enforcement agency.

The ambiance was akin to a tailgate. Supporters of the incoming sheriff wore Bianco t-shirts, collared shirts and trucker hats, drinking beers and eating tacos while a classic rock soundtrack blared on the speakers in the airplane hangar where the party took place. Partygoers said Bianco’s candidacy had engaged them in politics like never before.

Bianco’s 2018 bid enjoyed hefty financial backing from police unions including the Riverside Sheriffs Association, which funneled more than $850,000 into his campaign coffers.–Desert Sun (other election night stories about Congress, State Senate, State Assembly, Propositions)

California’s most expensive proposition battle pits kidney dialysis providers against unions

Supporters and opponents of Proposition 8, the “Fair Pricing for Dialysis Act,” have contributed almost $120 million during the 2018 campaign season. The state’s largest kidney dialysis providers — including industry giants Davita DialysisFresenius Medical Care and U.S. Renal Care — have contributed $99 million collectively to fight the proposition, while supporters, led by the Service Employees International Union-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), have contributed more than $18 million in support of the measure. – The Desert Sun

Governor signs ‘prosecution fee’ bill sparked by Desert Sun investigation

*Part of a project named Finalist for 2018 IRE Award*

Less than one year after a Desert Sun investigation revealed Indio and Coachella had hired an outside law firm to prosecute residents found in violation of municipal ordinances, then charged them thousands in “prosecution fees,” the practice has been officially outlawed in California.

In a five-part series, The Desert Sun found Silver & Wright, an outside law firm hired by Indio and Coachella, had charged residents thousands in prosecution fees, often for minor infractions involving things like messy yards, keeping chickens on a property, and failing to apply for building permits. – Desert Sun 

Idyllwild Fire District, the town’s de facto local government, fights for survival

As wildfire season grows longer and more severe, the Idyllwild Fire Protection District and its small, 1,500-voter elections have become about more than provincial politics. Dead brush and chaparral function like matchboxes in the San Jacinto Mountains. Wildfires spread quickly and with ease, unless the Idyllwild Fire, Riverside County, and the U.S. Forest Service can contain them … – The Desert Sun

Political outsiders want to split California in three, but local leaders are skeptical

In Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs have heralded innovations like smartphones and car-sharing. Now, Tim Draper, one of the valley’s most successful venture capitalists, wants to similarly shake up the way California is governed by dividing it into three states — “Northern California,” “Southern California,” and “California.”

But if he wants it to pass, he’ll need to convince voters in California’s other valleys, including the Imperial Valley and the Coachella Valley, that the proposal is more than an out-there idea from an eccentric billionaire.-The Desert Sun