Good morning, California.

“I wanted to highlight this issue but not through the lens of a politician whose residence is the governor’s mansion. … I am the last person to preach on this topic.”—Gov. Gavin Newsom, who bought a $3.7 million home east of Sacramento.

To illustrate California’s housing crisis, Newsom listened to a Sacramento preschool teacher who told of her fears about homelessness, the difficulties of a 27-year-old woman who lives with two roommates in West Sacramento and a 71-year-old woman who cannot afford rent on her Social Security check.

New attempt to vaccinate kids

Lawmakers want to halt doctors from unilaterally granting vaccination exemptions.

Seeking to clamp down on doctors who grant exemptions allowing parents to avoid vaccinating their children, two Democratic legislators proposed legislation Tuesday that would shift authority to grant exemptions to state public health authorities.

  • State Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento, a pediatrician and Senate Health Committee chairman, wrote 2015 legislation that all but ended parents’ ability to claim that because of their personal beliefs, they would not have their kids vaccinated.
  • Written in response to a 2014 measles outbreak traced to Disneyland, Pan’s 2015 bill led to a rise in medical exemptions.

The new bill by Pan and Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez of San Diego would halt supposedly medically necessary exemptions by stopping doctors who advertise them for a fee.

The San Francisco Chronicle quoted Pan: “We cannot allow a small number of unethical physicians to put our children back at risk. Children and their families demand that we act to keep them safe.”

Under the new bill, the state would maintain a database of children who have medical exemptions and alert the California Medical Board about physicians who have issued the exemptions, a concept explored by CALmatters’ health reporter Elizabeth Aguilera in this report.

  • The new bill has yet to have its first hearing. But legislators well recall that anti-vaccination activists packed the Capitol during hearings on Pan’s 2015 legislation. Legislators who supported the measure faced harassment and threats.

An early start to Election 2026

Controller Betty Yee, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Treasurer Fiona Ma spoke Tuesday in Sacramento.

The 2026 governor’s race is on, and three formidable women are running on the Democratic side, Politico’s Carla Marinucci wrote Tuesday.

Three Democratic women who hold statewide constitutional office—Controller Betty Yee, Treasurer Fiona Ma and Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis—told a Sacramento Press Club audience Tuesday that they’d throw their hats in the ring.

“I’m in!” said Yee, the first to answer.

Ma and Kounalakis followed by saying they were in as well, to applause from the luncheon crowd.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom presumably will run for reelection in 2022 but cannot run for a third term in 2026.

The three agreed mostly, speaking of their parents’ immigrant roots, their favorable view of Newsom’s performance so far, and the need for economic development. But there were differences:

  • Yee opposes the proposed “split roll” initiative for the 2020 ballot that would alter Proposition 13 of 1978 by allowing property taxes on commercial property to rise.
  • Kounalakis and Ma spoke favorably about the public employee union-backed initiative.
  • Ma and Kounalakis have endorsed U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ presidential run.
  • Yee has not yet made an endorsement.
  • Yee will be termed out in 2022. Kounalakis and Ma can run for reelection.


A plan to bring back the estate tax

Democratic Sen. Scott Weiner wants voters to decide on reinstating the estate tax.

Here’s one to add to the mix of the many tax increase proposals being contemplated by the Legislature: a state version of an estate tax aimed at the wealthiest Californians, to generate $1 billion a year.

Legislation by Democratic Sen. Scott Wiener, of San Francisco, would ask voters in 2020 to impose a state estate tax equal to the cut granted in 2017 by President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Wiener: “California estate tax benefits low-income families by helping them build wealth and end the cycle of intergenerational poverty.”

California had an estate tax until 1982 when voters abolished it, back when the electorate was in tax revolt mode.


FSB Core Strategies: Public Affairs. Ballot Campaigns. Legislative & Regulatory Fights

A $430,000 home loan among friends

A former congresswoman loaned money to a state lawmaker.

Former Democratic Congresswoman Loretta Sanchez loaned $430,000 in 2017 to Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva so that the assemblywoman could buy a home in Fullerton, CALmatters’ Matt Levin reports.

Quirk-Silva repaid her friend and ally roughly nine months later, property documents indicate. The three-bedroom, two-bath home sold for nearly $600,000.

  • In 2018, Quirk-Silva’s campaign also paid $17,500 to a campaign firm, Datamaticia, owned by Sanchez and her husband Jack Einwechter, a former federal lobbyist who now operates a law office in Orange County.
  • California law bans state and local elected officials from borrowing money from each other. But there’s no apparent prohibition on the sort of arrangement between Quirk-Silva and Sanchez, who held no elected office at the time. Quirk-Silva disclosed the loan on a recent statement of economic interest.

Sanchez, who lost the 2016 U.S. Senate race to Kamala Harris, told Levin she has made personal loans to other friends besides Quirk-Silva.

“I’m a private citizen, and lots of people have that kind of money sitting around.”

A test for rebuilt Oroville Dam's spillway

Water flows over the Oroville Dam auxiliary spillway on Feb. 11, 2017.

With the Sierra snowpack deepening and new storms en route, California officials expect to use the Oroville Dam spillway in the coming week for the first time since the massive structure fractured under pressure from a huge release of water in 2017.

As a precaution, Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea ordered the evacuation of 188,000 people downstream in 2017.

  • Oroville Dam, the nation’s tallest, didn’t fail.
  • But the state has spent $1.1 billion and poured 1.2 million cubic yards of concrete to reconstruct the spillway.

Water in the reservoir sits at the 845-foot level. With a capacity of 901 feet, it’d take a massive inflow to hit that level. But given the snowpack and rising reservoir levels, California Department of Water Resources officials have notified local authorities about the need to use the spillway.

According to The Sacramento Bee, investigators hired by the state criticized the Department of Water Resources for flaws in the design, construction and maintenance, and of focusing less on safety and more on the water-delivery needs of the districts in Southern California and elsewhere that depend on Oroville.

  • Money matters: President Donald Trump announced earlier this month that Uncle Sam would withhold $306 million in payments to the state for repairs, saying federal taxpayers shouldn’t have to pay for problems in the spillway that existed prior to the crisis. The state will appeal.

Coming soon: 'Force of Law,' a podcast

How will deadly force play out in Sacramento?

After Sacramento police last year shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man who was in his grandparents’ backyard, activists set out to change California law, hoping to make it harder to legally justify police shootings.

  • In 2018, the police lobby prevailed over civil libertarians and families whose loved ones have died at the hands of law enforcement. The issue has returned in 2019.

Force of Law, a new podcast series by CALmatters reporter Laurel Rosenhall and Studio To Be, will follow the issue as California politicians decide whether to approve the nation’s toughest statewide standard for justifying deadly force.

  • Hear the trailer by clicking here. The first episode will air soon.

Commentary at CALmatters

We need to correct bias in the judicial system.

Sydney Kamlager-Dove, Culver City Democrat who represents the 54th Assembly District: We all have biases. We need to stop pretending that we don’t act on our perceptions. Most of us prejudge, even if those prejudices are unintentional. The good news is that studies also reveal that as people become aware of their unconscious biases, and are reminded of them regularly, they can correct themselves.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Banning paper cash register receipts doesn’t rise to the level of a legislative solution. It’s pettifoggery.

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See you tomorrow.