Good morning, California.

“You can keep flogging that one for a while, I guess.”—Jerry Brown to political writers Jerry Roberts and Phil Trounstine of the blog Calbuzz, on whether he’d run as California’s favorite son in the 2020 presidential primary, positioning himself to deliver California delegates for the Democratic nominee.

Day One in Newsom Town

Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye, right, swears in Gavin Newsom as California's governor.

Gov. Gavin Newsom challenged Donald Trump on health care and immigration in his first act as governor on Monday, and issued an order aimed at thwarting drug manufacturers on escalating prescription costs.

  • The phrase “single-payer healthcare” was conspicuously absent from Newsom’s inaugural speech, as CALmatters’ Ben Christopher points out in this analysis of his first remarks as governor.
  • But he did call for guaranteed healthcare for all Californians, and followed the speech with an executive order and budget proposals to expand health care,

Among them:

  • Subsidies for people who earn up to $150,000 and purchase insurance through the Covered California exchange, which is the state version of the Affordable Care Act.
  • Requirements that all Californians carry health insurance, after that so-called “individual mandate” was abolished in 2017 by Trump and the Republican-controlled Congress.  
  • An expansion of Medi-Cal, the state-funded health care system, to undocumented immigrants under the age of 26.
  • A California “surgeon general,” much like the U.S. Surgeon General’s office.

He’ll need congressional authority for some of the steps. While executive orders don’t have the power of a statute passed by the Legislature and signed into law by a governor, Newsom made clear health care ranks at the top of his agenda.

Estimated cost of Newsom’s Medi-Cal vision? $1 billion a year. And that would be a downpayment.

Taxpayer motivation: State spending on prescriptions has increased 20 percent a year. That also dings the public pocketbook.

  • Newsom decreed that state agencies collaborate more in the purchase of prescription drugs, using the state’s market clout to drive down prices.
  • Private drug purchasers also could participate in the California Pharmaceutical Collaborative.

The politics: By promising to expand health care to undocumented adults, he poked from a safe, blue-state perch at Trump, who has railed against illegal immigration. By promising to tackle drug costs, he seized on an issue that Trump has talked about but failed to act upon.


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Governor Dad

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks while his son, Dutch, steals the show.

California’s last chief executive with children in Sacramento was George Deukmejian. Now comes Gov. Gavin Newsom, father of four, including toddler, Dutch.

  • Dutch’s walked onto the stage in the middle of the most important speech of his dad’s career Monday. Newsom obliged by gathering the 2-year-old in his arms. Dutch obliged by nuzzling his old man, who is 51.   

CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall writes that Newsom’s role leading the state will be informed by his role at home, where he and his wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom are parenting four children under the age of 10.

Newsom: “I certainly will bring that perspective to bear.”

Dutch’s appearance may or may not have been ever so slightly scripted. But as anyone who has been around a 2-year-old can attest, they don’t take direction well.

  • Dutch seemed to enjoy stealing the spotlight, and stayed there long after Newsom made his points about family-friendly policymaking. As the few thousand people there to watch the inauguration focused on the boy, Mrs. Newsom tried more than once to corral him, before finally hustling him backstage.

That said, parenthood matters. Newsom has so far proposed:

  • $1.8 billion to expand childcare and kindergarten.
  • Expanded health care for young children and expectant mothers.
  • Six months of paid parental leave for Californians, which would be a first in the nation.  

It’s a far cry from Jerry Brown, who has no children and who, at 80, was the state’s oldest governor ever.

  • To read more about how Newsom’s littlest constituency stole the show—and what that means for California policymaking—click here.

Heavyweights turn out for guv lite

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis celebrates her new gig.

You’d never know that Eleni Kounalakis was taking an oath of office for an afterthought of a job that has been occupied by men who generally become answers to political trivia questions.

  • As U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, four other members of Congress and numerous legislators looked on, Gov. Gavin Newsom swore Kounalakis in as California’s 50th lieutenant governor—the first woman to be elected as governor in waiting.

It was quite a show, held in a packed gallery named for her father, the wealthy Sacramento developer and Democratic donor Angelo Tsakopoulos, in the Sacramento Public Library. Kounalakis, a former ambassador to Hungary and major Democratic party activist in her own right, spent heavily to beat state Sen. Ed Hernandez.

  • No governor in recent memory had sworn in a lieutenant governor. In fact, most governors look upon lieutenant governors as upstarts to be kept at arm’s length. But notably, two of the past four governors, including Newsom, were lieutenant governors.

Former Gov. Gray Davis, also a former lieutenant governor who attended the swearing in, offered advice for Kounalakis: “Pay no attention to the critics who say the job has no influence.”

Davis suggested that she use her position as a UC regent and CSU trustee and work at each campus to “help solve their problems.” In most cities, Davis noted, the colleges are the most important economic engines in most cities where they’re located.

  • Importantly: Students, faculty, administrators, university donors and alumni vote. That can be useful for, say, a future political campaign.

Tony Thurmond promises to build bridges

Tony Thurmond is sworn in as Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Tony Thurmond, who spent a childhood in the sort of poverty that mirrors the lives of many California school children, was sworn in on Monday as state superintendent of public instruction, CALmatters’ Ricardo Cano reports.

  • Thurmond will oversee the California Department of Education as the top education administrator in a state where majority of students come from low-income households.

Thurmond: “We’ve got to change the narrative of education in this state and in this country. There’s no reason for the fifth-wealthiest economy in the world to be 45th or 46th in per-pupil spending. ”

Big picture: Thurmond also sought to position himself as a bridge builder at a moment when labor tensions are high both nationally and in California, and as California’s largest teachers’ union is threatening to strike in Los Angeles later this month.

A big day for our feathered friends

A duck applauds the U.S. Supreme Court.

It was a good day for ducks, geese, chickens and California legislators’ ability to regulate what gets sold as food in California.

  • Lovers of foie gras? Not so much.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge Monday to a 2012 California law banning the force-feeding of ducks and geese to fatten their innards to produce the delicious and pricey pate made of duck liver.

  • The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law in 2017. Without comment, the high court let the appellate court ruling stand.
  • The result: Restaurants and stores in California cannot sell foie gras without facing significant fines.

Also on Monday, the Supreme Court refused to hear a suit by Missouri challenging a 2010 California law that bars the sale of eggs in this state produced on out-of-state farms, unless they comply with this state’s requirements that hens have room to move in their cages. Justice Clarence Thomas voted in the minority to hear the case.

  • Californians reaffirmed their view in November that chickens and pigs must be treated better, voting 62.7 percent in favor of giving them even more room in their enclosures.

Commentary at CALmatters

Jim Wunderman & Lucy Dunn, Bay Area Council and Orange County Business Council: Public-private partnerships offer opportunities that share risk, save money and yield the best value for all—public agencies, users, and taxpayers. For the sake of commuters and our economy, California lawmakers should reauthorize public-private partnerships.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Jerry Brown tends to shun responsibility for problems in state government and he’s leaving behind a doozy for successor Gavin Newsom—a managerial mess in the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Erratum: A Monday item quoting a Willie Brown anecdote about the first time Gov. Jerry Brown left the governor’s office referred to the last night of the governor’s first term. A careful reader points out that it was actually the end of the governor’s first stint in the office, and of his second term. 

Please email or call with tips, suggestions and insights, [email protected]org, 916.201.6281. Shawn Hubler, [email protected]edits WhatMatters. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up here.

See you tomorrow.