Good morning, California.

“We are asking Assemblywoman Tasha Boerner Horvath to do the right thing and give California ferret owners the chance to explain to the Legislature why ferrets should be legal in California as they are from Nome to Patagonia.”— petition filed by 

When Boerner Horvath was on the Encinitas City Council, ferret advocates came to her and she listened politely. Now she’s a state lawmaker and they’re back. As of Thursday, 77 people had signed the petition. Boerner Horvath’s office didn’t respond to an inquiry about whether she’d, ahem, bite. 


The California School Dashboard reports

A middle school language arts classroom in San Jose.

Fewer than half of California’s schools last year got a passing grade in English and only about a third passed in math, according to the state’s colored-coded “dashboard” designed to easily show parents how schools are faring.

The short answer? California is a big, diverse state with some of the best and worst schools in the nation. But absenteeism and dropout rates are an ongoing challenge, and roughly a third of school districts are struggling so badly that they qualify for extra state help, CALmatters Ricardo Cano reports. 

Also, there are haves and have-nots:

  • In the working-class city of Richmond, where Tony Thurmond, the newly elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, used to serve on the school board, schools lagged in math, English, absenteeism and most other categories.
  • In the affluent Marin County district where Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom and his family live, schools fared well in virtually all categories.

Cano: “On college and career readiness, schools are faring worse. One of the new indicators on the dashboard measures how well California’s high schools prepare students for postsecondary careers. About 675 schools, or 38 percent, were rated green or blue [good] in this category. The state gave nearly half, 47 percent, of high schools a red or orange rating [bad].”

'Dieselgate' money sparks a fight

A parking area for electric vehicles in San Ramon.

For years, Californians unwittingly breathed diesel exhaust when Volkswagen provided phony tailpipe emission reports on its diesel vehicles. As a result of the “Dieselgate” settlement, the automaker agreed to spend $800 million over 10 years to accelerate electric vehicle technology in California.

Next week, the California Air Resources Board will vote on a plan to spend a $200 million chunk of that money on a network of EV charging stations, and the plan is being challenged by a dozen legislators and electric vehicle charging companies.

  • Rural lawmakers from both parties sent a letter to the air board Thursday saying the $2 million “short-changes the state’s rural communities, many of which suffer from the worst air quality problems in the state.” They want at least $26 million.
  • Meanwhile, electric vehicle charging companies are challenging the investment plans of Volkswagen subsidiary Electrify America, worried that the company could end up getting a corner on the market.

The online publication EENews, which focuses on energy and the environment, notes that the $200 million is an enormous sum for what remains a fledgling electric vehicle industry.

In context: California has set a goal of 5 million zero-emission vehicles on the road by 2030. It won’t hit that target if EVs markets are limited to high-wealth coastal areas—and if motorists in Fresno, San Bernardino or Redding, worried about a lack of charging stations, are reluctant to buy.

Another push for animal rights

A proposed ban on fur from animals slaughtered for pelts might protect this baby fox.

A month after California voters approved an initiative intended to provide more wing and leg room for chickens, pigs and cattle, Democratic Assemblywoman Laura Friedman of Glendale is proposing a statewide ban on fur from animals slaughtered for their pelts.

  • Friedman made clear what the bill won’t do: It won’t stop people from wearing leather or skins taken from animals used for food. Nor would it stop people from buying second-hand furs, and the ban would exempt fur used for religious purposes.

But after San Francisco and Los Angeles imposed such bans, Friedman wants to take the ban on the sale of fox, beaver, mink and similar furs statewide.

  • She cited the vote on Proposition 12, which passed 62.7 to 37.3 percent, expanding on a 2008 initiative that required more space for animals used for food.

Friedman: “It makes it clear that people care about animal welfare.”

In news of other proposed bans, Friedman introduced legislation to prohibit the use of octinoxate or oxybenzone in sunscreen. Earlier this year, Hawaii banned the substance, which is toxic to coral reefs.

Meanwhile, in other campaigns

Former Assemblyman Travis Allen

Trying to jumpstart his run for California Republican Party chairman, former Assemblyman Travis Allen, a failed candidate for governor, tweeted a call for the recall of Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom. Before the vote is certified and a month before Newsom is sworn in.

Some numbers:

  • 658,798: Allen’s votes in the June primary.
  • 7 million: Newsom’s votes in November
  • 24,800: Allen’s twitter followers.
  • 4 million: Newsom’s Twitter following.
  • $2,000: The amount Allen reports raising into his political action committee.

Former Assemblyman David Hadley and party activist Steve Frank, also running for GOP chairman, denounced Allen’s gambit.

Frank: “We need to show a positive program of public safety, lowered taxes and limited growth, not this negative stuff.”

Hadley: “He’s just trolling. I don’t think seeking to recall an elected official before they’re taken office is not path forward.”

Though that said, recalls can happen and have happened before.

Commentary at CALmatters

Michael Mantell, Resources Legacy Fund: The historical record no longer brackets what we can expect in intensity or duration from drought, flood, or wildfire. So we cannot move quickly enough to cut emissions from our millions of tailpipes in California, and we must change state governance, funding, and planning as necessary—no matter how difficult—to get ready for the worst.

Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, California Coalition for Public Higher Education: Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom should boost higher education funding, but that’s only a start. The new governor can build a new golden age for higher education. Here’s how.

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Please email or call me 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 Monday.