Good morning, California.

“These men and women put butts in seats of arenas and stadiums all across the country, and the universities make millions of dollars selling their jerseys and other paraphernalia … but these athletes benefit not one dime.”—Democratic Sen. Steven Bradford of Gardena, speaking in favor of legislation that would permit California college athletes to hire agents and profit by endorsing products. The bill passed the Senate and heads to the Assembly.

Vaccination fight moves to Assembly

Anti-vaccination activists denounce Senate Bill 276 from the Senate gallery.

As anti-vaccination activists in the gallery above the Senate floor gave thumbs-down gestures and booed, the Senate approved legislation Wednesday to restrict the ability of physicians to grant exemptions for parents opposed to vaccinating their kids.

Remind me: The bill’s author, Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat and a pediatrician, carried legislation in 2015 all but barring parents from claiming an exemption based on their personal beliefs.

  • Parents then turned to willing physicians for medical exemptions.
  • The number of kids getting medical waivers tripled, CALmatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reported.

Pan’s new bill, Senate Bill 276, would entrust the Department of Public Health to determine whether physician-granted medical exemptions meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Although vaccines prevent many diseases, the focus lately has been on measles as the nation experiences its worst outbreak in 20 years. California has recorded 45 cases of measles, more than double the 2018 number.

Pan: “The facts are clear. Vaccines keep us safe and our children safe by preventing serious infections.”

Republican Sen. Jeff Stone, a pharmacist from Temecula, denounced the bill as an “unprecedented and a dangerous intrusion, not only into the doctor-patient relationship but also the personal liberties of the parents and their children.”

  • The numbers: Democrats cast all 24 yes-votes. Republicans cast all 10 no-votes. Four Democrats failed to vote: Ben Allen of Santa Monica, Cathleen Galgiani of Stockton, Richard Roth of Riverside and Ben Hueso of San Diego.
  • What’s next: A replay in the Assembly.

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Soda bills fall flat

Three anti-soda proposals have failed so far.

An ambitious legislative effort to restrict sugary drinks is fizzling, CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports.

  • Likening health consequences of soda consumption to tobacco, some Democratic legislators began the year by proposing to tax soda, ban Big Gulps, prohibit in-store discounts, banish sugar drinks from checkout stands and slap safety warning labels on them.
  • Money matters: The American Beverage Association spent $273,704 on lobbying during the first quarter, up from $76,754 in same period last year.

Sen. Bill Monning, a Carmel Democrat who long has battled soda: “There is no doubt that the industry has a very strong voice in Sacramento and unlimited resources. That’s a tough opponent.”

The upshot: Three anti-soda measures have failed. Two that remain in play, to prohibit discount pricing on soda and require warning labels, face a tough fight, as opponents say the measures amount to nanny government.


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DA calls for mental health care reform

Is mental health training for San Diego first responders on the way?

Calling for a sea change in mental health care, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan is urging far better training for police and other first responders to handle people facing psychiatric crises.

Her study cites notable data points:

  • San Diego County has increased funding of Behavioral Health Services by over 50 percent in the past four years to $658 million.
  • 33% of Behavioral Health Services are provided to people referred from the justice system.
  • 43% of the homeless population reported a mental health disorder in 2018.
  • 25% of patients being admitted to hospitals for emergency psychiatric treatment returned within 30 days.
  • The county’s suicide rate increased 45 percent between 2004 and 2017.
  • 19% of officer-involved shootings were suicide by cop in which the subject apparently wanted the officer to shoot him or her.

Bottom line:

“A ‘sea change’ is defined as a profound or notable transformation. That is what is needed here. Not just reform but rather a significant transformation of an outdated approach into a system that values and strives for public safety, fairness, dignity and humanity.”


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Short takes

Sen. Steve Glazer, Democrat of Orinda

  • School districts would need to consider the financial impact of proposed charter schools on neighborhood public schools under legislation by Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, Democrat from Long Beach. The bill, narrowly approved by the Assembly and headed to the Senate, is intended to give districts more power to reject new charters. For analysis by CALmatters’ Ricardo Cano, click here.
  • Voters could decide next March whether to approve $8 billion in construction at University of California and California State University campuses, under legislation by Sen. Steve Glazer, Orinda Democrat.
  • Larger employers would be required to give the state salary data by gender, race, ethnicity and job category under legislation by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, Santa Barbara Democrat. The goal is to help ensure pay equity.

Glazer’s and Jackson’s bills won Senate approval Wednesday and head to the Assembly.

Ice cream man-candidate

Fullerton Democrat Josh Newman's concept for his ice cream-campaign truck.

Of course, Josh Newman is running an unconventional campaign as he attempts a comeback.

  • Jog my memory: Newman is the Fullerton Democrat who in 2018—a year when Democrats won contested races up and down California—lost his seat in a recall that focused on his vote to raise the gasoline tax to pay for road repair.
  • He had won that seat in 2016 by renting a blimp and wearing a grizzly bear outfit while standing at intersections with a sign reading HELLO your choice is NEWMAN.”

Hoping to unseat the person who unseated him, Republican Sen. Ling Ling Chang, in 2020, Newman hit on an idea: hand out free ice cream sandwiches, he told me over coffee.

To that end, he:

  • Went onto Craig’s List.
  • Bought a food truck for $18,000 in campaign money.
  • Made sure the freezer works.

Once he settles on the logo, he and his campaign staff will be parking the truck where people gather in Senate District 29, handing out ice cream sandwiches with Newman for Senate stickers affixed to the outside.

  • Ice cream sandwiches are cheaper than mailers, and more useful.

Commentary at CALmatters

Assemblyman Jordan CunninghamRepublican from San Luis Obispo representing Assembly District 35: Smart speakers and tech companies have the capability of recording your conversations, even when you may think the device is turned off. Privacy in the home is at risk as this exciting technology proliferates.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: Now we have a second instance in which California law enforcement officials try to crack down on journalists who obtained information the officials didn’t want them to have.

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

See you tomorrow.