In summary

George Floyd killing could spark policy changes in California. What you need to know about the California National Guard.

Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, June 3.

Floyd death could spark changes

Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, author of a proposed bill to establish a state reparations committee. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Will George Floyd’s death and the protests sweeping the nation galvanize California to make massive policy changes or reexamine controversial proposals with new eyes?

Today, a powerful Assembly committee will vote on a proposed amendment to the state Constitution that would reinstate affirmative action policies in state colleges, universities and agencies — after voters rejected such policies two decades ago. (The proposed amendment will appear on the November ballot if passed by two-thirds of both the Assembly and Senate.)

It will also vote on a bill that would establish a reparations committee to educate Californians about the lingering effects of slavery and recommend how the state might compensate African Americans for decades of inequality and discrimination.

  • Audrey Dow, vice president of the Campaign for College Opportunity: Recent headlines “are forcing us to recognize that we are not beyond race as a country or state. We have not achieved the nirvana of being colorblind. Race matters.”

Although Gov. Gavin Newsom emphasized Monday that “program-passing is not problem-solving” and “you’ve got to change culture, not just laws,” a number of public officials have already moved to change policies.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat, is calling for a stricter national standard for when police are legally able to use deadly force. Harris didn’t take a position on the issue in 2019, when California passed a landmark law raising the state standard from “reasonable” to “necessary.”

Harris is also calling for independent investigations of police departments, though she didn’t back a California bill to that effect as attorney general.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, California had 113,006 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,080 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

Other stories you should know

1. What role does California’s National Guard play in protests?

The California National Guard deployed around Los Angeles City Hall during a May 31 protest. Photo by Ted Soqui, SIPA USA via AP Images

There’s been a lot of talk about the National Guard lately — President Donald Trump threatened to send the U.S. military into states that don’t “deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers that we dominate the streets” — but who exactly are they, what do they do, who pays for their services, and how have they been deployed in response to protests and the coronavirus pandemic? CalMatters’ Elizabeth Castillo has an explainer on the six main things you need to know about California’s National Guard.

  • As of Tuesday, 1,200 National Guard troops were deployed in the city and county of Los Angeles; 1,030 in Sacramento County and for its California Highway Patrol; 100 in Long Beach; 50 in El Dorado County; and 50 in the East Bay City of San Leandro.
  • Sacramento County declared a state of emergency Tuesday afternoon. Los Angeles County did the same Saturday.
  • Some areas were still under curfew Tuesday night, including Los Angeles County. Some cities, including San Francisco and Santa Clara, indefinitely extended their curfews.

2. Californians’ perception of police fairness varies widely by race, political party

Photo via iStock

Months before the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, black Californians were far less likely than other racial groups to say that police treat all races fairly. In a February survey from the Public Policy Institute of California, 32% of blacks said police treat racial and ethnic groups fairly at least most of the time, compared with 63% of Latinos and 66% of Asians and whites.

  • The survey’s authors: “These findings demonstrate that even in relatively good times — before the coronavirus pandemic and consequent recession — Californians thought about fairness in a key aspect of social life in very different ways.”

Other key findings, broken down by:

  • Region: 70% of Central Valley residents said police treat racial and ethnic groups fairly at least most of the time, compared with 66% of residents in Orange and San Diego counties, 62% in the San Francisco Bay Area, 60% in Los Angeles and 54% in the Inland Empire.
  • Political party: 80% of Republicans said police treat racial and ethnic groups fairly almost always or most of the time, compared with 63% of independents and 54% of Democrats.

3. How California’s oil and gas developments could affect babies born nearby

An oil well pump next to a newly constructed neighborhood in Long Beach on April 24. Photo by Jim Ruymen, UPI/Alamy Live News

Pregnant women in rural California who lived near active oil and gas wells were 40% more likely to give birth to low birthweight babies, who often have a higher rate of illness and developmental delays, according to research published today by University of California scientists. The study, which is the first to investigate how California’s oil and gas developments could affect babies born nearby, could propel an effort in the Legislature to require buffer zones around new oil and gas activities, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports.

  • Rupa Basu, a scientist with California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment: “People want to know, ‘Is it safe for me to live this close?’ And the answer often is we don’t know yet.” But “this is obviously a big concern.”

CalMatters virtual events

Thursday at 10 a.m.: CalMatters and the Milken Institute host “The Future of Work: The Education-to-Employment Pipeline,” a discussion on how community colleges will help create a 21st-century workforce in a post-COVID landscape. Speakers include Eloy Oakley, chancellor of the California Community Colleges, state Sen. Connie Levya, a Chino Democrat, and Lance Hastings, president of the California Manufacturing and Technology Association. Register here.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Democrat Gavin Newsom’s governorship resembles that of Republican Pete Wilson three decades earlier — setting aside an ambitious agenda to deal with nonstop crises.

Eliminate unnecessary benefits: If California adopted Colorado’s insurance subsidy caps for retired state employees, it could save $2.5 billion a year and eliminate more than $80 billion of debt, writes David Crane, president of Govern For California.

Prioritize funding for highest-need students: The Legislature should pass AB 1835 to protect funds for disadvantaged students, argues Jessie Welcomer, a teacher at Montalvin Manor K-8 in San Pablo.

Off to the races: By legalizing sports betting, California could generate up to $500 million in revenue each year, write Assemblyman Adam Gray, a Merced Democrat, and state. Sen Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat.

AB 2261 a long-overdue solution: The bill, which I introduced, would regulate the use of facial-recognition technology by commercial, state and local public entities, argues Assemblyman Ed Chau, a Los Angeles Democrat.

AB 2261 offers flimsy protections: Its regulations are mere formalities that tech and surveillance companies can easily bypass, argues Vinhcent Le, a technology equity attorney at the Greenlining Institute.

Other things worth your time

Some Bay Area protests were peaceful, others were violent. Which is right? // Mercury News

A Washington, D.C. resident let protesters crash in his house — owned by a Sacramento-based Democratic staffer and consultant. Controversy ensued. // Washington Post

Butte County, one of the first to reopen, reports first COVID-19-related death. // Los Angeles Times

California Attorney General seeks more power to battle merging health care chains. // California Healthline

San Francisco and Silicon Valley rents plunge amid economic downturn, though some East Bay rents skyrocket. // San Francisco Chronicle

Mark Zuckerberg defends hands-off approach to Trump’s posts. // New York Times

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See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...