In summary

Trump and Newsom clash over oil. Climate change takes toll on schools. California needs to do more to protect vulnerable residents in disasters.

Good morning, California.

“I was raised in a way that is a heart full of love, and always pray for the president. I still pray for the president. I pray for the president all the time, so don’t mess with me when it comes to words like that.”—Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She answered a reporter who asked, “Do you hate the President, Madam Speaker?” In no uncertain terms, at Minute 19.

Oil, Trump and Newsom

Oil pumps, San Ardo field

California is clamping down on oil exploration. Washington is expediting rights to drill on nearly 2 million acres of federal land here. 

California and Uncle Sam clearly have different takes on the future of fossil fuel extraction in the Golden State, CalMatters’ Julie Cart writes.

The story: 

  • After a lengthy legal fight, Trump administration land managers finalized a plan to allow oil leases on more than 700,000 acres in 11 Central California counties. 
  • A more significant proposal to include parcels on more than 1 million acres in the Bakersfield area is due in the next few months.

That effort clashes with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recent decision to impose a moratorium on high-pressure injections and mandate additional oversight of fracking permits.

Wade Crowfoot, California Natural Resources secretary: 

  • “The Trump administration has moved federal agencies’ policies toward aggressive expansion of fossil fuel development on public lands. … The governor has been clear that we need to reduce our reliance on oil and gas.” 

TBD-1: How this schism will play out, beyond aggravating the already fraught relationship between the governor and president.

TBD-2: Even with nearly 2 million acres open to drilling leases, will energy companies will show any interest? That comes down to dollars, demand and the price of oil.

To read Cart’s full report, please click here.

Climate change and summer school

School destroyed by the 2018 Camp Fire (Photo by Andre Byik/Chico Enterprise-Record)

In the first few months of this school year, 800,000 kids have lost days or weeks of instructional time to wildfires and outages, and the problem is prompting public schools to look beyond the traditional mantra of local control, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports.

The toll climate change is taking on schools—documented by Cano earlier this year in a report on how “disaster days” have become the new snow days—has driven educators to ask the state to step in with more big-picture solutions.

Ideas:

  • “summer disaster relief” to underwrite summer school where wildfire has forced emergency school closures
  • microgrids to power schools during public safety blackouts
  • statewide money for generators and fireproofing

Challenges: The state Constitution gives broad autonomy to school districts. Beyond the stick of attendance-based funding and laws requiring at least 180 days a year of instruction, state law confines state education officials to a mostly advisory role. 

To read Cano’s full report, please click here.

Disaster response needs to improve

Keep tabs on the latest California policy and politics news

Residents evacuate from fire near Lake Elsinore in 2018 (Photo by Mark Rightmire, Orange County Register/SCNG)

The title of the California State Auditor’s latest report sums up the finding, one Californians have come to know all too well: “California is not adequately prepared to protect its most vulnerable residents from natural disasters.”

The report sets up the crisis:

  • 25% of the state’s population lives in areas of high wildfire risk.
  • 20% of the state’s population are either older or living with a disability.

The auditor called out three counties, Butte, Sonoma and Ventura, as being especially ill-prepared to alert, evacuate or shelter residents.

The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services “has not adequately supported cities and counties in planning to protect vulnerable populations during natural disasters,” the report says.

For CalMatters’ look at solutions to better alert residents to wildfires (church bells is one suggestion), please click here.

Meanwhile: California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara issued an order banning insurance carriers for one year from canceling homeowners’ coverage in areas struck by the 2019 wildfires. The declaration affects about 800,000 homeowners, The Sacramento Bee reports.

Newsom’s 100-day challenge

Gov. Gavin Newsom, with Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, announced an initiative to combat homelessness on Thursday.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday filled in details about his plan to confront the state’s homeless crisis, launching a $35 million, “100-day challenge,” while again calling on President Trump to pitch in.

Newsom’s idea: Local government would get funds if they promise to house 100 homeless veterans or youths, or provide 100 housing units, or some similar concept, as detailed by The Sacramento Bee’s Sophia Bollag and Theresa Clift.

Newsom, appearing at a new subsidized apartment complex for previously homeless veterans in suburban Sacramento, said he got the 100-day challenge idea from Matthew Doherty. Doherty is advising California, three weeks after the Trump administration forced him out as the Interagency Council on Homelessness executive director.

Newsom said Trump could help house large numbers of homeless people quickly by increasing rental subsidies that take into account California’s high housing costs.

  • “Mr. President, don’t demagogue this issue. Do the right damned thing.”

Another Trump-era GOP defection

Assemblyman Chad Mayes has quit the GOP.

Assemblyman Chad Mayes, a former California Republican Assembly leader, has left the party, the latest GOP defection among moderates in the era of Donald Trump, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports

Mayes re-registered without party preference. San Diego County Assemblyman Brian Maienschein quit the GOP and became a Democrat in January. California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye left the GOP late last year

Mayes, of Yucca Valley: 

  • “It’s frustrating to watch Republicans defend whatever it is the President does. It’s also frustrating to watch Democrats attack virtually everything the President does, instead of thinking, ‘Is this a good policy or not a good policy?’ …
  • “At some point, you go, ‘It doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to keep banging my head against the wall.’” 

Republicans will likely field a candidate to run against Mayes in 2020, the Riverside County Republican Party chair told The Desert Sun.

  • The state GOP’s Board of Directors: “Chad has let the Republican Party down just as he let down the voters of California. We are confident that a Republican will win that seat in November.”

Mayes has been working with Arnold Schwarzenegger to build an organization for moderate Republicans called New Way California. Mayes said he wasn’t sure how leaving the party will impact New Way.

To read Rosenhall’s full report, please click here.

The Gardens Casino survives

Photo illustration

California’s relationship with the Gardens Casino, a 225-table card room in the L.A. County city of Hawaiian Gardens, is complicated, to say the least.

Irving Moskowitz, its late owner, was a physician who lived in Florida and was an orthodox Jew who used his wealth to fund Israeli settlements in the West Bank. His conservative Middle East politics elicited such protests that California’s Gambling Control Commission considered not granting him a gambling license in 2004.

On Thursday, the commission once again allowed the casino controlled by Moskowitz’s family to continue operating. Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the settlement

  • The Gardens must pay a $3.1 million fine to the state but can keep its license. 

The violation: The Gardens failed to disclose to state gambling regulators that it paid a $2.8 million fine to the feds in 2016 for repeatedly failing to report cash transactions of $10,000 or more, as required by federal law intended to combat money laundering.

The deal is good news for Hawaiian Gardens. Without revenue from the card room, the city couldn’t pay its bills. Local charities also depend on its largesse.

And the Gardens is a friend to many politicians. Over the past decade, the casino and Moskowitz family have doled out $725,000 to state politicians’ campaigns.

Commentary at CalMatters

Jeffrey Mount, PPIC Water Policy Center: The California and federal endangered species acts often are used as a proxy for protecting the environment, something neither act is intended to do. Here’s why we need a better tool. 

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Please email or call me with tips, suggestions and insights, dmorain@calmatters.org, 916.201.6281. Thanks for reading, please tell a friend and sign up for WhatMatters here.

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See you Monday.

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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.