In summary

Labor-backed gig workers bill heads to Newsom’s desk. Harris’ progressive record is nuanced. Trump focuses on homelessness.

Good morning, California.

“One way or another, we’re going to push it through. The people have spoken.”—Assemblyman Kansen Chu, San Jose Democrat, to The San Francisco Chronicle after he dropped his bill to place California on daylight savings time year-round.

  • Nearly 60% of the voters approved Proposition 7 last November authorizing the switch, so long  as the Legislature and Congress approved it.
  • Chu’s bill stalled in a Senate committee.
  • Chu promised to revisit the issue in January.

Future of work fight

Sen. Maria Elena Durazo with Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez. Photo by Anne Wernikoff.

Senators passed labor-backed legislation limiting companies’ use of independent contracts, sending it to the Assembly where it surely will pass before heading to the governor’s desk. 

Spoiler alert: Gov. Gavin Newsom says he’ll sign it.

The legislation would implement a California Supreme Court decision that requires Uber, Lyft and other companies to count workers as employees rather than independent contractors.

Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, former head of the Los Angeles County Labor Federation, argued for the bill in the Senate with its author, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, by her side:

  • “We can make California the global leader in protections for gig workers, janitors, construction workers and so many working people who can’t even pay their rent.”

Republicans warned the bill would put companies out of business. Sen. Jeff Stone held up labor’s exemption request form obtained by CalMatters as Exhibit A of how unions were in control of the the process:

  •  “I find it very offensive that the author’s office has turned this bill into a Christmas tree for labor unions.”

Republicans tried but failed to include amendments to expand exemptions for newspapers, physical therapists, the timber industry and more. 

Democrats who control the Legislature blocked those amendments, though Gonzalez agreed to legislation granting a one-year delay for the newspaper industry to convert carriers to employees. 

What’s ahead: Uber, Lyft and Doordash have placed $90 million in campaign accounts for a ballot measure that would place the measure on hold until voters have their say. Expect other tech companies to join the fight.

Focusing on wealth disparity

A pair of worn out tennis shoes illustrate an all-too-common symptom of income inequality: child poverty. More than 27 percent of children in Santa Cruz county are in poverty, the second highest rate in California
California is a land of high poverty.

In its first meeting, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s Future of Work Commission focused on income inequality and wealth disparity.

Despite its booming economy, California is a land of multimillionaires, high poverty and by far more homeless people than any state in the nation.

The commission met in Sacramento, will hold a series of meetings in the months to come, and will recommend policies to address such issues as the proliferation of low-wage jobs, automation, artificial intelligence and the gig economy.

One in three California workers earns less than $15 an hour. Many of the state’s fastest-growing occupations—such as personal care aides and food servers—pay low wages. 

Service Employees International Union President Mary Kay Henry, the co-chair: “Even though we are living through a long economic expansion, most families across our economy are still struggling.”

  • The panel includes labor, business and education leaders.
  • Fifteen commissioners are from the Bay Area, four are from the Los Angeles area, one is a Sacramento lobbyist, and Henry is from Washington, D.C. There is no commissioner from San Joaquin Valley counties, which lag economically behind the rest of the state.

California’s poverty rate of 18.2% is exceeded only by Washington D.C.’s, 18.4%, accounting for the cost of living, The Sacramento Bee reports.

  • The Bee, citing census data: “Only states in the Deep South like Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida came close with poverty rates floating around 16%.”

Trump focuses on homeless crisis

Homeless man, passed out in downtown Sacramento

President Trump is turning some of his attention to California’s homeless crisis, a recurrent theme on Fox News.

  • The Washington Post: “President Trump has ordered White House officials to launch a sweeping effort to address homelessness in California, citing the state’s growing crisis, according to four government officials aware of the effort.”
  • The L.A. Times: “Intensifying the focus on California and its homelessness crisis, at least a dozen Trump administration officials are in Los Angeles on a mission to better understand what’s playing out in the city and state on the issue.”

It’s unclear what Trump has in mind. The Post notes Fox devoted no fewer than 10 segments to the situation in August.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom spokesman Nathan Click: “If the president is willing to put serious solutions—with real investment—on the table, California stands ready to talk.”

Meanwhile: The Sacramento Bee reports the city is paying an exterminator $3,700 to trap 100 rats that have infested a vacant lot where people have been camping in Sacramento’s River District.

Sacramento intends to side with Boise, Idaho, in asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn an appellate court ruling in a case out Boise that limits the ability of local governments to enforce anti-camping laws.

Kamala Harris’ ‘progressive’ record

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris is campaigning for the White House as a "progressive prosecutor." Photo by Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA)(Sipa via AP Images)
U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris touts her experience as a “progressive prosecutor,” as she seeks the Democratic presidential nomination. 

The case of Teresa Sheehan illustrates that the reality is more nuanced, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports

San Francisco police broke down a door inside a group home for mentally disabled people in 2008 and shot and severely injured Sheehan. 

Then-District Attorney Harris didn’t charge the officers with a crime. Instead, she prosecuted the schizophrenic woman with assaulting the officers with a kitchen knife after they forced their way into her room. 

The jury deadlocked in favor of acquitting Sheehan on the assault charges, and found her not guilty of threatening to kill a social worker who called the police for help to get Sheehan into a psychiatric hospital. 

Sheehan sued the city, winning a $1 million settlement.

  • Laurie Levenson, Loyola Law School professor: “If (Harris) actually looked at it and said, ‘This is a righteous case, I want to go after a mentally ill woman who was shot,’ then you question that decision. If she didn’t know about it, then you question her management skills.”

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

A high-level departure

Anti-vaccine activists outside the governor’s office.

A high-ranking state health official announced her resignation Tuesday, after posting a sharp-edged Facebook message disparaging anti-vax activists who had been massing outside the governor’s Capitol office this week.

Jennifer Morton Kent headed the Department of Health Care Services since 2015, where she helped to vastly expand health care through Covered California and Medi-Cal, providing health coverage for 13 million people.

Kent oversaw opioid-reduction efforts, a program that provides service to 200,000 children with extremely complex medical conditions, and various cost-saving initiatives.

She also posted on Facebook a photo of the bronze bear outside the governor’s office. Former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger donated the statue, known as Bacteria Bear, because visiting children invariably touch it.

  • “The Capitol is filled with a bunch of flat-earthers today. My poor sweet Bacteria Bear is dripping with unvaccinated booger-eating germs. #believeinscience #vaccinateyourgoddamnkids”
  • Newsom office: “Jennifer Kent has been a strong leader who has overseen many important improvements in the Medi-Cal programs, including expanding coverage and tackling high prescription drug costs. Her contributions have made our state stronger and Californians healthier.”
  • Kent’s memo to staff: “I always said that it was the best job I would ever have–and it’s the hardest job I’ve ever had.”

Juul regulation stalls

Vape pens by JUUL, Blu, Njoy and others.
Vape pens

San Francisco-based vaping giant Juul has had a bad week, getting warned by the FDA about making false health claims, while authorities investigate deaths and illnesses related to other vaping products.

But legislators will not be adding to Juul’s woes.

CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports that Assemblyman Adam Gray, a Merced Democrat, sought to impose restrictions on youth access. But lacking the votes, Gray dropped the bill for the year. 

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

Take a number: 120

A bill seeks glass equality between wine and beer makers.

California’s alcohol law is byzantine. For example, wine and spirits makers can give glasses to retail outlets but not beer makers. 

Assemblyman Evan Low, a Campbell Democrat, is carrying a bill to permit beer makers to provide 120 23-ounce glasses each year to individual retailers, who in turn can serve beer in those glasses. 

The bill almost surely will land on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk. 

You’d think it was simple. It’s not. 

Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill last year, saying it could create “economic disadvantages for small beer manufacturers who might not be able to provide free glassware in the same manner as the larger manufacturers.” 

Money matters: The bill’s main backer is beer giant Anheuser-Busch, which has donated $386,000 so far this year to California state politicians and parties.

Commentary at CalMatters

Assemblyman Adam Gray, Democrat from Merced: The implications of Senate Bill 1 are profoundly disturbing, forcing the state to ignore evolving science. We’ve got until Sept. 13 to either kill or fix this wrongheaded bill. If we don’t, it very well could set back progress on our rivers for decades.

Annie Notthoff, Natural Resources Defense Council: What Senate Bill 1 aims to do is to provide a level playing field to ensure that the federal water project, controlled by the Trump administration, has to meet the same environmental and public health rules that California requires of its own water project for everyone. 

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Politics in San Diego, California’s second-largest city, is turning more Democratic and is likely to see a few upcoming high-stakes competitions.

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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.

Judy serves as hub editor of the California Divide project, a five-newsroom collaboration covering economic inequality. Prior to editing, she reported on state finance, workforce and economic issues. Her...