The instant GIF that went viral as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to President Donald Trump's 2019 State of the Union address.

In summary

Newsom pokes Trump on homelessness. California water wars drag on. Trump administration issues stricter rule on food stamps.

Good morning, California.

“Just a show of hands.”—Congressman Tom McClintock, a Republican from Elk Grove, asking three law professors whether they had voted for Donald Trump, as they testified about constitutional standards for impeachable offenses.

  • Stanford University law professor Pamela Karlan: “I don’t think we’re obligated to say anything about how we cast our ballots.”
  • McClintock: “I think you’ve made your positions, Professor Karlan, very, very clear.”

Newsom’s homelessness poke

Homeless man in downtown Davis

Gov. Gavin Newsom preemptively poked at President Trump over homelessness on Wednesday, an illustration that the issue is increasingly politicized.

  • California has the largest homeless population in the nation. 
  • Polls show increased voter frustration with homelessness.
  • Trump criticizes California for failing to confront the issue, saying in September “we’re looking at it, and we will be doing something about it at the appropriate time.” 

Newsom announced Wednesday that he retained a homelessness expert, Matthew Doherty, who was forced out by the Trump administration three weeks ago as the Interagency Council on Homelessness executive director.

The Washington Post quoted from Doherty’s farewell email to colleagues: 

  • “I believe that I have been able to keep my integrity intact; but, they have now told me to pack my things up and go.”

Doherty’s ouster generated chatter that Trump was preparing to act, though exactly what the feds can do about California’s homelessness is not clear.

Nor is Doherty’s role in California clear. A Newsom spokesman said his pay had not been determined. He will be a contract worker advising Newsom officials but remain in Washington, D.C.

At Loma Linda Veterans Village in San Bernardino County, Newsom said he is speeding the release of $500 million to help local governments combat homelessness. Legislators allocated the money earlier this year. Newsom blamed the feds for failing to release matching funds.

The Desert Sun quoted Newsom “They are weaponizing and politicizing this issue, so we will work around them …”

Food stamp cut will hit Californians

Antoinette Martinez does her weekly grocery shopping at FoodMaxx, and worries that new proposed Trump administration cuts to food stamp eligibility will make it harder for her to stretch her food budget. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Antoinette Martinez worries Trump administration cuts to food stamp eligibility will make it harder for her to stretch her food budget.

The Trump administration finalized a rule Wednesday estimated to cut food stamps to roughly 688,000 American adults, including 198,000 Californians.

The rule will go into effect in April 2020. It’s the first of three Trump cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, also known as SNAP or CalFresh in California. 

Under all three rules, the Urban Institute estimates roughly 3.7 million Americans would lose food stamps, including 625,700 Californians.

The Fresno Bee’s Manuela Tobias detailed Wednesday’s announcement as part of CalMatters’ California Divide project:

  • Federal regulations say able-bodied adults without dependents can only get three months of food stamps every three years if they work fewer than 20 hours a week. 
  • States and counties can seek waivers to that requirement. All but six California counties have a waiver. 
  • Under the announced change, states and counties will have a far harder time getting waivers.

Sonny Perdue, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture: “Government dependency has never been the American dream. We need to encourage people by giving them a helping hand but not allowing it to become an indefinitely giving hand.”

Dr. Mark Ghaly, California Health and Human Services secretary: “Limiting access to CalFresh food assistance does not support underemployed and unemployed people in finding work. Rather, hunger is a barrier to employment.”

Money matters: The White House estimates the rule will save Uncle Sam $5.5 billion over five years.

California’s forever water war

Photo illustration

In February, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared his hopeful goal of solving California’s water wars:

  • “We have to get past the old binaries, like farmers versus environmentalists, or North versus South.” 

This week, environmental and fishing interests sued the Trump administration over its plan to pump water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, contending it fails to protect chinook salmon, steelhead trout and Delta smelt.

The suit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco challenges a new federal proposal that would alter operations of massive pumps in the Delta near Tracy. The Newsom administration also intends to sue separately.

Officials from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say the plan is based on new science and would enhance fisheries, while providing water for farms and people.

John McManus, of the Golden State Salmon Association, as quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle

  • “This legal action seeks to restore some common sense balance and compromise to how we share water here in California. There’s plenty enough to keep our salmon and other wildlife healthy and provide for the people who live in Southern California. There isn’t enough to dump it on desert ground in the western San Joaquin Valley.”

Bottom line: Old binaries are hard to quit.

Take a number: 53

Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded to President Trump’s 2019 State of the Union address.

California voters approve of U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s job performance by a margin of 53%-46%, thanks to strong support among Democrats, a poll by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Government Studies shows.

In September 2010, shortly before Pelosi lost her speakership the first time in that year’s Republican wave election, 37% of California voters approved of the San Francisco Democrat’s performance.

Pelosi’s standing is especially strong among women, 61.2%, Latinos, 71.7%, and black voters, 76.5%.

Poll director Mark Di Camillo: “Pelosi has been able to accomplish what most well-known politicians find very difficult to do, and that is change people’s minds about them from a negative to positive.”

Donald Trump? Not so much. The poll found 68% of California voters disapprove of Trump’s job performance, about where he has been for the past two years.

The poll’s other findings:

  • 85% of Democrats and 8% of Republicans believe the House should vote to impeach.
  • 56% of women and 44% of men support impeachment and removal.
  • 72% of black voters support impeachment and removal, the highest among ethnic groups.
  • 28% of Evangelical Christians support impeachment and removal.

Commentary at CalMatters

Jason Peltier, Coalition for a Sustainable Delta: We have a choice: continue to live the never-ending “Groundhog Day” of conflict, apocalyptic rhetoric and litigation, or embrace the opportunities to meaningfully improve the way we make decisions and get things done for the good of all. More science and less politics will be key.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: California voters will once again weigh in on crime and punishment next year. A referendum sponsored by the bail bond industry seeks to overturn a new law eliminating cash bail.


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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.