A PG&E settlement, a vaccine compromise, and an apology to Native Americans

Good morning, California.

“Camp Fire survivors have already been through hell. The utility has an obligation to not prolong their suffering.”—Republican Assemblyman James Gallagher after PG&E announced a $1 billion settlement involving Butte County and Paradise, which he represents.

PG&E's $1 billion deal is a start

PG&E will pay $1 billion to governments affected by wildfires.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. agreed Tuesday to a $1 billion settlement with several California local governments for fires dating to 2015, while legislators and Gov. Gavin Newsom look for a broader plan for wildfire.

  • The settlement is a milestone for the company and the affected municipalities. But the San Francisco utility, which is in bankruptcy and on criminal probation, faces billions more in claims by individuals who lost property or survivors whose family members died in the blazes.

Over half of the settlement is to be divided between Paradise and Butte County, which were ravaged by last year’s Camp Fire. Other money would be divided among governments in Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Calaveras counties.

The San Francisco Chronicle: It’s not clear when any of them will actually be paid. The settlements will be included as part of PG&E’s plan to exit bankruptcy protection.

The settlement was announced as California lawmakers work on a broader deal.

  • In an appearance at the Sacramento Press Club, Sen. Bill Dodd, a Napa Democrat who is involved in the effort, said a fund of between $24 billion and $50 billion could be established to help compensate victims of past and future fires. It’d be funded primarily by utilities’ shareholders.
  • PG&E stock spiked on news of the deal, before settling down in after-hours trading.

A truth and healing council

Peter Burnett, California's first governor. (California State Library.)

Gov. Gavin Newsom apologized on behalf of Californians for the “violence, maltreatment and neglect” visited on Native Americans, and singled out the state’s first governor as one of the main perpetrators.

  • By executive order, Newsom directed that there be a “truth and healing council” to bear witness to the wrongs committed, and issue a final report by Jan. 1, 2025.
  • The L.A. Times quoted Abby Abinanti, chief judge of the Yurok Tribal Court, as saying the council should serve as a model for other states.

Abinanti: “Truth is a good thing. Healing is a good thing. We’re at a time and place in the world where it’s essential for us to try to do those things.”

Newsom’s executive order singles out California’s first governor, Peter Burnett, who in 1851 declared that “a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the two races until the Indian race becomes extinct.”

Writing in the Sacramento Bee in 2017, Burnett biographer R. Gregory Nokes noted the Tennessee native owned slaves in Missouri and sought to maintain the West as a white enclave.

Nokes: “His portrait hangs with those of other governors in the Capitol, but most of the few schools named for him recently dropped his name once his racist past was revealed.”

Among his legacies: He donated a plot of land at Seventh & K streets in downtown Sacramento, which remains St. Rose of Lima Park. As it happens, that is a half-block from CALmatters’ office.

Charismatic Christianity

Worshipers at Bethel Church in Redding

In Redding, Bethel Church’s influence extends to civic matters. Some residents say that threatens the city’s integrity, as Vanessa Rancano of KQED reports for the California Dream project, in collaboration with CALmatters.

  • Redding’s mayor, Julie Winter, is a Bethel elder, and Bethel paid the salaries of several police officers when the city couldn’t afford to. A Bethel-connected nonprofit manages the city’s civic auditorium and holds school classes there. The church was central to getting a direct flight from LAX to Redding approved last year.  
  • The Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry  graduated 2,500 students representing more than 70 countries this year.

Opponents of Bethel’s influence hand out “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid” stickers and have a Facebook group called Investigating Bethel.

Investigating Bethel member David Boone: “You get this feeling that (church leaders) know they’re a sort of virus, but they think they’re the good virus that we all need.”

To hear the full report, please click here.

Newsom gets behind vax bill

Gov. Gavin Newsom backs a vaccination bill winding through the state Legislature.

Legislation to restrict bogus medical exemptions for vaccines cleared a formidable hurdle Tuesday when Gov. Gavin Newsom resolved his concerns over the bill.

The history:

As described by the L.A. Times’ Melody Gutierrez, Senate Bill 276 would require that doctors certify under penalty of perjury that medical exemptions they grant are “true, accurate and complete.”

Public health authorities would be empowered to review doctors’ decisions if they grant more than five medical exemptions in a year, or if public schools have immunization rates below 95%.

Newsom’s Health and Human Services secretary, Mark Ghaly, said in a statement: “These amendments ensure this bill protects the doctor-patient relationship, strengthens the state’s ability to target doctors who abuse the medical exemption process. and gives state public health officials the tools to identify and protect schools and communities where herd immunity is in danger.”

The Senate confirmed Ghaly, a physician, on Monday. Pan spoke in support, saying he would do “an excellent job.”

What’s ahead: Pan’s bill heads for a vote Thursday in the Assembly Health Committee. Expect vaccination opponents to show up en masse. The bill seems likely to pass now that Newsom supports it.

'Trump insurance' bill progresses

State leaders are worried about President Donald Trump's environmental policies.

Legislation intended to serve as a hedge against any environmental roll-back by President Donald Trump cleared its first Assembly committee Tuesday.

  • Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins is carrying Senate Bill 1. Given her clout, the measure almost certainly will pass.

It would bar the state and local governments from adopting any law that is less stringent than what the federal clean air, water and other environmental laws and regulations were prior to Trump taking office in January 2017.

  • Agriculture representatives opposing the bill worry it could lead to less water for agriculture than what the Trump administration allocated. Environmentalists back it. It’s the focus of this CALmatters commentary.

Commentary at CALmatters

Terry Tamminen, former California Environmental Protection Agency secretary: Federal agencies plan to ignore new state requirements in order to deliver more San Francisco Bay-Delta water to powerful San Joaquin Valley farmers in the Westlands Water District.  This would do more than harm salmon fishermen and the West Coast’s largest estuary. An elegant solution lies in Senate Bill 1 by Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins.

Dan Walters, CALmatters: A new bill would water down the requirement that local governments be upfront on the taxation effects of their tax and bond ballot measures.

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

See you tomorrow.

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