KEEP TABS ON THE LATEST CALIFORNIA POLICY AND POLITICS NEWS
Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, April 27.
Census + recall
What a day Monday was.
First, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that California will lose a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for the first time in the state’s 171-year history.
Then, Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced that supporters of the effort to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom from office had gathered enough signatures to force the second gubernatorial recall election in state history and the fourth in U.S. history.
- Associated Press reporter Adam Beam: “We are in what’s called a ‘news vortex’ in California right now.”
Here’s a closer look at what the Monday announcements mean.
The census: New population estimates show that California is growing more slowly than the rest of the nation, cutting the state’s number of House seats from 53 to 52. That means California gets one fewer vote in the Electoral College that decides the presidency — and less federal money for programs like Medi-Cal, food stamps, highway construction and affordable housing, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. It also means that California’s independent redistricting commission must draw new congressional maps with one fewer district — upping the political stakes of an already highly contentious process that’s also facing an immense time crunch.
Meanwhile, California’s main rival, Texas, gained two House seats — likely due in part to more than 700,000 Californians moving there since 2008. But although the much-discussed “California Exodus” appears to be somewhat overblown, the Golden State’s loss of a congressional seat is sure to be cited as an example of failed Democratic governance — and another reason to recall Newsom.
The recall: Recall supporters submitted 1,626,042 valid signatures — much more than the 1,495,709 needed to trigger a special election. But there are still a lot of bureaucratic hurdles to jump through before an election can take place. Counties have until Thursday to finish verifying any remaining signatures, and voters have until June 8 to request their signatures be removed. If enough do so, the recall could fail to reach the ballot — though this seems unlikely. Then the cost of the election has to be determined, an election date set and candidate paperwork filed. For more information on how a recall election works, check out this explainer from CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall.
And in the meantime, prepare yourself for the inevitable onslaught of gubernatorial candidates.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 3,631,740 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 60,203 deaths (+0% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.
Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.
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Other stories you should know
1. AG race heats up
Three days after he was sworn in as California’s attorney general, Rob Bonta is already facing two 2022 challengers. Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced her bid Monday, setting the stage for another showdown over the state’s criminal justice approach. Schubert has a more traditional law-and-order background, while Bonta will likely position himself as a progressive prosecutor. The race will be high-profile: Schubert, who changed her political affiliation from Republican to no party preference in 2018, gained international attention for cracking the Golden State Killer cold case. She also led the offensive against prison and jail inmates who scammed up to $1 billion from the state unemployment department. (Also running for AG is Nathan Hochman, a Republican former assistant U.S. attorney.)
The race could also be a referendum on San Francisco County District Attorney Chesa Boudin and Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón, both of whom are facing recall attempts for policies that critics say protect criminals instead of victims.
- Schubert: “To be clear, the newly appointed attorney general has promised to bring the same types of policies to the rest of our great state — policies that are already devastating crime victims and public safety in Los Angeles and San Francisco.”
2. Big tax break for some businesses
California small businesses will get a tax break of up to $6.8 billion over the next six years, a result of the state Legislature on Monday passing a bill that allows expenses associated with federal loans to be deducted from state taxes. But the tax break only applies to employers who can prove they incurred a 25% loss during at least one three-month period in 2020 — leaving out about 15% to 25% of California businesses that received federal loans. Though lawmakers had originally proposed extending the tax break to all eligible businesses, Newsom’s administration balked at the cost, Assemblymember Autumn Burke, chair of the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee, told the Associated Press.
- Burke: “The reality is at some point you run out of money.”
Despite a sizable budget surplus and a huge influx of federal funding, California is expected to face a $17 billion deficit by 2024. But that explanation may not sit well with small businesses, many of which are facing deficits of their own — and will likely have to pick up the tab for California’s massive unemployment insurance debt and fraud.
3. San Francisco’s overdose crisis
The statistics are shocking: Drug overdoses claimed the lives of 713 San Franciscans last year, more than double the number of residents who died from COVID-19. The city has a higher overdose death rate than West Virginia, the state with the most severe crisis. And although the crisis pervades California — the state saw a 50% rise in overdose-related deaths since 2017, compared to 15% nationally — San Francisco is the epicenter. The amount of fentanyl — a powerful synthetic opioid — seized by police last year in the Tenderloin neighborhood alone was enough to kill 2.7 million people, the New York Times reports. The scope of the problem raises questions about the city’s nonjudgmental approach to drug use, even as state lawmakers consider approving safe injection sites and the mayors of San Francisco and Oakland ask President Joe Biden to “end the threat” of federal law enforcement shutting down such facilities.
- Thomas Wolf, a survivor of drug addiction: “The Tenderloin has always been the drug users’ and dealers’ epicenter in San Francisco. But in recent years, you’ve created the environment of easy access to drugs 24/7. It’s nearly impossible to get clean and it’s impossible to stay clean.”
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: One of the year’s most controversial issues is whether California should increase corporate and personal income taxes to finance new efforts to end homelessness.
End expensive phone calls: A 15-minute phone call to someone locked up in a Lassen County jail costs $17. But research shows that the more incarcerated people stay in touch with their families, the better they do when they get out, writes Anne Stuhldreher of the Financial Justice Project.
Student housing crisis almost ruined my life: Even though I worked as hard as I could to pay for housing, I was at risk of homelessness. Lawmakers must pass Assembly Bill 1277 to help students, argues Alexandra Olvera, a UC Davis student.
Other things worth your time
Should a Democrat run in the Newsom recall? We asked Cruz Bustamante. // KQED
Pandemic baby bust unprecedented in California history. // San Francisco Chronicle
Bay Area man hospitalized with blood clots after J&J COVID vaccine. // Mercury News
California signs new contract to offer COVID testing to schools and homeless shelters. // EdSource
‘We’re coming for you’: For public health officials, a year of threats and menace. // California Healthline
Fresno-area senator taking heat for holding up bill for pregnant Black women. // Fresno Bee
Environmental Protection Agency to restore California’s power over car pollution rules. // Los Angeles Times
As drought deepens, California farmers see grim future. // Los Angeles Times
California has a recycling problem. // CapRadio
Push for guaranteed income and cash aid goes national, from Stockton to Congress. // Washington Post
Mayor Breed taps City Attorney Herrera to lead agency roiled by City Hall corruption scandal. // San Francisco Chronicle
New Assemblymember Akilah Weber’s prescription for pandemic and beyond. // San Diego Union-Tribune
See you tomorrow.
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