In summary

Battle over PG&E’s fate continues. Newsom recollects first pet. Legislators eye more gun control bills, as gun rights supporters turn to courts.

Good morning, California.

“If you’re always kind, you’ll never be sent to the principal.”—Gov. Gavin Newsom to a second-grade class at Paradise Ridge Elementary School.

PG&E brinkmanship begins

Burned school chairs from the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise, California. March 2019. Photo by Byrhonda Lyons/CALmatters.
Burned school chairs from the 2018 Camp Fire in Paradise

PG&E’s chief executive officer, William Johnson, came to the Capitol to urge lawmakers to toss the bankrupt company a lifeline, but it’s unclear that a deal will emerge.

Assemblyman Chad Mayes, a Republican from Yucca Valley, released language of the PG&E-backed bill that would authorize the state to use its authority to sell $20 billion in bonds to help PG&E pay off wildfire liability. PG&E shareholders would pay off the entire sum, not ratepayers or taxpayers, Mayes said.


  • “Shareholders are going to pay 100% of the cost to victims.”
  • “It cannot be a bailout because ratepayers are not bailing out the company. The government is not bailing out the company.”

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Speaker Anthony Rendon would need to waive rules to have the bill considered. It’s not clear legislators would vote for it. PG&E has done nothing to win trust in Sacramento.

  • The company faces claims for 19 fires beginning in 2015 and ending with the Camp Fire that killed 86 people last November. 
  • As many as 43 law firms are representing fire victims. Without victims’ support, the bill almost surely would fail.
  • Johnson told some reporters: “If anybody is being bailed out here, it’s the victims of wildfires. There is not a single iota of bailout in this.”

Tight deadline: PG&E must submit a major filing in bankruptcy court on Sept. 9. The Legislature leaves for the year on Sept. 13.

Take a number: 110 million

William Johnson

Hedge funds that hold $10 billion in Pacific Gas & Electric’s bond debt and seek to gain control of the company say PG&E Chief Executive William Johnson could earn $110 million if the utility’s share price returns to its 2017 peak.

The Sacramento Bee: Johnson’s base pay is $2.5 million, but an analysis circulated in the Capitol by representatives of the hedge funds shows he could earn $110 million.

  • Johnson, who took the PG&E job in April: “I assume if you do enough gymnastics, you can get to some set of numbers like that. Those numbers will never occur. … I came here for one reason, and that is to help.”

Newsom’s first pet

Gov. Newsom visits Nicole Etchison’s second grade class at Paradise Ridge Elementary School.

Gov. Gavin Newsom visited a second grade class at Paradise Ridge Elementary School, and recollected that his first pet as a boy was an otter. 

  • “And his name was Potter. Potter the otter,” the governor told the class. His father, William Newsom, a judge and a conservationist, had given him the beast.

Newsom joined a reading circle of 18 kids who had been displaced by the Camp Fire, and attend a renovated and renamed school, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reported.

  • A question from a babe’s mouth: “Do you like kids?” He better; he has four of them. 

Newsom, known for his coif, admired one of the kid’s hair product.

Newsom’s visit to Paradise on Wednesday was starkly different from when he visited last November with President Trump, days after fire ravaged the region.

  • Newsom: “You get a sense really quickly of how a community’s doing through the eyes of children. I feel inspired by this.”

Gun bills on a collision course

The Legislature is eyeing more gun control measures.

The Democratic-dominated Legislature is preparing to pass more gun control bills. California’s gun rights advocates plan to challenge state laws in the federal courts.

These colliding strategies point to a disconnect between mostly liberal legislators and an increasingly conservative bloc of federal judges, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.

Sen. Brian Jones, a Republican from Santee, occupies both worlds, serving as a legislator, albeit one who opposes gun control bills, and on the board of a gun-rights group that is challenging the state’s long-standing assault weapons ban. His son, Matthew, is the plaintiff in a separate case challenging the state’s minimum age for gun purchases.

  • Jones: “The courts—unfortunately, in California—that’s what we’re left with.”

President Donald Trump has appointed seven judges to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. They’re reshaping the court that until recently was dominated by appointees of Democratic presidents.

Anti-vaxxer shoves legislator

An anti-vaxxer video taped himself shoving Sen. Richard Pan.

As of early today, Facebook left online a video taken by an anti-vaccination activist showing him shoving California Sen. Richard Pan and later uttering a threat.

Pan, a physician and Sacramento Democrat, was walking away from the Capitol with another lawmaker Wednesday. Anti-vaxxer Austin Bennett was walking alongside, video-taping and heckling Pan over his legislation to restrict physicians from granting bogus medical exemptions to parents who don’t want to vaccinate their kids.

Pan was countering the man’s contentions, until Bennett shoved him. Police later cited Bennett with a misdemeanor, The Sacramento Bee reported.

  • “So yeah, I pushed him for laughing, for lying,” Bennett says on the video. “ … The truth of the matter, if he got what he deserved, he would be hanged for treason.”

Pan’s office asked that Facebook remove the video, because it incited violence.

Pan’s measure is pending in the Assembly. Anti-vaxxers seek to block it.

Santa Anita seeks more race dates

File photo.

Santa Anita Park is requesting that the California Horse Racing Board grant it additional race dates, despite having had an especially tough year in which 30 horses died at the race track.

In a request to the board, which is meeting today in Del Mar, Santa Anita and the Del Mar track in San Diego are seeking authority for a combined four additional weeks of racing, at the expense of Los Alamitos race track in Cypress.

Los Alamitos Vice President Jack Liebau said that if the Santa Anita-Del Mar request is granted, the state board that oversees horse racing “would be rewarding Santa Anita after Santa Anita has had a rather disastrous meet.”

Liebau was referring to the widely reported deaths of horses and reactions by numerous political leaders.

Santa Anita spokesman Stefan Friedman acknowledged that “eyes are on us.”

  • “Our goal first, second and third is the safety of the horses.”

P.S. The Los Angeles County Fair runs its races at Los Alamitos. If Los Alamitos loses dates, L.A. County Fair stands to lose more than $200,000 in revenue.

Commentary at CalMatters

Tom Martin, American Forest Foundation: California cannot win its fight against wildfires if we do not empower family forest owners with the resources needed to take action. We look forward to the day when our forest conditions let us return prescribed fire safely across the region to increase our forest vitality.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: A new study suggests that California’s “red flag” law, allowing weapons to be seized from someone deemed too dangerous, is saving lives, but it reaches no firm conclusion.

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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.