In summary

Newsom signs vaccination bill. Becerra skips Google antitrust investigation. Bill on police use of facial-recognition technology is watered down.

Good morning, California.

“With school and workplace shootings on the rise, it’s common sense to give the people we see every day a way to prevent tragedies.”—Assemblyman Phil Ting, San Francisco Democrat, as the Assembly gave final approval to his bill expanding California’s red flag law. 

  • The measure would authorize employers, co-workers and high school and college teachers to petition courts to remove guns from people they believe to be dangerous. 
  • Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation in 2018. 
  • Gov. Gavin Newsom likely will sign it.

Newsom signs vaccine legislation

Protesters opposed to vaccinations earlier this month

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation Monday aimed at stopping bogus medical exemptions for vaccines, as anti-vax protesters clogged Capitol hallways and disrupted legislative sessions with loud chants.

  • Newsom’s statement: “This legislation provides new tools to better protect public health, and does so in a way that ensures parents, doctors, public health officials and school administrators all know the rules of the road moving forward.”

Newsom wavered on the issue earlier in the summer and again last week, insisting on last-minute amendments. 

The Legislature passed the bills on near party-line votes, with nearly all Democrats supporting them and Republicans voting no.

  • Sen. Richard Pan, a pediatrician and author of the legislation, said in a statement: “I thank the governor for standing with science, and once again making California a leader in safeguarding children and communities.”

The L.A. Times: The bills come amid the worst measles outbreak in more than 20 years, with more than 1,200 people diagnosed with the disease this year in the United States. 

Becerra holds out

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, hardly one to shy away from suing, is notable in not joining 48 other states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., in an antitrust investigation into Google. 

The other hold-out? Alabama’s attorney general.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton led the press conference on Monday, the Washington Post reports. Against the backdrop of the U.S. Supreme Court, Paxton alleged Google “dominates all aspects of advertising on the Internet and searching on the Internet.”

The Post quotes Paxton and several other Republican attorneys general as saying the probe’s initial focus is online advertising. The Silicon Valley giant is expected to rake in more than $48 billion in U.S. digital ad revenue this year.

Republican Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo has called on Congress to expand antitrust law and on the state attorneys general to press an investigation: 

  • “Attorney General Becerra’s refusal to join the bipartisan investigation into the tech giants is embarrassing. California deserves to be at the table.”

Becerra’s office offered no specific explanation for failing to join the others in the Google investigation, or becoming part of 11 attorneys general investigating Facebook:

  • California remains deeply concerned and committed to fighting anticompetitive behavior. Regarding this investigation or any other, to protect the integrity of potential and ongoing investigations, we cannot provide comment.

Facial-recognition legislation

A man'Data measurements pinpoint a man's face. California lawmakers may prevent police agencies from using facial recognition technology — at least for now. Photo via iStock
Photo illustration.

Legislation that originally sought to permanently ban law enforcement agencies from using facial-recognition technology in police body cameras has been watered down, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports.

Assemblyman Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat, introduced the bill, saying the technology amounted to an invasion of privacy. The ACLU is among its backers. Rather than ban the practice indefinitely, the prohibition would remain in effect until 2023.

  • Ting: “We’re doing the legislation to be proactive, because we know the software is not accurate and should not be deployed for law-enforcement purposes.”

The Riverside Sheriffs’ Association was among the law enforcement groups that objected:

  • “Huge events such as the annual Coachella Music and Arts Festival, the upcoming Los Angeles Olympics, World Cup Soccer Tournament, Rose Bowl, Disneyland and scores of popular tourist attractions should have access to the best available security—including the use of body cameras and facial-recognition technology.”

San Francisco banned facial-recognition technology in body cameras earlier this year, as did Oakland. Ting’s bill faces final votes this week.

End to an endless fight, maybe

Gaviota Coast and Point Conception, looking northwest. Much of the land in the lower half of the photo is on the old Hollister Ranch. Photo via Creative Commons by Doc Searls
Gaviota Coast and Point Conception

Legislation that could lead to an end to a decades-long fight for access to 8.5 miles of beaches below exclusive Hollister Ranch in Santa Barbara County won final legislative approval Monday.

The bill by Assemblywoman Monique Limón, Santa Barbara Democrat, seeks to allow at least some public access by April 2022. 

Long story short:

  • Californians approved an initiative in 1972 to ensure access to California’s coastline. 
  • The 60-mile Gaviota Coast is said to be the least-accessible stretch of beach in California, with only two miles open to the public.
  • The Gaviota Coast includes Hollister Ranch, an exclusive gate development where homes sell for millions of dollars.
  • In 1979, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation to provide access to the 8.5 miles of beaches below Hollister Ranch. 
  • Forty years later, the beaches are accessible only by boat.
  • Limón carried legislation last year that would have opened access, but Brown vetoed it.

Hollister Ranch homeowners didn’t oppose Limón’s new bill, though they did send a letter expressing “concerns” over several provisions. Homeowners also said they intend to “work collaboratively with the state in improving public access to the coast at Hollister Ranch.”

A hammer: If Gov. Gavin Newsom signs the new bill, the State Lands Commission would have a role. The commission can force the issue by invoking eminent domain to buy land to provide public access.

PG&E makes offer; victims shrug

Photo of fire snaking along hillside
PG&E offers a reorganization plan in bankruptcy court.

PG&E Corp. offered $18 billion in wildfire payments as part of a reorganization plan filed Monday in bankruptcy court. Less than half would go directly to the victims, CalMatters’ Judy Lin reports.

PG&E would establish two trust funds, one of $8.4 billion to pay wildfire victims and the other for $8.5 billion for insurers that had to pay claims from deadly Northern California blazes in 2017 and 2018. Another $1 billion would go to local governments.

PG&E Chief Executive Bill Johnson:

  • “Under the Plan we filed today, we will meet our commitment to fairly compensate wildfire victims, and we will emerge from Chapter 11 financially sound and able to continue meeting California’s clean energy goals.”

Lobbyist Patrick McCallum, who barely escaped the Tubbs fire and represents wildfire victims group Up From The Ashes

  • “What they’re proposing is just a fraction of what’s needed to rebuild wildfire victims’ lives. They’re not serious about making victims whole.”

A new Medi-Cal expansion

State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, Democrat from Los Angeles.
State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, Democrat from Los Angeles

Sen. Maria Elena Durazo is pushing legislation headed for final votes in the coming days to expand Medi-Cal benefits to undocumented immigrants who are 65 and older, though there’s no funding. Yet.

Gov. Gavin Newsom this year agreed to expand state-funded health care for undocumented young people ages 19-25, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reports. The annual cost will be $98 million. But Newsom and legislators did not include people 65 and older. 

The Legislature estimates that inclusion of people 65 and older in the state’s Medi-Cal program would cost $121 million. That sum presumably would rise as the population ages.

  • Durazo, a Los Angeles Democrat: “The governor committed to achieve universal health coverage. We know that in order to cover all Californians, we must cover seniors without distinction to status.”

Her bill would take effect next July, the start of the 2020-21 fiscal year, if there’s money.

For Aguilera’s full report, please click here.

Rich state, poor state

San Francisco skyline

Californians make up 12% of the nation’s population but hold 17% of the nation’s net worth, the California Legislative Analyst’s office reports.

Within California, disparities are wide:

  • 2% of the state population live in the 30 wealthiest ZIP codes and hold 20% percent of the state’s net worth. Wealth in those 30 ZIP codes is equal to the net worth of the 1,200 least-wealthy ZIP codes.
  • The 75% of Californians who live outside the wealthiest 300 ZIP codes hold less than a third of the state’s wealth. 
  • Residents in the San Joaquin Valley have a net worth of $60,000 per resident, compared with the San Francisco Bay Area, the state’s wealthiest region, where residents have an average net worth of $450,000.
  • People living in 11 ZIP codes in the Bay Area have a net worth in excess of $1.5 million, while residents in 15% of Bay Area ZIP codes have a net worth below $50,000.

Commentary at CalMatters

Jared Martin, California Association of Realtors: If our state is to continue leading the nation, we must address the housing shortage with policies that will actually lead to more housing. Simply put, a rent cap would be a bandage on a festering wound and would do nothing to solve the root cause of higher rents.

Raphael J. Sonenshein, Cal State L.A.: Sheriffs are an anomaly in the system of checks and balances that is a hallmark of American government at federal, state and local levels. Assembly Bill 1185 by Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Democrat, would authorize county governments to create an inspector general and a civilian oversight commission and vest either or both with subpoena authority. 

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Despite a voter-approved ban on public financing of campaigns, the Legislature passed a bill three years ago to authorize it. Now a state appellate court has invalidated the legislation.

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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.