In summary

Tailpipe fight pits Trump against Newsom. Battle over gig workers bill is far from over. Newsom veto may exacerbate Delta water tensions.

Good morning, California.

“He was angry and he was yelling, but he wasn’t angry towards me at that point. He said, ‘Trust me. What can I do to earn your trust? I’ll kill anyone. I’ll kill the robot to earn your trust.’”—Paneez Kosarian, 27, as quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle

Waive goodbye

President Donald Trump

California has maintained its own emission rules for 50 years—a tool to battle L.A. and San Joaquin Valley smog. On Wednesday, President Trump announced that his administration is rescinding the state’s authority to set its own car-emission standards.

  • CalMatters environmental reporters Julie Cart and Rachel Becker: “California’s clean-air authorities say the state’s stringent rules are essential to protect public health and a critical tool to ensure the state achieves its goal of cutting greenhouse gases by 40% in the next 10 years.”

Expect a new anti-Trump lawsuit soon. Its outcome will have national implications; 13 states abide by California’s heightened requirements.  

The auto industry is caught between regulators in D.C. and officials in the nation’s largest auto market, not to mention consumers who may worry about the impact of auto emissions on climate change.

CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reported earlier this week that the Newsom administration also seems to be considering a plan to reward car companies that side with California by giving their customers exclusive access to the state’s electric car rebate program.

  • Answering Rosenhall’s question about that plan on Wednesday, Newsom said: “You’re going to be working on a new article on Friday when we make some announcements.”

Tweet first, sue later

Gov. Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Xavier Becerra and California Air Resources Board Chair Mary Nichols

With no official filing yet from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the fight over California’s authority to regulate auto emissions is playing out in the president’s favorite arena: Twitter. 

And Gov. Gavin Newsom is tweeting back at him.

@realDonaldTrump, 64.4 million followers: “The Trump Administration is revoking California’s Federal Waiver on emissions in order to produce far less expensive cars for the consumer…Automakers should seize this opportunity because without this alternative to California, you will be out of business.” 

@GavinNewsom, 1.5 million followers: “Today’s actions represent another act in Donald Trump’s political theater. A failed attempt to assert power. A continuation of a political vendetta against CA and our progress. Bad news for him — we will prevail. See you in court.”

For good measure,  @JerryBrownGov, 1.1 million followers: [Y]our toxic tweets are insufferable, but your pillaging of our clean air is criminal.”

Attorney General Xavier Becerra, 66,000 followers, did dive into Twittersphere on the issue, and declined to get into the details of the state’s argument, until he sees something official from the Trump administration:

  • “If the arguments in the president’s tweets are the arguments they will use to propel this initiative then we’re looking pretty good and we will enjoy facing them in court.”

Addendum: Aboard Air Force One on his way out of California, Trump threatened to slap San Francisco with a notice of environmental violation for allowing significant amounts of waste, including “used needles” to flow into the ocean. This, he apparently attributed to the city’s homeless population without citing any evidence.

  • San Francisco Mayor London Breed to the Chronicle: “No debris flow out into the bay or the ocean. If the president wants to talk about homelessness, we are committed to working with our state and federal partners on actual solutions.”

AB5 is signed. Now what?

Uber driver Luke Rivera stands in front of the Capitol in support of AB5.

If you’ve heard of any piece of state legislation this year, it’s AB5, the bill that will make it harder for companies to classify their workers as independent contractors.

Yesterday, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it.

The upshot: A wide swath of gig workers and freelancers, including the state’s Uber and Lyft drivers, will soon fall under the protection of the state’s minimum wage, workers’ compensation and paid leave laws. 

The battle has just begun, and state labor and business groups have retreated to their corners.

  • California Labor Federation: “We won’t rest until all misclassified workers in California receive the basic protections they deserve, including the right to form or join a union.”
  • California Chamber of Commerce: “The business community will be aggressively pursuing further exemptions next year.”

For the governor, the next step is clear: negotiate

  • Newsom, in his signing statement: “I will convene leaders from the Legislature, the labor movement and the business community to support innovation and a more inclusive economy by stepping in where the federal government has fallen short and granting workers excluded from the National Labor Relations Act the right to organize and collectively bargain.

For months, the administration has been holding talks with labor and industry to broker a deal—and avoid a costly ballot measure fight next November. 

Gig-economy giants Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have pledged $90 million to put the question before voters if need be.

Muddying the waters

California's Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. USFWS photo by Steve Martarano via Flickr
California’s Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to veto a bill that would backstop California’s stringent air and water regulations against federal rollbacks may exacerbate tensions between urban and agricultural water users, according to a new analysis by CalMatters’ Julie Cart

  • SB1 by Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins would have set environmental and labor standards in place prior to President Trump’s inauguration as a baseline for the state. 

The bill was backed by environmental groups but vociferously opposed by agricultural interests and the Trump administration, which wants to direct more Sacramento River Delta water to Central Valley farmers.

  • Cart: “The potential for incompatible management of California’s critical water resources may also create more legal wrangling, experts say, rather than establishing a level playing field and resolving the state’s longstanding water wars.”

Which is exactly what opponents of SB1 were hoping to avoid.  

Republican Sen. Jim Nielsen from Gerber on the final day of the Legislative session: “(The bill) is rolling back 20 years of progress towards ending the water wars in California and will reignite those water wars.”

Newsom has not yet vetoed the bill, but he has indicated that he will. That has dealt a blow to the governor’s street cred with many environmentalists.

  • Kathryn Phillips, California director of the Sierra Club: “Is this going to hurt the long-term relationship? You’re damn right it will.”

Napolitano gives notice

Janet Napolitano, seen in 2009 while serving as U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security

After six years at the helm of the University of California, Janet Napolitano announced her resignation as president Wednesday, leaving a “leadership vacuum at the nation’s most prestigious public university system,” reports CalMatters’ Felicia Mello.

A few highlights from Napolitano’s tenure:

  • Under her leadership, the UC system saw its ranks of first-generation and community college transfer students swell.
  • She took the Trump administration to court over its attempted repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
  • She weathered the wrath of the Legislature after a state audit found her office had kept $175 million in separate accounts not disclosed to the university’s regents—and then interfered with the audit itself.

The Board of Regents is expected to begin a national search for her successor soon. The committee will include faculty, alumni and students.

Gimme Shelter: Live!

A tent encampment in the Skid Row district of Los Angeles

Gimme Shelter, everyone’s favorite podcast on California housing policy and politics, had a live show at the Public Policy Institute of California to discuss rent control, homelessness, NIMBYs and President Trump.

Alongside the two hosts, Matt Levin of CalMatters and Liam Dillon of The Los Angeles Times, there were three guests: Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, Candice Gonzalez, a Silicon Valley housing developer, and Dr. Margot Kushel, director of the UCSF Benioff Homelessness and Housing Initiative.

A few highlights:

  • Schaaf rails against “Not In My Backyard”: “When NIMBYs masquerading as progressives say we shouldn’t develop, we shouldn’t build new housing, they are really hurting the very cause that they are purporting to serve.”
  • Kushel talks about conservatorship as a solution to homelessness: “None of these things work unless you have a place to put people.”

The Oakland mayor also praised her city’s recently enacted tax on unused and vacant properties.

In other housing news, turns out Bernie is a fan too:

  • In a national housing plan released Wednesday, Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders endorsed a 2% property tax on empty homes.
  • Other proposals that might sound familiar to California housing wonks: a nationwide cap on rent increases, “just cause” eviction rules and tying transportation funding to more permissive zoning.

Take a number: 75,000

Lava Mae trailer in downtown Oakland

Lava Mae is a homeless project that set a goal: provide 75,000 showers for 30,000 homeless people by the end of 2020. Here we are in September 2019, and Lava Mae already achieved that milestone, The San Francisco Chronicle’s Heather Knight writes.

Lava Mae (a Spanish term for wash me) operates in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Los Angeles, which started out by turning old Muni buses into mobile wash rooms and since has purchased trailers.

  • Doniece Sandoval, founder of Lava Mae, said in a statement: “Our fierce belief that hygiene is a basic human right fueled our fast progress on reaching our 2020 goal. Now we’re turning our attention to pursuing a new, worldwide goal.”

Commentary at CalMatters

Jaime Soto and Jessica Manzo, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento: Women deserve safer, more respectful, environments on college campuses, not more ways for the universities to hide their victimization. Senate Bill 24 is not about health care. It is an example of partisan posturing, consolidating the state’s aversion to any restrictions of abortion.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Three expansionist bills flunked the smell test and two died in this year’s legislative session, but the third was approved.

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

See you tomorrow.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions:

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.

Ben covers housing policy and previously covered California politics and elections. Prior to these roles at CalMatters, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and...