caption here. Photo by Jane Camera
Photo illustration by Jane Camera

In summary

New water law has big implications. Central Valley struggles with unemployment. Newsom considers signing bills inspired by #MeToo movement.

Good morning, California.

“No experts are saying take your time. It’s happening now.”—Los Angeles billionaire Stewart Resnick, who along with his wife, Lynda Resnick, announced via The New York Times a $750 million gift to the California Institute of Technology for environmental study focused on solutions to climate change. 

  • Author Mark Arax detailed the Resnicks’ holdings for the California Sunday Magazine: San Joaquin Valley farmland, pistachio and pomegranate orchards, POM Wonderful, Fiji Water and Teleflora.

Big implications of new water law

Almonds have been a significant draw on water.

California’s groundwater law, which takes effect in 2020, could force farmers to fallow 534,760 acres in the San Joaquin Valley by 2040, and eliminate 12,700 jobs.

That’s the assessment of The Sacramento Bee’s Dale Kasler in his detailed report on the implications of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, which effect in 2020. 

  • Gov. Jerry Brown signed the law in 2014, over the objections of Central Valley lawmakers and organizations that represent farmers.
  • Until the act’s approval, California did not regulate groundwater.

California became the nation’s biggest agricultural producer thanks to the ideal climate and soil in much of the valley. But the valley’s water supply is tenuous, even in rainy years.

Farmers draw from aquifers in dry and not-so-dry times. As a result, people overdrew, causing parts of the valley to sink. Subsidence can make it impossible for aquifers to recharge in wet years.

Farmers saw gold in almonds, which need water whether it rains or not, as opposed to row crops, which can be fallowed during drought. California produces 82% of the world’s almonds. Much of the crop is exported. 

Adding to growers’ woes: the Trump administration’s trade war with China, which has been a major market for California almonds.

Take a number: 6

The Central Valley is in for changes.

Agriculture accounts for 20% of the San Joaquin Valley’s economic output and 18% of its jobs, The Sacramento Bee’s Dale Kasler writes in his report on the future of water in the San Joaquin Valley.

  • Kasler: “Water shortages, already the scourge of the Valley, are about to get worse. …
  • “Thousands of acres will be turned into solar-energy farms and other non-agricultural uses. The long-term effect of climate change, meanwhile, will squeeze water supplies even more.
  • “All of which suggests a bleak future for a region that is among America’s poorest.”

Six of the 10 highest metropolitan unemployment rates in the country were found in the Central Valley in July.

#MeToo, Take 2

At a 2019 Capitol rally, First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom urged gender pay equity.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is deciding whether to sign several bills inspired by the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, including repeats of bills Jerry Brown vetoed last year, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports.

Newsom must decide between two important constituencies:

  • Business interests which contend the measures will increase costs and litigation.
  • Feminist and worker advocates who say progress shouldn’t slow just because public outcry about harassment has quieted.

Political consultant Nathan Ballard predicted the #MeToo bills will be a way Newsom differentiates himself from Brown. Ballard has worked for Newsom and sits on the board of First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s gender equity nonprofit:

  • “Jennifer Siebel Newsom is a feminist activist who is engaged in these issues every single day of her life. That brings a valuable perspective into the governor’s orbit that most male governors just don’t have. She is up to her ears in feminist activism, and that makes a difference.”

To read Rosenhall’s full report, please click here.

Politics of impeachment in Fresno

Congressman Jim Costa (photo courtesy

Democratic Congressman Jim Costa, a Fresno moderate, shows up at old-timers parades in Madera and Tulare tractor shows, knows everything there is to no know about Le Grand, population 1,659, or so, and defends farmers’ use of water.

An example: Costa helped write and signed a letter from Sen. Dianne Feinstein urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to veto so-called Trump insurance legislation. The bill is intended to thwart President Trump’s effort to roll back environmental law and move more water to farmers.

This week, Costa veered, endorsing the impeachment inquiry, telling me:

  • “This is something I don’t welcome. I wish he did not take the action he took.”

Costa always anticipates tough GOP opponents. But in the March primary, he faces a challenge from the left from Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria.

Soria, who wasn’t born when Costa was elected to the Assembly in 1978, responded to Costa’s impeachment stand with a fundraising pitch:

  • “It shouldn’t have taken this long, and for too long Rep. Jim Costa was silent on this issue.”

Costa supported sending $300 million to Ukraine for its defense—money Trump seemed to tie to Ukranian President Volodymyr Zelensky helping to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden.

  • Or as Costa put it: “‘Hint-hint, if you do me a favor, I will make sure I’ll send you the money.’”

How will his decision play in Fresno? “I don’t know. But I take an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Mostly, he sad, constituents “want to talk about health care, prescription drug costs, trying to deal with immigration problems,” including fears of deportation and labor shortages.

Homelessness, politicized

Homeless man in downtown Sacramento

Homelessness became more of a political issue Thursday, as Gov. Gavin Newsom signed 13 bills intended to help combat the homeless crisis, hours after the Trump administration charged that California is not doing enough to end homelessness.

The Washington Post: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler sent Newsom a letter charging California is failing to meet health standards, citing instances in which homeless people leave behind trash, drug paraphernalia and human waste that pollutes water.

The letter—first disclosed in The Post—demands that California respond within 30 days.

Newsom responded by detailing state tax money earmarked in the 2019-20 budget to combat homelessness, saying he plans to meet Friday with his homeless council, and listing the 13 bills he signed:

  • “State government is now doing more than ever before to help local governments fight homelessness, expand proven programs and speed up rehousing.”

The Associated Press: One new law that takes effect immediately lets Los Angeles bypass parts of the California Environmental Quality Act to build supportive housing and shelters. Another lets projects that will turn hotels into housing forego certain CEQA reviews through 2025.

WhatMatters on Thursday: California failed to take a stand on whether the U.S. Supreme Court should hear a a case out of Boise in which the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that local governments cannot enforce anti-camping ordinances against homeless people, if there are not enough shelter beds. Several California cities and counties, and several states, urged the high court to review the decision.

How far is down?

photo by batman
California is not Trump country.

Donald Trump has no chance of winning California in 2020. But the latest poll of California voters ought to be especially sobering for the president and Republicans.

The UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll shows a mere 29% of likely California voters plan to vote for Trump, down from 31% in June. 

Trump’s support slipped among almost all segments, including women, young voters, self-identified conservatives and evangelicals.

  • Trump’s disapproval grew to 69%, from 57% in 2017. 
  • Only 18% of voters 18-29 approve of his performance, and 16% would vote for him in November 2020. Young voters are important for a party’s future.
  • Women disapprove of his performance 26%-74%, and only 25% would vote to reelect him.
  • Among people 65 and older, his approval rating is a dreary 38%.

The L.A. Times’ report on the poll: The administration has fought California officials on a host of issues involving immigration, health care and the environment, among other things—all topics on which Trump’s positions are unpopular in the state.

Commentary at CalMatters

Sandi Matsumoto, The Nature Conservancy: Five years ago, California became the last state in the West to regulate groundwater. Many thought this would be impossible until the need for groundwater management became overwhelmingly clear during the last drought. We should not wait for the next drought to finish what we’ve started

Rich Gordon, California Forestry Association: California’s biomass market is ripe for expansion and offers an environmentally responsible way to reduce forest fuel loads, fight climate change and produce renewable energy. Without leadership, however, a crucial opportunity will be lost.

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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.