In summary

Newsom signs charter school bill. Teen birth rates are a tale of two states. What role does ‘toxic masculinity’ play in mass shootings?

Good morning, California.

“‘Folks, we’re about to begin our descent.’ We’re still at 36,000 feet, but we’re about to begin our descent.”—Gov. Gavin Newsom, warning that California’s economy is cooling, and next year’s state budget won’t be as flush as this year’s.

A labor-charter school truce

Gov. Gavin Newsom signs charter school legislation.

Tough new charter school regulations have been signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, as expected, but other big K-12 proposals are TBD, including a maternity leave for teachers and a later morning bell.

CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports that in signing the charter school legislation, Newsom brought together charter school advocates and representatives of teachers’ unions. 

  • They’ve been engaged in political combat for decades. 
  • That drama played out in 2018 when charter school advocates poured millions into races to try to defeat Newsom and Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond.

Rather than let wounds “fester,” Newsom said, Thurmond and others engaged in “the nitty gritty” of policy making, forging a compromise that lets charter schools continue but with greater oversight.

  • Newsom: “No one is naïve. There are many parts of this legislation we believe will work in the best interests of our kids but it may turn out in the application will require some adjustments.” 

On a related matter, Newsom signaled that he intends to sign legislation placing a $12 billion bond on the March ballot to pay for construction at public universities, community colleges and public schools. If voters approve it, some of the money would be used for charter public schools. 

To keep up to date with bills Newsom has signed or vetoed, please check out our bill tracker by clicking here.

Tale of two states: teen births

California’s teen birth rate has fallen steadily since the 1990s.

California’s teenage birth rate continued to decline in 2017 but remains stubbornly high in poorer parts of the state, the California Department of Public Health reports.

There were 13.9 births per 1,000 girls ages 15-19 in 2017, down from 15.7 in 2016 and 40.1 births a decade ago. 

  • Los Angeles County was above the state average, with 15.2 births per 1,000 adolescent girls.
  • Nationally, there were 18.8 births per 1,000 teenage girls.

With few exceptions, California’s number has fallen each year since the 1990s when then-Gov. Pete Wilson’s administration focused on driving down the numbers.

As is so often the case, the numbers reflect two sides of California. 

  • The birth rate was 7.3 among teens in San Francisco and Marin counties, 9 in Alameda and Yolo counties, and 9.1 in Santa Clara County.

Imperial County has an unemployment rate of 22%, and recorded 35.9 births per 1,000 girls 15-19, more than any other county. 

Kern, Kings, Tulare, Fresno and Madera counties have unemployment numbers above the California average of 4.2%, and birth rates of between 27.4 and 33.9 among adolescent girls.

‘Toxic masculinity’

Concealed handgun
Photo by Ibro Palic via Flickr

After the shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival left three people dead plus the gunman, Gov. Gavin Newsom noted that almost exclusively, mass shooters are males:

  • “I do think that is missing in the national conversation.”

Sacramento State Professor Phillip Reese explored that statement for Kaiser Health News, reporting on the notion of “toxic masculinity”:

  • Between January 2013 and August 2019, there were 53 indiscriminate mass shootings nationwide in public areas, and all but three involved men.
  • Almost 90% of suspects arrested for any form of homicide in California in 2018 were male, a disparity that has not changed much over the decades.

The Public Policy Institute of California, in its most recent survey, found that 66% of Californians are somewhat or very concerned about mass shootings.

Aftermath of a grim night

Shattered window on the 32nd floor at the Mandalay Bay (Jeff Scheid/The Nevada Independent)

Two years ago this past Tuesday, a 64-year-old man, Stephen Paddock, using a bump stock to super-charge his weaponry, fired more than 1,100 rounds from a 32nd floor window of the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, killing 58 concert goers. 

MGM Resorts, the hotel’s owner, agreed to pay up to $800 million to survivors of the nation’s deadliest mass shooting, The Nevada Independent reported Thursday.

In filings this week, gun advocates urged the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Trump administration ban on bump stocks, which allow shooters to fire as if they were using a machine gun.

Their argument: Trump overstepped his authority by banning bump stocks

Under President Obama, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms concluded that bump stocks could not be banned without an act of Congress.

Among those urging that the Trump ban be overturned: the Firearms Policy Coalition, based in Sacramento, and John C. Eastman, on behalf of the Claremont Institute in Upland. Eastman is a Chapman University law school professor who ran for California attorney general in 2010.

Chapter closes on Capitol crime

where John Lam, the 33-year-old brother-in-law of Speaker Anthony Rendon, awaits his parole hearing for a murder he took part in as a teen.
The guard station at San Quentin Prison

Gov. Gavin Newsom made a final decision Wednesday allowing for the release from prison of John Lam, who was convicted of murder in the 2003 death of a 19-year-old Sacramento man. Lam is Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon’s brother-in-law, though Rendon and Lam’s sister, Annie, met and married after the crime occurred.

Then-Gov. Jerry Brown commuted Lam’s sentence last November, reducing it to 16 years, from 26 years to life. 

I detailed the crime and the events that led up to Brown’s decision in this story

A parole board concluded earlier this year that Lam deserved to be released. Newsom let that board’s decision stand, a step that means Lam will be freed from San Quentin State Prison in the coming days or weeks.

Lam, who was a teenager at the time of the crime, did not pull the trigger, had a spotless prison record, and has earned multiple college credits.

  • Newsom told me: “You have to be objective about this, and there is no objective way to look at this without saying, ‘You know what, he deserves to be released.'”

Commentary at CalMatters

Dan Jacobson, Environment California: To slow the spread of forest fires, drought and rising sea levels, we need to accelerate every one of our clean energy strategies. We need to expand our horizons and find a way to harness the wind off our coast to power an electric grid that will rely more than ever on clean, renewable energy.

Jerry Sanders and Alfredo Pedroza, San Diego Chamber of Commerce: Gov. Gavin Newsom can help improve its vital relationship with Mexico by signing Senate Bill 558. It’s a bill that will grant official recognition to the importance of our close proximity and shared values, which have resulted in one of the strongest economic, cultural and social regions in the world.


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 Monday

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.