In summary

Gig companies begin campaign to reverse employee law. NCAA follows California’s lead on athlete compensation. Kamala Harris’ California primary dream fades.

Good morning, California.

“What are they thinking? I can’t imagine any Californian saying, ‘All things being equal, I’m buying the brand that spews more poison into our children’s air!’”—Jeff Goodby in The New York Times, on Toyota’s decision to side with the Trump administration against California’s clean air standards. Goodby’s ad agency, Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, handles campaigns for BMW, which is siding with California.

Wind, fire and climate change

Gov. Gavin Newsom surveys a home destroyed in the Kincade Fire
Gov. Gavin Newsom surveys a home destroyed in the Kincade Fire. Photo by Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group

Californians know that wind kicks up this time of year, but this feels different. 

The National Weather Service office issued an “extreme red flag” warning as Santa Ana wind was expected to reach 80 miles an hour in Southern California, this after gusts approached 100 mph in Northern California over the weekend.

  • The L.A. Times, quoting the National Weather Service: “This all adds up to an extreme fire weather threat, meaning that conditions are as dangerous for fire growth and behavior as we have seen in recent memory.”

Former Gov. Jerry Brown testified at a House Oversight hearing focused on the Trump administration efforts to rescind California’s authority to set higher standards for fuel economy for cars, and implored Congress to combat climate change.

  • Brown, quoted in The San Francisco Chronicle: “California’s burning while the deniers make a joke out of the standards that protect us all. The blood is on your soul here and I hope you wake up. Because this is not politics, this is life, this is morality. … This is real.”

CNN drew an explicit link between the weather, fires and climate change, reporting warm-season days have increased by 2.5 degrees since the early 1970s in California, and quoting a study in the journal Earth’s Future

  • “The clearest link between California wildfire and anthropogenic climate change thus far has been via warming-driven increases in atmospheric aridity, which works to dry fuels and promote summer forest fire.”

Gig companies’ campaign begins

Brandon Castillo, spokesman for the initiative by Uber, Lyft and DoorDash, details the measure at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Sacramento.

What could become a $100 million-plus campaign over gig workers began Tuesday, as Uber, Lyft and DoorDash unveiled their initiative to keep drivers classified as freelancers, not employees.

The companies’Protect App-Based Drivers and Services Act” is intended for the November 2020 ballot. The initiative would exempt drivers, who deliver people or packages, from the bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom that would turn hundreds of thousands of gig workers into W-2 employees.

The initiative would not apply to independent contractors such as handymen, musicians or physical therapists.

  • California Labor Federation leader Art Pulaski denounced the measure: “No corporation should be above the law, no matter how much they spend on political campaigns to rig the rules in their favor.”

Some provisions:

  • Drivers would be guaranteed 120% of the minimum wage when they are driving. They would not be paid when they are waiting for fares.
  • They could get stipends to cover health insurance, 30 cents a mile, and access to insurance.
  • Drivers would undergo criminal-background checks.
  • The Legislature would need to muster a seven-eighths vote to alter the measure.

Money matters: Uber, Lyft and DoorDash have donated $90 million to the campaign.

The threat of an initiative could be leverage. Campaign spokesman Brandon Castillo said the companies remain open to negotiations with lawmakers. The deadline for withdrawing the measure, he said, is June 25, 2020.

Worth noting: The state would be required to cover legal expenses if the voters approve the measure and elected officials refuse to defend it in court.

NCAA follows California’s lead

Screen shot of LeBron James’ The Shop, in September holding a copy of the bill signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom

In a striking example of the impact of California legislation, the NCAA Board of Governors reversed itself Tuesday and voted to allow college athletes to be paid for the use of their name, image and likeness.

Remind me: Gov. Gavin Newsom signed legislation in September allowing college athletes to market themselves and earn money for the use of their likenesses. Several other states followed with their own proposals.

CalMatters’ Felicia Mello reports: The decision, which even in its limited form represents a dramatic shift for college sports economics, could ease the fears of California universities that their students might be barred from NCAA tournaments if the association did not change its own rules. At least 10 other states are considering passing bills similar to California’s. 

  • Sen. Nancy Skinner, the Berkeley Democrat who carried the bill, as quoted in Politico: “Without the public clearly on the side of the rights of student athletes, and the governor signing my bill, and the rest of the states following suit, the NCAA absolutely wouldn’t have acted.”

Newsom signed the bill on Lakers star LeBron James’ show, Uninterrupted’s The Shop. On Tuesday, James tweeted:

  • “Its a beautiful day for all college athletes going forward from this day on! Thank you guys for allowing me to bring more light to it. I’m so proud of the team at @uninterrupted bringing focus on this and to everyone who has been fighting this fight. Not a victory but a start!”

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

California dreaming

Harris speaks to reporters in front of a campaign backdrop in San Francisco
Kamala Harris at the California Democratic Party convention in San Francisco on June 1

U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris’ dream that California would be relevant, even pivotal, to the presidential primary remains just that.

Politico’s David Siders and Jeremy B. White report that the “promise of an early California primary tilting the balance of the Democratic primary westward has fallen short.”

Harris and her strategists hoped California would help propel her to the nomination. Polls show she’s running well behind U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders. 

Biden has yet to hold a public event here, and has skipped California Democratic Party gatherings.

  • “Most campaigns are still spending far more time—and resources —in Iowa, the first caucus state, leaving Westerners to watch the campaign unfold primarily on TV.”

Siders and White quote Jerry Brown as saying “The West barely exists” in the presidential race, at least for now. 

Why: It’s wildly expensive to campaign in California, and candidates know they can build momentum by winning in the early states of Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

Take a number: 6,684,405

Controller Betty Yee regularly puts out data detailing the pay of state and local officials. On Tuesday, it was county fair staffs’ turn, though not all fairs provided information to the Controller: 

  • The Orange County Fair staff receives $6.7 million in wages, plus $2.8 million in benefits, for its 122 employees. The pay is far greater than any fair in the state that provided 2018 salary information.
  • Four of the five highest-paid fair employees work for the Orange County fair, including one whose pay exceeded $207,000.

The next highest: Kern County, $2.4 million in wages for 598 employees.

An Orange County Fair spokeswoman noted it’s one of the nation’s most successful and has year-round events.

Missing: San Diego County Fair reported the highest wages in past years, including $19 million in 2017. Yee didn’t include San Diego’s 2018 report because it didn’t comply with the Controller’s requirements—which begs the question why salary reports are voluntary.

Commentary at CalMatters

Sen. Jeff Stone, Riverside County Republican: Thanks to the liberal policies embraced by the governor and the Democratic majority, California has gasoline that is averaging $4.20 a gallon compared with the national average of $2.65, 2 million people had their power cut for days, and we are just one dry winter away from suffering through another man-made drought.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Gov. Gavin Newsom has claimed ownership of the wildfire/Pacific Gas and Electric crisis, but now he must deliver.


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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.

Judy serves as hub editor of the California Divide project, a five-newsroom collaboration covering economic inequality. Prior to editing, she reported on state finance, workforce and economic issues. Her...