In summary

California governor hosts Quebec premier to discuss cap-and-trade agreement. Report urges preparation for rising seas. UC sued over SATs.

Good morning, California. Judy Lin here, filing in for Dan Morain, who is on assignment this week.

“They’re not serious about policy. They’re not serious about the bill. They just want to create theater. It’s all a sham.”— Sen. Richard Pan to The Sacramento Bee after anti-vaccine advocates abandoned an initiative to undo the state’s new restrictions on medical exemptions for vaccines.

Newsom talks climate with Quebec

Quebec Premier François Legault in Palo Alto

Quebec Premier François Legault will be hosted by Gov. Gavin Newsom in Sacramento to discuss reducing greenhouse gases. Today’s closed-door meeting comes as the Trump administration accuses California of overstepping its bounds by entering into an international emissions agreement.

Remind me: California’s cap-and-trade program has been around since 2013 and aims to limit the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. Industries meet their goals by lowering emissions or buying state-auctioned permits that allow them to pollute. The permits can be bought and sold.

  • Quebec has long participated in the program, which means companies in the Canadian province that emit greenhouse gases are required to purchase allowances.
  • Newsom has called the federal government’s lawsuit a “political vendetta against California.”

Both leaders are committed to continuing the cap-and-trade program, says Newsom spokesman Jesse Melgar:

  • “Given the history of our partnership around climate, and both leaders being new to office, the premier and the governor will discuss that history and what the collaboration can look like moving forward on climate.”

Legault wraps up a three-day trip to California after meetings in Hollywood and Silicon Valley.

Relatedly, Sammy Roth reports for the Los Angeles Times how the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power wants to build a hydrogen-fueled power plant. There’s just one catch: It’s never been done before.

State unprepared for rising seas

Homes and hotels along the Orange County coast are threatened by rising seas.

California needs to move faster in preparing for rising sea levels that can topple critical roads and infrastructure, not to mention devastate communities. That’s the wake-up call in a new report from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office. Elizabeth Castillo has more on the report here.

  • California’s coast could experience sea rise by a half foot by 2030 — and up to 7 feet by 2100.

What’s at stake? More than $150 billion in property could be at risk of flooding by 2100, far more devastating than the state’s worst earthquakes and wildfires.

  • “Progress of sea level rise preparation across the state’s coastal communities has been slow. Coastal communities must increase both the extent and pace of sea level rise preparation efforts if California is to avoid the most severe, costly and disruptive impacts in the coming decades,” the report warns.

The report could act as a guide for lawmakers in the next year. For more, check out Julie Cart’s recent past project on how rising sea levels are threatening California.

Suing to drop the SATs

SAT study guides at Barnes and Noble bookstore in Emeryville (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

Compton Unified School District is among those suing to get the University of California to drop the SAT and ACT tests. The district is part of a coalition alleging that those standardized tests discriminate against applicants who are low-income, from underrepresented backgrounds, or have a disability.

  • One plaintiff, high school senior Kawika Smith, said hunger, homelessness and trauma from domestic violence affected his ability to score well on the SAT, despite having a GPA of more than 3.5.
  • His classmates signed up for test prep classes that he couldn’t afford.
  • “I kept questioning if I was intelligent enough, but I figured it out. This test is flawed.”

A faculty task force is expected to make a recommendation on whether to drop the tests by early next year.

  • “We are disappointed that plaintiffs are filing a lawsuit when the University of California has already devoted substantial resources to studying this complex issue,” said UC spokesperson Claire Doan.

Problem solving is hard. Multiple studies have shown that students’ family income and race are strongly associated with their SAT performance. The College Board, which administers the test, argues it helps differentiate applicants from a variety of high schools that award grades differently.

For more on that debate, and what a post-SAT world might look like, check out this story from CalMatters higher education reporter Felicia Mello. 

Businesses aim to stop arbitration ban

#metoo sexual harassment

Business groups are suing to overturn a ban on arbitration agreements. A coalition led by the California Chamber of Commerce filed a complaint in federal court seeking to overturn a law set to take effect Jan. 1.

AB 51 prohibits employers from offering and entering into arbitration agreements with their workers. It allows workers to seek damages and attorneys’ fees and even opens up employers to criminal liability.

During the legislative session, the author of the bill, Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, said it was needed to protect food service, hospitality and retail workers, who may be forced into arbitration agreements, while also combating companies that use this strategy to keep sexual-harassment claims out of public view in the #MeToo era.

The chamber argues the law is pre-empted by federal law.

  • “It doesn’t make sense to place businesses at risk for criminal penalties for a practice that has been favored by California and federal law and consistently upheld by the courts,” says Allan Zaremberg, president and CEO of CalChamber.

Worth noting: Former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed similar legislation on the grounds that it was illegal, but Newsom signed AB 51 with backing from First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

Walters special: Rise of health care

A health care rally at California's Capitol. AP Photo by Rich Pedroncelli
A health care rally at California’s Capitol (AP Photo by Rich Pedroncelli)

Medical care is now the state’s largest economic sector. How did it get this way, and how will it shape political decisions? Columnist Dan Walters explores the economic and political ramifications of the health industry in a special piece for CalMatters.

How he breaks it down:

  • The industry now tops $400 billion a year — or about $10,000 for every Californian.
  • If Newsom tries to make good on his campaign promise to create a single-payer, state-directed system, it will be the mother of all political battles.

What’s fueling the industry’s growth? The federal government pays half of that pie, driven by the expansion of Medi-Cal under the Affordable Care Act (thanks Obama!). Meanwhile, state and local governments make up another 20%, while employers and consumers pick up the rest.

  • Looking ahead: Population growth and demographic changes – ahem, baby boomers – will continue to drive major decisions.

Commentary at CalMatters

Nat Kreamer and Mark Ferron, Advanced Energy Economy: More than half a million Californians work in the advanced energy industry, which makes the products and services required to power economies with 100% clean, reliable, safe electricity. Partnering with this industry will provide Gov. Newsom and his team expertise and resources to help solve California’s wildfires and blackout crisis.


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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...