In summary

Newsom gets first pick to California Supreme Court. Bill would tie corporate tax rates to CEO pay. Tax credit benefiting Hollywood continues to grow.

Good morning, California.

“I am very proud to have opened some doors for others of my ancestry, but I will be most proud when it is no longer unusual for minorities to hold the kinds of positions in which I have had the privilege to serve.”—California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin, as quoted in The L.A. Times.

Newsom to get a high court pick

California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin
California Supreme Court Justice Ming Chin (Photo by Shawn Calhoun via Flickr)

Gov. Gavin Newsom, the son of a judge, will get his first California Supreme Court appointment as Justice Ming Chin is stepping down from the seven-member court.

Appointed by Gov. Pete Wilson in 1996, Chin, 77, is the longest tenured justice on the current court. He announced his decision Wednesday, effective in August. 

Chin was seen as a moderate early in his tenure. But as appointees of Wilson and Gov. George Deukmejian retired over the years, Chin was more of a conservative voice, though most California Supreme Court decisions are unanimous.

  • Newsom: “Justice Chin’s success exemplifies the promise of California, where a son of potato farmers could become a Supreme Court justice, and in turn help grow the next generation of lawyers and jurists in our state.”
  • The L.A. Times’ Maura Dolan on Chin’s tenure.

Unlike federal justices, California Supreme Court justices are not appointed for life. They must face voters every 12 years in retention elections. Still, Supreme Court appointments are among governors’ most lasting legacies

Keep in mind:

Tying corporate taxes to CEO pay

Abigail Disney, center, testifies in favor of Sen. Nancy Skinner’s bill, SB 37, which would change the corporate tax rate to limit the earnings of CEOs in proportion to their workers
Abigail Disney, center, testifies for Sen. Nancy Skinner’s bill. She is flanked by Skinner and Art Pulaski, leader of the California Labor Federation.

The corporate tax rate would rise from its current 8.84% to as much as 14.84% under a bill that cleared its first hurdle Wednesday.

Democratic Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley proposes to tie a company’s tax rate to the compensation ratio of its highest-paid employee, usually the chief executive officer, to all other workers.  

The greater the spread, the higher the tax. The organized labor-backed bill would apply to companies with $10 million or more in profits.

Supporter Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Disney co-founder Roy Disney, noted that 50 years ago, the pay ratio of Disney’s CEO to workers was 20 to 1. Today, dozens of corporations have a ratio of over 1,000 to 1, including Walmart, Gap and McDonald’s.

  • Ms. Disney: “This is a moral question. Should not the everyday considerations take a backseat to the fact that significant segments of our fellow Americans are drowning while the rest of us are dining at the captain’s table refusing to throw them so much as a life jacket?”

The California Taxpayers Association and the California Business Roundtable contend raising taxes on businesses would lead to job losses. 

The bill passed on a 4-2 vote, with Democrats supporting it and Republicans opposed. Democratic Sen. Melissa Hurtado, who unseated a Republican in Kern County in 2018, didn’t cast a vote.

Next stop: Senate Rules Committee.

Film tax credits and Oscar

iStock photo

California’s film tax credit has grown threefold in 10 years from $100 million to $330 million a year, signaling the state’s willingness to defend Hollywood, a flagship industry.  

California’s Hollywood tax credit has become the “Titanic” of state economic incentives. It’s sprawling, sentimental and popular across the political spectrum despite a formidable expense, CalMatters’ Adria Watson writes.

On Oscar night, Californians rooting for such nominees as “Once Upon A Time…in Hollywood,” “Marriage Story” or “Ford v Ferrari” could thank themselves as well as the Academy.

Golden State audiences underwrote the productions by paying for the movie tickets and Netflix subscriptions, and by having legislators earmark their tax dollars for movie studios to produce them in-state.

The rub: Policy analysts question whether the program pays for itself. And plenty of moviemakers have stayed in California, even without a tax credit, as CalMatters’ Shawn Hubler wrote in this piece on “Lady Bird,” a 2018 Best Picture nominee.

To read Watson’s piece, please click here.

Culture war flares

Sen. Mike Morrell addresses supporters of his ‘parents’ rights’ bill on Wednesday.

Scores of Christian ministers, parents and grandparents packed a Senate hearing Wednesday urging passage of legislation that would have given parents greater power to shield grammar school children against what they fear is inappropriately explicit sex education.

The Democratic-controlled Senate Education Committee rejected the bill by Republican Sen. Mike Morrell of Rancho Cucamonga.

Under the bill, public schools would have required parents’ signatures specifically opting into sex education for children kindergarten-6th grade. 

  • Senate staff analysis: “Comprehensive sexual health education in lower grades has always been, and remains, optional.”

Supporters: California Catholic Conference, California Family Council, Islamic Shura Council of Southern California and California Right to Life Committee.

Opponents: California Medical Association, PTA, ACLU, California Federation of Teachers and Planned Parenthood. 

Opponents argue California’s teen-pregnancy rate is at an all-time low in part because of sex education.

Morrell took aim at Democrats after the vote, telling supporters outside the Capitol:

  • “They seem to have embraced the political ideologies of Marx and Lenin over those of Lincoln and Washington … They come out of the closet, ladies and gentlemen, as socialists. So we have to come out of the closet as conservative Christians and take back our state for our children.”

Meanwhile: The Senate Education Committee approved legislation to prohibit public and private colleges from inquiring about applicants’ criminal history. The bill faces several more hurdles.

  • Senate staff analysis: “It does not appear that asking about criminal history on college admission applications is widespread, but it does happen. This bill would prohibit that practice.”

Voters’ top concern: homelessness

Homeless encampments like this one in Santa Cruz contribute to rising public concern about homelessness and housing in California. Photo by Dan Coyro/Santa Cruz Sentinel
A homeless encampment in Santa Cruz (Photo by Dan Coyro/Santa Cruz Sentinel)

More Californians than ever say Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature should make tackling homelessness their top priority for the year, a new Public Policy Institute of California survey shows.

CalMatters’ Ben Christopher breaks it down

  • Homelessness was named the number one priority by 23% of likely voters.
  • Another 11% named housing costs.
  • PPIC President Mark Baldassare: “It’s never, ever been in the double digits.”

Other noteworthy findings:

  • 49% of voters approve of Newsom’s job performance, and 42% disapprove.
  • By a 53%-36% margin, voters support a $15 billion bond measure on the March ballot to fund public school and university construction.
  • 38% of California voters approve of President Trump’s jo performance, and 61% disapprove, including 21% of self-described conservatives.
  • California voters support President Trump’s impeachment 58-40%, and removal from office 57%-40%.
  • 83% of Republican voters approve of Trump’s performance, and only 13% believe he should have been impeached. 

However, Republicans split from Trump on one of his signature issues:

  • 60% of Republican voters say undocumented immigrants should be allowed to remain in the country.
  • 62% believe the children of undocumented immigrants should be allowed to stay.

To read Christopher’s report, please click here.

Commentary at CalMatters

Debra Gore-Mann and Paul Goodman, Greenlining Institute: California needs to hold internet service providers accountable. The Federal Communications Commission—the federal agency that is supposed to regulate them—is being run by a chairman bent on eliminating every consumer protection he can get his hands on.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Will California force local communities to shelter the homeless? Gov. Gavin Newsom may be leaning in that direction.


Erratum: I misspelled Sen. Jim Beall’s name in Wednesday’s WhatMatters

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

Follow @danielmorain on Twitter, like CalMatters on Facebook, and follow us @CalMatters.

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.