In summary

Election guide answers all your primary questions. Newsom restarts Delta water project. Motel vouchers help to house impoverished Fresno County families.

Good morning, California.

“The Facebook business model is strictly to make money. They don’t care about the impact on children, they don’t care about truth.”—House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as quoted in Politico.

Primary Election Guide, 2020

CalMatters’ election guide is live.

CalMatters’ latest election guide seeks to answer all your electoral needs leading up to the March 3 primary.

CalMatters’ Ben Christopher led a team that put together this nine-part project. It includes:

  • Analyses of the congressional, Senate and Assembly races worth watching
  • An analysis and video on the $15 billion school construction bond that will be on the ballot

We provide the facts in this one-stop guide. All you need to do is become informed and vote. To read it, please click here.

Newsom’s Delta project begins

Sacramento River in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, September 2019

Seeking to solve a problem that has vexed governors for decades, Gov. Gavin Newsom has taken an initial step toward restarting efforts to more efficiently move water from the Sacramento River south to farms and cities.

Remind me: Newsom scrapped Jerry Brown’s plan to bore twin tunnels from the Sacramento River 30 miles south to the massive pumps in Tracy. Instead, Newsom proposes to build a single, smaller tunnel, 36 feet in diameter.

Newsom’s Department of Water Resources issued a “Notice of Preparation,” a step that precedes an environmental impact report, something that will take a year or more.

The water would serve Santa Clara County, San Joaquin Valley and Southern California. 

  • Newsom administration officials say the tunnel is needed to ensure a reliable supply of water as sea level rises and salt water from San Francisco Bay intrudes further upstream.
  • Environmentalists fear the proposal would further damage the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. 

One change: Newsom is considering running the tunnel closer to Interstate 5, a step that could lessen the impact on the Delta.

Newsom’s goal is to win permits to begin the massive boring effort—the tunnel would be 150 feet below ground—within three years.

Brown made the twin tunnel project a high priority and was unable to gain the permits in eight years.

Enlisting motel owners

Fresno motels are being enlisted to combat homelessness. (Photo, John Walker/Fresno Bee)

In Fresno, motel vouchers, good for two weeks at a time, are like a golden ticket for impoverished families. Fresno County spends over a million dollars a year to house families in motels, The Fresno Bee’s Cresencio Rodriguez-Delgado reports.

But demand far exceeds the supply of livable quarters, partly because so many of the city’s budget hotels are in high-crime areas or substandard.

Now Fresno leaders are pushing motel owners to make improvements or face the possibility that their property could be repurposed into long-term housing.

  • Owners predict the effort will force them to raise room rates.
  • City leaders see it as a way to increase the supply of affordable family housing, and to make a class of business owners who often don’t live in the city more accountable. 

To read the full story, part of our California Divide collaboration, please click here.

Food stamp lawsuit

Antoinette Martinez uses CalFresh to pay for her groceries at FoodMaxx
Antoinette Martinez uses CalFresh to pay for groceries. (Photo, Anne Wernikoff/CalMatters)

California and 13 other states sued the Trump administration to block a rule that would eliminate food stamps for an estimated 688,000 Americans, CalMatters’ Jackie Botts reports

Under federal law, food stamp recipients who are able-bodied and don’t have kids must work at least 20 hours per week. Otherwise, they can only get the grocery money assistance for three months every three years.

  • Since the Great Recession, most California counties have received permission from the federal government to waive that requirement. 
  • 40 counties will lose that waiver starting April 1 under the new Trump administration rule.
  • More than 55,000 Californians would lose CalFresh in the first year.
  • 400,000 will be subject to the work requirement, according to California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s office.

The lawsuit claims the Trump regulation “unequivocally runs afoul of Congress’ intent” and violates long-standing policy. 

Plus, the regulation would disproportionately impact women and people of color who face persistent barriers to employment, the suit says.

To read Botts’ report, please click here.

Becerra has sued the Trump administration 65 times, as counted by CalMatters.

Falling short on climate goals

Cars stuck in traffic in San Francisco, California
Bay Area traffic (Photo, polybutmono/iStock)

California’s Legislature has set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to 40% below 1990 levels by 2030.

CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports that the think tank Energy Innovation concludes that California’s climate policies aren’t strict enough for the state to meet those legislatively imposed goals.

  • Under the best case, California will reduce climate-warming pollution about 36% below 1990 levels by 2030. 
  • Under the worst case, California would be 30% below 1990s levels. 

Chris Busch, Energy Innovation’s research director:

  • “We’re all watching Australia burning, right? Delay is not our friend in getting to a safe climate.”

The report proposes ramping up clean car targets, cutting carbon emissions from the cement industry, and vastly increasing the number of electric water heaters.

Meanwhile: The California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday earmarked $44.7 million in ratepayer money to replace gas-fired water heaters with electric heaters.

H.L. Richardson, 1927-2020

H.L. Richardson (Photo, Gun Owners of California)

H.L. Richardson, one of the most influential conservatives of his generation, has died, Gun Owners of California, one of the organizations he created, announced. He was 92.

Richardson left the Southern California advertising business for politics in 1966, serving 22 years in the state Senate, and turning the previously staid institution more partisan. 

Richardson, who lived in the Sierra foothills, took a hand in electing dozens of conservatives and defeating Democrats, including California Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Bird, a liberal and an early Jerry Brown appointee, in 1986.

His Gun Owners of California and Gun Owners of America helped push the National Rifle Association to become more politically engaged, and he helped push the Republican Party to the right.

He was a pioneer in the use of direct mail, voter targeting and raising money in small increments.

Former Assembly Republican Leader Pat Nolan, a protégé:

  • “He revolutionized politics in the Capitol.”

Republican strategist Wayne C. Johnson spent a half-dozen years working for Richardson’s political operation: 

  • “He stormed on the scene and had a lasting impact by revolutionizing how campaigns were run and ratcheting up the use of technology.”

Look for CalMatters columnist Dan Walters’ remembrance on Monday.

Commentary at CalMatters

Sen. Ling Ling Chang, Diamond Bar Republican: With sex-trafficked children constantly kept on the move, law enforcement agencies in multiple jurisdictions and nonprofit service providers must work together. That’s why I introduced Senate Bill 35. Although Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed this legislation, I remain steadfast in my commitment to combating sexual predators who take advantage of trafficking victims.

Betty Yee, State Controller, reacts to a Dan Walters column.


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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.