In summary

Newsom seeks truce in water wars. Democrats renew push to ban flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes. Hospitalizations from lung-related vaping illness subside.

Good morning, California.

“This was a clear quid pro quo. And it’s at the heart of the argument in the first Article of impeachment: abuse of power. President Trump took this action to benefit himself personally and not for the good of the nation.”— Sen. Dianne Feinstein, explaining why she intends to vote today to remove Trump from office.

  • There had been speculation that she would vote against removal.

Seeking a truce in water wars

A male Chinook salmon returns from the Pacific to spawn. Photo via California Sea Grant/Flickr
A male Chinook salmon (Photo from California Sea Grant/Flickr)

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a framework Tuesday to end California’s forever water wars by restoring 60,000 acres of Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta wetland and more reliably delivering water to San Joaquin Valley farms and towns.

In a commentary for CalMatters, Newsom proposed voluntary agreements among the state, water users and environmentalists to allocate water and protect the environment. Newsom proposes a doubling of depleted salmon runs by 2050.

  • Water agencies that depend on the massive State Water Project seem supportive. Some environmentalist groups gave initial praise. 
  • The State Water Resources Control Board would need to approve any agreements.

The Newsom administration late last year announced plans to sue the Trump administration over Trump’s proposal for pumping more water from the Delta to Central Valley farms. No suit has been filed.

Speaking to a Sacramento audience last week, Newsom made clear he had no desire to get involved in drawn-out litigation.

  • “You want to screw this person, screw that person. Spend seven years getting nothing done. I am the wrong person in this job. That is so easy. That is so predictable. I’m not going to do that.”

Newsom said he does not want to see more farmland fallowed for lack of water:

“I care deeply about folks in San Joaquin. It is not just Big Ag. It’s real people whose lives are being torn asunder because of the scarcity of water. That’s why I am pursuing voluntary agreements.”

What’s ahead: Newsom did not release terms. That will come in a month or so.

Flavored tobacco ban, redux

Disposable e-cigarettes with flavors like pineapple lemonade, sour apple and watermelon at a smoke shop
Disposable e-cigarettes with flavors like pineapple lemonade, sour apple and watermelon. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

California Democrats once again are pushing to ban flavored tobacco and e-cigarettes, as a way to discourage underage vaping, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reports.

  • A quarter of high-schoolers reported using e-cigarettes in 2019.

Democratic Sen. Jerry Hill of San Mateo is carrying Senate Bill 793 to prohibit the sale of flavored nicotine e-cigarettes and tobacco products, including menthol cigarettes and chewing tobacco.

  • Hill: “The gateway is the flavored product, and we can’t leave it to the industry to police themselves, because they failed to do that.”

Hill’s bill does not extend to flavored cannabis e-cigarettes. 

Politics: Democrats who control Sacramento generally shun tobacco. Most refuse tobacco industry donations.

However, Democratic lawmakers generally favor the cannabis industry, which has become a lobbying force since voters legalized commercial sales in 2016.

To read Aguilera’s report, please click here.

Vaping illness tapers down

Photo illustration

California recorded no new hospitalizations last week related to vaping-associated lung injury for the first time since the epidemic began in June 2019.

California’s Department of Public Health reports that since June, 204 people have been hospitalized and four people have died because of the EVALI, short for e-cigarette, vaping-associated lung illness.

  • 90% of the victims interviewed said they vaped exclusively cannabis products.
  • 10% said they vaped only nicotine.

The number of hospitalizations has generally been declining since the summer and fall. In the most recent week, authorities reported no new hospitalizations, although two new cases were reported.

Bayard Rustin: Righting a wrong

Bayard Rustin
Bayard Rustin (Photo by Stanley Wolfson, World Telegram & Sun, via Creative Commons)

Gov. Gavin Newsom granted a posthumous pardon to civil rights leader Bayard Rustin, a pacifist, humanitarian and a socialist who spent 50 days in jail after being arrested in Pasadena in 1953 while he was having sex with two other men in a car.

Newsom also announced an initiative opening the way for others to be pardoned for convictions of such crimes as vagrancy or loitering, code for sex between consenting adults.

  • Newsom: “Now, as a proudly LGBTQ-allied state, California is turning the page on historic wrongs.”

Sen. Scott Wiener, San Francisco Democrat, and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, San Diego Democratic, sent a letter to Newsom two weeks ago urging Newsom to pardon Rustin.

  • Rustin, who died in 1987, was a colleague of Martin Luther King Jr., and organized the 1963 March on Washington, at which King gave his “I Have a Dream Speech.”
  • Strom Thurmond, the racist South Carolina senator, denounced Rustin in 1963 as a “sex pervert,” and read into the Congressional Record his arrest report.
  • President Barack Obama awarded Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

To read more about Rustin, please see this 2011 Washington Post story.

A brief history lesson

Former Assembly Speaker Willie Brown

Long before marriage equality and a leading presidential candidate who happens to be gay, there was the “homosexual bill of rights,” California’s first-in-the nation law overturning a 19th century law that made sodomy, adultry and the like against the law.

Then-Assemblyman Willie Brown carried the Consenting Adult Sex Bill in in 1975, legalizing sex between consenting adults.

His leading opponent in the Senate was then-Sen. H.L. Richardson, a Republican who quoted Leviticus and called homosexuality an abomination. Richardson died last month

The organization, Equality California, provides this news account written at the time of the dramatic final vote on Brown’s bill, later signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown. Students of California history will recognize many of the names. 

I recognized one in particular, David Glascock, the late L.A. gay rights activist, who was a friend of mine.

  • “This could be the greatest victory in the history of the movement.”

David never would have imagined what has come about.

Commentary at CalMatters

Gov. Gavin Newsom: Inaction, recalcitrance and adherence to the status quo puts our water future at risk. The alternative to the voluntary agreements is a contentious regulatory process that will take many years and require adjudicating a thicket of litigation in every direction before restoring river flows.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Gov. Gavin Newsom is threatening a state seizure of Pacific Gas & Electric if it doesn’t meet his demands for change. Is it real or just a bluff?


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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.