In summary

Cruise ship passengers headed to air force base for quarantine. Legislators want $2 billion to fight homelessness. Kamala Harris endorses Joe Biden.

Good morning, California. It’s Monday, March 9.

First: An introduction

You might have heard that WhatMatters is switching hands.

My name is Emily Hoeven, and I am thrilled to be the new author of WhatMatters. I’m taking over for one of Sacramento’s most respected journalists, Dan Morain, who launched this newsletter two years ago and retired from full-time work on Friday. I have big shoes to fill, but I’m ready to hit the ground running.

I want WhatMatters to be an essential daily read for anyone who cares about the most important developments in California. I also want WhatMatters to help more people care. I want this newsletter to be accessible, engaging and empowering.

I want to take readers with me into the Capitol and make its conversations, personalities and policies tangible so we can all be more invested in and informed about the state in which we live. 

A little more about me: I’m coming to Sacramento by way of Fremont, where I was born and raised. I grew up in a family that always debated something around the dinner table, which should prepare me well for the Capitol.

I graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in English and French, and have since combined those interests by working as a journalist in Montana, San Francisco and Salt Lake City and as an English teaching assistant in France. 

Returning to California made me realize I want to understand my home state on a deeper level. National politics often dominates the discourse, but many of the decisions directly shaping the lives of nearly 40 million Californians are made here, in Sacramento. 

I can’t wait to dive in. Thank you for joining me. 

Latest coronavirus update

The Grand Princess cruise ship will dock at the Port of Oakland today, and most of the nearly 1,000 Californians on board will be sent to Travis Air Force Base in Solano County for a 14-day quarantine, Gov. Gavin Newsom said Sunday. So far, 21 people aboard the ship have tested positive for COVID-19.

The Port of Oakland was chosen because of its size, its ability to be sealed off from the general public, and its proximity to Oakland International Airport and the air force base, Newsom said.

At last count, 114 Californians have tested positive for coronavirus. Newsom said that number will rise as testing capabilities expand throughout the state.

On Saturday, the state released health guidelines for schools, large events, and colleges and universities as COVID-19 spreads.

A new tax for homelessness?

A tent encampment in West Oakland. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
A group of Assembly members and mayors wants to earmark $2 billion a year in ongoing funding to tackle homelessness. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

$2 billion a year.

That’s how much a group of Assembly members and mayors wants to tackle homelessness.

This is in addition to the $1.4 billion Newsom earmarked for homelessness in his proposed 2020 budget. The main difference? Newsom’s funding was a one-time allotment, whereas AB 3300, led by Assemblyman Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles, would provide $2 billion in ongoing funding.

  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf on Friday: “This is not just a crisis, this is a systems failure. If we do not make ongoing sustained efforts to correct the housing insecurity that is plaguing all of California … we will have failed in our duty as public servants.”

What remains unclear is where this stream of money will come from. The bill says it will be drawn from California’s General Fund, but lawmakers acknowledged that other sources — such as a new tax — will be considered.

  • Assemblyman Rob Bonta of Alameda: “A dedicated source of new revenue is possible, but the General Fund is also possible. … Everything’s on the table.”

Raising taxes would be a hard sell, especially during an election season. But Gov. Gavin Newsom acknowledged the need for “significant sustainable revenue” to fight homelessness in his State of the State speech, pledging to “identify this ongoing revenue.” He added later, however, that more revenue means more accountability.

More to come: The mayors of California’s 13 largest cities are meeting with Newsom and legislative leaders this morning to discuss funding for homelessness. We’ll keep you updated on what they say.

Four stories you need to know

1. Sen. Kamala Harris endorses Joe Biden for president

Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris at an October gun safety forum in Las Vegas, weeks before her withdrawal from the race. Photo by John Locher, AP Photo
Former Democratic presidential candidate Kamala Harris (AP Photo by John Locher)

Harris shared her endorsement via video tweet Sunday, becoming the sixth former Democratic presidential contender to come out in support of Biden. Harris’ name has been floated as a potential running mate for Biden.

“I believe in Joe. I really believe in him, and I have known him for a long time,” Harris said. “He is a public servant who has always worked for the best of who we are as a nation, and we need that right now.”

2. GOP is doing relatively well in state Assembly races

Image via iStock

Here’s a quick California election update courtesy of CalMatters political reporter Ben Christopher. But keep in mind there are still 3.2 million ballots to count!

  • Presidential primary: Bernie Sanders leads with 33.9% of the vote, compared with Joe Biden’s 26.6%.
  • Proposition 13: So far, 54.3% have voted against the $15 billion state school bond, compared with 45.7% who voted for it.
  • A few Assembly seats look promising for the GOP.
    • Assembly District 38: Two Republicans are likely to advance to the general election to vie for a seat currently held by a Democrat.
    • AD72: GOP incumbent Tyler Diep is neck-and-neck with a Democrat for a second-place finish to square off against a Republican in the general election.
    • AD36: It appears that Tom Lackey, arguably the most vulnerable Republican in the Assembly, will go up against Democrat Steve Fox, a former Republican accused of sexual harassment. Fox’s baggage-laden past could help Lackey win another two years in the seat.

3. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Jennifer Siebel Newsom release their 2018 tax returns

The couple took in around $1.2 million in 2018, according to an analysis of their tax filings by CalMatters’ Judy Lin.

Over $800,000 came from Newsom’s business ventures in the wine industry.

Newsom has pledged to release his tax returns while in office, criticizing President Donald Trump for not doing the same.

  • Last year, he signed a bill that would have required all presidential candidates to release their tax returns in order to appear on California’s presidential primary ballot.
  • Trump and the Republican National Committee sued, and the bill was later blocked by a federal judge.

4. Showdown between graduate students and the UC system

More than one hundred students gathered at UC Davis to make demands of the administration and stand in solidarity with striking graduate student workers at UC Santa Cruz on February 21, 2020. The demonstration was one of many across UC campuses this week. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
More than one hundred students gathered at UC Davis in solidarity with striking graduate student workers at UC Santa Cruz. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

California’s high cost of living strikes again — this time in the form of UC graduate students who are (literally) striking across the state, demanding that the UC system pay them a living wage.

The issue came to a head last month when 54 graduate students at UC Santa Cruz were fired from their teaching assistant jobs for withholding grades as a bargaining tool and at least 17 were arrested at a protest.

  • Now graduate students at UC Santa Barbara, Davis, LA, San Diego and Berkeley are jumping into the fray.

CalMatters commentary

Bond trouble: The apparent demise of Prop. 13, the $15 billion state school bond on last week’s ballot, represents Californians’ rising frustration with taxes and bonds. This spells trouble for a November ballot measure — and the assumption that increased government borrowing will always pass in liberal California, CalMatters columnist Dan Walters argues.

Homelessness solutions: California is its own worst enemy when it comes to homelessness, David Flanagan and Michele Steeb of Saint John’s Program for Real Change write. But here’s how the state can start making real change.

Other things worth your time

  • Break out your umbrellas Northern California will finally get some rain! Only three winters in recorded California history have been drier than this one, with around 34% of the state experiencing moderate drought. But meteorologists say the damage hasn’t been too bad — yet // The Mercury News
  • Modesto was featured in a hilarious Saturday Night Live soap opera skit “The Sands of Modesto” — with a little coronavirus thrown in. You’re going to want to watch this // SFGate

See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven wrote the daily WhatMatters newsletter for three years at CalMatters . Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco...