In summary

Zombie votes and delayed results expected today. Bill would protect workers who use medical marijuana. Business and labor groups spent big on primary.

Good Election Day morning, California.

  • After polls close at 8 p.m., you’ll be able to follow election results at CalMatters by clicking here.
  • CalMatters’ election bot will track live results, @calmatterselect.

Zombie votes. Delayed results

an election worker for the Sacramento County Registrar of Voters, hands an "I Voted" sticker to a voter
Photo by Rich Pedroncelli (AP)

Millions of Californians will cast ballots today for a Democratic presidential nominee, a $15 billion school bond, plus candidates running for top-two spots in legislative races.

Expect delayed results, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Castillo reports

Paul Mitchell of Political Data, Inc., who tracks such things, predicts 10 million total ballots will be cast. As many as 4 million ballots arrived by mail in county registrars’ offices on Monday, and another 4 million voters will go to polling places today.

  • Ballots postmarked today still will be counted.

Zombie votes: Mitchell estimates 350,000-400,000 Californians voted early for Democratic candidates who have pulled out.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar ended her candidacy on Monday, a day after former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg dropped out. Both endorsed former Vice President Joe Biden. 

San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer, who also quit the race, did not endorse and pulled his ads.

  • But over the weekend, some Steyer ads still aired critical of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, presumably Biden’s main remaining rival for less liberal voters.

Californians who cast votes for ex-candidates are out of luck, John Myers of The L.A. Times reports. They’re in good company. 

Buttigieg’s most prominent California supporter, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, told me she mailed in her ballot on Friday:

  • “So now I’m cooling my heels and looking to see how my fellow Californians vote.”

To read Castillo’s report, please click here.

Obamacare in peril

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra
Attorney General Xavier Becerra (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a challenge that could gut the Affordable Care Act, former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement. The case has huge ramifications for California and national politics.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, Democratic-controlled states and the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives are defending the law against the challenge by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, Republican-controlled states and the Trump administration.

The Republicans seek to invalidate the entire act, including:

  • Protections against people being denied coverage because of preexisting conditions
  • Requirements for mental health care coverage
  • Whether young adults up to age 26 can remain on their parents’ health care plans
  • A guarantee of Indian health care services

Before the law, almost 20% of Californians had no health insurance. Now, all but 7.2% of Californians have coverage.

At risk:

  • 4 million Californians who receive Medi-Cal because of the law
  • 1.5 million Californians who receive health insurance under Obamacare
  • $25 billion in federal aid, more than the state spends on the public university and prison systems combined

Anthony Wright of Health Access California, and a champion of what the act has delivered: 

  • “It is terrifying that we are in a situation where one court case could leave millions of Californians without coverage.

What’s next: Oral arguments could take place this fall, ensuring the issue will be central to campaigns for the presidency and Congress.

COVID-19 update

Gov. Gavin Newsom with his top health aides last week talking about COVID-19

Coronavirus’ death toll rose to six in Washington state, while the number of cases increased in California, predictably, as authorities tested more individuals for the virus

As of Monday afternoon, California identified 43 cases of coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. 

  • More than half of those cases are from repatriation flights.
  • Four cases were attributed to “community transmission,” meaning victims had not traveled abroad or been in contact with people who had.

California Health & Human Services Secretary Mark Ghaly: 

  • “These new cases were quickly identified and isolated thanks to the increased testing capacity and aggressive contact tracing deployed by state and local public health departments in partnership with the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”

Meanwhile: Gavin Newsom requested $20 million from the Legislature to better respond to the spread of COVID-19. 

Newsom activated the State Operations Center at Mather Field east of Sacramento to the second-highest level to provide support to state, federal and local health officials and first responders.

P.S. The governor has not declared a state of emergency, though some counties have.

A new civil right, perhaps

Close up of marijuana growing for a marijuana supplier.
A bill would grant broad legal protections to medical marijuana users. (File photo)

Californians who have a doctor’s note to use marijuana would gain broad legal protections against job discrimination under newly introduced legislation.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, Alameda Democrat, introduced Assembly Bill 2355, which would grant people, who use medical marijuana, protections under the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, one of the state’s foundational civil rights laws.

That act guarantees individuals the right to be hired and work free of job discrimination based on their race, religion, national origin, physical disability, mental disability, medical condition, marital status, sex, gender, gender identity, age, sexual orientation, or military and veteran status.

Bonta’s bill, which is backed by the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, would expand that list to include cannabis users who have medical marijuana cards issued by doctors.

Bills never die: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger vetoed similar legislation in 2008. Bonta introduced an almost identical bill in 2018 when Jerry Brown was governor. It stalled.

Every major employer organization opposed the 2018 version, warning in a letter that the bill would require employers to “hire known marijuana users without recourse if the employee is impaired on the job.” 

Proposition 64, the 2016 initiative that legalized the commercial sale of weed, specifically said employers could maintain drug and alcohol-free workplaces.

What changed: Gavin Newsom became governor. Although he was a leading proponent of Proposition 64, Newsom has given no public indication that he would sign such a bill if it were to reach his desk.

Uber and Lyft’s climate issue

Toyota Prius Hybrid vehicle offering rides for UBER and LYFT
Toyota offering rides for Uber and Lyft (Photo by Andrei Stanescu/iStock)

Uber and Lyft are bigger greenhouse gas polluters than they should be, recent reports say. And California’s climate enforcers aim to fix that, CalMatters’ Carlyn Kranking writes.


  • The Legislature in 2018 approved legislation directing the California Air Resources Board to increase electric vehicle miles within ride-hailing companies. 
  • The California Public Utilities Commission must enforce those rules when they take effect, in 2023.  

Ride-hailing makes up a fraction of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet their contribution to climate-warming emissions is outsized, because of the distance they travel between rides, some scientists believe.

Daniel Sperling, of the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis and an air board member:

  • “In some cases we’re picking on them, with laws and rules like this. But on the other hand, it’s kind of a first step towards doing good, sustainable transportation policy. They’re the guinea pigs.” 

Uber lobbyist Austin Heyworth, at a recent air board meeting, expressed Uber’s support for the air board’s efforts:

  • “We’re serious about our environmental impact.” 

Lyft said it is “striving to make every ride 100% electric over time.”

Keep moving along

Evan Low listens as another man speaks to him on the Assembly floor.
Speaker Anthony Rendon with Assemblyman Evan Low, December 2016

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, reacting to a CalMatters series about nonprofits overseen by legislators and their aides, wants transparency but isn’t suggesting changes to fundraising rules, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports.

Remind me: Rosenhall reported in her “Sweet Charity” series that nonprofits created by lawmakers, including Assemblyman Evan Low, are an increasingly common way to raise and spend money outside the limits of campaign finance law. 

  • Rendon: “I’m not sure if there should be a change. I think in general, the more transparency we have, the better.”

To read Rosenhall’s report, please click here.

Take a number: 19,146,000

Like a bullhorn, hundreds of millions of campaign dollars are amplifying the message from key industries to California voters.
Business and labor groups spent big in the primary. (Photo illustration)

No less than $19.146 million was spent on independent campaigns by business and labor groups leading up the March primary, the California Target Book reports.

The most costly race: $2.72 million spent on a Whittier-area Assembly seat, where Democrat Sylvia Rubio, sister of a state senator and an assemblywoman, faces Lisa Calderon, the stepmother of outgoing Assemblyman Ian Calderon. They’re all Democrats.

Business groups, which help moderate Democrats win seats, sided with Rubio.

Organized labor, which seeks to elect Democrats who will side with labor, spent heavily on Calderon.

Legislators are paid $114,877 annually. That’s beside the point. A lawmaker’s vote can determine the fate of legislation that can mean tens of millions for interest groups. That’s why they spend hundreds of thousands to select and elect candidates they can trust.

Commentary at CalMatters

Chris Micheli, Aprea & Micheli, Inc: California’s legislature passed a far-reaching labor bill. It could turn you into collateral damage. And the Legislature ought to fix it.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: Assembly Bill 5, which tightens up the legal definition of employee and codifies a state Supreme Court decision, is still highly controversial, and the last word on its effects has yet to be spoken.


A note: This is my last week writing and editing WhatMatters before Emily Hoeven takes over.

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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.