Good morning, California. It’s Friday, August 28.

Police reforms uncertain

Protests over racism and police brutality are reigniting across California following the Wisconsin police shooting of Jacob Blake, even as state lawmakers back away from a slate of police reform bills introduced after George Floyd’s death as the legislative session draws to a close.

As lawmakers churn through hundreds of bills before the session ends Monday, some police reform measures have failed to make the cut — including measures requiring cops to intervene if they witness excessive force by another officer, streamlining oversight boards of sheriff’s departments and limiting use of deadly force. Some remaining measures face uphill battles.

  • State Sen. Steven Bradford, a Gardena Democrat: “Many times you have … elected officials, who are there for the photo op, the press conference, but when it comes to standing up and doing the real thing, they fade to the shadows.”

Police unions asked Gov. Gavin Newsom Thursday to declare a special session so lawmakers have more time to consider the measures and don’t pass laws “rife with unintended consequences.” Newsom said he does not currently plan to do so.

Meanwhile, protesters returned to the streets this week. Hundreds marched peacefully in Oakland on Wednesday night, but tensions escalated after some demonstrators lit fires in a courthouse, set off fireworks, shattered windows and set a car on fire. Hundreds also gathered in Los Angeles, with 10 protesters arrested Wednesday. Amid peaceful protests in Sacramento, officials worried one scheduled Thursday night could turn violent.

Sports teams throughout the country — including California basketball, baseball, soccer and hockey teams — canceled games through at least Thursday in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Thursday night, California had 683,529 confirmed coronavirus cases and 12,550 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.


Other stories you should know

1. Republican senators banned from Capitol

The California State Senate chamber on opening day of the 2020 legislative session. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

All but one of California’s Republican state senators will be banned from the Capitol for the rest of the legislative session after being exposed to Sen. Brian Jones, a Santee Republican who tested positive for COVID-19, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports. Democratic Senate leader Toni Atkins on Thursday ordered 10 GOP senators to debate and cast their votes remotely in an unprecedented action at the end of a year like none other in Sacramento.

The dramatic move likely won’t affect the outcome of many bills, as Democrats control the Legislature with a large majority. But it sets the stage for partisan feuding — and potential legal challenges — during the frenzied final days of a legislative session that ends Monday.

  • Atkins: “We are actually running out of time if we want to get through the hundreds of bills that we still have to do.”

Sen. Jim Nielsen of Gerber — the only Republican not ordered to quarantine — said he was permitted on the Senate floor because he skipped a caucus meeting and dinner attended by other GOP senators. He lambasted the decision to only quarantine Republicans, pointing out Democrats had been in the Capitol with Jones just days earlier. Video from an Aug. 20 hearing shows Jones removing his mask to snack on chips and sip a beverage while everyone else in the room was wearing a mask.

  • Nielsen: “There is a hypocrisy of the majority that sometimes borders on arrogance.”

Whether the quarantined senators actually vote remotely remains to be seen. Many, including Jones, have argued that remote voting is unconstitutional. Atkins’ attorney said she was confident remote voting would withstand legal challenges.

2. Inside California’s dearth of firefighters

Three fire fighters asses the damage and implement protective measures in order to protect surroundings homes near Boulder Creek on Aug. 21, 2020. Photo by David Rodriguez, The Salinas Californian
Three firefighters near Boulder Creek on Aug. 21. Photo by David Rodriguez, The Salinas Californian

Never before have so many California fires burned so intensely so early in the season, when other Western states are still fighting their own blazes and can spare little aid. With firefighting crews stretched thin by more than 7,000 fires this year that have charred an area larger than Delaware, California has requested help from all 50 states and at least two countries, CalMatters’ Julie Cart reports. But with the Golden State’s fire season starting earlier and lasting longer, finding outside help is an uphill battle.

  • Tiffany Davila of the Arizona Department of Forestry and Fire Management: “We are still burning. New Mexico is still burning. Colorado and Nevada are asking for resources. … Usually by now we would be dialing down to the end of our season and would have crews to spare. … We are working in a new world.”

3. California adopts ambitious pollution rules

Oil tanker at the Port of Long Beach. Image via iStock

California adopted its biggest pollution-slashing regulations in over a decade Thursday when air officials passed two new rules: one that requires many of the ships that dock at California ports to further limit pollutants, and another that sets strict emission standards for diesel trucks. Though the new rules are expected to save billions of dollars in avoided deaths, hospitalizations and emergency room visits — particularly in disadvantaged communities — they also come with billions of dollars in regulatory costs, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports. This concerns unions and port officials, who say they could lose business to cheaper, less-regulated ports. And vehicle and engine manufacturers now face the prospect of making cars to comply with two different sets of standards — those of California and like-minded states, and those of the rest of the country.

4. California’s public education future uncertain

Maya Suzuki Daniels sits with her 14-month-old baby at the table where she teaches high school English. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters via Google Hangout

Is California in for a public education crisis? After all the controversy over how and whether to reopen schools, teachers unions are warning of more turmoil for parents, students and school districts. California Teachers Association President E. Toby Boyd told CalMatters’ Lauren Hepler that his powerful union is bracing for up to 60,000 layoffs and a funding shortfall of $20 billion — unless the state acts on new wealth and property taxes backed by the union and its allies. Also on the table: more teacher strikes like the ones last year in Oakland and Los Angeles. For teachers willing to “fight like hell” to stave off cuts at their schools, the backlash has already begun.

  • Maya Suzuki Daniels, a teacher at San Pedro High School: “We’re getting smeared … as being liberal and brainwashing the kids … but I really see it like look, do you want a country or not?”


CalMatters commentary

Mayors’ support for Prop. 15 doesn’t hold up: They say only the “biggest and wealthiest” corporations will be affected, but small businesses will be the true victims, argues Joel Fox, a Pepperdine University professor.

College prep, not prison prep: Newsom should sign Assembly Bill 901 to reduce criminalization of students of color and help us access the support we need, writes Zahria Martin-Thomas, an organizer with Youth Justice Coalition.

Protecting survivors of domestic violence: Senate Bill 1141 gives survivors more legal tools against abusers, a necessity amid the pandemic, argues state Sen. Susan Rubio, a Baldwin Park Democrat.

No on Senate Bill 1175: It would undermine African nations’ ability to conserve ecosystems by banning Californians from possessing African hunting trophies, writes Catherine Semcer of the Property and Environment Research Center.

Focus on solar: California’s clean energy hopes rest squarely on expanded use of solar energy and battery storage, writes Calvin Naito, a Los Angeles resident.


Other things worth your time

California Supreme Court to take up lawsuit over school reopening. // Orange County Register

Tighter federal rules end free meals for thousands of California students. // EdSource

‘I’m not getting by, I’m drowning’: Readers on losing the $600 federal unemployment benefits. // CalMatters

California will begin sending new $300 federal benefits the week of Sept. 7. // Los Angeles Times

Despite Newsom pledge, most nursing home inspectors still haven’t been tested for COVID-19. // Los Angeles Times

Pandemic tests an already-fragile mental health system at California colleges. // CalMatters’ College Journalism Network

How the wildfires are affecting California wine. // San Francisco Chronicle

See you Monday.

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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...