Good morning, California. It’s Monday, September 28.
Controversial bills remain
Gov. Gavin Newsom has just three days left to sign or veto some of the most high-profile and controversial bills of the legislative session — including a spate of proposals to police the police, a bill that would establish a state reparations committee, and a bill that would mandate the racial makeup of corporate boards.
The governor lightened the load of bills on his desk Friday and over the weekend, while also announcing plans to shut down a state prison in Tracy within a year — following through on a promise to close at least one prison while in office.
Here’s a look at some of the key measures Newsom signed into law and what they mean for Californians.
- A bill requiring health insurance plans to dramatically expand mental health and addiction coverage. Supporters say the Golden State is now a national leader; opponents say health care costs will shoot up.
- A bill certifying “peer providers,” or Californians with their own histories of mental illness, to help others with similar challenges.
- A bill that requires state prisons to place transgender, gender nonconforming and intersex inmates in facilities based on their gender identity, rather than their sex assigned at birth.
- A bill that sets up a state consumer financial protection agency.
- A bill to license and regulate debt collectors.
- A bill that creates a student loan bill of rights.
And as Newsom’s Sept. 30 deadline to act on bills approaches, here are a few others I’m keeping an eye on:
- A proposal to create a state Office to End Homelessness, helmed by a new “homelessness czar.” Newsom said the crisis of more than 150,000 Californians living on the street “must be at the top of our agenda,” but said last month he already has a homelessness czar — a title he’s used to refer to six different people, including himself.
- A proposal to expand the role of nurse practitioners. Supporters say it could plug the state’s health provider shortage and opponents say it poses a threat to patient safety.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Sunday night, California had 802,308 confirmed coronavirus cases and 15,587 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.
One of the most contentious propositions on California’s November ballot promises to hike property taxes on faceless corporations and wealthy landlords. But some warn the measure contains a glaring hole — and that many mom-and-pop shops are going to fall in. Read more from CalMatters’ Ben Christopher.
Other stories you should know
1. PG&E shuts off power amid gusty winds
PG&E shut off power for around 65,000 customers in 16 counties Sunday — mainly in the Sierra Nevada foothills — to lessen fire risk as dry, powerful winds continue to buffet the state. The utility scaled back the scope of its planned shutoffs due to improving weather conditions, but expanded them in Napa County due to the fast-growing Glass Fire, which ignited early Sunday morning. PG&E shut off power earlier this month for about 172,000 customers as strong winds pummeled the state, exacerbating the historic fires that have now scorched more than 3.7 million acres.
Never in modern history has so much of California been ablaze — including parts of the state long thought to be immune from wildfires. CalMatters’ Julie Cart explores why the ancient, fog-shrouded rainforests that line the North Coast are now under siege from massive wildfires.
- Crystal Kolden, a UC Merced wildlife researcher: “This idea that there are places that we can live in California that are safe from fire is a pipe dream.”
2. California NAACP president facing questions
The president of the California NAACP has been paid more than $1.2 million for her work as a political consultant on the campaigns of five November ballot measures — campaigns the state NAACP has also formally endorsed, leading critics to argue that the renowned civil rights organization’s endorsement appears to be for sale, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports. First, it isn’t clear how the state NAACP arrives at endorsement decisions. Second, president Alice Huffman is working on and being paid by campaigns that critics say run counter to the NAACP’s mission of advancing racial equity in education, housing and criminal justice. Huffman has been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by the campaigns opposing Prop. 15, which would raise commercial property taxes to funnel billions of dollars into schools, and Prop. 25, which would eliminate cash bail. The California NAACP also opposes both propositions.
- Carroll Fife of the NAACP’s Oakland chapter: “I feel like it’s a conflict of interest and I think it’s misleading to the public. It’s unfortunate. Politics is gross.”
3. Feinstein and Harris’ Supreme Court strategy
President Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett for the Supreme Court Saturday, raising questions about the strategy California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris will employ as the lead Democrats during Barrett’s confirmation hearings, scheduled to begin Oct. 12. Barrett is Catholic, and both Feinstein and Harris have been accused of anti-Catholic bias during past judicial hearings — in Feinstein’s case, against Barrett herself. But questioning how Barrett’s religious beliefs influence her legal interpretation of issues like abortion and same-sex marriage could backfire as Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and running mate Harris court Catholic voters backing away from Trump, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
- Robert Jones, CEO of Public Religion Research Institute: “Anything that could be interpreted toward casting aspersions on someone because of their religion could be a real misstep because it could be construed as religious bigotry. … And that could be used to political advantage for Trump.”
4. Progress report: Housing the homeless
California’s $150 million effort to temporarily house homeless people in hotel rooms during the pandemic is drawing to a close amid uncertain federal funding — and many seem likely to return to the streets. Statewide, more than 16,400 hotel rooms were acquired through Project Roomkey and around 11,700 were occupied, CalMatters’ tracker shows. But in Los Angeles County, more than a third of the roughly 6,600 people who moved into hotel rooms have left. Of those, more than 50% are unaccounted for, 20% have returned to the street, 10% went to permanent housing and 3% went to another shelter, the Los Angeles Times reports. And in San Francisco, next steps remain unclear for many of the 2,340 homeless people living in hotels. But amid a dearth of permanent supportive housing, they may be forced to return to shelters or encampments, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
Newsom in June unveiled an ambitious plan to use $600 million in federal funding to convert hotels and motels into permanent supportive housing for homeless Californians. The catch: The money has to be spent by the end of the year — which doesn’t give local governments much time to execute the complex, lengthy conversions.
Sept. 29 — Oct. 3: The Voice of San Diego’s Politifest, a virtual public affairs summit of debates, panels and one-on-one interviews. Register here.
- Oct. 3: Prop. 22: How It Could Affect the Future of Work, a debate moderated by CalMatters economy reporter Lauren Hepler.
- Oct. 3: A Conversation About Police Reform. Alain Stephens from The Trace asks California Attorney General Xavier Becerra what the future of policing should look like.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The state has issued new housing quotas aimed directly at local officials who resist development, setting up a legal and political showdown.
Newsom should sign Assembly Bill 1950: Decreasing probation lengths is good policy and consistent with public safety, writes Nila Bala of the R Street Institute.
Politics of gender: As California women work to gain more political seats, Democrats are doing well but Republicans need to catch up, argue Steve and Susie Swatt, coauthors of “Paving the Way: Women’s Struggle for Political Equality.”
Including Jews: California’s ethnic studies curriculum must celebrate Jews, specifically Jews of color, writes Roselyne Swig of the Jewish Community Relations Council.
Other things worth your time
Seven reasons why Gavin Newsom has the worst job in politics. // Politico
Welcome to Zoom University. That’ll be $500. // CalMatters
CSU Long Beach in lockdown after five students test positive for COVID-19. // Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles County doesn’t see post-Labor Day spike in coronavirus numbers. // Los Angeles Times
This LA company was hit with the state’s largest-ever COVID-19 fine. // Los Angeles Times
San Diego charter schools sue state, seeking funding for thousands of students. // San Diego Union-Tribune
California cranks up mail-in voting. // Capitol Weekly
It’s time to leave the West Coast. // The Atlantic
See you tomorrow.
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