Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, September 24.

More executive orders coming

In his most dramatic move yet against climate change, Gov. Gavin Newsom directed state officials to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars in California starting in 2035 — an action sure to escalate the Golden State’s contentious relationship with the Trump administration and potentially launch a flurry of legal battles.

The governor’s Wednesday executive order also tasks the state Legislature with halting new fracking permits by 2024 — a timeline unlikely to satisfy environmental groups, including one that threatened Monday to sue Newsom for issuing a slew of new oil and gas fracking permits this summer.

However, California can only ban gas-powered cars with the federal government’s approval — something President Donald Trump is highly unlikely to grant Newsom, especially given an ongoing legal battle over the Golden State’s power to regulate tailpipe emissions more strictly than the feds. The policy is therefore “highly dependent on who is elected President” in November, a UCLA environmental law professor told CalMatters’ Rachel Becker.

  • Newsom: “This is the trendline that will become a headline around the rest of the world. And we’re not just going to be in the back of this bus. We’re going to be leading … we’re going to be driving this celebrated change.”
  • White House spokesman Judd Deere: “President Trump won’t stand for it.”

Newsom and Trump have frequently tussled over climate change in recent months. Days before Trump visited California for a politically thorny wildfire briefing, Newsom declared a “climate damn emergency” and slammed the federal government for rolling back environmental protections. More than half of the 91 lawsuits California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has filed against the Trump administration deal with federal environmental laws. 

  • Newsom: “We’re just getting started. We are working on a series of additional executive orders. We are committed more broadly on the whole spectrum of climate change to look at energy efficiency, to look at biodiversity … to radically change the way we produce and consume energy.”

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Wednesday night, California had 787,470 confirmed coronavirus cases and 15,204 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.


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Other stories you should know

1. Cal State names new chancellor

Dr. Joseph Castro. Photo courtesy of Fresno State University

The new head of the California State University system — the nation’s largest public four-year university — will be Joseph Castro, the current president of Fresno State, the CSU Board of Trustees announced Wednesday. Castro will take over the 23-campus system Jan. 4 as the first California native and first Mexican American to do so, and will be responsible for steering it through massive budget cuts, staff layoffs and public health concerns due to the coronavirus pandemic. To learn more about Castro, check out this Q&A with CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn and Felicia Mello.

Two of California’s three public education systems gained new leaders this summer. In July, Michael Drake was named the new president of the University of California system.

2. A California exodus and the Red State Dream

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters; iStock

Have you heard of the Facebook groups “Conservatives Leaving California” or “Life after California”? Disillusioned residents — many of them fed up with Democrat-dominated politics, high taxes, unaffordable housing and homelessness — are coming together by the tens of thousands in conservative online groups, fueling a cottage industry of real estate agents and mortgage lenders encouraging residents to move to states like Arizona, Idaho, Texas and Utah, CalMatters’ Lauren Hepler reports. The groups target prospective transplants who skew white, right and over 30, often interspersing photos of brick houses and gleaming pools with ominous articles about Black Lives Matter protests, crime, immigration and pandemic closures.

  • Scott Fuller, who started LeavingTheBayArea.com and LeavingSoCal.com: “There’s a fair percentage of them that don’t know where they wanna go. They just know they want to go somewhere else.”
  • Bill Bishop, author of The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart: “What they’re doing is selling a way of life that then corresponds to political choice. It’s kind of pathetic, actually, but what the hell.”

3. Close race for Prop. 22

Image via iStock

One of the most controversial and high-profile measures on California’s November ballot — which also recently became the most expensive campaign in state history — looks like it’s in for a tight race. Around 39% of voters said they support Prop. 22, which would exempt gig-economy companies like Uber and Lyft from a state law requiring them to treat workers as employees, compared to 36% against and 25% undecided, according to a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll released Wednesday. Prop. 22 is the latest iteration in a long-running battle between California and the gig-economy giants, with California filing multiple lawsuits against them for failing to reclassify drivers as full-fledged employees and Uber and Lyft threatening last month to shut down operations in the Golden State. For more on Prop. 22, check out CalMatters’ voter guide.


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Upcoming events

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.

Recommended panels:

  • 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 commentary

Prioritize vaccine for most vulnerable: The question of who will get a COVID-19 vaccine first presents a major equity test for California, writes Dr. Anthony Iton of the California Endowment.

Newsom should sign Assembly Bill 2004: One of the biggest obstacles to developing a robust COVID-19 test result tracking system is consumer privacy. A solution is on the governor’s desk, argue Assemblymember Ian Calderon, a Whittier Democrat, and Ally Medina of the Blockchain Advocacy Coalition.

Funding at risk: When the election is over, we could be dealing with inaccurate census numbers that could take a toll on California’s financial well-being for the next 10 years, write Tony Quinn and Marva Diaz of California Target Book.


Other things worth your time

Protests start in Bay Area following Breonna Taylor grand jury decision. // San Francisco Chronicle

Los Angeles hid a methane leak for a year. Activists want the power plant shut down. // Los Angeles Times

Bay Area planning agency advances 60% employer work-from-home mandate despite criticism. // San Francisco Chronicle

Thought no one was answering calls at California’s unemployment department? You were nearly right. // Sacramento Bee

Over 1,000 likely died early due to California’s wildfire smoke. // Sacramento Bee

Domestic workers ask Newsom to extend workplace protections. // CalMatters

California sees steep drop in child abuse reports since school campuses closed. // EdSource

Berkeley passes ordinance requiring healthy snacks at grocery checkout aisles. // San Francisco Chronicle


See you tomorrow.

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