Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, September 15.

Golden State in the spotlight

California took center stage on the national campaign trail Monday, with Republican President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden leveraging the state’s record-breaking fires to advance their respective political visions. The faceoff will likely continue today, with Democratic vice-presidential candidate Kamala Harris set to attend a wildfire briefing with Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials in Fresno.

Harris’ visit comes a day after Trump had his own wildfire briefing with Newsom near Sacramento. As CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports, the meeting presented a thorny political situation for the governor, who relies on Trump for federal disaster aid but is actively campaigning for Biden to win the presidency. Newsom and Trump also disagree on the principal reason for the fires, which Newsom says is a “climate damn emergency” and Trump says is forest mismanagement.

Biden and Trump also emphasized their different stances on the issue Monday.

  • Trump: “There has to be good, strong forest management, which I’ve been talking about for three years with this state. So hopefully they’ll start doing that.”
  • Biden: “If you give a climate arsonist four more years in the White House, why would anyone be surprised if we have more of America ablaze?”

Biden also seized on a viral moment from the wildfire briefing in which Trump said, “I don’t think science knows, actually,” in response to California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot’s comment that science shows temperatures will keep keep rising as a result of global warming.

  • USC political scientist Dan Schnur on why the presidential candidates are homing in on California fires: “Trump gets to play the role of concerned commander in chief … and then he can go back to other parts of the country to ridicule California to his most loyal supporters. Biden gets the chance to reinforce his climate-change credentials to swing voters and also to paint Trump as uncaring and out of touch.”


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Monday night, California had 757,778 confirmed coronavirus cases and 14,385 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. Los Angeles deputy ambush in national spotlight

Image via iStock

Another California event that’s skyrocketed into the presidential campaign: the Saturday ambush and shooting of two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies by a gunman who fired into their patrol car at close range. (The deputies survived the shooting and are recovering in the hospital.) Both Trump and Biden were quick to condemn the attack, with Trump calling for the gunman to receive the death penalty and Biden tweeting, “This cold-blooded shooting is unconscionable and the perpetrator must be brought to justice.” Although the motive for the shooting remains unknown, it brought to a head long-simmering tensions between police and civilians in the wake of a series of high-profile police shootings of Black people and subsequent protests and calls to defund the police. And both Trump and Biden are leveraging the shooting to drive home different political points.

  • Trump in a Sunday tweet: “For the entire summer, Joe Biden was SILENT as left-wing mobs assaulted police officers. When Biden’s far-left supporters set fire to police cars, precinct stations, and courthouses, Joe Biden called them ‘PEACEFUL PROTESTORS.'”
  • Biden in a Sunday tweet: “Weapons of war have no place in our communities. We need to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”

2. California sues Trump over environmental rollbacks

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and President Donald Trump. Illustration by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

As Trump and Newsom tussled Monday over climate change, California filed its 91st lawsuit against the federal government for, you guessed it, rolling back environmental protections — in this case Obama-era standards that limited methane emissions caused by oil and natural gas production. The new standards will lead to about 850,000 more tons of methane emissions between 2021 and 2030, according to estimates from the federal Environmental Protection Agency. More than half of California’s lawsuits against the Trump administration deal with federal environmental laws.

  • California Attorney General Xavier Becerra: “The West is on fire, the South floods, the Midwest gets ripped apart by super-tornadoes, and the East prepares for calamitous hurricanes. The Trump Administration ignores the dire reality of the climate crisis at our peril.”

3. Bill’s defeat keeps wages low for undocumented garment workers

Undocumented garment worker Francisco Tzul stands in Los Angeles’ Garment District on Sept. 11, 2020. Photo by Tash Kimmel for CalMatters

Undocumented workers in Los Angeles’ sprawling underground garment industry are paid about 5 to 12 cents per piece of clothing, working 10 hours a day for five-and-a-half days a week. A bill that would have paid them by the hour, not by the piece, recently failed in the state Legislature amid opposition from the powerful California Chamber of Commerce, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports. The bill would have ensured garment workers a minimum wage and extended wage-theft liability from the factories to the brands and retailers that sell the clothes — often at a significant markup. But it caved under pressure from business groups, who protested increased costs and regulatory burdens amid a recession. State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo, a Los Angeles Democrat, already plans to bring the bill back next session, but noted “the organizations that oppose this bill are not gonna back off.”

4. Introducing: Gimme Props

Illustration by Rita Liu for CalMatters

OK, so by now you know there are 12 propositions on California’s November ballot. But do you know how you’re going to vote on them? Fear not — CalMatters has a fun, interactive game to help you figure out where you stand on these controversial, complex issues. Check it out here at And if you prefer good old-fashioned reading, be sure to bookmark CalMatters’ comprehensive voter guide for everything you need to know about the upcoming election.


CalMatters events

September 18: Can California Create a Future-Ready Workforce? Register | Submit Your Questions

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: In a roundabout, passive way, the California Supreme Court recently handed a big victory to advocates of higher taxes, while also eroding local officials’ authority to set budget priorities.

Salton Sea needs urgent action: Progress on mitigating the Salton Sea’s crises has been dismal, even though millions are available to suppress toxic dust and restore habitat, argues Brandon Dawson of the California Sierra Club.

Internet for all: California should issue a Request For Proposal to provide high-speed internet to every person in the state, writes Gary Michelson of the Michelson 20MM Foundation.


Other things worth your time

PG&E error at power plant may help explain California’s rolling blackouts. // San Francisco Chronicle

California’s extra $300 unemployment benefits are ending. // Sacramento Bee

At up to $2 million per youth, rising costs at California juvenile halls renew push for closures. // San Francisco Chronicle

Some Bay Area homeless sweeps continue, despite coronavirus moratorium. // Mercury News

Beleaguered Oasis Mobile Home Park once again found to have dangerously high levels of arsenic in drinking water. // Desert Sun

Californians are testing positive for COVID-19 at the lowest rate on record. // Los Angeles Times

California is not releasing data on coronavirus outbreaks at schools. // East Bay Times

Has the California Dream become the California Compromise? // Washington Post

Former Gov. Jerry Brown on a California exodus: ‘Where are you going to go?’ // New York Times

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...