Good morning, California. It’s Friday, November 6.

Industry vs. Legislature

The fate of four ballot measures — including what would be the largest change to California’s property tax structure in more than 40 years — hangs in the balance of 4.5 million uncounted votes, according to an estimate released Thursday evening by Secretary of State Alex Padilla.

California has already processed and counted 12.4 million votes, enough to notch clear victories for several ballot measures backed by corporations financially threatened by policies coming out of Sacramento. They include Prop. 22, Uber and Lyft’s $206-million bid to exempt themselves from a state labor law, and Prop. 25, the bail industry’s $8 million effort to overturn a 2018 law that sought to eliminate cash bail.

Asking voters to repeal or change a law passed by the Democratic-controlled Legislature is an increasingly common strategy for businesses and special interest groups, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports. The tobacco industry is already collecting signatures to put a measure on the 2022 ballot to overturn the state’s flavored-tobacco ban, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law in August.

  • Rob Lapsley of the California Business Roundtable: “As the Legislature’s makeup is getting much more progressive, it’s getting much more out of step with Californians when it comes to business and jobs. And you’re going to see business defend itself unequivocally.”

Still, some argue that powerful special interests are manipulating a tool of direct democracy originally intended to empower everyday citizens. Around 63% of California voters think that special interest groups exercise a lot of control over the ballot initiative process, according to a recent poll from the Public Policy Institute of California.

And for legislators who spend years working to get laws passed — like state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Van Nuys Democrat who wrote the bill to eliminate cash bail — it can be frustrating to see their efforts overturned.

  • Hertzberg told CalMatters’ Nigel Duara: “We had hundreds, thousands of hours of meetings and calls. The legislation passed both houses. The governor signed it. … And then, you know, the bail industry comes along with millions of dollars and goes out and collects signatures and puts this on the ballot.”


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Thursday night, California had 944,576 confirmed coronavirus cases and 17,815 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.


1. Who will lead CA’s powerful air board?

Gov. Gavin Newsom looks on as California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols, left, speaks at a press conference on Sept. 23, 2020, at Cal Expo in Sacramento, where Newsom announced an executive order requiring all new passenger vehicles sold in the state to be zero-emission by 2035. Photo by Daniel Kim, The Sacramento Bee via AP/Pool
Newsom looks on as California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols, left, speaks at a press conference on Sept. 23, 2020, at Cal Expo in Sacramento. Photo by Daniel Kim, The Sacramento Bee via AP/Pool

Newsom will soon make a major appointment with national implications — and I’m not talking about filling Kamala Harris’ Senate seat if she wins vice president. Mary Nichols will step down as chair of the powerful California Air Resources Board on Dec. 31 after a decade on the job, and her replacement will determine the direction of the state’s climate change and air pollution policies at a crucial inflection point, Politico reports. Not only did Newsom recently direct CARB to ban gas-powered cars by 2035, the state is also reevaluating its landmark climate strategy and defending its emissions regulations in lawsuits with the Trump administration. Meanwhile, the governor is also under pressure to diversify a board that is 75% white. Four board members in addition to Nichols will vacate their seats this year, and Black agency employees and lawmakers are demanding Newsom appoint at least one Black person and two other people of color.

  • Assemblymember Jim Cooper, an Elk Grove Democrat: “As a Black man, I look at your board, I look at your past board chairs, I look at the board makeup. I do not see folks that look like me. And that is truly disturbing in this time and age. It’s time for a change.”

2. Temporary relief for fire-prone homes

A firefighter hoses down a burning home as the Shady Fire burns in Santa Rosa on Sept. 28, 2020. Photo by Dai Sugano, Bay Area News Group

Californians living in fire-prone areas don’t have to worry about losing their homeowners’ insurance policies — at least for the next year, CalMatters’ James Bikales reports. The state on Thursday enacted a one-year ban — which it did last year as well — on canceling insurance policies for about 2.1 million at-risk homes, but many see the policy as a Band-Aid on a gaping wound and are calling for longer-term solutions.

  • California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara: “If we don’t want to be in this position every year, we have to reduce the risk to lives and homes, which means everyone plays a part — homeowners and state and local governments through home-hardening, the federal government though forest management, and the insurance industry working as a partner.”

Even with the moratorium, the rate at which insurers dropped policies on California homes jumped 61% from 2018 to 2019. Meanwhile, some homeowners who didn’t lose policies are paying three to four times more for premiums than they used to, advocates say. Compounding the problem, more of California is considered “fire-prone” than ever before. Over 4 million acres have burned this year — more than double the state’s previous modern-day record — including ancient forests long thought to be immune to wildfires.

3. Some historic election results

Sen. Holly Mitchell won the Los Angeles County board of supervisors 2nd district seat on Tuesday in a historic win. The board will be comprised solely of women for the first time. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
State Sen. Holly Mitchell won a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

For a fun Friday item, here’s a short compilation of interesting and historic election victories:


CalMatters commentary

Declining kindergarten enrollment: We need to take action now to prevent California’s Dual Language Learners from falling behind, argues Patricia Lozano of Early Edge California.

Other things worth your time

Meet some of California’s Latino Republicans who voted for Trump. // CalMatters

As Election Day neared, conflict between Trump and BLM groups in Bakersfield intensified. // CalMatters

A big win for Democrats in California came with a gut check for liberals. // New York Times

These maps show how California counties voted on all of the ballot measures. // Los Angeles Daily News

San Francisco voters passed new taxes. Will that hurt or help as city recovers from pandemic? // San Francisco Chronicle

After winning Prop. 22, Lyft president says he still wants a deal with unions. // Los Angeles Times

Newsom administration to state officials: Find savings from permanent telework. // Sacramento Bee

Teachers in Placer County school district file lawsuit over COVID safety concerns. // Sacramento Bee

Two California counties move backward in reopening system as COVID-19 cases rise. // Mercury News

After six months, rain, snow and colder weather predicted to roll into Northern California this weekend. // Sacramento Bee

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...