Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, May 25.

Two elections for same seat

When you get your November 2022 ballot, it might feel as though you’re seeing double: For the first time in history, a race for the same California seat in the U.S. Senate will likely appear twice.

That’s because lawmakers are rushing to tweak a piece of California’s election law that experts say could violate the U.S. Constitution. The problem became apparent when Kamala Harris resigned from the Senate to become vice president and Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Alex Padilla to fill the seat through the end of Harris’ term in January 2023. That apparently put the state in danger of contradicting the U.S. Constitution, which says governors’ temporary appointees can hold their positions only “until the people fill the vacancies by election.” And there’s an election in November 2022 — two months before Harris’ term ends.

To address the constitutional snag, the state Assembly on Monday passed a bill that calls for an election whenever a Senate seat becomes vacant. It also generally requires that election to be held the same day as a regularly scheduled statewide election, “to ensure the greatest participation” and “to avoid the costs and disruptions of standalone statewide special elections whenever possible,” according to the bill’s author, Menlo Park Democratic Assemblymember Marc Berman.

Therefore, if the state Senate also passes the bill, your November 2022 ballot will contain two elections for the same U.S. Senate seat: One for the remainder of Harris’ term running from November 2022 to January 2023, and one for the new six-year term beginning January 2023.

But Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, the Rocklin Republican who flagged the constitutional issue for the Legislature’s lawyers, told me the bill solves the problem in “the most undemocratic way possible” and argued Newsom should have called a separate special election for Harris’ seat much earlier. The latter point was echoed by Christine Pelosi, chair of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus, in a November San Francisco Chronicle op-ed.

  • Kiley: “They’ve kicked it down the road and essentially just made it a duplicate of the 2022 election when the whole point is that it’s supposed to be a standalone election for the rest of Kamala Harris’ term.”

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 3,674,044 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 61,762 deaths (+0.01% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 36,364,200 vaccine doses, and 49.2% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.


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1. OptumServe misses vaccine mark

An OptumServe vaccination clinic at the Rohnert Park Community Center on Feb. 3, 2021. Photo by Christopher Chung, The Press Democrat

California agreed to pay health care company OptumServe up to $221 million to coordinate and operate dozens of vaccination sites — but the company has fallen far short of the 100,000 doses it told the state it could deliver daily, accounting for just 1.1% of shots given in California since January, CalMatters’ Caitlin Antonios reports. At least 12 counties have complained to the state that OptumServe has hampered their ability to get shots into arms and at least three have stopped working with the company altogether. Yet despite concerns dating back to at least February, California continued to give OptumServe an ever-larger role in its vaccine rollout.

It’s the latest example of California or its contractors underperforming amid the pandemic. The state’s $50 million MyTurn site, billed as a one-stop-shop for Californians to book vaccine appointments, only accounts for about 27% of shots given each day. Only 0.001% of Californians who signed up on MyTurn to volunteer at vaccine sites were actually able to book shifts. And PerkinElmer, which received a $1.4 billion contract from the state to process COVID-19 tests, has failed to meet mandated turnaround times or daily processing requirements. Making matters worse, the lab PerkinElmer runs in conjunction with the state was recently found to have “significant deficiencies” that could put its license in jeopardy.

2. Follow the money

Newsom presents his $267.8 billion budget revise in Sacramento on May 14, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Monday was a big day for money in California. Some highlights:

3. Community colleges consider ethnic studies

Image via iStock

The more than 2.1 million students who attend California’s 116 community colleges will likely soon have a new graduation requirement: an ethnic studies class. This week, the community college system’s Board of Governors is holding a public hearing on the proposal and is expected to vote on the change in July, EdSource reports. The move comes amid a push to integrate ethnic studies into several levels of California’s education system: Lawmakers are considering a bill to make ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement, which would likely use a model curriculum recently passed by the state Board of Education after four years of controversy and four separate drafts. Newsom last year also signed a bill mandating California State University students take an ethnic studies course. The CSU system is implementing that as a lower-division class, which thousands of students take at community college before transferring to a CSU. As a result, community colleges are scrambling to hire ethnic studies faculty — but a funding source remains unclear.


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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom is crowing about giving schools billions of extra dollars, but will he hold them accountable for spending it effectively?

Racism is a public health crisis: My bill would help California identify racial and ethnic disparities while addressing structural racism in state policies and budgets, writes state Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat.

Fix youth mental health crisis: It’s stunning to realize how many of California’s children do not receive the mental health support they are entitled to and for which we pay federal taxes, argues Lisa Pritzker of the LSP Family Foundation.


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Other things worth your time

Podcast: Israeli-Palestinian conflict hits California’s high schools ethnic studies curriculum. // Los Angeles Times

California driver shortage could make trucking school the most lucrative career change. // Mercury News

California is seeing a COVID-19 baby bust. What is causing it? // Los Angeles Times

California prison doctors fear drug treatment program could create new addicts. // Sacramento Bee

California’s stem cell program found a disease cure, but it’s being blocked by a biotech firm. // Los Angeles Times

San Francisco touts successes in moving homeless off the streets. But the reality is complicated. // San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco ranks near the bottom of U.S. metro areas in home value increases. // San Francisco Chronicle

Apple mega deal: iPhone maker agrees to huge Sunnyvale expansion. // Mercury News

PG&E to sell San Francisco headquarters for $800 million, wants half of the money returned to customers. // San Francisco Chronicle

Amanda Gorman’s private school: Mix of rich, poor, arts and social action. // Washington Post


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...