Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, May 11.

Good timing for Newsom

The message was clear Monday when Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has attended recent public events in jeans and a bear-emblazoned jacket, stood behind a podium bearing the slogan “California Roars Back” while wearing a suit and tie.

The message: I mean business — and the recall’s going down.

“I’m about to make an announcement that arguably no other governor in America has ever made,” Newsom said in the Oakland neighborhood of Fruitvale, before unveiling a proposal to use part of California’s staggering $75.7 billion budget surplus to issue $11.9 billion in rebates to households making less than $75,000 a year, families with children and undocumented immigrants. He also unrolled a slew of other funding proposals, as CalMatters’ Jackie Botts reports:

  • $5.2 billion in federal funding to help low-income renters stay housed.
  • $2 billion to help Californians pay overdue water and utility bills.
  • $1 billion in college grants to help employees whose jobs have been decimated by the pandemic find better work.

Several hours later, Newsom was in the Central Valley declaring a drought emergency in 39 additional counties and proposing a $5.1 billion investment in the state’s immediate drought response and long-term water resilience.

The rapid-fire announcements are the first in a weeklong series of events that will take Newsom across California to unveil portions of his proposed $100 billion economic recovery plan before formally presenting his revamped state budget on Friday. The whirlwind trip is similar to the tour of mass vaccination sites Newsom embarked on earlier this year, down to the groups of Democratic officials praising the governor’s leadership in a not-so-subtle attempt to close party ranks ahead of the looming recall election.

  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf: Newsom and lawmakers are “creating one of the greatest California budgets we have ever seen.”

However, the taxpayer rebates could be in somewhat murky constitutional waters. The governor’s office is proposing using the rebates to comply with a law requiring the state to refund taxpayers when it collects more revenue than it is authorized to spend. But, as CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports, it remains unclear whether Newsom can fulfill the law by redirecting billions of dollars collected primarily from California’s wealthiest taxpayers to low- and middle-income residents without refunding the high earners themselves.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 3,655,922 confirmed cases (+0.04% from previous day) and 61,241 deaths (+0.02% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 32,669,323 vaccine doses, and 45.1% of 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. Is deadly force law making a difference?

Wanda Johnson, left, Addie Kitchen and Stevante Clark pose for a group photo at a celebration of life held for Steven Taylor on the one-year anniversary of his death, at the San Leandro Marino on April 18, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Wanda Johnson, left, Addie Kitchen and Stevante Clark at a celebration of life held for Steven Taylor on the one-year anniversary of his death, at the San Leandro Marina on April 18, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

On opposite ends of California, two women who have never met are united by grief and purpose: seeking justice for family members who were killed by police officers. Kathleen Bils’ son was shot by a San Diego sheriff’s deputy, and Addie Kitchen’s grandson was shot by a San Leandro police officer — both of whom are facing criminal charges under a new state law limiting when police can use deadly force. But beyond those two cases, it appears the closely watched and contested law — which took effect on Jan. 1, 2020 — has not been as transformative as supporters hoped it would be. An investigation from CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons and Laurel Rosenhall found that not only did the number of fatal shootings by California police rise in 2020, but only 12% of law enforcement officers have completed state-certified training on the new deadly force standard.

2. California kids on cusp of vaccine clearance

Mario Chavez holds Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines at St. John’s Well Child And Family Center in South Los Angeles on Feb. 9, 2021. Photo by Shae Hammond for CalMatters

Californians ages 12-15 could be cleared for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine as early as Wednesday. Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized the vaccine for that age group, a group of experts from California and other Western states will independently review the data before giving the vaccine the green light. Meanwhile, the Golden State has taken steps to streamline the process for pediatricians to inoculate children, but will likely face significant concerns from parents: Nationally, only 30% of parents say they will let their children get the shot as soon as it’s approved for their use.

That isn’t the only flavor of vaccine hesitancy public health officials will have to confront. A solid 57% of California prison employees are skipping free vaccinations offered on the job, concerning advocates who say inmates’ health could be jeopardized as facilities recover from a wave of infections that sickened more than 50,000 incarcerated people and killed hundreds, CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons reports.

3. High schoolers reject campus returns

Image via iStock

Speaking of vaccines, local school officials are hoping more teenagers will return to campus once the doses are cleared for their use. As it stands, only 7% of Los Angeles Unified high schoolers have chosen to return to in-person instruction — significantly lower turnout than expected. It remains unclear how many will return in San Francisco Unified, which announced this weekend it will welcome high school seniors back to campus on Friday, just a few weeks before the last day of instruction. Both districts are using the “Zoom in a room” model, in which students log into online lessons that may or may not be taught by the instructor who’s physically in the room. Across the state, most high schoolers have decided to keep learning online even as schools open their doors — meaning many will spend 17 to 18 months out of the classroom. The eye-popping numbers come as lawmakers debate whether to permit distance learning in the fall — a practice Newsom said Monday he expects will end this school year.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom’s executive orders are an experiment in parliamentary government that will be decided by courts and voters.

Let’s make California a state with food for all: My bill would help provide food security to low-income families and lift them out of poverty, regardless of immigration status, writes state Sen. Melissa Hurtado, a Sanger Democrat.

Getting to net-zero emissions: By far the most important strategy for decarbonizing transportation is electrification of cars, trucks and buses, writes Dan Sperling of the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies.

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Other things worth your time

Newsom recall challenged in California appeals court. // Capitol Weekly

Why California has no statewide water-wasting rules as it heads into a new drought. // Mercury News

California’s new math war: Should schools push students to speed through algebra, calculus? // San Francisco Chronicle

California students, community organizations ask judge to order mental health services, internet access. // EdSource

California legal rulings may have big impact on Amazon’s liability for third-party products it sells. // GeekWire

Los Angeles domestic violence survivors, sheriff’s department at odds. // Los Angeles Times

‘People evolve’: Why District Attorney George Gascón reversed decades of parole policy to support release in most cases. // LAist

Former Cal State San Marcos dean now under criminal investigation, university says. // San Diego Union-Tribune

The Bay Area’s housing production plummeted in 2020. Here’s a look at the trend by county. // San Francisco Chronicle

‘If you build it, they will come’: California desert cashes in on early cannabis investment. // NBC News

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...