Time is running out for California counties to decide whether they want to develop programs that would give families a legal tool to get severely mentally ill relatives into treatment.

After years of resistance, the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to implement Laura’s Law, becoming the 21st county to do so. The remaining 37 counties have until July 1 to choose whether they want to opt into the law named after 19-year-old Laura Wilcox, who was shot and killed by a severely mentally ill man in 2001 despite his family repeatedly warning authorities that he was a threat. The board of supervisors in Santa Clara, the only large county that hasn’t yet approved the program, is set to take a final vote on the issue next week.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers will vote today on a bill that would broaden the criteria under which a court can order a mentally ill person to receive treatment under Laura’s Law. Compelling mentally ill people to enter treatment against their will remains contentious — advocates argue that it infringes on individual liberties and due process rights — but politicians appear to be coming around to the idea as the cracks in California’s overburdened mental health system become more apparent.

State Sen. Susan Talamantes Eggman, a Stockton Democrat, wants counties to go on the record regarding Laura’s Law. She wrote the bill that not only imposed the July 1 deadline on counties, but also required them to submit reasons in writing if they opt out — previously, counties that chose not to participate often did so behind closed doors. She also authored the bill up for a vote today.

  • Eggman: “The human rights and public health crisis is not fair to families, and I think it has become a stark reality for everybody.”

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,667,550 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 61,555 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 35,091,346 vaccine doses, and 47% 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. MyTurn flops — again

A coronavirus vaccination site. Photo via Alamy Stock Photo

More than 251,000 Californians signed up to volunteer at vaccination clinics using the state’s MyTurn system — but only 379 people, or 0.001%, were actually able to book shifts, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov reports in a new investigation. The eye-popping numbers are just the latest PR nightmare for the beleaguered $50 million website, which Barbara recently found accounted for only about 27% of the vaccinations given each day across California. And it’s yet another setback for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration when it comes to recruiting Californians’ aid amid the pandemic: Less than 1% of the 93,000 retired, part-time or student medical workers who signed up for Newsom’s California Health Corps were available to help as the state faced a massive surge in coronavirus hospitalizations in December.

2. Is Newsom’s college proposal redundant?

Image via iStock

Newsom made headlines last week when he introduced an ambitious proposal to spend $2 billion to create college savings accounts for low-income children. But he didn’t mention that California two years ago approved $25 million to open a college savings account for every child born after 2020 — meaning that millions of kids would now have two separate state-funded accounts. “Having one college savings account rather than two would be easier for families to navigate, thus encouraging program utilization,” the independent group that advises the state Legislature told CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn — effectively calling Newsom’s proposal redundant. Meanwhile, other critics have questioned the wisdom of putting money into savings accounts when many of the state’s current college students are dropping out of school because they can’t afford it. As lawmakers continue to negotiate with Newsom, they will likely ramp up their push to significantly expand student eligibility for state financial aid, as well as the amount of aid offered.

3. Newsom slammed for overlooking public health

Newsom at a press conference at Ruby Bridges Elementary school in Alameda on March 16, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Top Democratic lawmakers and public health officials criticized Newsom Wednesday for not including new funding for public health infrastructure in his massive $268 billion budget proposal, even as he suggested creating 400 new programs. They urged the governor to allocate $200 million in ongoing annual funding to revamp public health labs and hire key staffers, pointing out that 11 of the state’s 40 public health labs were forced to shutter over the past two decades due to inadequate funding. As a result, the state relied heavily on private and academic labs for coronavirus testing in the early months of the pandemic and tapped corporations to handle vaccine distribution.


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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Exaggerated job creation numbers are keeping California’s bullet train project alive despite a lack of justification.

California needs to step up its climate game: Responding with half-measures will only feed worsening drought, heat waves and firestorms, argue Nayamin Martinez of the Central California Environmental Justice Network and Judith Mitchell, formerly of the California Air Resources Board.

The power of role models: It is imperative that California invest in a diverse force of STEM teachers to help Black and Brown students realize what they are capable of accomplishing, writes Jose Rivas, a teacher at Lennox Math, Science and Technology Academy.


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Other things worth your time

His French Laundry birthday party with Newsom became infamous. Then his lobbying firm’s revenue boomed. // San Francisco Chronicle

Amid COVID-19, a California militia is fueling civic revolt. // Los Angeles Times

Knock, knock: Have you had your vaccine yet? California sends thousands out to check. // Sacramento Bee

California restaurants expect rebound that will take years. // Associated Press

Analysis faults California school districts on lack of accountability for spending COVID funding. // EdSource

CalPERS looking at pension rate hikes to cities, workers. // Sacramento Bee

Here’s how a federal rule change makes California’s REAL ID application process easier. // Sacramento Bee

A call for help ended in deputies fatally shooting a man in front of his family. // LAist

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley will not seek re-election. // Mercury News

COVID-19 testing waiver at Donovan prison called deceptive, inappropriate. // inewsource

Marin County declares local emergency over drought conditions. // San Francisco Chronicle

Central Valley water districts get OK to sue Dow, Shell over groundwater pollution. // San Francisco Chronicle

Indigenous North American grapevines may be California wine’s answer to climate change. // 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...