Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, May 27.
Surge in gun violence
A Wednesday mass shooting at a San Jose rail yard that left nine people dead, including the gunman, has revived what seems to be an endless cycle: calls for immediate action that eventually peter out until the next crisis hits.
President Joe Biden, condemning America’s “epidemic of gun violence,” urged Congress to pass stricter gun control laws. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had planned a trip to Los Angeles to unveil “major new efforts” incentivizing Californians to get vaccinated, instead traveled to San Jose, where he called for “real action to curb the gun violence crisis in our country.”
- Newsom: “When are we going to put down our arms, literally and figuratively? Politics, stale rhetoric, finger-pointing, all the hand-wringing and consternation that produces nothing but fury and frustration, more scenes like this?”
The mass shooting, which is California’s deadliest so far this year, comes amid a surge in gun violence that has caused homicide rates to skyrocket in major cities like Los Angeles and Oakland. It will also likely prompt a reevaluation of the Golden State’s gun control laws, which are already the strictest in the country. Assemblymember Marc Levine, a Marin County Democrat, called on Newsom Wednesday to support his proposal to tax guns and ammunition to fund gun violence prevention programs.
The uptick in violence has complicated California cities’ attempts to slash police budgets in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, with both Oakland and Los Angeles proposing to reverse some of the cuts made last year. But other reforms are forging ahead: The state Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would allow bad cops to be decertified after watering down some of its provisions last week.
Concerns over public safety will likely play a central role in next year’s election for California attorney general, with contender Anne Marie Schubert and 43 other district attorneys suing the Newsom administration Wednesday for giving 76,000 inmates the opportunity to shorten their prison sentences. Also Wednesday, the state Senate passed a bill — co-authored by Attorney General Rob Bonta as an assemblymember — that would eliminate cash bail for most criminal offenses. Voters last year rejected a proposal to end cash bail.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 3,675,817 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 61,824 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.
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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Other stories you should know
1. To law or not to law?
In addition to gun laws, another area where California has some of the nation’s strictest regulations is data privacy. But state lawmakers who introduced bills this year to clamp down on tech giants — such as by requiring social media companies to disclose if certain images have been retouched, or by prohibiting auto-play for children unless parents choose to allow it — aren’t having much success this year. CalMatters’ Zayna Syed explores why.
Still, having a law on the books is only effective if it’s actually enforced — a point Jason Elliott, Newsom’s top adviser on housing and homelessness, made in a panel discussion moderated by CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias on Wednesday.
- Elliott: “A governor’s signature does not build new units.”
Elliot also pointed out that extending California’s eviction moratorium — which is set to expire next month — would only be effective if people enroll in the program. Indeed, tenants are having such a hard time accessing California’s emergency rent relief that the state recently announced it would simplify its application and make it available in more languages, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports.
2. A recall election in August?
The special election to recall Newsom could be held earlier than expected — the result of the governor’s Finance Department on Tuesday asking counties to accelerate their timelines for developing election cost estimates, Politico reports. (For a refresher on the steps leading up to the recall election, check out this explainer or illustrated guide.) The letter came just days after state Sen. Steve Glazer, an Orinda Democrat and campaign strategist for former Gov. Jerry Brown, suggested that lawmakers schedule the recall election as early as August to take advantage of Newsom’s rising approval rate and to avoid fallout from a severe drought, an impending wildfire season and potential rolling blackouts. Yet holding the recall election in August — rather than in November, as expected — could also put Newsom in the crosshairs of a contentious battle over school reopenings. Both Los Angeles Unified and San Francisco Unified this week announced plans to return to full-time in-person instruction in the fall, though students will likely have to keep wearing masks — a condition that undoubtedly won’t go over well with many parents.
Meanwhile, the recall election has pit one branch of a powerful labor union against its own umbrella organization. SEIU California on Wednesday announced it’s “strongly backing” Newsom against the recall, a day after the new president of of SEIU Local 1000 made waves by saying “we’re going to run his ass out of office.”
3. Drought, wildfire and blackouts, oh my
Speaking of drought, wildfires and blackouts, several key developments occurred on those fronts Wednesday:
- State regulators cut several communities and hundreds of vineyards in California’s Wine Country off from their water supply due to increasingly dry conditions in Sonoma and Mendocino counties, where Newsom last month declared a drought emergency. The mandatory restrictions on nearly 1,000 water rights holders are the first the state has issued since last decade’s drought.
- The federal government once again slashed California’s water supply, announcing that water agencies that rely on the Central Valley Project will only receive 25% of their typical allocations, down from an earlier 55% estimate. Farm-irrigation districts will get 0%, down from 5%.
- PG&E agreed to pay $43.4 million to settle claims filed by local governments over the Kincade Fire, which ravaged Wine Country in 2019, and the deadly Zogg Fire, which blazed through Shasta County last year.
- PG&E was also hit with a net $20 million penalty from the California Public Utilities Commission for its “failed implementation” of power shutoffs in 2019, which devastated low-income families across the state.
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: While Newsom renews his pledge to attack California’s housing crisis, a bureaucratic mess and labor union demands are impeding construction.
Leveraging federal dollars: The American Rescue Plan provides an unprecedented opportunity for communities to address long-standing inequities, write Debbie I. Chang of the Blue Shield of California Foundation, Chet P. Hewitt of Sierra Health Foundation, Tyler Norris of Well Being Trust, Robert Ross of The California Endowment and Richard Tate of The California Wellness Foundation.
Time to overhaul Cal Grant: Lawmakers should pass a comprehensive proposal to address racial disparities in California’s financial aid system, argue Guillermo Mayer of Public Advocates Inc. and Christopher J. Nellum of The Education Trust-West.
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Other things worth your time
Biden expected to name Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as ambassador to India. // Associated Press
California Latinos create jobs app for Spanish speakers. // CalMatters
Asian cannabis growers in California face water cuts, sheriff raids. They blame racism. // Sacramento Bee
California finds 4% of fruits, vegetables contaminated by pesticide. // Salinas Californian
Tensions erupt over control of Southern California’s largest water supplier amid California drought. // Los Angeles Times
Confronting our ‘frailties’: California’s Assembly Leader reflects on a year of COVID. // California Healthline
California prisons launch COVID vaccine lottery, prizes. // Sacramento Bee
Caltrans overpaid thousands of workers and failed to recoup the money, audit says. // Sacramento Bee
Despite license denials, nursing homes can keep operating in California. // NPR
Santa Clara County opts in to Laura’s Law in forcing certain mental health treatments. // Mercury News
‘Town sweep’: New group demands Oakland crack down on homeless camps. // Mercury News
San Jose gives final OK to Google’s downtown campus development. // Mercury News
Tag, the Cox campaign bear, now subject of animal-rights lawsuit. // San Diego Union-Tribune
See you tomorrow.
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