Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, June 15.

State tries to boost travel

Today’s the day — at last.

A staggering 453 days after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the nation’s first stay-at-home order, shutting the state down overnight, most businesses will be able to reopen at full capacity. Fully vaccinated Californians will be able to ditch their masks in most situations. And the term “physical distancing” may begin to disappear from our collective vocabulary.

Several crucial details still have to be worked out, as I discuss with CalMatters’ Nigel Duara and CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon on the latest California State of Mind podcast. But Newsom clarified a key point Monday, when he announced plans to issue an executive order that would allow fully vaccinated workers to go maskless following what’s expected to be an affirmative Thursday vote from workplace safety agency Cal/OSHA. Without executive action, the rules — which have already changed three times in two weeks — wouldn’t take effect until June 28.

The big question now: How long will it take for California to recover from more than a year of shutdowns?

The travel and tourism industry — which makes up a significant part of the Golden State’s economy — isn’t expected to fully bounce back until 2023, Miranda Green reports for CalMatters. And because California is keeping some restrictions in place for large indoor events, some travel experts are concerned conventions will decamp to Florida or Texas instead, taking much-needed revenue with them.

To encourage Californians to get vaccinated — and to boost travel within the Golden State — Newsom unveiled a slate of new incentives: six vacation packages that include seeing a Giants game in San Francisco, going to a Palm Springs spa, visiting Disneyland in Anaheim, seeing the Lakers play in Los Angeles and learning to surf in San Diego. Today, 10 Californians will win $1.5 million prizes for being vaccinated.

  • Newsom: “It’s been a tough and challenging year and the fear and anxiety that all of you worked through is not lost on any of us. … But the best days are ahead of us.”

Meanwhile, the University of California announced Monday it will require all students, staff and faculty to be fully vaccinated this fall — even if the vaccines are still under emergency-use authorization, CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn reports.


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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 3,697,299 confirmed cases (+0.02% from previous day) and 62,505 deaths (-0.01% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 39,570,615 vaccine doses, and 55.2% 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. Accelerated recall election could hit snags

Alameda County employees Muhammad Khpalwak, left, and Sayed Sadat pick up ballots at Emeryville City Hall on Oct. 15, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

From CalMatters political reporter Laurel Rosenhall: County elections officials are pushing back on Democratic lawmakers’ attempts to move up the date of the Newsom recall election. They say the logistics involved in a statewide election — such as printing ballots, securing in-person voting locations and recruiting election workers — could take more time than allowed under a plan lawmakers released last week that could result in an election as early as August or September. 

  • Donna Johnston, Sutter County’s registrar of voters and president of the statewide association of elections officials: “They are calendar issues, not money issues. They can’t be fixed with additional funds.” 

Lawmakers last week put $250 million in the state budget to cover the cost of the recall election, saying it would help officials set an earlier election date. But they also wrote a bill that would revert voting procedures back to their pre-pandemic norm, requiring officials to open more neighborhood polling places and keep voting centers open longer. Local elections officials, caught off guard, sent a letter to state officials Monday detailing their concerns. 

  • Johnston: “We originally thought it might happen in November because that is an established election date, and a lot of us started planning for a November election. Taking away this much time creates problems.”

2. Lawmakers pass placeholder budget

Image via iStock

Newsom and state lawmakers still haven’t reached an agreement on how to spend California’s massive surplus, but legislators passed a $267 billion placeholder budget on Monday to avoid losing their paychecks. The move was opposed by Republican lawmakers, with state Sen. Jim Nielsen of Red Bluff slamming the “fake budget and the Democrat-controlled budget process.” Still, both Newsom and lawmakers are in line to receive 4.2% pay hikes. Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, a Rocklin Republican who recently announced he’s exploring a run for governor, said he would reject his pay raise and called on Newsom to do the same.

One major point of contention between Newsom and lawmakers: how much money the state will have to spend in future years. Newsom is relying on more conservative estimates than the Legislature, as evidenced by the statement he released Monday.

  • Newsom: “We must maintain a strong fiscal foundation that does not overcommit the state to long-term spending it cannot afford, which could lead to future cuts.”
  • Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon: “The budget we’re sending to Governor Newsom reflects responsible budgeting as the Legislature’s top priority and makes vital investments in California’s future.”

3. Tulare County’s never-ending drought

A Bubba’s Water Truck Service employee prepares to pump water into Luzvianey Gonzalez’s home water tank in Madera on June 10, 2021. Photo by Shae Hammond for CalMatters

California’s last major drought ended in 2016 — but it never really came to a close in Tulare County, a rural area in the upper San Joaquin Valley with more cows than people. Around 50% of the more than 2,600 dry wells California residents self-reported during the last drought were in Tulare County, where more than a quarter of the population lives in poverty and two-thirds of residents are Latino. In the second installment of CalMatters’ series “Lessons Learned? Drought Then and Now,” Julie Cart visits Tulare County to meet farmers whose fortunes depend on an ever-dwindling supply of water. She talks with people who are drilling hundreds of feet underground in a desperate attempt to keep crops alive and others who are forced to shower at relatives’ houses because their wells have run dry.

Farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley are also suffering from the consequences of drought — which is why a Fresno-area politician wants to include them in the state’s universal basic income pilot program, CalMatters’ Melissa Montalvo reports.


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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California has finally achieved the zero population growth some environmentalists urged decades ago — but that comes with its own set of challenges.

Protect freedom of speech: California must end social media censorship by adapting the principles of our nation’s founding to the realities of the digital age, write GOP Assemblymembers Kevin Kiley of Rocklin and James Gallagher of Yuba City.

Big Ag makes a bad thing worse: The real heart of California’s water woes is an outdated system that prioritizes the financial interests of a wealthy few over the health and well-being of many, argues Ross Middlemiss of the Center for Biological Diversity.

Reader reaction: Newsom does owe a huge apology to those impacted by the state’s unemployment department, but I’m not confident its problems will be fixed in my lifetime, writes Ron Weissmann of Elk Grove.


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Other things worth your time

California defies doom with No. 1 U.S. economy. // Bloomberg Opinion

At a Ferry Building job fair, employers looking to hire seemed to outnumber job seekers. // San Francisco Chronicle

California teachers report spring school reopenings were exhausting and unproductive. // EdSource

Marin mandates COVID-19 sick leave at small businesses. // East Bay Times

California bill would end minimum parking requirements in cities. // Sacramento Bee

Some California homeowners can get coverage again after wildfires. // Wall Street Journal

A look at harassment, discrimination inside San Diego County’s largest employers. // San Diego Union-Tribune

New California rule restricts urine drug tests for state workers. // Sacramento Bee

Redistricting could force some San Diego cannabis dispensaries to close. // San Diego Union-Tribune

World’s largest firefighting helicopters join Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura County fleets. // Daily News

Young climate activists head to the Golden Gate Bridge on 266-mile march from Paradise. // 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...