One key component of California’s reopening may come down to semantics.

What’s the difference between a “vaccine verification system” and a “vaccine passport”? Hard to say — but Gov. Gavin Newsom distinguished between the two during a Friday press conference, suggesting the state is working on an electronic system that businesses can use to check customers’ vaccination status while emphasizing “there is no mandate, no requirement, no passport.”

Tomorrow, Newsom will lift California’s stay-at-home order, allowing most businesses to reopen at full capacity and fully vaccinated people to forgo masks in most situations. But the looser rules usher in a new challenge for businesses: How will they determine customers’ vaccination status and ascertain whether they need to wear masks? The state last week gave them three options: rely on the honor system, require all customers to wear masks, or implement a vaccine verification system.

  • Newsom: “As it relates to technology … there are opportunities to make available different strategies to provide a more secure, safe and transparent form of verification, but again, this is voluntary. … We’ll be making some announcements very shortly in that space.”

The yet-to-be-unveiled optional system — which will undoubtedly be met with pushback from anti-vaccine activists and privacy advocates — underscores that California’s transition back to normalcy won’t happen instantaneously on June 15. Newsom on Friday announced plans to roll back a series of pandemic executive actions, but many won’t phase out until July or September. Cal/OSHA, the state’s workplace safety agency, will decide this week whether to let fully vaccinated workers go maskless — but even if passed, the new rules won’t take effect until June 28.

The state Capitol building will reopen to the public, but not at full capacity — and masks and physical distancing will still be required. Telework will persist at many state agencies. And some regions are sticking with rules stricter than the state’s: San Francisco, for example, has tougher rules for large indoor events, while Los Angeles Unified School District and its teachers union recently struck a tentative deal that would require everyone — even those fully vaccinated — to wear masks on campus in the fall.

And even as hospitals begin to shutter their COVID wards, the virus continues to pose a threat — especially in rural communities and for Black and Latino Californians, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports.

After drawing 15 more winners of a $50,000 prize Friday, Newsom unveiled another slew of incentives to push hesitant Californians to get their shot: free Doritos Locos tacos, free Chipotle queso and discounts at the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors stores. Today, he’s going to announce yet another new incentive, “California Dream Vacations.” Oh, and 10 prizes of $1.5 million will be drawn tomorrow.


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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,695,530 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 62,508 deaths (+0.01% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 39,438,215 vaccine doses, and 55.1% 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. Deal or no deal?

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters; iStock

Tomorrow isn’t only California’s grand reopening — it’s also the deadline for state lawmakers to pass a budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year. But big money comes with big problems: Newsom and legislators still haven’t reached an agreement on how to spend California’s $100 billion surplus. As a result, lawmakers plan to pass today what’s essentially a $267 billion placeholder budget and figure out the details later, Politico reports. The move underscores the challenges inherent in allocating oodles of money in a super-short timeframe, with lawmakers themselves finding it difficult to keep all the figures straight.

  • State Sen. Brian Dahle, a Bieber Republican: “It’s been overwhelming to try to keep track of the amount of money that is being allocated and spent. If I’m having difficulty tracking it — somebody that’s in the know or somewhat in the know — I can’t imagine what it’s like for the general public.”

The Legislative Analyst’s Office last month recommended that lawmakers delay some spending decisions to take more time to figure out where the money should go.

2. Faulconer’s serious about standing out

Republican gubernatorial candidate Kevin Faulconer during a news conference in Los Angeles on Feb. 2, 2021. Photo by Jae C. Hong, AP Photo

Kevin Faulconer doesn’t have the name recognition of Caitlyn Jenner. He didn’t make headlines by touring the state with a 1,000-pound bear like John Cox. And he doesn’t have the nearly 2 million YouTube followers of real estate broker Kevin Paffrath. But the former GOP mayor of San Diego has distinguished himself in the crowded field of candidates vying to replace Newsom in an all-but-certain recall election by releasing good old-fashioned policy proposals, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. In unveiling plans to nix state income taxes on certain Californians, Faulconer is attempting to stand out as the recall’s only serious candidate. But will his middle-of-the-road approach be enough to galvanize voters, or will his late embrace of former President Donald Trump be enough to sink him? Ben takes a look.

Interestingly, Faulconer won’t be attending today’s recall campaign event hosted by the San Diego Republican Party — though Jenner will be in attendance. The city’s major paper, the San Diego Union-Tribune, was also denied access following a bizarre spat with the party.

Meanwhile, recall fever is sweeping across California, with at least 68 local officials facing attempts to dislodge them from office, the Los Angeles Times reports. School board members make up a staggering two-thirds of those officials — a likely indication of parents’ frustration at prolonged campus closures.

3. State may face prison closure lawsuit

Image via iStock

The Newsom administration could soon be facing a lawsuit over its decision to close a prison in rural Lassen County, which employs more than a quarter of the workforce in the city of Susanville, the Sacramento Bee reports. Just days after the prison’s June 30, 2022, closure date was announced, “for sale” signs began popping up throughout the county. Susanville’s city council on Thursday authorized the city lawyer to launch a lawsuit against California, arguing that if the state wants to close prisons in response to a dwindling inmate population, it should prioritize those an independent analyst determined to have “high estimated repair and/or operational costs relative to their inmate capacity.” The Susanville prison was not included on that list — but some high-profile facilities, like San Quentin State Prison, were.

4. Big heat wave on the way

Visitors enjoy the beach in Half Moon Bay during a heat wave on Aug. 15, 2020. Photo by Anda Chu, Bay Area News Group

Yet another reason why tomorrow is shaping up to be a big day for California: A heat wave is set to blanket the state, with temperatures expected to hit the triple digits — and possibly set new records — in Northern California, the Sacramento Valley and Southern California. Experts say the heat will worsen California’s severe drought by causing more water to evaporate from already depleted reservoirs. That, in turn, heightens fire risk — and puts strain on the Golden State’s electrical grid, whose operator warned Friday that “rotating power outages could become necessary” if voluntary conservation doesn’t reduce stress enough. The operator said last month that California could see rolling blackouts if a heat wave covers the entire West Coast as it did last summer, triggering the state’s first outages in nearly two decades.


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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s perpetual conflict over charter schools flared up again this year, resulting in a temporary truce.

See red over electricity rate hikes: Some righteous ratepayer anger directed at state legislators and regulators could help spur their courage to ease unfair financial burdens for millions of California families, argues San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo.

Put legal aid in reach of all: California should build on South Dakota’s model of ensuring that those with civil law issues don’t have to go it alone, writes Kevin Frazier, a student at the UC Berkeley School of Law.


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Other things worth your time

California bill would show cost of city online tax sharing deals. // Sacramento Bee

California lawmakers debate how much to pay for doctor phone appointments. // California Healthline

How hot is California real estate? It got 99% of its jobs back. // Mercury News

City officials across Orange County are taking state-mandated housing battle to court. // Voice of OC

Can Realtors tackle a housing shortage, rising prices and inequality? // Mercury News

Push is on to get San Diego area schools to offer transitional kindergarten. // San Diego Union-Tribune

How K-12 schools tamed Silicon Valley. // Education Week

How California families became invested in education amid COVID. // EdSource

California union leaders want SEIU Local 1000 election result tossed, alleging irregularities. // Sacramento Bee

Mia Bonta explains how a name shaped her — and it isn’t Bonta. // San Francisco Chronicle

Newsom sides with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in border debate with Kamala Harris. // SFGATE

Feinstein’s support of federal Judge Benitez in 2004 turns around and bites her in 2021. // San Francisco Chronicle

How California’s earthquake early warning system compares to Japan, Mexico’s. // Los Angeles Times


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...