In summary

The governor sues Secretary of State Shirley Weber — whom he appointed to the position just months ago — for refusing to correct his lawyers’ filing mistake that could result in Newsom appearing on the recall ballot without “Democratic Party” listed next to his name.

Just when you thought the events surrounding the election to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom from office couldn’t get any more surreal, Monday happened.

That’s when Newsom sued Secretary of State Shirley Weber — whom he appointed to the position just months ago — for refusing to correct his lawyers’ filing mistake that could result in Newsom appearing on the recall ballot without “Democratic Party” listed next to his name. The legal feud, first reported by Courthouse News, suggests that Newsom sees the potential omission as a threat: In campaign fundraising emails and ads, Newsom has appealed to the state’s deep bench of Democratic voters by depicting the recall as an effort led by Republican extremists.

The jaw-dropping news came only hours after state lawmakers passed a bill that would waive certain recall rules they wrote just a few years ago and allow the election to be held earlier than expected — a move likely intended to help Newsom stay in office. Newsom immediately signed the bill into law, meaning that if state officials — including Weber — act quickly, we could know the election date as early as Friday.

Though the recall bill accounted for less than 0.1% of the whopping $263 billion budget the state Legislature passed Monday, it sparked a sizable political battle as Republican lawmakers argued the governor shouldn’t be able to change procedures affecting his own election.

  • Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, a Rocklin Republican considering a gubernatorial run: “It is not hyperbole to say this is qualitatively the same thing that happens in corrupt, sham democracies. … Those in power use their power to make sure they don’t lose their power.”
  • Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian, a Los Angeles Democrat: This debate is “becoming overly political and it’s all about saying as many things as negative as possible about the governor. … I don’t want the (Assembly) floor to be misused that way.”

That wasn’t the only controversy to emerge amid hours of debate, during which lawmakers also approved an extension of the state’s eviction moratorium that Newsom immediately signed into law. Republicans griped about a tax increase on businesses with 500 or more employees that would fund cleanups of hazardous waste sites, while Democrats were frustrated by the Newsom administration’s insistence on delaying increased public health spending. There were also disagreements over how to handle California’s spiraling unemployment insurance debt, which experts say could top $26 billion by the end of this year; Democratic lawmakers shot down a GOP amendment to pay off $15 billion using the state’s huge surplus.

Here’s a closer look at other key pieces of the budget I didn’t mention in Monday’s newsletter:

  • An unprecedented $93.7 billion in general fund money for K-12 education, with extra funds for special education, districts serving high-needs students, summer school programs and new teachers, CalMatters’ Joe Hong reports.
  • Free breakfast and lunch for all public school students, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports.
  • An expansion of Medi-Cal so more low-income residents can qualify for state-funded health insurance, per CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra.
  • $20 million for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, the site of a May mass shooting — including $10 million for worker assistance, such as mental health services.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 3,714,051 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 62,994 deaths (+0.01% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 41,371,676 vaccine doses, and 58.6% 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. LA recommends masks indoors for all

State mask rules are in flux, part of the California reopening confusion.
Image via iStock

California’s most populous county, Los Angeles, “strongly recommended” Monday that all residents — even those who are fully vaccinated — wear masks indoors as the highly transmissible Delta variant spreads throughout the state. The urging from county public health officials, which came less than two weeks after California fully reopened, could push other local governments to issue similar recommendations as coronavirus positivity rates tick up and the pace of vaccinations declines. It also poses a political problem for Newsom: If conditions worsen and he decides to reinstate mask rules, that could fuel support for the recall as pandemic-weary Californians emerge from more than a year and a half of restrictions.

Meanwhile, CalMatters’ Jacqueline Garcia examines how COVID-19 ravaged California’s mariachi bands. In the early days of the pandemic, work dried up as many mariachis were infected with COVID-19 and more than 50 died. Work is picking back up as the state reopens, but many mariachis are now performing at funerals.

2. California expands travel restrictions

Image via iStock

California will restrict state-funded travel to Arkansas, Florida, Montana, North Dakota and West Virginia for enacting laws deemed to be anti-LGBTQ, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Monday. The five additions — four of which were in response to laws blocking transgender women and girls from participating in school sports consistent with their gender identity — push the total number of states on California’s travel restrictions list to 17. Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Golden State’s travel ban — the product of a 2016 state law — by refusing to hear a Texas lawsuit challenging it.

Bonta unveiled the new restrictions alongside state Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat and member of the Legislative LGBTQ Caucus. By contrast, Anne Marie Schubert, Sacramento County’s district attorney and Bonta’s main opponent so far in the 2022 attorney general race, announced her opposition Monday to a Wiener bill that would decriminalize psychedelic drugs, arguing it could facilitate the spread of date rape drugs. Also Monday, Schubert slammed the Legislature for passing laws that will allow a Sacramento serial rapist to receive a parole hearing after serving less than one-third of his sentence. The actions suggest that Schubert — who also recently sued the Newsom administration for giving 76,000 inmates the opportunity to shorten their prison sentences — is working to appeal to voters’ concerns over public safety ahead of next year’s election.

3. Fires erupt amid staffing shortages

A firefighter pulls a hose while protecting a home along Crystal Springs Road while battling the Glass Fire in St. Helena on Sept. 26, 2020. Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo, Bay Area News Group
A firefighter battles the Glass Fire in St. Helena on Sept. 26, 2020. Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo, Bay Area News Group

As temperatures soar up to 8 degrees above normal in Northern California and up to 15 degrees above normal in Southern California, a series of fires broke out across the state over the weekend and on Monday. An evacuation warning was issued for some residents of Siskiyou County as the Lava Fire burned through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, threatening homes and massive marijuana grows. Meanwhile, the Shell Fire blazed through steep, rocky terrain in Kern County — posing both a challenge and hazards for firefighters. And on Monday, the Peak Fire was spreading rapidly through the San Bernardino National Forest. The conflagrations come on the heels of a blockbuster report that found Newsom and state fire officials overstated California’s progress on fire prevention — yet another political hurdle for the governor as he contends with an intensifying drought and persistent drinking water shortages. (For more on the report’s findings, check out the newest episode of the California State of Mind podcast.)

Further complicating matters, the federal government owns most of California’s forests — but a growing number of federal firefighters are quitting their jobs due to low wages, CNN reports.

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CalMatters events

July 13: How can California support its small businesses as they recover from a recession and global pandemic? Join a CalMatters and Milken Institute virtual conversation with leading policymakers, including Small Business Administration Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman. Register here.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom has once more undercut his own credibility — this time by making exaggerated claims about wildfire prevention.

State budget overlooks drought and wildfire: The current agreement between Newsom and Democratic lawmakers disinvests in wildfire prevention and lacks any water storage commitment, argues Assemblymember Vince Fong, a Bakersfield Republican.

Child care system needs long-term TLC: California must commit to providing stable solutions that address the needs of vulnerable families and underpaid providers, write Micaela Mota of Parent Voices and Sandra Saenz of Anielka’s Family Daycare.

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Other things worth your time

Lawsuit targets Cal State mandate that students get COVID vaccine. // Sacramento Bee

Californians are fueling Austin, Texas’ housing frenzy: ‘We’ve never seen migration like this.’ // San Francisco Chronicle

Why did so many homeless people die in a Los Angeles hotel during COVID? // Los Angeles Times

San Jose Unified School District ends partnership with on-campus police. // Mercury News

California’s white population dropped 3% in 4 years with declining birth rates and increased mortality. // San Francisco Chronicle

California’s Central Valley is some of America’s richest farmland. But what is it without water? // New York Times

Bay Area cities prepare to restrict gas leaf blowers. A statewide ban could be next. // San Francisco Chronicle

Oil bankruptcies leave environmental cleanup bills to California taxpayers. // Desert Sun

California just OK’d a massive new build-out of renewables and clean storage. // Canary Media

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...