Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, June 8.

Lots of uncertainty remains

“The one thing I’m certain of is there’s uncertainty in the future,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a Friday press conference that cast doubts on the extent of the state’s grand reopening next week.

It was difficult not to think of that comment when Newsom announced Monday that 99% of schools for which the state has data plan to reopen for full-time in-person instruction in the fall. Yet the definition of “reopening” remains vague. Although Newsom and state lawmakers have vowed an end to distance learning, they’re currently negotiating a budget that would allow students to keep learning remotely through beefed-up independent study plans — and some districts are even launching fully virtual schools to match demand from parents who don’t yet feel comfortable sending their kids back to campus.

Meanwhile, other districts are negotiating fall reopening rules that look almost identical to current practices. In Los Angeles, for example, the teachers union is pushing for strict safety protocols that include mandatory masking and COVID-19 testing — presumably even for fully vaccinated students and staff. Yet the state is lifting its mask mandate next week, and updated its testing guidance Monday to exempt fully vaccinated Californians from COVID-19 testing and screening in almost all situations.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Public Health announced Monday the launch of a $25 million campaign intended to help families hard-hit by the pandemic gain confidence that school campuses are safe.

Another pandemic policy that could continue post-COVID: free school meals for all children, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports. If a proposal introduced by top Democrats is approved in budget negotiations this week, California would allocate $650 million annually starting in the 2022-23 fiscal year to cover breakfast and lunch for all public school students.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 3,690,868 confirmed cases (+0.02% from previous day) and 62,473 deaths (+0.005% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 38,523,717 vaccine doses, and 53.1% 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. Kiley contemplates gubernatorial bid

Assemblymember Kevin Kiley leaves the California Capitol on Aug. 28, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Assemblymember Kevin Kiley announced Monday he’s exploring a run for governor, becoming the first state lawmaker to openly contemplate running against Newsom in the all-but-certain recall election — which may be scheduled sooner than previously thought. The Rocklin Republican, who emerged as one Newsom’s most vocal critics amid the pandemic, made headlines last year when he won a lawsuit limiting Newsom’s executive authority. Although the ruling was overturned in May, Kiley and the other plaintiff, GOP Assemblymember James Gallagher of Yuba City, have vowed to appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court. The two men, alongside GOP state Sen. Melissa Melendez of Riverside County, sent Newsom a letter Monday demanding he explain his rationale for keeping California’s state of emergency in place past June 15.

If you want a refresher on who’s running in the recall and what their policy positions are, check out this Q&A from the Times of San Diego.

2. A lack of Latino judges

The Colusa courthouse reflected in the window of a nearby restaurant on May 25, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
The Colusa courthouse reflected in the window of a nearby restaurant on May 25, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

In four of California’s majority-Latino counties, there isn’t a single Latino superior court judge — a glaring gap that persists despite years of programs aimed at diversifying the bench. In the first installment of a new series, CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons explores possible reasons for this stubborn discrepancy. Among them: Many of California’s rural areas are “attorney deserts,” with too few lawyers to represent the population — and thus fewer practicing Latino attorneys in the pool from which judicial appointments are drawn. Other critics say the appointment system itself is flawed and frequently resembles a “good ol’ boy” network that excludes women and people of color, to the detriment of fairness and equity within the branch of California’s justice system that people tend to interact with most directly.

3. More mandatory water restrictions

Image via iStock

On Wednesday, Santa Clara County will likely impose mandatory water restrictions on its 2 million residents, making it California’s most populous region to take the severe step as drought conditions worsen, the Mercury News reports. The move comes about a month after the state’s first major water agency — also in the Bay Area — approved mandatory water restrictions, and signals just how dire things are getting. A record 74% of the state is experiencing “extreme” drought, according to federal statistics released Thursday. Adding to the concern, Lake Oroville’s water levels are dwindling so quickly that state officials say they may have to shut down a major hydroelectric power plant by late August — which could put California in danger of another round of rolling blackouts.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s seven-decade-long debate over capital punishment is boiling over again.

A more equitable food system: Newsom and lawmakers must approve comprehensive funding to ensure a climate-smart, healthy and more equitable food and farming system for all, write Assemblymember Robert Rivas, a Hollister Democrat, and Andy Naja-Riese of the Agricultural Institute of Marin.

Keep high-speed rail on track: The future of high-speed rail in the United States will be determined by what California does in the next couple of weeks, argues Rick Harnish of the High Speed Rail Alliance.

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Other things worth your time

Judge, attorney in pivotal Newsom recall lawsuit were former law partners. // Los Angeles Times

Caitlyn Jenner wants to turn celebrity into power. But why? // Politico Magazine

After 116 years without a recall election, Vernon will have two this year. // Daily News

Podcast: Inside the horseshoe with Newsom’s executive secretary Jim Deboo. // Capitol Weekly

With restrictions tightening elsewhere, California moves to make abortion cheaper. // California Healthline

Feds, for-profit prison group ask Ninth Circuit to block California private prison ban. // Courthouse News Service

Gascón’s plan to review past police killings hits roadblocks. // Los Angeles Times

Ex-cons could relieve restaurant, retail hiring shortages as California economy reopens. // ABC7 San Francisco

Buscaino launches run for Los Angeles mayor with focus on homelessness. Homeless woman with a knife interrupted. // Los Angeles Times

These San Francisco neighborhoods have high eviction rates, but little help from the city. // San Francisco Chronicle

Sausalito’s housing war is happening on the water. In this conflict, eviction means crushed boats. // San Francisco Chronicle

California city officials hid 2018 cyber attack, used insurance to pay $65K ransom to hackers. // Mercury News

California entry wins U.S. tap water prize at tasting contest. // Associated Press

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...