Friday wasn’t a lucky day for Gov. Gavin Newsom.

The stage was set — literally — for a positive announcement. Newsom, standing in front of shimmery gold and red curtains and a Wheel of Fortune-style gizmo in the California Lottery Building in Sacramento, randomly selected the first 15 winners of a $50,000 cash prize from the state’s vaccine lottery program. Confetti rained down on the governor as he held up a supersized check emblazoned with “Vax for the Win” and “FIFTY THOUSAND DOLLARS.”

But then tough questions from reporters began raining down, and the state’s June 15 grand reopening started to look a little hazy.

First, Newsom suggested he wouldn’t take executive action to overturn rules passed late Thursday night by California’s workplace safety agency requiring many employees to keep wearing masks past June 15. Then, in response to a question from CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall, he said he would not end California’s state of emergency on June 15.

  • Newsom: “This disease has not been extinguished. It’s not vanished. It’s not taking the summer months off.”

Keeping the emergency status allows California to bypass certain rules and expedite federal funding even as businesses reopen, which Newsom’s administration says is necessary to handle the lingering effects of the pandemic. But it also provides fodder to Newsom’s critics, who accused him Friday of wanting to hold on to emergency powers that have allowed him to unilaterally affect more than 400 laws and regulations.

Just like that, the main takeaway from Friday’s event went from “cash prizes for getting vaccinated” to “Newsom doesn’t plan to end the state of emergency.” The rapidly shifting narrative underscores the extent to which the outcome of the almost-certain recall election may depend on timing. As Laurel reports, some top Democrats appear to be pushing for the election to be held as soon as mid-September — a move that could capitalize on promising polls and shorten the window for political pitfalls.

Meanwhile, Newsom continues to rake in donations, according to a CalMatters tracker, and endorsements. The California Teachers Association on Saturday said it would support Newsom against the recall, the latest influential union to do so.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,689,994 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 62,470 deaths (+0.4% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 38,429,927 vaccine doses, and 52.9% 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. Judge blocks assault weapon ban

Rifles at a California gun store. Dublin, California. A federal judge overturned the state's ban on assault weapons.
Rows of rifles for sale at a store in Dublin, California.

California’s three-decades-old ban on assault weapons is unconstitutional, a federal judge ruled late Friday — throwing into turmoil the state’s political leaders, who had issued statements just a few hours earlier recognizing National Gun Violence Awareness Day. In ruling against the state, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez compared the AR-15 rifle to a “Swiss Army Knife,” describing both as the “perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.” Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta slammed Benitez for the analogy and said the state would challenge the decision, which Benitez himself stayed for 30 days to allow for an appeal. As CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports, California is already appealing two other Benitez rulings: one striking down the state’s ban on large-capacity magazines, and another blocking the state’s background check requirement to purchase ammunition. (Part of the problem? The state’s glitchy websites.)

The decision came just a day after state lawmakers rejected a bill that would have taxed guns and ammunition to fund gun violence prevention programs and a few weeks after Newsom called for stricter gun laws in the wake of a San Jose mass shooting.

2. Teachers unions back in headlines

Teachers unions in Los Angeles and San Francisco are supporting Palestinians.
Hundreds of people rally in support of Palestinians in San Francisco on May 15, 2021. Photo by Fiona Kelliher, Bay Area News Group

Two of California’s most powerful teachers unions have once again waded into controversy — this time, the decades-old Israel-Palestine conflict. After a deadly outbreak of violence last month, the San Francisco teachers union called on the United States to boycott, divest from and launch sanctions against Israel for propagating “apartheid and war crimes” against Palestinians. The Los Angeles teachers union is set to vote on a similar resolution in September. The resolutions have sparked fierce blowback from some families and Jewish organizations, who say the resolutions are inappropriate and could make Jewish students and teachers feel unsafe. Other critics questioned why the unions are focusing on Israel and Palestine instead of school reopenings — an argument also levied against the San Francisco school board when it voted in January to rename 44 schools named after historical figures it said were linked to racism or oppression (a decision it’s since walked back). Some Palestinian groups, however, applauded the unions for taking on such a hot-button issue.

It isn’t the first time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has surfaced in California public schools. The state Board of Education in March passed an ethnic studies curriculum that took four years and four drafts to develop — largely due to concerns that the original drafts were anti-Semitic and didn’t include the experiences of Arab Americans.

3. The group tracking anti-Asian hate

Russell Jeung, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, in San Francisco Chinatown on May 7, 2021. Photo by Harika Maddala for CalMatters

Following a series of unprovoked attacks on elderly Asian Americans in California and an Atlanta mass shooting whose eight victims included six women of Asian descent, a report documenting anti-Asian discrimination amid the pandemic began circulating. The report came from a small California-based volunteer organization called Stop AAPI Hate, which has quickly become one of the country’s leading sources for reporting hate incidents and in February received $1.4 million from the state to better track and respond to anti-Asian violence. CalMatters’ Mallika Seshadri profiled the founders and volunteers who led Stop AAPI Hate to national prominence.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s recent history is replete with programs and projects that deserve merciful deaths but have continued to soak up billions of dollars in taxpayer money.

Lowering health care costs: An Office of Health Care Affordability would end California’s whack-a-mole approach, argue Bill Kramer of Purchaser Business Group on Health and Anthony Wright of Health Access California.

Everyone deserves a walk in the park: Newsom’s budget includes innovative ideas for clearing obstacles to park access for disadvantaged communities, writes Rachel Norton of the California State Parks Foundation.

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Other things worth your time

Caitlyn Jenner talks run for governor, her voting record, Kim Kardashian and more in first California TV interview. // FOX 11 Los Angeles

California’s housing bill was intended to strike a compromise between warring factions. No such luck. // San Francisco Chronicle

As disasters worsen, California looks at curbing construction in risky areas. // New York Times

California’s K-12 funding formula likely to change, but disagreement over how. // EdSource

For environmentalists, California’s Legislature has been ‘a bloodbath’ this year. // San Francisco Chronicle

Barbara Ferrer mourns the 24,000 dead in Los Angeles County and wonders if she did enough. // Los Angeles Times

Northern California county changes COVID-19 death reporting. // Associated Press

Could Antonio Villaraigosa come back to the mayor’s office? // Los Angeles Times

Can Kamala Harris slow migration to U.S. from Central America? // New York Times

Federal court vacancies put pressure on California senators, President Biden. // San Francisco Chronicle

COVID-19 curbed foreign investment in California in 2020. // Orange County Register

Off-duty cops get into trouble drinking. LAPD rules fail to prevent it. // Los Angeles Times

Boogaloo militia plotted ‘war’ against California cops, feds say. // Mercury News

Illegal drone scares terns, which abandon 2,000 eggs on Bolsa Chica nesting island. // Orange County Register

Lyme disease-carrying ticks found near California beaches. // Los Angeles Times

How Chamath Palihapitiya became Silicon Valley’s Pied Piper of special-purpose acquisition companies. // New Yorker

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...