In summary

The governor won’t get “Democrat” listed next to his name on the recall ballot, rules the same judge who gave recall proponents more time to collect signatures.

Gov. Gavin Newsom will not be able to list his party affiliation on the recall ballot, a Sacramento County judge ruled Monday. 

In case you forgot, he’s a Democrat.

The blank space on the ballot is thanks to a filing error. Friday, Newsom’s lawyer admitted that he forgot to request the party designation label — failing to take advantage of a law, signed by his client the governor just a few months earlier, that would have allowed him to do so. 

Sadly for Newsom, Judge James Arguelles — an appointee of the former governor and 2003 recall winner Arnold Schwarzenegger — was not willing to give the governor’s campaign a do-over

In his order, Arguelles cited a 2008 state appellate court ruling: “This case shows why every lawyer in California should have a sign posted in his or her office which says ‘Never do anything on the last day or at the last moment.’”

California election procedure fans will remember that Arguelles was the same judge who granted recall petitioners four extra months to gather signatures — perhaps guaranteeing the election would ultimately happen. 

Newsom may have to do without his party affiliation on the first question on the ballot — whether he should be recalled. But does it matter? I asked Loyola law professor and political analyst Jessica Levinson why there’s always such a fuss over ballot labels and descriptions come election time.

Levinson: “The Venn diagram of people who are going to show up to vote in a recall election and people who don’t know that the governor is a Democrat has got to be pretty small.”

Still, no matter how well Newsom is doing in the polls, elections can be decided by paper-thin margins and campaigns only have so many ways to influence voters. The last thing a campaign lawyer wants is for their client to lose thanks to a filing error.

Levinson said nothing about this — the filing error, the fact that Newsom signed a law designed to make it harder to recall Democrats, the added pressure on his appointed Secretary of State Shirley Weber — makes Newsom or his campaign look particularly good. “And this is totally paging Dr. Awkward for Shirley Weber.”

In other recall-related developments, with the deadline looming Friday for candidates to file:

  • Larry Elder, Los Angeles-based conservative radio personality, is in: He announced his run for governor on his radio show and began soliciting donations.
  • Also running is Ted Gaines, a Republican on the state Board of Equalization and former legislator. 
  • Mary Carey, former porn star and Playboy model, is out — as first reported in an innuendo-laden TMZ article.
  • Kevin Kiley, Republican Assemblymember and new entrant, is on the road, hitting San Diego, the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Fresno on a campaign tour.

Keep up with CalMatters coverage of the recall on our new page.

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 3,733,743 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 63,472 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 42,458,868 vaccine doses, and 60.5% 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. Behest rules for thee, not for me?

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStock

Last year, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall wrote about the increasingly common practice of state legislators asking powerful interest groups to donate to favored nonprofits and charities — a kind of “monetary backchannel” around campaign finance rules.

The good news: The state’s campaign finance regulator is finally doing something about these “behested payments.”

The maybe not-so-good-news: The Fair Political Practices Commission is thinking about leaving in a big loophole.

One of the new rules under consideration would require an elected official to disclose when they are involved in a decision — say, a permit approval — that would impact the interest group making the charitable donation.

But here’s the caveat under consideration: Being “involved in a decision” doesn’t include legislating.

As Laurel explains: “That means the rule wouldn’t change anything for state lawmakers who routinely vote on bills affecting the businesses and unions they hit up for donations to their nonprofits.“

It’s not an abstract possibility.  Earlier this year, state senators who lead the Legislature’s Black and Latino caucuses asked the state’s correctional officers’ union to donate $75,000 to the foundations they run. In June, the Legislature granted prison guards a $5,000 bonus and an 8% raise over the next two years.

2. “Breakthrough moment” on broadband

Mario Ramirez Garcia, 10, attends online school in the bedroom he shares wit his sister on April 23, 2021. According to their father, the internet connection at their Oakland home cuts out about twice a week which is especially frustrating to the kids when they are taking tests. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Mario Ramirez Garcia, 10, attends online school in the bedroom he shares with his sister on April 23, 2021. According to their father, the internet connection at their Oakland home cuts out about twice a week. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

One global pandemic and a year of remote schooling later, California lawmakers finally have a big, ambitious deal to bring the state’s internet infrastructure into the 21st century.

Monday, Gov. Newsom and legislative leaders Sen. Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced a plan to spend $6 billion on state-spanning fiber optic cables and high-speed networks in areas underserved by private providers.

“This broadband package is historic. It transcends politics, and it will be a legacy project that will benefit generations of rural and urban residents alike,” said Newsom, who has been pushing the Legislature to take up a big, pricey package for months.

A few highlights from the deal: 

  • $3.25 billion to build a state-owned 8,000 mile network designed to bring high-speed internet to some of the state’s least connected communities — think, the California State Water Project, but for ones and zeros.
  • $2 billion in grants for providers to build expensive-to-reach homes or businesses, bringing them speeds of at least 100 megabits per second where possible.
  • $750 million for seed money to local governments hoping to borrow and build out their own networks

“This is an all-hands-on-deck kind of approach that I have not seen any other state replicate in terms of its goals or its ambition,” said Ernesto Falcon, a lobbyist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “We’re at a major breakthrough moment.

For universal broadband advocates who have spent years decrying the crappy to nonexistent service across rural California and in many low-income urban neighborhoods, this is a major win. Less so for incumbent telecom providers who don’t relish the idea of state-subsidized competition.

Carolyn McIntyre, president of the California Cable & Telecommunications Association, offered a tepid response in a Monday evening press release: “We must remain dedicated to using these funds wisely and explicitly prioritize chronically unserved areas.”

The Legislature could vote on the proposal as soon as Thursday.

3. Bail reform redux

The Bail Boys bail bonds displays a “No on Prop 25” poster in downtown Los Angeles on Oct. 21, 2020. Prop. 25 would have ended California’s current cash bail system and replaced it with a three-tier risk assessment system. Photo by Tash Kimmell for CalMatters.

A bill that would eliminate cash bail for all but the most serious offenses is scheduled to get its first look-see in the state Assembly this morning.

Yes, we’re having this debate again. In 2018, Democratic Sen. Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys passed a bill doing away with the practice of charging people to get out of jail before trial. Then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law, but bail bonds companies put a referendum on the 2020 ballot asking voters to nix it. They won.

Now, Hertzberg is back with a new, modified version. The bill would allow judges to charge bail only in cases of murder and other violent felonies — though the exact amounts would be set by the state’s Judicial Council. And if the arrestee isn’t charged or shows up to all their court dates, bail bond companies would have to refund most of their payments.

No surprise, bail bond companies aren’t thrilled. Jeff Clayton, executive director of the American Bail Coalition, a trade group, called the bill “unconstitutional” and said it eviscerates the bail bond business model: “The long and the short of it is that there won’t be bail agents to bail people under this bill.”

You can expect to hear a lot of political debate about crime in the months to come. Why? 

Let us count the reasons:

Murders and car thefts are up. President Joe Biden is calling for more police funding — contrary to some Republican claims that he wants to do the opposite. Some political commentators are warning progressive to take the issue more seriously or risk the electoral consequences  The sheriff in L.A. County is running against “the woke left.” Progressive prosecutors in San Francisco and Los Angeles are facing down recall campaigns. 

And, oh, yeah, so is the governor.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: As online retail sales soar in California, how should the money get divided up?

Housing bill threatens initiative process: Senate Bill 10 allows local officials to override voter-adopted initiative measures in exchange for higher-density housing, writes Antonio Diaz of People Organizing to Demand Environmental & Economic Rights

Long-term drought resilience: Emergency conservation orders address short-term water shortages, but we need strategic investments in local drought-resilient water supply project, argues Sean Bigley, chairperson of the Sacramento Regional Water Authority Board. 

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Emily will be back with you tomorrow.

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Ben covers housing policy and previously covered California politics and elections. Prior to these roles at CalMatters, he was a contributing writer for CalMatters reporting on the state's economy and...