In an attempt to soothe voters spooked by crime rates, Gov. Newsom signed a bill to continue classifying organized retail theft as a crime.
And then there were 46.
The number of Californians running to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Sept. 14 election swelled by four on Wednesday, when a judge ruled that a state law requiring gubernatorial candidates to release tax returns doesn’t apply to recall elections, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports. That catapulted onto the ballot conservative talk show host Larry Elder, who had been left off for providing what Secretary of State Shirley Weber deemed incomplete tax returns. Three other people rejected only because of the tax document requirement were also added to the final candidate list Weber certified late Wednesday.
Kevin Faulconer, however, wasn’t so lucky: He lost his bid to be described as “retired San Diego Mayor” on the recall ballot, and will instead be referred to as “businessman/educator.” Real estate YouTuber Kevin Paffrath was also blocked from including his nickname “Meet Kevin.”
Although those details may seem trivial, they can be decisive. Career descriptions, party preference, name recognition and the order of names on the ballot have all been shown to influence electoral outcomes — which is likely why Newsom sued Weber to be listed as a Democrat on the recall ballot after his lawyers made a filing error. A judge ruled against Newsom last week, meaning his party preference will not be included.
While Newsom’s challengers spent Wednesday in court battling over ballot designations, the governor was making his own appeal to the court of public opinion. In a likely attempt to soothe voters spooked by a 31% spike in homicides, potentially shorter prison sentences for 76,000 inmates, and viral videos of store robberies, Newsom signed into law a bill to continue classifying organized retail theft as a crime and keep task forces in place. He also appeared to chastise progressive district attorneys, such as George Gascón in Los Angeles and Chesa Boudin in San Francisco, by encouraging prosecutors to “take seriously those re-offenses” and “be a little bit more proactive on enforcement and prosecution of those crimes.”
The press conference came a day after high-profile victim advocates — including Marc Klaas, whose daughter Polly was murdered in 1993 — gathered in Sacramento to denounce Newsom’s criminal justice policies.
- Joanna Rodriguez, spokesperson for Recall Gavin Newsom Action: “Californians deserve a governor who cares about their safety and the economic impacts of increasing crime all the time — not just when facing the threat of recall.”
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,772,470 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 63,664 deaths (+0.02% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.
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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Other stories you should know
1. Conservatorships in the spotlight
Thanks to Britney Spears, a topic once debated only in niche circles — California’s complex conservatorship laws — has suddenly become dinner table conversation. Thousands of people are now opining on whether California makes it too easy or too difficult for representatives to assume decision-making power for people deemed so cognitively impaired they can’t make choices for themselves. The back-and-forth is also playing out in the state Legislature: Lawmakers recently tabled a bill that would make it easier to conserve people with serious mental illness, while a proposal inspired by the Spears case that would require increased transparency and stricter accountability continues to advance, CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener reports.
- Zoe Brennan-Krohn of the ACLU’s Disability Rights Project: “Having a situation with very little oversight where one person has extraordinary control over another person is just a recipe for abuse.”
- Teresa Pasquini, whose son has been on a conservatorship for 20 years: “A conservatorship has been the tool he needed to live and stay free.”
2. Is the bullet train doomed?
Thirteen years after California voters approved $10 billion to build a bullet train stretching from San Francisco to Los Angeles, it’s unclear whether the first section of track — a 119-mile stretch connecting the tiny towns of Madera and Shafter — will ever be finished. That’s because Newsom and state lawmakers can’t decide whether to fund it: While Newsom proposed pouring $4.2 billion into finishing the first segment, some top Democratic legislators are wondering if more money should go toward improving public transportation in highly-populated areas like Los Angeles, CalMatters’ Marissa Garcia reports. The Newsom administration, meanwhile, says high-speed rail offers good-paying jobs in the economically struggling Central Valley — though the project has only created about 20% of the jobs union leaders and politicians say it has.
- Ethan Elkind, director of the UC Berkeley School of Law’s climate program: “Given that it doesn’t seem like there’s much hope of the project coming anywhere close to the major population centers anytime soon, you’re seeing these legislators trying to essentially get leverage to salvage … money for their districts.”
3. PG&E wants to bury power lines
PG&E announced Wednesday that it plans to bury 10,000 miles of its power lines in the coming years, an effort that would likely cost at least $20 billion but could help the utility avoid sparking more disastrous wildfires, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The news comes just days after PG&E told state regulators its equipment may have caused the Dixie Fire in Butte and Plumas counties, which has since exploded to nearly 86,000 acres and remains just 15% contained despite more than 3,300 firefighters attacking the flames. The blaze on Wednesday burned at least two structures and was threatening at least 800 more.
- Cal Fire operations chief Tony Brownell: “The fuel component right now is so dry, so almost 100% of the sparks going out find a receptive fuel and are lighting up.”
Consumer advocates, while applauding the idea of underground power lines, said PG&E should not burden ratepayers with the cost of developing such a system.
- Mark Toney of the Utility Reform Network: “We’d be living in a world where only the wealthy could afford electricity. PG&E needs a plan to reduce the most risk possible at the least cost possible to ratepayers.”
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Three growing crises could affect the Newsom recall.
Schools should spend extra $15 billion on students: The massive influx of one-time federal aid should be used to improve student outcomes, not pad the teachers’ union budget, argues Chantal Lovell of the California Policy Center.
Other things worth your time
Caitlyn Jenner op-ed: California gives trial lawyers a powerful weapon to wield against businesses. // Wall Street Journal
The California dream is dying. // The Atlantic
California COVID hospitalizations hit highest point in months amid Delta spread. // Los Angeles Times
Thousands of students in South San Diego County head back to school this week. // San Diego Union-Tribune
California summer school’s big hopes tempered by staffing shortages, exhaustion, family vacations. // Los Angeles Times
Orange County to explore tense issues over ethnic studies and race. // EdSource
California housing crisis extends to Central Valley college students. What can be done? // Fresno Bee
San Francisco expands authority to impose mental health holds to paramedics. // San Francisco Chronicle
California’s electric car revolution, meant to save the planet, also takes a toll. // Los Angeles Times
California voters approved billions for water projects. Where are the new dams and reservoirs? // Sacramento Bee
In California drought, water witches are stumped. // New York Times
Seas are rising. Will California’s ‘managed retreat’ ease fears? // Christian Science Monitor
California can expand insurance for wildfire areas, court rules. // Associated Press
Report: Bay Area hospitals not complying with price transparency rule. // Mercury News
CalPERS investment return increases employee pension costs. // Sacramento Bee
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