Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, September 9.

Big decisions ahead

Win or lose the recall, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s political challenges won’t end after Sept. 14.

State lawmakers on Wednesday sent a stack of controversial bills to the governor’s desk, adding to a pile that already contains such contentious proposals as eliminating single-family zoning statewide and mandating gender-neutral toy sections in large department stores. Newsom has until Oct. 10 to sign or veto the bills lawmakers will finish sending him on Friday, when the legislative session ends. Here’s a look at some key proposals that passed Wednesday:

One idea that won’t be moving forward, however: a proposal that would have established legal protections for employers who require workers to get vaccinated or submit to regular COVID-19 testing. “We unfortunately ran out of time,” said the bill’s author, Democratic Assemblymember Evan Low of Silicon Valley, who noted the proposal would have also extended paid sick leave for workers infected by COVID-19.

California’s expanded paid sick leave policy — which required many employers to offer 80 paid hours off for COVID-related illness — is set to expire Sept. 30, the same day as the state’s eviction moratorium.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 4,315,234 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 66,056 deaths (+0.04% from previous day), according to state data.

California has administered 47,514,264 vaccine doses, and 67.4% 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. National Democrats rally behind Newsom

Vice President Kamala Harris stumps for Gov. Gavin Newsom during a campaign rally encouraging Californians to vote "no" on the recall election next week, at the IBEW-NECA training center in San Leandro on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Vice President Kamala Harris stumps for Gov. Gavin Newsom at the IBEW-NECA training center in San Leandro on Sept. 8, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Kamala Harris, Joe Biden, Barack Obama: the country’s current and former Democratic presidential administrations are backing Newsom in full force. On Wednesday, Vice President Harris joined Newsom in the Bay Area to rally against the Sept. 14 recall — the latest rendezvous in a long and tumultuous relationship between the political frenemies, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. Also Wednesday, Newsom’s campaign launched an ad starring former President Obama urging Californians to vote against the recall. And next week — presumably before Election Day, which is Tuesday — President Biden is expected to travel to California to stump for Newsom.

The push from national Democrats comes amid a flurry of new polls released Wednesday that reinforce the conclusion that Newsom is well positioned to survive the recall. But while the Newsom campaign is cautiously optimistic, his allies say they aren’t taking anything for granted. The governor’s critics, meanwhile, say they doubt the polls are representative.

  • Becky Olsen, who attended a recent rally for frontrunner Larry Elder, told the Washington Post: “You can see all the people out here who are going to vote for Larry. I think people don’t want to say how they’re voting. They’re afraid to say it, maybe.”

Speaking of Elder, the conservative talk show host was apparently accosted by homeless Californians and advocates — as well as an egg-throwing woman wearing a gorilla mask — during a Wednesday campaign stop in Venice.

And now, a scooplet from CalMatters’ Ben Christopher: California’s campaign finance watchdog has opened an investigation into recall candidate Kevin Paffrath after the Democratic YouTube personality filed financial disclosure documents 45 days after the legal due date. Paffrath filed his statement of economic interests after being notified of the investigation. Late last month, the state launched a similar inquiry into Elder.

2. Separating fact from fiction

Image via iStock

A judge last month gave Newsom the green light to refer to the recall in the state’s official voter guide as “an attempt by national Republicans … to grab power in California,” noting that although the statement might be exaggerated, “it is also the type of exaggeration that is common to political debate and that is thus permissible.” As recall candidates and Newsom hit the campaign trail, they’re tossing out claims left and right about each other’s beliefs, COVID-19 vaccines, climate change and crime — but how many of them are actually based in fact? CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal takes a look.

Meanwhile, some prominent Republicans — including former President Donald Trump and Fox News host Tomi Lahren — are dispensing the unsubstantiated claim that if Newsom survives the recall, it must mean the election was rigged or mass voter fraud occurred. “I guess you even have a case where you can make your own ballot,” Trump said on Newsmax. “When that happens, nobody’s gonna win except these Democrats.” (Sameea debunks that rumor, along with many others, in this must-read piece.) Meanwhile, after a protracted battle last year over what constitutes legal “ballot harvesting,” both the California Democratic and Republican parties are downplaying their use of the tool amid the recall, the Los Angeles Times reports.

3. Dry heat could prompt lightning-sparked fires

Illustration via iStock

It’s hot and dry out there — so hot that the state’s electric grid operator issued a Flex Alert asking Californians to conserve energy Wednesday and Thursday nights, and so dry that the snowpack atop Mt. Shasta has disappeared earlier than usual and is unleashing mudslides into the communities below. Meanwhile, dry thunderstorms are forecasted to hit the North Bay this afternoon and evening, bringing with them the possibility of lightning-sparked wildfires.

Despite California’s devastating drought — and sobering reports like this one from the Mercury News, which found that Santa Clara County residents are falling well short of water conservation targets — the state’s agriculture chief told the “California State of Mind podcast” that the state doesn’t need to uproot its thirstiest crops. But that could potentially come at the expense of California’s climate goals: A report released this morning by the Pacific Institute and Next 10 found that unless the state takes urgent water efficiency measures, its carbon emissions from water usage will likely spike as it struggles to meet the demands of a growing population and the agricultural industry.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: If Newsom survives the recall, which seems likely, he needs to grow up and reflect on what got him into trouble.

Recall election is an assault on Black voters: The same forces behind voter suppression efforts in Georgia, Texas and other states are bankrolling the recall in California, argues Ginger Rutland, a former Sacramento Bee editorial board member.

Abortion access under threat: Decisions restricting abortion elsewhere could roll back 50 years of progress — even in California — unless we take action now, writes Janet Jacobson of Planned Parenthood of Orange & San Bernardino counties.

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Other things worth your time

Election boosts female California lawmakers to all-time high. // Associated Press

California unions pour money into CalPERS election. // Sacramento Bee

Gavin Newsom and the Golden State’s recall fever. // New Yorker

Meet the little-known candidates in the Newsom recall election. // Los Angeles Times

How does $15 minimum wage affect California workers and jobs? // Sacramento Bee

Silicon Valley finds remote work is easier to begin than end. // Mercury News

Will federal unemployment benefits ending cause Californians to return to work? // Forbes

Research finds ethnic studies in San Francisco had an enduring impact. // EdSource

Alameda County jail would have to improve care under court decree. // Mercury News

With California wildfires come lawyers, but past survivors warn: Buyers beware. // KPBS

How a California climate program lets companies pollute. // Los Angeles Times

California settles climate change lawsuit with fossil fuel giant SoCalGas. // Los Angeles Times

East Bay land parcel slated to become 3,100-acre state park instead of off-road vehicle space. // San Francisco Chronicle

How Southern California cities could thwart California’s new affordable housing mandate. // Capital & Main

San Diego County on track to build more homes this year. // San Diego Union-Tribune

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...