In summary

Democratic lawmakers unveiled plans to overhaul the recall rules enshrined in California’s constitution — a move that did not go over well with Republicans.

No sooner did one recall battle end than another began.

Less than a day after Gov. Gavin Newsom defeated an attempt to oust him from office, Democratic lawmakers unveiled plans to overhaul the quirky recall rules enshrined in California’s constitution for the past 110 years — a move that did not go over well with Republicans.

Sen. Josh Newman of Brea — who was himself recalled in 2018 — jumped right in with two constitutional amendments, including one that would make it more difficult to qualify recalls for the ballot. Assemblymember Marc Berman of Los Altos and Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda — who lead the Legislature’s election committees — took a more measured approach, saying they want to hold a series of bipartisan hearings to examine possible changes to California’s recall process. But it’s unclear how much buy-in they’ll get from the GOP, for whom recalls might represent one of the few roads to power in deep-blue California, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.

Reformed or not, the recall has already dealt a blow to the California GOP. Conservative talk show host Larry Elder decimated the other replacement candidates — an indication that Trump-like politicians continue to be immensely popular with the party’s base but not with the broader swath of voters needed to win in California. And the two prominent GOP elected officials in the race — Kiley and former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer — have so far each received less than 10% of votes cast on the ballot’s second question.

In a sign of how repellent the Republican label has become for many Californians, Kiley and businessman John Cox, the GOP’s nominee for governor in 2018, received fewer votes than Brandon Ross, a politically unknown Democratic doctor who had his medical license suspended and said he had been addicted to opiates, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports.

Newsom, meanwhile, appears to be trying to show Californians they made the right choice by keeping him in office. On Wednesday, he visited an Oakland school to tout the state’s progress on school reopenings and awarded $138 million in local fire prevention grants.

Local governments also seem to be implicitly endorsing Newsom’s campaign strategy of doubling down on vaccine and mask requirements. Los Angeles County on Wednesday announced plans to require proof of vaccination to enter indoor bars, wineries, breweries, nightclubs and lounges, a day after Contra Costa County said customers of indoor restaurants, bars and gyms must show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter.


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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 4,380,566 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 67,001 deaths (+0.3% from previous day), according to state data.

California has administered 48,160,068 vaccine doses, and 68.5% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters is tracking the top 21 bills state lawmakers sent to Newsom’s desk.


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1. CHP towing policy draws scrutiny

Illustration by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters; iStock

The California Highway Patrol has ordered more than 50,000 month-long holds on cars driven by unlicensed motorists since 2017 — the year a federal court declared the practice unconstitutional, according to a new investigation from CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons. The state police agency is now facing at least three lawsuits for allegedly violating the Fourth Amendment, which protects the public from unreasonable searches and seizures of property. It’s also confronting pushback from advocates who argue the policy criminalizes poverty, noting it can cost roughly $2,000 to have a car towed and held for 30 days. Still, for law enforcement, legislators and other drivers, keeping unlicensed motorists — who account for 19% of fatal crashes nationwide — off the roads is a public safety imperative.

2. College students feel housing crunch

Newly built facilities at UC Merced on Aug. 2, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

How much are California’s college students in need of housing? As just one example, so many students at UC Santa Barbara can’t find a place to live that lounges are being repurposed into makeshift rooms and the university is planning to offer hotel vouchers to students, EdSource reports. Awaiting Newsom’s signature is a bill that would give public colleges and universities $500 million for building affordable housing or renovating existing properties. Although that sum could rise to $2 billion over the next three years, it will likely amount to nothing more than a rounding error in the huge sum of students’ total need, CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn reports. Case in point: The total amount of money allocated to UC wouldn’t even cover the cost of one housing project at UCLA.

3. PG&E sued for wildfire damage — again

The Dixie Fire destroys buildings in the Plumas County town of Greenville on Aug. 4, 2021. Photo by Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group

More than 200 victims of the Dixie Fire sued PG&E on Wednesday, two days after a federal judge grilled an employee about whether the beleaguered utility could have shut off electricity earlier to a power line suspected of sparking the blaze. The Dixie Fire, which destroyed the Gold Rush town of Greenville, is the second-largest blaze in state history at nearly 1 million acres. In other fire news, the KNP Complex Fire burning in Sequoia National Park came within one mile of the Giant Forest on Wednesday. The forest is home to many iconic giant sequoias, including General Sherman, believed to be the world’s largest tree by volume.


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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom defeated the recall — now what?

Importance of investing in community colleges: Newsom should sign legislation that would be a critical down payment for students seeking financial aid, writes Daisy Gonzales, acting chancellor of California Community Colleges.

Racial justice starts with birth justice: It’s time for California to address the root causes of persistent disparities in Black maternal and infant health, argue Natalie Berbick, Kamilah Davis and Daphina Melbourne, the Perinatal Equity Initiative leaders of Contra Costa, Santa Clara and Alameda counties, respectively.


Other things worth your time

Newsom: RFK admiration shows ‘where I might be leaning’ on Sirhan Sirhan parole. // Politico

Sonoma County district attorney overwhelmingly beats recall attempt. // San Francisco Chronicle

Residents want to recall Santa Clara County supervisors. // San José Spotlight

Superior Court judge reprimanded for partisan posts on Gascón recall, gun control. // San Francisco Chronicle

CalPERS sent pension checks to more than 20,000 dead retirees, audit says. // Sacramento Bee

4 more LAPD officers suspected in false gang-labeling scandal. // Los Angeles Times

California prison officer accused of ambush in mask dispute. // Mercury News

LAUSD rejects proposal to allow police officers back on school campuses. // Daily News

‘Pool testing’ to combat COVID on campus grows popular in California schools. // EdSource

National Guard deployed to Kern County amid third coronavirus surge to relieve strain on local staff. // Bakersfield Californian

Mills College trustees cement merger that will end women-only education in Oakland after 170 years. // San Francisco Chronicle

Growing uncertainty in the Central Valley. // New Yorker


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Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...