Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, October 5.

Calls mount to end offshore drilling

At nearly 10 pm on Monday night, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in Orange County due to the region’s largest oil spill in three decades.

The announcement came more than two days after authorities began sounding the alarm on an environmental disaster that soiled the shores of Huntington Beach, infiltrated a critical bird habitat and forced the cancellation of the third installment of the famed Pacific Airshow.

The governor’s response follows those of other elected officials: U.S. Rep. Michelle Steel, an Orange County Republican, asked President Joe Biden on Sunday to authorize a major disaster declaration — the same day Democratic state Sen. Dave Min, who also represents Orange County, called for a ban on all drilling in federal waters off California’s coast. He formalized that request Monday.

Newsom’s declaration also came hours after Min and two fellow Democrats, Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris of Laguna Beach and state Sen. Tom Umberg of Orange County, asked him to declare a state of emergency for Orange County to “cut red tape and help the state quickly mobilize all available resources.” They also asked him to visit the county to survey the damage from the oil spill and discuss the emergency response with local leaders. 

Meanwhile, pressure is mounting on Newsom to take a tougher stance on offshore drilling platforms in particular and the oil and gas industry in general. “It’s past time to decommission these time bombs,” said Miyoko Sakashita, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Oceans program. “It is also time to crack down on the oil and gas industry here in California and beyond,” said Damon Nagami, a senior attorney with the National Resources Defense Council.

  • Newsom: “As California continues to lead the nation in phasing out fossil fuels and combating the climate crisis, this incident serves as a reminder of the enormous cost fossil fuels have on our communities and the environment.”

As CalMatters’ Julie Cart and Rachel Becker report, California has restricted offshore drilling efforts in both federal and state waters for decades, and has also taken steps to avoid and prepare for oil spills. But those measures may not go far enough for environmentalists, many of whom are still frustrated by Newsom’s mixed messages on fracking, the process by which chemicals and water are injected into underground rocks at high pressure to release oil or gas.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 4,515,715 confirmed cases (+0.4% from previous day) and 69,039 deaths (+0.4% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 49,888,739 vaccine doses, and 70.8% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters is tracking the results of the Newsom recall election and the top 21 bills state lawmakers sent to Newsom’s desk.

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1. Newsom signs, vetoes more bills

Image via iStock

With Newsom’s deadline to sign or veto bills now just five days away, the governor on Monday signed into law a proposal requiring health insurance plans to make coverage available to members’ dependent parents; a suite of bills to protect nursing home residents, hospice patients and elderly Californians; and a bill that aims to close California’s racial gaps in maternal and infant mortality rates. He also approved a 12.5% excise tax on electronic cigarettes to discourage teen vaping use and fund public health programs. Lastly, Newsom greenlighted a stack of consumer financial protection bills, including one that cracks down on debt settlement firms and another that requires businesses to offer subscription cancellations online and to notify customers before a subscription’s free trial or promotional price expires. 

Among the bills Newsom vetoed: one that would have helped the state measure how tax-sharing agreements between cities and online retailers are benefiting certain parts of the state at the expense of others; one that would have required law enforcement officers to undergo regular training in “advanced interpersonal communication” and “science-based interviewing”; one that would have created a state program to support local governments’ response to power outages; one that would have made social workers eligible for the first distribution of protective gear during a state of emergency; one that would have required the state to form an advisory workgroup to reduce racial disparities in childhood chronic health conditions; and one that would have formed a state task force to study lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and develop strategies for future pandemics.

2. State nursing home oversight under scrutiny

Image via iStock

Today, state lawmakers are set to hold a key hearing examining problems with California’s nursing home oversight and licensing. Many of the most alarming issues were revealed in a recent CalMatters investigation that found the state Department of Public Health allowed Shlomo Rechnitz, California’s largest nursing home owner, to operate many facilities even as their license applications languished in pending status — or were outright denied. Indeed, Rechnitz is now facing a lawsuit alleging that one of his homes — for which the state denied him an operating license — is responsible for the COVID-related deaths of 24 elderly and dependent residents, CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener reports.

3. Separate and unequal?

Image via iStock

Some California cities provide different services to different neighborhoods — a practice that is drawing ire from local officials, residents and advocates. On Thursday, a San Diego City Council committee will consider potential changes to a city law that guarantees free trash pickup for single-family homes — but forces businesses and other residences to pay private garbage collectors. That system differs from the rest of the state, according to a recent report from San Diego’s independent budget analyst: Most cities have private collectors handle all of their trash service, while four others — Los Angeles, Sacramento, Fresno and Long Beach — treat it as a municipal service. The analyst suggested that San Diego divert the $72 million it spends annually on homeowner trash collection to services accessible to all residents.

Meanwhile, busing practices are roiling some Orange County school districts. California mostly lets school districts decide whether to offer students transportation to school, and tight budgets have prompted many to either slash free bus service or ask families to chip in. This year, Ocean View School District in Huntington Beach announced an end to most busing — but said it will continue it for free in one low-income neighborhood and at a $600 annual cost in another, a decision that has divided school board trustees and parents.

  • Trustee Norm Westwell: “We’re either going to bus all our students and have equality for all of our students or we shouldn’t have any” busing.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom is boasting about California’s vaccine mandate for students, but there’s a smarmy tinge to his declaration.

Transforming Medi-Cal: It’s time for California’s health insurance program covering low-income residents to build the population health management tools needed to proactively help people stay well, argues Claudia Williams, CEO of Manifest MedEx.

Helping late-stage cancer patients: Biomarkers saved my life — and Newsom should sign a bill to ensure all advanced-stage cancer patients have access to biomarker testing, writes AJ Patel, a legal analyst and lung cancer survivor.

Other things worth your time

California GOP sees bright spots in Newsom recall for two midterm races. Here’s where. // Sacramento Bee

Mayor Garcetti in ‘confirmation purgatory’ as Biden nominations stall. // Los Angeles Times

Group files complaint with California bar association against John Eastman, lawyer who advised Trump on election challenges. // Washington Post

Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton to run for state Senate seat; could be first transgender lawmaker. // Desert Sun

How police officers in California and elsewhere convicted of serious crimes are collecting tens of millions of dollars during retirement. // CNN

Police: Oakland home of slain education advocate Dirk Tillotson may have been targeted. // Mercury News

Murders of Santa Cruz County women on the rise. // Lookout Local Santa Cruz

The wild west of CBD products could end soon in California. // Politico

Opioid overdose epidemic is rapidly spreading across the Bay Area. // San Francisco Chronicle

Two California scientists win Nobel Prize in medicine. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Bear incidents are rising in the North Bay. Biologists sent in a wildlife tracker to find out why. // San Francisco Chronicle

New landmark recognizes Chinese contributions to Yosemite. // Associated Press

How firefighters are trying to keep sequoias around through their 3,000th birthdays. // Washington Post

KNP Complex fire evacuations grow, pyrocumulus cloud forms. // Los Angeles Times

Rare dragonfly species missing for more than 100 years is spotted anew at Donner Lake. // San Francisco Chronicle

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...