Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed 770 new California laws and vetoed 66. Here’s a look at what’s coming in the Golden State.
You’d be forgiven for not knowing Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed the largest expansion of California’s college financial aid system in a generation — he did so during the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants’ first playoff game Friday night.
Hours later, it was all over: Newsom signed his final bills on Saturday, a day ahead of the Oct. 10 deadline to act on the 836 proposals state lawmakers sent to his desk. Of those, he signed 770 (92%) and vetoed 66 (7.9%), according to Sacramento lobbyist Chris Micheli.
Here’s a look at the significant new laws coming to the Golden State — as well as ideas Newsom prevented from becoming law.
Signed into law:
- Making ethnic studies a high school graduation requirement, as CalMatters’ Joe Hong reports. Under a bill Newsom signed last year, California State University students must also take an ethnic studies course to graduate.
- Mandating mental health instruction in middle and high schools that have an existing health education course.
- Requiring public colleges, universities and secondary schools to provide free menstrual products on campus.
- Requiring large department stores to maintain a gender-neutral section of toys and child care items.
- Restricting sentence enhancements for many crimes, as recommended by an obscure committee examining California’s penal code.
- Ensuring police can’t block journalists from covering protests and demonstrations.
- Cracking down on sideshows and illegal street racing by allowing courts to suspend convicted motorists’ licenses for up to six months.
- Giving cities more authority to reduce their speed limits.
- Making it illegal to harass people entering vaccination clinics. First Amendment experts say several aspects of the law — including an exemption for “lawful picketing arising out of a labor dispute” — may be unconstitutional.
- Ending “surprise billing” for COVID-19 tests and vaccinations.
- Extending a phone tax to fund high-speed internet in underserved areas.
- Allowing restaurants to continue selling to-go cocktails, using parking lots for expanded seating, and serving alcohol in parklets.
- Offering year-round fishing licenses.
- Banning the sale of new gas-powered leaf blowers, lawn mowers and other small off-road engines by as soon as 2024.
- Phasing out controversial donor dog facilities to create a new canine blood bank system.
- Massively expanding Cal Grant, the state’s chief financial aid program. Ironically, the move came a few days after Newsom approved a stack of bills he said would increase college affordability and accessibility.
- Creating non-hospital facilities for young people insured by Medi-Cal who are experiencing mental health crises.
- Paying people struggling with drug addiction to stay sober.
- Permitting cannabis products to be advertised on most freeway billboards.
- Decriminalizing jaywalking, which would have allowed people to cross the street outside of crosswalks without getting a ticket.
- Allowing bicyclists to roll through stop signs.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Saturday, California had 4,536,273 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 69,507 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
California has administered 50,565,227 vaccine doses, and 71.2% 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.
Other stories you should know
1. Power shutoffs likely amid high fire risk
Thousands of Californians will wake up this morning without power as dry, gusty winds sweep across much of the northern part of the state. PG&E confirmed Sunday night that it will begin shutting off power early Monday morning to about 25,000 customers in portions of 20 counties, most of which will be under a red flag warning indicating extreme fire danger through Tuesday night. That’s an improvement from Saturday, when PG&E predicted it might have to cut services to 44,000 customers in 32 counties. But after a weekend of wintry weather, it’s an unwelcome reminder — and reality check — that California is just now entering peak fire season.
How much has fire cost the state? Well, on Thursday, a superior court judge sided with Attorney General Rob Bonta in blocking San Diego County from proceeding with parts of its largest-ever proposed residential housing development, citing the location’s high wildfire risk. But California doesn’t track lost economic activity like this when calculating its wildfire costs, CalMatters’ Grace Gedye reports. Nor, for that matter, does it tally the costs of damage done to uninsured homes, ecosystems or public health. But the sum is likely astronomical: One study found that the economic damage of California’s 2018 wildfire season cost the nation $148.5 billion — more than any disaster in the last 20 years other than Hurricane Katrina.
2. Orange County oil spill updates
The state Assembly is forming a select committee to investigate the oil spill off the coast off Huntington Beach and brainstorm legislation to ensure similar events don’t happen again — and today, Speaker Anthony Rendon will name as its chair Democratic Assemblymember Cottie Petrie-Norris of Costa Mesa, I’ve exclusively learned. Also today, Bonta and U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla are set to travel to Orange County for a briefing on the oil spill — about which officials have more questions than answers. The Coast Guard on Friday downgraded its estimate of spilled oil from 144,000 gallons to between 25,000 and 131,000 gallons, while also noting that the pipeline may have first been damaged — likely by a ship’s anchor — months or even a year ago. Meanwhile, officials are struggling to solidify a timeline of what happened in the 15-hour gap between when oil was first reported in the water and when federal authorities were informed about the leaking pipeline.
What is clear, however, are the leak’s consequences: beaches and water off limits to residents, tourists and fishermen; business owners forced to lay off workers as they rack up millions of dollars in losses; at least 14 federally threatened snowy plovers and other birds dead from oil damage. Elected officials are calling for an end to existing and new offshore drilling in federal and state waters off California’s coast — but that will likely be an uphill battle, both financially and politically. It’s often cheaper for oil companies to keep wells operating than to decommission them. And with limiting oil production an uphill battle even in California — earlier this year, a proposed fracking ban died in one of the state Legislature’s Democratic-majority committees — the state may need to pursue a solution with questionable optics: paying oil companies to close up shop.
3. Making sense of CA’s employment picture
On Oct. 25, state lawmakers are set to hold a key hearing on the state unemployment department’s progress on key reforms, according to a schedule posted on the state Assembly website and confirmed to me Sunday by the office of Assemblymember Petrie-Norris, who chairs one of the committees holding the hearing. The new date comes after the hearing was postponed twice in August and hung in limbo in September as lawmakers worked to find a room in which to hold it. It also comes at a critical time for California’s economy: As of Oct. 2, the Golden State accounted for 26% of new unemployment claims filed nationally and more than 179,000 jobless claims had been unresolved for more than three weeks at the state Employment Development Department — though that’s an improvement from prior weeks.
The federal government’s September jobs report, released Friday, signals other challenges the Golden State will need to address as it works to jumpstart its economy: Amid less-than-ideal labor conditions and uncertain child care and schooling options, a whopping 309,000 women over age 20 dropped out of the labor force in September, while 182,000 men entered it. And Southwest Airlines this weekend canceled nearly 30% of its scheduled flights due to “disruptive weather” and air traffic control issues, though federal regulators said the cancellations were partly due to staffing shortages — which led some to speculate the airline’s recently announced vaccine mandate caused some pilots to walk out.
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The Orange County oil spill has intensified one of Newsom’s long-standing political quandaries.
Taking California global in Glasgow: At next month’s global climate conference, we need to show that we continue to lead the world on this issue — while bringing back the best ideas on how to make progress, writes state Sen. Josh Becker, a Menlo Park Democrat.
Eliminate inequities in paid family leave: California should provide paid leave for everyone, eliminating disparities across race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status, argue Debbie Chang of the Blue Shield of California Foundation and Jenya Cassidy of the California Work & Family Coalition.
Other things worth your time
California high-speed rail faces new cost overruns. // Los Angeles Times
San Francisco to welcome cruise ships after 19-month hiatus. // Associated Press
California joins challenge to U.S. Postal Service mail plan. // Sacramento Bee
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti attends Hunter Biden’s art show, raising conflict-of-interest concerns. // Mother Jones
First-ever pair of Hispanic sisters in state Legislature recall the obstacles, journey. // FOX40
In California, inconsistent school COVID rules are the norm. // Associated Press
A gas leak, rats, falling debris: ‘Horrendous’ school conditions scrutinized at city meeting. // San Francisco Chronicle
Cupertino district pursues school closures. // Mercury News
More California colleges remove SAT, ACT requirements during application process. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Bay Area housing costs, homeless, COVID stress out residents, poll shows. // Mercury News
A single-family home turned into a rental complex: the future of housing in California. // New York Times
As drought worsens, California farmers are being paid not to grow crops. // Los Angeles Times
California criminology professor charged with arson in the Sierra Nevada. // New York Times
Sonoma County vineyard workers are demanding more protections. // KQED
Illegal marijuana farms in Orange County show how toxic danger is spread through national forests. // Daily News
Arcata City Council OKs decriminalizing mushrooms, other entheogenic plants. // MSN
California man given prison over scheme to defraud Afghan government on U.S. contract. // Sacramento Bee
Fremont city manager arrested for domestic violence before suddenly resigning. // Mercury News
See you tomorrow.
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