Today, thousands of California parents are expected to keep their kids home from school as part of a statewide protest against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recently announced student vaccine mandate.

Around 2,500 people are slated to protest in front of the state Capitol building in Sacramento for an event called “Our Children, Our Choice,” according to a permit approved by the California Highway Patrol. Parents in counties as far-flung as Orange and Del Norte are also planning school walkouts and protests. Some teachers who oppose Newsom’s vaccine-or-testing requirement for school staff are also planning to skip out, forcing some small, rural schools to close.

  • San Francisco parent Babe Prieto: “We know that if our children stay home from school … that will impact the funding that schools will get for that day. And we want them to know that we’re serious about not being forced to vaccinate our children.”

The mandates will likely hit rural campuses hardest. They’ve prompted nearly half of Modoc Joint Unified School District’s staff to consider resigning — a move that could force the district to close. In Lassen County, the already understaffed Long Valley Charter School says it may have to resort to recruiting employees from out of the country. By contrast, 97% of Los Angeles Unified teachers and administrators met the district’s Friday deadline to receive at least one shot — though inoculation rates are likely lower for non-teaching employees.

Meanwhile, the city of San Francisco is placing nearly 200 unvaccinated members of the police, fire and sheriff’s departments on paid leave. They will then go through a hearing process that could result in termination, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. On Wednesday, Los Angeles’ vaccine mandate for city workers goes into effect — but it’s unclear what consequences employees may face for failing to get the shot or secure an exemption. Taxpayers could face their own consequences — to the tune of $2 billion — if 871 firefighters challenging the mandate prevail in court.

Inoculation rates are also lagging among state employees, nearly 40% of whom remained unvaccinated as of Oct. 7, according to a Sacramento Bee analysis. One main holdout appears to be prison guards, who last week secured two temporary reprieves against vaccine mandates despite having lower inoculation rates than inmates at nearly every prison in California.

Nevertheless, a superior court judge tentatively ruled Friday that state corrections officials — whose botched transfer of inmates last year resulted in a deadly coronavirus outbreak at San Quentin State Prison — don’t need to cut the facility’s population in half because vaccines have reduced inmates’ chances of contracting the disease.

  • Defense attorney Charles Carbone: The ruling tells state prison officials “you can violate the rights of your prisoner population to the point where you basically cause preventable deaths, and there’s really not going to be any accountability.”

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Saturday, California had 4,571,467 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 70,150 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 51,222,196 vaccine doses, and 71.8% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

Plus: CalMatters is tracking the results of the Newsom recall election, which will be certified Oct. 22.

1. Election season heats up

Assemblymember Rudy Salas on the floor on Sept. 12, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Although California hasn’t finished drawing the maps that will determine its legislative and congressional seats for the next decade, the contours of the 2022 election are already emerging. Today, Assemblymember Rudy Salas, a Bakersfield Democrat, will launch his campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives seat currently held by David Valadao, the only California Republican who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump. And on Saturday, Rep. Karen Bass — whose Los Angeles district could be at risk of losing its congressional seat — held the kickoff event in her campaign for Los Angeles mayor.

Notably absent, however, was Los Angeles City Councilman Mark Ridley-Thomas, who was indicted last week on federal bribery, conspiracy, mail and wire fraud charges. His name was also scrubbed from the list of endorsements on Bass’ website. But Ridley-Thomas, who appears to still have a significant amount of support in South Los Angeles, said Friday he doesn’t plan to resign and will fight the charges. Also Friday, Alma Hernández, the former executive director of SEIU California, the state’s largest labor union, was booked into Sacramento County jail along with her husband. The pair are facing criminal charges for grand theft, perjury, income tax evasion and failure to pay unemployment insurance taxes.

That isn’t the only drama entangling the union. SEIU Local 1000, California’s largest state employee union, met over the weekend to consider stripping its controversial president — who said he wanted to “run (Newsom’s) ass out of office” — of most of his powers.

2. Why lawmakers rarely challenge vetoes

Members of the Assembly take a selfie after finishing passing bills for the year on Sept. 10, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

A particularly striking statistic about the 66 bills Newsom finished vetoing last week: a whopping 56 of them were supported by two-thirds or more of lawmakers in both the state Assembly and Senate — enough, on paper, to override the governor’s veto. But, as the Los Angeles Times’ John Myers and San Francisco Chronicle’s Joe Garofoli explain in recent columns, the chance of that happening is practically nonexistent: State lawmakers haven’t overturned a governor’s veto since 1980. Instead, their preferred method appears to be reintroducing the vetoed legislation — with tweaks to address some of the governor’s concerns — until it’s signed into law. Case in point: Newsom last year vetoed a version of the ethnic studies high school graduation requirement he signed into law this year. Same story with a bill, introduced by state Sen. Sydney Kamlager of Los Angeles, to create a pilot program in which mental health teams respond to most nonviolent 911 calls.

  • Kamlager told Garofoli: “There’s a sense that, ‘Oh, all you need are X number of votes and you can overturn a veto.’ In theory, absolutely. In reality, you’re talking about 120 legislators that have their own priorities and their own relationships with a particular governor and administration. Are legislators willing to compromise those agendas and/or those relationships for the benefit of someone else’s bills?”

3. Oil spill investigation advances

Crew members change oil-covered booms with new ones along the Santa Ana River on Oct. 5, 2021. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters

The U.S. Coast Guard on Saturday named the MSC Danit as a “party of interest” in the oil spill off the coast of Huntington Beach — the first time a vessel has received such a designation in the weeks-long investigation. Officials said the massive container ship — which is operated by the Switzerland-based MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company — appears to have struck the oil pipeline on Jan. 25 when its anchor scraped the seafloor amid a heavy storm. The case, however, is far from closed: It’s unclear if the strike caused the leak, and other ships are also under investigation — one in which the FBI is now involved. Meanwhile, the Huntington Beach City Council is set to vote Tuesday on supporting a permanent ban of new offshore oil drilling in federal and state waters. Although the estimated size of the spill was recently downgraded to a minimum of about 25,000 gallons, that’s more than ten times the amount of oil regulators predicted in 1978 would result from a potential leak in the pipeline, a Los Angeles Times investigation found.

In other environmental news, closed portions of Highway 101 reopened as firefighters made significant progress on containing the Alisal Fire near Santa Barbara. And with cooler weather slated to roll over much of California starting Sunday evening, the Sierra Nevada could get a few inches of snow and Northern California some much-needed rain.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Is California making a big comeback from the pandemic — or falling into decline?

California needs COVID response teams in every school: The state should deploy public health employees to manage the medical workload being left to teachers, principals, librarians and social workers, argues Angella Martinez, CEO of KIPP SoCal.

Other things worth your time

Podcast: Is California’s stricter enforcement of housing goals working? // CalMatters

Fremont bumping up affordable housing fees on developers. // Mercury News

Santa Ana arts housing complex rife with crime, complaint says. // Los Angeles Times

Want to make California a better place? Move. // San Francisco Chronicle

Hollywood crews union reaches deal with studios to avoid strike. // Los Angeles Times

California Amtrak employees rally for greater safety measures. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Why more California women are running for local political offices. // Sacramento Bee

Why Kamala Harris’ appearance on a kids’ YouTube show backfired. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Monica Gandhi is San Francisco’s outlier COVID expert. Her view: ‘I’m not saying anything crazy.’ // San Francisco Chronicle

Another blow to UC admissions tests: Nix the SAT alternative exam, faculty recommend. // Los Angeles Times

LAPD declares ‘ghost guns’ an ‘epidemic,’ citing 400% increase in seizures. // Los Angeles Times

Shootings by LAPD officers rise again after years of decline. // Los Angeles Times

Is shoplifting forcing Walgreens to cut back? Data on the closing stores puts the claim into perspective. // San Francisco Chronicle

Opinion: Polly Klaas’ murder accelerated the tough-on-crime movement. Her sisters want to stop it. // Los Angeles Times

Survivors of a California wildfire navigate life after FEMA housing. // Washington Post

California scrambles to find electricity to offset plant closures. // Wall Street Journal

Despite punishing drought, San Diego has water. // New York Times

Safari West wildlife preserve in Santa Rosa loses accreditation. // KTVU

California OKs new protections for leatherback sea turtles. // Associated Press

The sun is setting on California’s controversial swordfish industry. // Los Angeles Times

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...