Policies over abortion, guns and crime are colliding in California as the state intensifies its battle with Texas and the Supreme Court.
CalMatters is dedicated to explaining how state government impacts our lives. Your support helps us produce journalism that makes a difference. Donate now.
Today, a Kings County judge will weigh whether to reopen the case of Adora Perez, who has served nearly four years of an 11-year prison sentence for “manslaughter of a fetus” — the stillborn baby she delivered minutes after testing positive for methamphetamine.
The case has pitted a popular rural prosecutor against Attorney General Rob Bonta, who recently warned law enforcement officials not to file charges against mothers who miscarry or deliver a stillbirth.
The case has also alarmed abortion rights advocates, who fear it could open the door to criminally prosecuting women who decide to terminate their pregnancies, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports.
- Samantha Lee, staff attorney at National Advocates for Pregnant Women: “With the possibility that Roe (v. Wade) might fall this year, letting this stand could increase these types of prosecutions.”
The high-stakes hearing comes a few days after Gov. Gavin Newsom made good on his promise to introduce a gun control bill modeled on Texas’ controversial abortion ban — which the U.S. Supreme Court declined to block — allowing private citizens to sue abortion clinics or anyone who “aids or abets” the procedure after about six weeks of pregnancy.
- On Friday, Newsom, Bonta and Democratic state lawmakers unveiled four gun control proposals that would: (1) allow private citizens to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes, transports, imports into California or sells illegal assault weapons, .50 BMG rifles, ghost guns or ghost gun kits; (2) permit individuals and the state attorney general to sue firearm manufacturers and sellers for harm caused by their products; (3) tighten restrictions on ghost guns; and (4) ban the marketing of some weapons to children.
- Newsom said of the first bill: “There is no principled way the U.S. Supreme Court can’t uphold this law. It is quite literally modeled after the law they just upheld in Texas.”
Republican lawmakers denounced Newsom’s proposal as a “publicity stunt.”
- Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City: “CA already has the strictest gun laws in the nation, and yet we have a surge in violent crime. The problem is criminals with no accountability. … Newsom is desperate to talk about anything but his utter failure to keep our streets safe.”
- In another blow to Newsom, a Friday analysis from the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found that the governor’s public safety budget proposal “lacks clear objectives for achieving the intended public safety goals.”
Still, it seems Democratic officials are increasingly concerned about polls showing voter dissatisfaction with crime and homelessness. Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón — one of the nation’s most progressive prosecutors — backtracked on some signature policies Friday, allowing his office to pursue trying some juveniles as adults and seek life sentences against defendants in certain cases.
- And on Sunday, Gascón said his office may have pursued too short of a sentence for a transgender woman who pleaded guilty to sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 8,296,145 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 82,873 deaths (+0.3% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Other stories you should know
1. The Californians who can’t return to normal
As California loosens some pandemic restrictions and prepares to roll out its long-term plan for dealing with COVID, many of the state’s millions of residents with high-risk medical conditions feel left behind and forgotten, CalMatters’ Ana B. Ibarra reports. Research suggests that about a third of California adults — close to 10 million people — face elevated risk of severe complications from COVID. That includes people 65 and older and those with heart disease, diabetes, lung disorders, obesity and other conditions — but doesn’t include seniors in nursing homes or children. Also at risk: organ transplant patients, people undergoing cancer treatments and those taking immunosuppressive medication to treat autoimmune disorders.
- Renata Garza-Silva, a kidney transplant patient and Los Angeles Unified teacher: “People in my position, young children and older people are just ignored. We don’t count whatsoever.”
In other COVID news:
- State Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat and pediatrician who recently introduced a bill that would require all K-12 students to be vaccinated against COVID by Jan. 1, is set today to unveil another COVID proposal “to keep schools open and safe.”
- Starting today, Los Angeles Unified School District will no longer require students to wear masks outdoors.
- California’s indoor school mask mandate, which will remain in place through at least Feb. 28, is continuing to make waves. “It breaks my heart that kids in our public school system still have to wear masks,” San Francisco Mayor London Breed told Yahoo News. “If I had my way, I would let kids run around free without masks.”
- Some San Diego County schools are grappling with how to handle kids — many of whom are younger than 13 — refusing to wear masks on campus.
- The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday declined to grant an emergency order blocking San Diego Unified’s student vaccine mandate, citing the district’s decision to delay implementing the policy.
2. Fewer languages on CA’s 2022 ballots?
California often describes itself as a state committed to expanding voting rights — so why is Secretary of State Shirley Weber requiring ballots and other voter materials to be translated into fewer languages for the 2022 election? Weber’s office says her hands are tied due to limited information from the U.S. Census Bureau, but advocates warn that reducing language access could effectively disenfranchise millions of California voters who speak limited English, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports.
- Four voting advocacy groups wrote in a letter to Weber: California must “take bold steps to protect voting rights and remove barriers to the ballot box for all eligible voters, including voters who are members of language minority groups.”
Here’s a look at some other 2022 election updates:
- The California Democratic Party voted Sunday to reject future campaign contributions from some oil and gas companies and to review on a case-by-case basis contributions from law enforcement groups — a move that some environmental and racial justice activists derided as “an absolute joke,” the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
- Republican businessman John Cox — who unsuccessfully challenged Newsom for the governorship twice, including in last year’s recall election — told KCBS Radio’s Doug Sovern Sunday that he doesn’t plan to run again in 2022.
- And high-profile Dem-on-Dem races continue to heat up, including for California insurance commissioner, for a vacant state Assembly seat representing a portion of San Francisco, and for a congressional seat representing a piece of Southern California stretching from southeastern Los Angeles to Long Beach.
3. UC, CSU sagas continue
The spotlight on California’s two four-year public university systems intensified Friday, when:
- Newsom filed an amicus brief with the California Supreme Court, urging it to temporarily halt a lower court order that could force UC Berkeley to turn away 3,050 students it would otherwise enroll this fall. “We can’t let a lawsuit get in the way of the education and dreams of thousands of students who are our future leaders and innovators,” Newsom said.
- Meanwhile, as CalMatters’ higher education reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn notes, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco is set today to unveil a bill that would exempt campus housing from the polarizing California Environmental Quality Act — though it wouldn’t address the current saga over UC Berkeley’s enrollment growth. Although the Legislature has approved or is considering $7 billion in loans and grants for campuses to build housing, community groups can slow down those projects for months or years by using various CEQA provisions. “Students — who are simply trying to go to school and learn — should not be forced to live in their cars because colleges can’t provide enough housing for them,” Wiener said.
- State lawmakers and labor groups revealed that they’re not satisfied with California State University’s plan to conduct a systemwide assessment of Title IX policies protecting against sex-based discrimination in the wake of Chancellor Joseph Castro’s Thursday resignation — they also want to investigate whether Castro mishandled sexual assault and workplace intimidation claims against a colleague while president of Fresno State University. “Survivors of the abusive conduct and harassment — as well as the entire CSU community and public at large — deserve to know exactly what happened under Chancellor Castro’s watch at Fresno State,” said state Sen. Connie Levya, a Chino Democrat who leads the Senate’s education committee.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Recalling elected officials has become trendy in California amid pandemic polarization and an uptick in crime.
A cleaner way to transport ice cream in California: When we say we need to electrify everything that moves, we truly mean everything — even the cold trucks delivering ice cream and fish sticks, argues Yasmine Agelidis, an attorney on Earthjustice’s Right to Zero campaign.
The importance of holistic health care: Our organizations are kicking off a conversation about integrating physical and behavioral health to reimagine health care in California, write Shruti Kothari of Blue Shield of California and Christopher Koller of the Milbank Memorial Fund.
Other things worth your time
Ballot measure to reassert local control in zoning, land-use decisions pushed to 2024. // CalMatters
California’s effort to fight unemployment fraud hurt many deserving recipients, report finds. // Sacramento Bee
EDD’s ID.me facial recognition system could face scrutiny. // Sacramento Bee
Proposal would force California pension funds to sell oil, gas stock. // Sacramento Bee
California Legislature wants change among NFL hiring practices. // CBS Sacramento
California bill would crack down on public meeting disruptions. // Los Angeles Times
Oakland plan to close schools sparks protest, vandalism at board member’s home. // San Francisco Chronicle
More voters supported recall of school board members than elected them in 2018. // San Francisco Chronicle
Sonoma County health officer charged with DUI last year and pleaded to lesser charge, records show. // Santa Rosa Press Democrat
‘Shocking’ comments: Multiple DAs rescind Spitzer endorsement. // Orange County Register
Newsom declaration pays homage to dark time in Japanese American history. // KRON4
More SF residents share stories of police standing idly by as crimes unfold. // San Francisco Chronicle
Tribe grapples with missing woman crisis on California coast. // Associated Press
Empty trains, deserted stations cost taxpayers billions. Will BART, VTA and Caltrain riders ever return? // Mercury News
Even freeways that don’t get built leave a scar. How one Bay Area city is healing. // Los Angeles Times
What happens when wildfire devastates a ski resort? An industry is watching Sierra-at-Tahoe to find out. // Mercury News
Growing wildfires pose new problems for California water supply. // Los Angeles Times
A war to halt logging in Northern California reignites. // Los Angeles Times
Construction begins on $12 million mountain lion crossing in Santa Cruz Mountains. // Mercury News
California’s green-energy subsidies spur a gold rush in cow manure. // Wall Street Journal
35,000-gallon sewage spill closes Newport Bay waters. // Orange County Register
See you tomorrow.
Tips, insight or feedback? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven
Subscribe to CalMatters newsletters here.