In summary

“Anger parents at your own peril” may be the California election takeaway from the San Francisco’s recall of three school board members.

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“We can never go back to the previous world where parents weren’t organized and weren’t lifting up their concerns together.”

That was San Francisco Parent Coalition Executive Director Meredith Dodson’s assessment of the city’s voters decisively ejecting three school board members from office in a Tuesday recall election.

The message to elected officials — ignore parents at your peril — might be the clearest statewide takeaway from a recall entrenched in local politics and whose possible ripple effects will likely also be mostly local. (They could potentially affect the political fates of District Attorney Chesa Boudin, who’s facing a recall election in June, and of Mayor London Breed, who will appoint the three board members’ replacements and is facing reelection herself in 2023. San Francisco voters will also decide in June whether to reform the city’s recall process.)

2022 Election

Your guide to the 2022 general election in California

The San Francisco Chronicle editorial board argued that the recall was less about frustration over mask mandates or progressive policies than it was about the board’s general incompetence and its failure to “reopen schools in a timely way.” But now that campuses have reopened their doors across the state, angry parents seem likely to focus on other controversial policies, such as masks.

Newsom will likely face more questions about his school mask plan today, when he is expected to unveil more of his long-awaited “endemic strategy” for dealing with COVID.

  • Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Barabak: “Parents of all political stripes have emerged as one of the most potent forces in campaigns and elections today, and woe to anyone seen as standing in the way of their kids’ education.”

Indeed, the pandemic has inspired some parents to run for office themselves. That includes Jonathan Zachreson, an independent-turned-Republican and Roseville father of three who founded an advocacy group called Reopen California Schools amid the pandemic. Zachreson is running for the state Assembly to, as he put it, “keep fighting to bring back normalcy for our kids.”

Today, however, Zachreson announced he’s suspending his campaign and endorsing Republican Joe Patterson in Assembly District 5.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 8,271,470 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 82,382 deaths (+0.3% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 70,845,447 vaccine doses, and 73.9% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

1. Legislative leaders talk hot topics

Speaker Anthony Rendon gives remarks following Gov. Newsom’s 2020 State of the State address. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Speaker Anthony Rendon gives remarks following Newsom’s 2020 State of the State address. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Newsom’s proposal to postpone California’s mandated gas tax increase — set to take effect in July — is not being met with open arms by the Democratic leaders of the state Assembly and Senate. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins’ misgivings emerged in a Wednesday event hosted by the Sacramento Press Club, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports:

  • Rendon: “I think that’s something that could potentially jeopardize a tremendous amount of jobs in the state. It could inhibit some economic growth in certain sectors in this state.”
  • Senate Republican Leader Scott Wilk of Santa Clarita: “California drivers are paying record-setting prices at the pump while the state sits on a record-setting surplus. … Sacramento Democrats are tone deaf if they think people don’t need a break at the pump.”

However, Rendon and Atkins hinted they’re open to the idea of using some of the surplus to send more stimulus checks to Californians, Sameea reports. And they shared their views on hot topics such as single-payer health care, controversial ballot measures, unionizing legislative staff and crime, as well as their legislative priorities for the year ahead.

  • One key item on both of their lists: combating climate change. “I don’t at all feel that we are leading the world anymore,” Rendon told me in November, arguing that California needs to take aggressive action on par with the magnitude of the crisis.

2. Is California in climate trouble?

A man walks past an oil rig during sunset in Huntington Beach on Dec. 2, 2020. Photo by Ronen Tivony, REUTERS
A man walks past an oil rig in Huntington Beach on Dec. 2, 2020. Photo by Ronen Tivony, Reuters

Though addressing climate change may be a top priority for Newsom and legislative leaders, three Wednesday reports illuminate some of the challenges California faces in meeting its ambitious climate goals:

  • Its landmark climate program may not be effective enough. California has already pledged to reevaluate its carbon market, which allows oil companies, utilities and other polluters to buy or trade dwindling amounts of credits allowing them to emit greenhouse gasses. A new report from a panel advising state officials found those companies have saved 321 million credits — enough to jeopardize the state’s goal of slashing emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030, the Associated Press reports.
  • Labor groups are divided over how California should support oil and gas workers as the state transitions away from fossil fuels. That poses a problem for Democratic Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi of Torrance, who’s expected to introduce a bill that would mandate a statewide “just transition” plan, CalMatters’ Jesse Bedayn reports.
  • Wildfire victims may not be adequately compensated. A trust PG&E set up to repay its wildfire victims is about $1.3 billion short of promised funds due to the beleaguered utility’s depressed stock price. Though the trust’s director and other advocates are calling on state lawmakers to expand access to a state-run wildfire insurance fund so victims can get paid, they don’t seem eager to do so. “PG&E is so toxic, they’ve been such a bad corporate entity that no one wants to do anything that appears to be helping them,” John Trotter, a retired justice who runs the PG&E Fire Victim Trust, told the Sacramento Bee.

3. An end to Medi-Cal premiums?

Pediatrician Nelson Branco examines a child-patient during a medical checkup at the Tamalpais Pediatrics clinic in Greenbrae on Feb. 6, 2015. Photo by Eric Risberg, AP Photo
Pediatrician Nelson Branco examines a patient at the Tamalpais Pediatrics clinic in Greenbrae on Feb. 6, 2015. Photo by Eric Risberg, AP Photo

Of the about 13 million low-income Californians covered by Medi-Cal — the state’s health care insurance program for the poor — more than half a million children, pregnant women and working disabled adults are required to pay monthly premiums. But that could change under two proposals currently being considered in Sacramento, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reports.

  • Newsom has proposed spending $59 million this year and $89 million annually to reduce Medi-Cal premiums to zero — while leaving open the possibility that future administrations could revive them.
  • Meanwhile, Democratic Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula of Fresno wants to eliminate premiums altogether, describing them as “a relic of the past.”

Three key data points from Elizabeth’s story that advocates say demonstrate why premiums should end:

  • California waived Medi-Cal premiums during the pandemic — but only for patients who requested them. Fewer than half did.
  • California is one of just four states that charges premiums for children enrolled in its Medicaid program.
  • Although the state collected $63.7 million in Medi-Cal premiums in 2020, it only kept about $8 million after paying an outside vendor to manage billing, collection and other administrative costs.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Crime and homelessness are dragging down Newsom’s popularity — and could stain his gubernatorial legacy.

California’s community colleges have irreplaceable value: A new analysis reveals the economic and social benefits of our community colleges — and why lawmakers should support Newsom’s proposed investments, argue Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and Eloy Ortiz Oakley, chancellor of the California Community Colleges.

California is ceding control to the illicit cannabis market: There are fewer licensed retail outlets in the state than there were in 2015, legal cannabis sales are declining and an emboldened illicit market is growing, writes Tiffany Devitt, chief of government affairs at CannaCraft.

Other things worth your time

Wildfire near Bishop grows to 1,000 acres, evacuations in progress. // Los Angeles Times

Gascón reverses course, now open to charging some juveniles as adults. // LAist

California lawmakers pitch major overhaul of kids’ web privacy. // Politico

Sacramento county official tried to plan ‘Freedom Convoy.’ // Sacramento Bee

California treasurer accepted ‘improper gifts,’ legal filing alleges. // Sacramento Bee

Poll shows all-time low approval for Sen. Dianne Feinstein; Harris underwater. // Los Angeles Times

SF police chief weighs in on Boudin, the Tenderloin, police morale and more. // San Francisco Chronicle

Disney to develop residential communities with condos, houses in California. // Wall Street Journal

Should Bay Area schools turn excess land into new housing? // Mercury News

Is California’s Prop. 13 racist? Homeowners in white neighborhoods of one city may get triple the tax benefit. // San Francisco Chronicle

San Diego lowers some cannabis taxes to encourage more local production. // San Diego Union-Tribune

‘All of it forgiven?’ Dozens of Black-owned businesses learn they don’t have to pay back pandemic loans. // San Francisco Chronicle

How a food truck on the Great Highway became the center of a city blowup. // San Francisco Chronicle

In Fresno County, Native groups take on meaning of ‘Squaw’ and ‘Warrior.’ // PBS NewsHour

As state efforts stumble, Santa Clara County and San Jose eye regulations on nitrous oxide. // Mercury News

First-in-the-nation project will cover California canals with solar panel canopies. // The Hill

Only one state tops California on life expectancy, CDC study finds. // KTLA

Cookie shortage: San Diego Girl Scouts face supply chain woes. // San Diego Union-Tribune

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...