In summary

Democrats in the Legislature propose a new California gas tax on suppliers when prices spike. Republicans are incensed by the move.

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This week is shaping up to be a busy — and controversial — one at the state Capitol.

First up: Gas tax. After twice refusing to consider GOP Assemblymember Kevin Kiley of Rocklin’s bill to suspend California’s excise gas tax for six months, a key Assembly committee passed it on Monday — after gutting the contents and inserting an entirely new measure from Democratic Assemblymember Alex Lee of San Jose.

  • Lee’s amendments would, among other things, impose a new tax on gas suppliers when the price of a gallon of gas is “abnormally high” compared to the cost of a barrel of crude oil — and send the tax revenue back to California drivers via a rebate.
  • The move prompted fierce anger from Republicans: “Only Assembly Democrats would think you can bring down gas prices by increasing the gas tax,” said GOP Assembly Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City. “Today’s stunt in the Transportation Committee shows just how far Democrats will go to delay and avoid giving Californians any relief from high gas prices.”
  • Democratic Assemblymember Laura Friedman of Burbank, who leads the Transportation Committee, defended the move and said she was “a little appalled and shocked that you all are so appalled and shocked by this. This is exactly our process — that we debate a problem and what the solution is going to be. We didn’t invent any of this procedure. This is longstanding procedure about what we do in committee.”

Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story

James Gallagher

James Gallagher

State Assembly, District 3 (Chico)

James Gallagher

State Assembly, District 3 (Chico)

How he voted 2021-2022
Liberal Conservative
District 3 Demographics

Voter Registration

Dem 31%
GOP 40%
No party 19%
Campaign Contributions

Asm. James Gallagher has taken at least $52,600 from the Agriculture sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 12% of his total campaign contributions.

Laura Friedman

Laura Friedman

State Assembly, District 44 (Burbank)

Laura Friedman

State Assembly, District 44 (Burbank)

How she voted 2021-2022
Liberal Conservative
District 44 Demographics

Voter Registration

Dem 51%
GOP 19%
No party 24%
Campaign Contributions

Asm. Laura Friedman has taken at least $77,000 from the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate sector since she was elected to the legislature. That represents 18% of her total campaign contributions.

Next up: Evictions. Also Monday, the Assembly advanced a last-minute bill that would extend statewide eviction protections — set to expire Thursday — through June 30 for Californians applying for funds from the state’s backlogged COVID rent relief program. It now heads to the Senate, where it must pass with two-thirds of the vote to land on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk.

But in a sign of the proposal’s controversy, some prominent Democrats abstained from the 60-0 vote, including Assemblymember Phil Ting of San Francisco. In a joint statement with state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, Ting slammed provisions of the bill that require tenants to apply for state rent relief by Thursday and override local eviction protections in some cities.

  • Ting and Wiener: “We shouldn’t be playing favorites by allowing some cities to protect their renters while prohibiting cities from doing so. Cities must have the ability to protect their residents from eviction and homelessness.”

Wednesday: COVID vaccines return to the spotlight, when a key committee is set to consider a bill that would force companies to require workers and independent contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

  • Meanwhile, a convoy of truckers opposed to COVID mandates is preparing to drive to California to protest a slate of controversial vaccine proposals: “If passed, these bills set the stage for other states to introduce similar laws. We know that what starts in California, spreads to other blue and purple states, and potentially at a federal level,” the People’s Convoy said in an announcement obtained by the Associated Press.

And today, California’s first-in-the-nation reparations task force is set to resume debate over who should be eligible for direct payments to compensate African Americans for slavery and its lingering effects. The committee voted last month to delay the conversation until March.

Note: This item was updated to correct when the vaccine bill will receive a hearing.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 8,483,568 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 87,954 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 72,634,494 vaccine doses, and 74.4% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

1. Newsom avoids statewide water restrictions

A person cleans the sidewalk and waters the lawn in the front yard of a house in Alameda California on May 4, 2021. Photo by Ray Chavez, Bay Area News Group
A person cleans the sidewalk and waters the lawn in front of a house in Alameda on May 4, 2021. Photo by Ray Chavez, Bay Area News Group

Many Californians will face stricter water conservation rules under an executive order Newsom issued Monday in response to worsening drought — the state just experienced its driest first three months of the year in recorded history — and an uptick in urban water use. But the order still falls short of the mandatory statewide restrictions that many experts say are long overdue: As CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports, it directs local water agencies to step up their drought responses — which could involve limiting the number of days a week that residents can water their lawns or levying fines on people who use more than a certain amount of water — and also calls on state regulators to consider banning by May 25 irrigation of “decorative grass” next to large industrial and commercial buildings.

  • But, as Rachel notes, some local providers already have rules in place that are tougher than what Newsom’s order would require. And the order doesn’t affect agricultural water providers — or the small water systems that are especially vulnerable to drought. “Where are they left? This is something we need to be thinking about,” said Heather Cooley, research director with the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank.
  • And although much-needed rain and snow fell across much of California on Monday, it wasn’t enough to make a meaningful dent in the state’s devastating drought: 93% of California is currently gripped by severe drought, up from 65% a year ago, according to the Mercury News. And as of Monday, California’s state-managed reservoirs were at just 44% of capacity, CalMatters’ drought monitor shows.

2. Law enforcement spends big on AG race

Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert speaks during a news conference in Sacramento on March 2, 2019. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo
Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert speaks during a news conference in Sacramento on March 2, 2019. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo

Of the more than $1 million that California law enforcement groups have contributed so far in the 2022 election cycle, nearly $1 out of every $6 has gone to Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert, a no-party-preference candidate for state attorney general challenging Democratic incumbent Rob Bonta and Republicans Nathan Hochman and Eric Early, CalMatters data journalist Jeremia Kimelman reports. It’s the first time since at least 1999 that the powerful Peace Officers Research Association of California, which endorsed Schubert, hasn’t given money to the incumbent attorney general — though president Brian Marvel countered that the group doesn’t see Bonta as an incumbent since he was appointed, not elected, to the position.

  • Bonta has taken pains in recent weeks to show that he’s responding to voter concerns over rising crime and the needs of crime victims: He announced charges Monday against a man banned from owning guns but nevertheless in possession of illegal firearms and ammunition, and on Friday unveiled felony charges against nine members of a statewide organized retail theft ring.
  • It may surprise you that Treasurer Fiona Ma‘s reelection campaign has received the second-largest share of money from law enforcement groups so far — but, as Jeremia points out, the treasurer has sway over their pensions as a board member of the California Public Employees’ Retirement System.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Politicians are falling over themselves to send cash to Californians to offset a sharp increase in gasoline prices.

We must rebuild California’s public health workforce: Our PublicHERO proposal would leverage $186.4 million to build a Golden State pipeline of trained public health professionals, write Democratic state Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento and Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry of Woodland.

California’s vulnerable lead in science and technology: Science and tech leaders are raising concerns about quality-of-life issues that could put our state’s technology leadership and the jobs, taxes and other benefits it delivers at risk, argues Sean Randolph, senior director of the Bay Area Council Economic Institute

Other things worth your time

California House Democrat to propose $500 gas rebate to all taxpayers. // FOX40

Congress eyeing $100 a month gasoline stimulus payments. // Sacramento Bee

Newsom’s PG&E bailout law written by firm that represented PG&E. // ABC 10

Farmworker leader: ‘Why won’t Gov. Newsom meet with us?’ // Fresno Bee

California considers letting election workers hide addresses. // Associated Press

LAPD says Chris Rock declined to file complaint against Will Smith over Oscar slap. // Los Angeles Times

Emma Roark slaying rattles American River Parkway visitors. // Sacramento Bee

Stockton shooting leaves 9-year-old critically wounded. // Mercury News

35 luxury cars seized in California fraud investigation. // Associated Press

Thieves steal $100,000 in equipment from Santa Monica church. // Los Angeles Times

Supreme Court agrees to review California law on pork sales. // Associated Press

Happy hour ‘in a coma’ at downtown S.F. bars as workers trickle back to the office. // San Francisco Chronicle

Only 30% of L.A. County kids are vaccinated, months after COVID shots became available. // Los Angeles Times

Why conservative Christians want to take over Southern California school boards. // East Bay Times

Dorms eyed for community colleges to ease California housing crunch. // EdSource

The Chronicle was provided with inaccurate migration data by a California research group. Here’s what happened. // San Francisco Chronicle

California’s Inland Empire population growth 5th largest in the U.S. // Mercury News

Meet the Bay Area mayor who wants to persuade you to get rid of your car. // San Francisco Chronicle

Column: Jackson hearing shows Feinstein qualified to finish term. // Los Angeles Times

Kamala Harris, in toughest hour, is keeping a tighter circle. // Los Angeles Times

Biden’s tax on billionaires: Here are the people who might have to pay it in California. // 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...