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Just blocks from the state Capitol where legislators have crafted arguably the toughest gun control laws in the country, at least two shooters early Sunday morning killed at least six people and injured another 12 in Sacramento’s worst mass shooting in history. It’s sure to intensify questions about what elected officials can do to curb rising gun violence and crime before concerned Californians vote in the June 7 primary.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who’s abroad on a family vacation, said the country must end its “scourge of gun violence.” Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg called for tougher laws on assault rifles, though it wasn’t immediately clear what types of guns the shooters used.
Attorney General Rob Bonta — a progressive Democrat who’s gearing up for one of the most closely watched primary races against tough-on-crime independent Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert and Republicans Nathan Hochman and Eric Early — emphasized that he’s in the business of keeping Californians safe.
- Bonta: “My office continues our work to get illegal guns off our streets, hold those responsible for gun violence accountable, and push for — and defend in court — commonsense gun laws.”
Newsom, Bonta and Democratic lawmakers recently introduced a package of gun control bills. But those efforts may not be enough to comfort Californians still reeling from mass shootings last month at a Sacramento church and last year at a San Jose railyard, or the houses of worship that recently received state funds to install bulletproof windows and hire armed guards.
And there’s no clear consensus on the best way to address gun violence. While some are calling for a beefed-up law enforcement presence, others, like Sacramento City Councilmember Katie Valenzuela, who represents the downtown district where the mass shooting occurred, said that wouldn’t necessarily stop the violence.
Sam Paredes, who runs Gun Owners of California, told the Sacramento Bee that lawmakers’ “knee-jerk reaction is to go after guns,” when the real issues driving gun violence may be mental, economic or medical.
It’s a debate playing out across the state and one sure to heighten in coming months, with San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin facing a recall election on June 7 and discontented Los Angeles County voters collecting signatures to oust District Attorney George Gascón. Against that backdrop, the progressive prosecutors’ two regions are also grappling with the best way to handle spiraling drug addiction and homelessness.
- San Francisco has taken an increasingly tough stance on rampant drug dealing in the Tenderloin during the day — only for it to come back to life at night. Today, Mothers Against Drug Deaths is putting up a billboard in Union Square that calls on the city to “close open-air drug markets” and is considering launching an international campaign.
- And the city of Los Angeles on Friday settled a massive federal homelessness lawsuit by agreeing to provide shelter for 60% of the unhoused population in each of its 15 districts — though Los Angeles County is pushing back on the city declaring it responsible for serving those who are severely mentally or physically ill or struggle with substance abuse.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 8,494,005 confirmed cases (+0.05% from previous day) and 88,207 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Note: The California Department of Public Health announced Friday that, starting today, it will transition to publicly reporting COVID-19 data just two days a week on Tuesdays and Fridays.
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Other stories you should know
1. Court: Corporate diversity law unconstitutional
California’s controversial law requiring publicly traded companies headquartered in the Golden State to diversify their boards is unconstitutional, a Los Angeles County superior court judge ruled Friday. The brief ruling doesn’t explain the judge’s reasoning for striking down the measure, which requires some 700 companies to have at least one board member from an “underrepresented community” — including those who identify as LGBTQ, Black, Latino, Asian American, Pacific Islander or Native American — by the end of 2021, and more in subsequent years. The ruling marks a significant win for Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group also challenging California’s law mandating women on corporate boards.
- Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton: “This historic California court decision declared unconstitutional one of the most blatant and significant attacks in the modern era on constitutional prohibitions against discrimination.”
- The Secretary of State’s office, which is empowered to charge noncompliant companies, didn’t respond to a request for a comment Sunday.
In other equity news: California’s poorest residents — who earn less than $30,000 annually and qualify for state tax credits — make up nearly 50% of the estimated 1 million people from whom the state intercepted 2021 tax refund money to pay off debts, such as parking tickets, college tuition, child support and court fees, the Los Angeles Times reports. Advocates say it defies logic for the state to give its poorest residents money in the form of tax credits, only to snatch it back by garnishing their tax refunds: It’s like trying to “plug a bleed on one end while another end is still an open wound,” said Courtney McKinney, a spokesperson for the Western Center on Law & Poverty.
2. California environment roundup
California saw a torrent of environmental news on Friday and over the weekend. Here’s what you need to know:
- Drought. The Sierra Nevada snowpack — which provides a third of California’s water supply — was just 38% of average statewide on Friday, marking its lowest level since 2015, when the state was at the height of its last drought, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports. The dwindling supply prompted federal officials to slash allocations — again — for municipal and industrial users that rely on water from the Central Valley Project. And state regulators unveiled draft emergency regulations that would allow them to continue restricting the amount of water users can divert from the Russian River watershed.
- Fire. The dismal snowpack could signal an early start to California’s fire season, experts say — and a heat wave expected to sweep much of the state later this week probably won’t help. Meanwhile, the Newsom administration unveiled a plan to increase forest resilience by expanding the use of prescribed burns, including those once practiced by Native Americans. And a new study found that California could, by 2100, see twice as many massive wildfires followed by rainstorm-induced mudslides and flash floods as it does now.
- Agriculture. Due to a variety of pandemic-related supply chain problems, California farmers haven’t been able to export as much of their almond crop as usual — costing the industry $2 billion and pushing small farmers to the financial brink, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
- Recycling. Californians would temporarily get twice as much money for redeeming their empty bottles and cans under a new Newsom administration proposal seeking to leverage the bottle deposit program’s more than $600 million surplus to help meet the state’s goal of recycling 80% of beverage containers. “This surplus belongs to California consumers and we want to get that money back in their pockets through bonus recycling credits and more convenient redemption options,” said CalRecycle director Rachel Machi Wagoner. The plan requires legislative approval, but not all lawmakers seem impressed.
3. A bellwether special election
Tomorrow, the polls close in four special elections for seats vacated by California policymakers caught up in the “Great Resignation.” One of the special elections is for the U.S. House of Representatives seat formerly held by GOP Rep. Devin Nunes, for which six candidates are competing. But if you want a vision of California’s political future in 2022, you’d do well to consider the special election for the South San Diego Assembly seat vacated by labor powerhouse Lorena Gonzalez. Oodles of special interest money are flowing into the race, with much of it concentrated on two Democrats — labor ally Georgette Gómez and business-friendly David Alvarez, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.
- Where’s all the money coming from? As Ben reports, contribution records filed with the state reveal a few surprises, including the first sign of a new, aggressive electoral strategy by the ridesharing giant Uber, plus some surprisingly big donations from a single towing company in Sacramento.
In other election news: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti may not have enough support among U.S. Senate Democrats to be confirmed as ambassador to India, Axios reported Sunday night.
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: As Newsom rolls out numerous new programs and expands existing ones, is California biting off more than it can chew?
School reaction to lesson involving the N-word went too far: In leading a classroom discussion about the evolution of language, a Sacramento-area teacher said the offensive word. Now some parents and the school district wrongly want to take away her teaching credential, argues Ginger Rutland, a former Sacramento Bee editorial writer.
Other things worth your time
Sacramento city school district strike ends, students will return to class today. // CapRadio
Opinion: Gavin Newsom needs to be smarter about how he shuts down California prisons. // San Francisco Chronicle
Another L.A. juvenile hall facility fails state inspection. // Los Angeles Times
A small court with a big mission: A second chance for criminals with mental illness. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Editorial: Villanueva saga just gets odder, more destructive. // Los Angeles Times
18 in alleged Fresno fentanyl trafficking ring face federal charges. // Los Angeles Times
McClintock: Sole California Republican voting to decriminalize weed. // Sacramento Bee
Licensed cannabis businesses in Santa Ana, Los Angeles raided over unpaid taxes. // Orange County Register
This Bay Area school is reinstating its mask mandate after a COVID-19 spike. // San Francisco Chronicle
Some Sacramento CA ICUs report having no COVID-19 patients for first time in two years. // Sacramento Bee
Californians warned about risk from British Columbia oysters. // Associated Press
Progressive business tax plans gain steam in Oakland, but business group calls idea ‘ruinous’ for jobs. // San Francisco Chronicle
Elite Oakland private school battles neighbors over expansion: ‘It’s just too many kids.’ // San Francisco Chronicle
4 L.A. County cities file legal challenge against state housing bill. // Daily News
San Diego to vote on new eviction moratorium. // San Diego Union-Tribune
USC gives honorary degrees to Japanese American students incarcerated in war camps. // Los Angeles Times
Conservationists seek monument status for California mesa. // Los Angeles Times
That time Russia swooped in to bail out a California state park. // San Francisco Chronicle
Oakland A’s Howard Terminal ballpark plan faces environmental lawsuit. // Mercury News
How an East Oakland grassroots effort is using $28 million to help residents tackle climate problems. // San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco’s bottle recycling program blasted by advocates: ‘It’s absurd.’ // San Francisco Chronicle
Feral pigs cause mounting environmental damage in California. // Los Angeles Times
California peregrine falcon finds partner after mate’s death. // Associated Press
See you tomorrow.
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