In summary

Police announce a fourth suspect in connection with the April 3 Sacramento shooting, as the policy and political stakes intensify.

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As investigations into the April 3 Sacramento shooting that left six dead and 12 injured are intensifying, so, too, are the political and policy implications of the nation’s deadliest mass murder so far this year.

On Tuesday, Sacramento police announced they are seeking a fourth suspect in connection with the shooting — and said “evidence indicates” the suspect, Mtula Payton, was among at least five gunmen involved in what detectives believe was a gang shootout.

Another suspected shooter, according to police: Smiley Martin, who’s received most of the attention in the case thus far due to the revelation that he was released in February from prison, where he spent just four years despite a 10-year sentence.

  • In this report, I explore why Martin’s prison stint was so brief — a story that involves Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration increasing good conduct credit earning rates and adding credit opportunities for inmates not sentenced to death or life without parole under Proposition 57 and emergency pandemic rules. The emergency rules, which the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation are seeking to make permanent, are the subject of a public comment period ending today and a Thursday public hearing.
  • But the story also involves a plea deal Martin struck with Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s office — one that dismissed a kidnapping charge, which California penal code defines as a violent felony. Instead, Martin pleaded no contest to two nonviolent charges — allowing him to collect good conduct credits at a faster rate than someone convicted of a violent offense.
  • The case also raises questions about California’s penal code, which defines domestic violence and assault likely to produce great bodily injury — the charges to which Martin pleaded no contest — as “nonviolent.”

Could the Sacramento shooting influence the California attorney general race, which will pit Schubert — a Republican-turned-independent — and GOP candidates Nathan Hochman and Eric Early against Democratic incumbent Rob Bonta? CalMatters’ Nigel Duara explores how the politics of violence could affect voters ahead of the June 7 primary.

To top things off, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday that Martin is slated to receive a $7,500 settlement from Sacramento County in a case alleging he was mistreated while in county jail.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 8,513,771 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 88,557 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data now updated just twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 73,669,038 vaccine doses, and 74.9% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

1. California environment roundup

Electric cars at Niello BMV dealership in Sacramento on September 12, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Electric cars at Niello BMV dealership in Sacramento on Sept. 12, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Tuesday brought with it a torrent of California environmental news, so let’s dive right in:

  • With gas reaching a per-gallon average cost of $5.75, California’s clean-air regulators unveiled a far-reaching proposal requiring a ramp-up in sales of zero-emission vehicles culminating in a ban on new gasoline-powered cars by 2035, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports. If adopted by the California Air Resources Board this summer and approved by the federal government, the regulations would be the first in the world. Still, as Rachel notes, numerous implementation challenges remain.
  • A stunning investigation from CapRadio and The California Newsroom found that two years after the Newsom administration launched a “critical” wildfire prevention program, it has yet to complete a single project.
  • Meanwhile, a superior court judge ordered the Southern California city of Santee to throw out its approval of a housing project for more than 3,000 new homes, ruling the developer hadn’t adequately considered their impact on residents’ ability to evacuate wildfires, the Associated Press reports.
  • A new study from the Pacific Institute, an Oakland-based water think tank, found that California could slash its urban and suburban water use by more than 30% by investing in simple water efficiency measures such as fixing leaks, replacing lawns with drought-resistant plants and upgrading inefficient washing machines and toilets, the Los Angeles Times reports.
  • And as California’s drought intensifies, Santa Clara County’s largest water agency is advancing plans to ask 2 million residents to slash water landscaping from three to two days a week, the Mercury News reports.

2. CA labor law faces uncertain future

The U.S. Supreme Court, in Washington, D.C., on March 28, 2022. Photo by Graeme Sloan, Sipa USA
The U.S. Supreme Court, in Washington, D.C., on March 28, 2022. Photo by Graeme Sloan, Sipa USA

Before there was the Texas law that deputized private citizens to enforce its abortion ban, there was the California law that deputized workers to help enforce state labor regulations. But that law is now facing its biggest test yet: A pending U.S. Supreme Court decision could hollow out the Private Attorneys General Act, which thousands of Californians have used to address workplace issues, sometimes winning large settlements and changing company policies in the process, CalMatters’ Grace Gedye reports. Separately, business groups are seeking to qualify a 2022 ballot measure that would repeal PAGA and instead require the state to fully fund the labor commissioner’s office and enforce the laws itself.

  • Meanwhile, state lawmakers are waiting in the wings with a possible legislative fix: “Once we have those instructions from the (U.S. Supreme) Court, the legislation will be crafted to align California law with the best worker protections we can come up with,” said state Sen. Dave Cortese, a San Jose-area Democrat.

In other workplace news: The state Employment Development Department announced Tuesday that California’s task force investigating fraudulent claims for federal unemployment benefits resulted in at least 370 arrests and 130 convictions from January 2021 to January 2022, with 1,400 active investigations. EDD acknowledged last year that it paid at least $20 billion worth of fraudulent claims amid the pandemic.

3. Reparations panel considers next step

Angelenos celebrate during the 33rd Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Los Angeles on Jan. 15, 2018. Thousands of people lined the streets of South Los Angeles for a Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade that is among the nation's biggest celebrations of the holiday. Photo by Richard Vogel, AP Photo
People celebrate during the 33rd annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade in Los Angeles on Jan. 15, 2018. Photo by Richard Vogel, AP Photo

Today, California’s first-in-the-nation reparations task force is slated to begin a two-day set of meetings examining racism in education and exploring possible models for a state-specific reparations program. The meeting comes a few weeks after the task force, in a contentious 5-4 vote, recommended limiting eligibility for potential state benefits to Black Californians who can prove they’re directly descended from an enslaved person or from a free Black person living in the U.S. before the end of the 19th century.

But what might reparations look like, how would they be paid for and how many people would be eligible? CalMatters’ Lil Kalish has the answers to those questions and many more in this helpful and thorough explainer.

CalMatters commentary

State equipment tax is hobbling manufacturers: California, which leads the nation in innovation, attracts no more than 1% of new manufacturing investment in the United States. Why? Because it double-taxes production, argue Robert Gutierrez, president and CEO of the California Taxpayers Association, and Lance Hastings, president and CEO of the California Manufacturers & Technology Association.

Other things worth your time

Column: Sacramento shooting has link to domestic violence. // Los Angeles Times

Inflation means a Bay Area resident will spend $4,400 more for the same stuff this year. // San Francisco Chronicle

California dock fire may pressure already-high gasoline prices. // Bloomberg

Texas oil company wants to use California clean energy credits to extract more oil. // KQED

Op-Ed: Wildfires never threatened my home. But my insurer said they do — and dumped me. // Los Angeles Times

A farmer’s quest to beat California’s waves of drought and deluge. // WIRED

A California couple transformed an empty lot into a thriving farm. Now they’re listing it for $14.5 million. // Wall Street Journal

Gangs are following and robbing L.A.’s wealthiest, LAPD says. // Los Angeles Times

Security guard shot and killed at an Oakland community cabin site for homeless people. // San Francisco Chronicle

Review board study finds large number of ‘excess deaths’ in San Diego County jails. // San Diego Union-Tribune

DWP, mired in scandal, has its first inspector general. // Los Angeles Times

S.F. Redistricting Task Force facing a ‘toxic political culture’ as it races to meet its deadline. // San Francisco Chronicle

Guilty plea part of ongoing U.S. probe into Caltrans bribery. // Associated Press

California agency accuses fintech OppFi of predatory lending. // Reuters

California mom Sherri Papini to plead guilty to faking a kidnapping. // Sacramento Bee

California union president was investigated for identity theft. // Sacramento Bee

Southern California firms to pay $1.8 billion for avoiding aluminum import duties. // Los Angeles Times

S.F. bakery faces $4,460 fine for topping trees — neighbors are coming to its defense. // San Francisco Chronicle

Sutter nurses to strike April 18 in Sacramento. // Sacramento Bee

Workers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center vote to strike. // Daily News

Editorial: California school salaries should be easier for the public to see. // Los Angeles Times

UC considers imposing criteria for California’s high school ethnic studies classes. // EdSource

Coronavirus cases on the rise in L.A. County, prompting calls for spring break caution. // Los Angeles Times

Mayor wants to cut these 2 teams in the running for San Diego’s sports arena site. // San Diego Union-Tribune

New DNA analysis supports an unrecognized tribe’s ancient roots in California. // New York 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...