Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven May 25, 2022
Presented by California Cattle Council, NextGen Policy, and California Water Service

California advances gun control bills amid Texas school massacre

KEEP TABS ON THE LATEST CALIFORNIA POLICY AND POLITICS NEWS

Note: My amazing colleague Ben Christopher will be guest hosting the newsletter through June 3. I’ll see you on Monday, June 6 — just in time for California’s primary election!

As news traveled around the country Tuesday of a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school that left at least 22 dead — including 19 children, two teachers and the 18-year-old gunman — California lawmakers were advancing a package of gun control bills, including one sponsored by Gov. Gavin Newsom that co-opts the structure of Texas’ abortion ban to crack down on illegal firearms.

The striking timing highlighted a shared challenge facing California, Texas and other states: reducing gun deaths, which have ticked up dramatically nationwide amid the pandemic.

But it also served as a launchpad for Newsom — a relentless critic of Texas — and other top Democratic officials to castigate Republicans for refusing to support tougher restrictions on guns.

  • Newsom tweeted: “Another shooting. And the GOP won’t do a damn thing about it. Who the hell are we if we cannot keep our kids safe. This is preventable. Our inaction is a choice.”
  • Attorney General Rob Bonta tweeted: “These are our children. Our babies. This is sick. And I’m damn angry. The GOP continues to prioritize the gun lobby over the LIVES of our children.”

Democratic legislators invoked the Texas shooting on multiple occasions during a marathon Senate floor session Tuesday: “One more gun death is too many,” said state Sen. Anthony Portantino of Glendale, urging support for the bill inspired by Texas’ abortion ban that would give private Californians the right to sue manufacturers, sellers and distributors of illegal assault weapons, ghost guns and certain other firearms and to collect at least $10,000 in civil damages per weapon.

  • The proposal passed on a close-to-party-line vote: Democratic state Sen. Melissa Hurtado of Sanger voted with the Republicans in opposition.

Following last week’s culling of more than 200 bills in a highly secretive and opaque process, the Assembly and Senate are rushing to pass hundreds of bills ahead of a Friday deadline for proposals to clear the house in which they were introduced.

Here’s a look at other gun proposals moving forward:

And here’s a rundown of other high-profile bills that advanced to the other house:

One last tidbit of Capitol news: In case last week’s warning that California could be heading toward a “fiscal cliff” wasn’t dire enough, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office on Tuesday released a report reiterating its concerns that Newsom’s $301 billion budget proposal “does not include a plan” to address “looming budget problems.”

A message from our sponsor

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 8,853,498 confirmed cases (+0.6% from previous day) and 90,488 deaths (+0.1% 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 75,916,321 vaccine doses, and 75.3% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

A message from our sponsor

1 California reports first suspected monkeypox case

An employee works on a monkeypox vaccine at biotechnology company Bavarian Nordic in Germany on May 24, 2022. Photo by Lukas Barth, Reuters

Because rising COVID rates aren’t enough, California on Monday reported its first suspected case of monkeypox in Sacramento County. Although the California Department of Public Health reassured residents that the “risk of monkeypox to the public is currently very low based on the information available,” the suspected case — in an individual who recently returned from a trip to Europe — has nevertheless raised alarm because monkeypox is extremely rare outside of West and Central Africa. So what do we know about California’s suspected case? What are the symptoms of monkeypox, how is it transmitted and treated, and why is it spreading now? CalMatters’ Ana B. Ibarra and Kristen Hwang answer all of those questions and more in this extremely helpful piece.

  • A postscript for your peace of mind: “It’s absolutely 100% not going to be the next COVID-19,” Dr. George Rutherford, a UCSF epidemiologist, told Ana and Kristen. “It’s a difficult-to-transmit disease and it’s not a particularly severe disease.”
  • Today, Democratic state Sen. Richard Pan of Sacramento and local public health leaders plan to hold a press conference citing the suspected monkeypox case as another reason why Newsom and state lawmakers should invest more funding in public health departments.
  • Pan: “Well-funded and fully staffed public health departments equipped with necessary viral surveillance and testing tools help us quickly identify emerging health threats, and isolate infectious individuals, helping protect life and treat people resulting in the best possible health outcomes.”

2 State approves stricter drought rules

Sprinklers irrigate grass at a city park in San Diego on Sept. 12, 2014, during the state’s previous severe drought. Photo by Mike Blake, Reuters

From CalMatters water reporter Rachel Becker: California’s businesses and institutions will be barred from irrigating decorative, non-functional lawns with drinkable water and water systems must ramp up their drought responses under a package of rules the state’s water regulators approved Tuesday. 

  • The irrigation ban, which Newsom ordered in March, could take effect in as soon as 10 days. It does not apply to people’s yards, sports fields, grass where people regularly recreate, or trees and shrubs.
  • And, starting in mid-June, water systems must escalate their drought responses as if they’re facing at least a 10% to 20% water shortage, regardless of local conditions. So far, 145 water systems have reached or surpassed this level of conservation and 227 have not, according to state data.
  • Some water providers said the mandate should allow more flexibility for local conditions: “Achieving a 10 to 20% reduction will equate to $2.6 million to $5.2 million loss in revenue,” said Kathleen Coates Hedberg, the board president of Helix Water District, which serves Eastern San Diego County — and, she said, is not currently experiencing a water shortage. “We can either defer water infrastructure projects and maintenance, thereby reducing reliability, or we can increase water rates. What option should we choose?” 

Also Tuesday, California tribes and environmental groups filed a formal petition urging the State Water Resources Control Board to revamp water quality standards and flow requirements for the Bay-Delta, the critical water hub where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers meet to flow out into the San Francisco Bay

  • The petition follows state and federal agencies’ recent deal with irrigation districts and other water providers, which officials say aims to improve watershed conditions and habitats. 
  • The petition reads: “It has been over fifteen years since the Board last completed a comprehensive review of Bay-Delta water quality standards. And the steps it has taken toward doing so have been harmful half-measures … the Board has prioritized closed-door negotiation of voluntary agreements with water districts, which fall well short of restoring sufficient flows and alienate California tribes and Delta communities of color most directly harmed by that shortfall.”

3 Nursing home workers, legislative staff rally at Capitol

Nurses strike outside of Stanford Hospital on April 25, 2022, in Palo Alto. Photo by Aric Crabb, Bay Area News Group

Tuesday was a day of worker organizing: Hundreds of nursing home and home care workers marched to the state Capitol in Sacramento and rallied in Los Angeles and Anaheim to draw attention to the industry’s “dangerously low” staffing levels and reinforce their demand for a Skilled Nursing Facility Quality Standards Board. Senate Democrats have proposed allocating $10 million to establish the board — which would allow nursing home workers to help set statewide staffing and wage standards — but advocates want to ensure it’s in the final version of the budget lawmakers must send to Newsom’s desk by June 15. (A similar proposal working its way through the Legislature would permit the state to negotiate wages, hours and work conditions for the entire fast-food industry.)

Also Tuesday, CalMatters political reporter Sameea Kamal writes, Democratic lawmakers gathered outside the Capitol to unveil the latest version of a bill that would allow legislative staff to collectively bargain. The proposal is sponsored by the California Labor Federation, whose incoming leader, Lorena Gonzalez, tried as an assemblymember to pass similar bills in 2018, 2019 and 2021.

  • Legislative employees are currently barred from forming a union under the State Employer-Employee Relations Act. But proponents say workers should be allowed to collectively bargain, pointing to issues such as pay gaps, sexual harassment and the shortcomings of the Legislature’s Workplace Conduct Unit.
  • Aubrey Rodriguez, who has worked for the Assembly for seven years: “There’s this huge narrative of just being able to exploit people’s passion. I didn’t come in here for the money, admittedly, but I also didn’t want to come here to get exploited because I want to try and fight for other people to not be excluded anymore.”

Assemblymember Ken Cooley, a Democrat from Sacramento and chairperson of the Committee on Public Employment and Retirement, said he has opposed past efforts because the independence of the Legislature means it must be allowed to reorganize themselves as new members cycle in, as well as over concerns about whether “other forces at work inside the Legislature” might derail how members represent their voters. He also cited budget concerns.

However, he said he’s open to learning lessons from the effort by the U.S. Congress. “I personally feel that I will follow very closely what the congress does,” he said.

A message from our sponsor

CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: One result of Democrats’ supermajority stranglehold on the state Legislature: ever-increasing secrecy in the legislative process, especially on the state budget.

Don’t cut off California cannabis tax revenue: Cannabis taxes are the only guaranteed revenue stream in the state budget for child care for children from birth to 13 years old, write Jim Keddy of Youth Forward and Mary Ignatius of Parent Voices.

Other things worth your time


Some stories may require a subscription to read

Northern California interior to see high fire danger, heat. // Associated Press

Fatal shooting of rising star Moriah ‘Mo’ Wilson stuns Bay Area cycling world. // San Francisco Chronicle

Woman who killed abuser as a teen seeks Newsom’s pardon. // Los Angeles Times

Former California lawmaker accused of domestic violence sues Rubio sisters. // Sacramento Bee

Tesla loses bid to shunt sex harassment suit into arbitration. // Bloomberg

Second woman alleges sexual abuse in claim against Stockton police officer. // San Francisco Chronicle

Even with COVID rules, California requires payment for Medicaid benefits for people in long-term care. // inewsource

Ford pays $19 million to states including California to settle claims on fuel economy, payload. // Associated Press

California will test digital driver’s licenses. Should you worry about your personal info? // Los Angeles Times

Business that violate disabled citizens’ rights must pay up. Should that include public schools? // San Francisco Chronicle

80 years later, East Bay high school to grant diplomas to Japanese American students incarcerated in WWII camps. // San Francisco Chronicle

Pelosi pushes back on archbishop who denies her Communion. // Associated Press

L.A. council candidate’s brief time in district scrutinized. // Los Angeles Times

Union-backed candidate wins seat on CalPERS board. // Sacramento Bee

California Realtors spend big against Sacramento candidate Caity Maple. // Sacramento Bee

S.F. schools could get $70 million per year more if voters back proposal. // San Francisco Chronicle

S.F. fight over affordable housing: Supervisors want voters to back their new plan over Breed’s big push at ballot. // San Francisco Chronicle

Oakland business tax: Leaders jointly urge voters to overhaul business tax. // Mercury News

San Diego narrows field of contenders battling for sports arena site. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Cameras catch Los Angeles employees throwing away food meant for the homeless. // CBS Los Angeles

Russian-speaking technologists rebuild their lives in a San Francisco home. // New York Times

Climate worries galvanize a new pro-nuclear movement in the U.S. // Washington Post

Activists and residents slam Sacramento for gutting a bill to shut SoCalGas in Aliso Canyon. // Daily News

A voracious moth that ‘skeletonizes’ grapevines was found in a Napa vineyard. // San Francisco Chronicle

Sea otters were once hunted to near extinction. Now scientists might return them to California’s North Coast. // San Francisco Chronicle

Mother raccoon chewed through a California home’s roof to get back to her babies. // San Francisco Chronicle

See you tomorrow

Tips, insight or feedback? Email emily@calmatters.org.

Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

Subscribe to CalMatters newsletters here.

Follow CalMatters on Facebook and Twitter.

CalMatters is now available in Spanish on Twitter, Facebook and RSS.