Who’s responsible: Guns, doors or ‘fake security’?
On Thursday, the country was still reeling from the mass murder of 19 elementary school children in Texas. In San Jose, survivors and their families commemorated the first anniversary of the San Jose railyard massacre that left nine shot dead. And in Sacramento, the California Legislature pushed forward what may be the most far-reaching pieces of its gun control package.
As CalMatters justice reporter Nigel Duara explains, federal law protects gun manufacturers and vendors from being held legally liable for violence committed with their products in most cases. Two California bills authored by Democrats would chip away at that legal shield.
- San Ramon Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer-Kahan introduced a bill targeting the marketing of firearms to children and those not legally allowed to possess them. It passed out of the Assembly on Monday.
- A bill by San Francisco Assemblymember Phil Ting would specify that the state can bring lawsuits against gun manufacturers based on their marketing. That exception is already included in federal law, but gun makers have challenged that interpretation in court. It passed out of the Assembly on a 44-19 vote Thursday night.
Are guns actually marketed to children? Consider the logo of Wee 1 Tactical, the producer of the just-for-kids JR-15: “Two skulls with a target in one eye and a pacifier in each mouth. One skull has a mohawk and the other has pigtails.”
Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story
State Assembly, District 16 (San Ramon)
State Assembly, District 16 (San Ramon)
Time in office
Asm. Rebecca Bauer-Kahan has taken at least $1.1 million from the Party sector since she was elected to the legislature. That represents 30% of her total campaign contributions.
State Assembly, District 19 (San Francisco)
State Assembly, District 19 (San Francisco)
Time in office
Asm. Phil Ting has taken at least $2.5 million from the Labor sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 32% of his total campaign contributions.
Late last year, Gov. Newsom proposed a bill, modeled on a Texas anti-abortion law, to let everyday Californians bring private lawsuits against certain gun manufacturers and distributors. Perhaps because it’s deliberately provocative, that bill has gotten the lion’s share of public attention in recent weeks. But gun rights activists are just as alarmed about this crop of liability-related bills.
- Michael Schwartz, head of San Diego County Gun Owners: “If fully realized and implemented, it’s an enormous threat to gun rights…I don’t know what the perceived fear is, but I’m not afraid that kids are gonna get addicted to an AR-15.”
Security failure: In San Jose, the family of Lars Lane, one of the victims of the 2021 shooting, filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, along with the County Sheriff and the private security company Universal Protection Service.
- Nick Rowley, the family’s attorney, said in a press release: “The tragedy that occurred one year ago today is a consequence of lazy, negligent and fake security.”
And in Washington D.C., most Senate Republicans are unwilling to blame the Texas massacre on either the availability of semiautomatic rifles or on the nation’s gun laws. Instead, some have laid the blame on insufficiently impregnable schools. In an interview in Uvalde, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said this week’s rampage could have been prevented if the school had only a single entry way.
That prompted a rejoinder on Twitter from Newsom: “A true profile in courage: Sen. Ted Cruz blames the shooting on a door.”
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, 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.
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1 The Cal Grant eligibility shuffle
California lawmakers face a potential trade-off this year:
- Option 1: Expand free tuition to more low-income California students at the nation’s largest university system at the expense of future grants to middle-class students
- Option 2: Decide not to pass Assembly Bill 1746, which cleared the Assembly Thursday.
As CalMatters higher education reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn explains, that’s the bill that would expand Cal Grant eligibility for some 68,000 low-income students at an annual cost of $300 million. The proposal is enthusiastically backed by student advocacy groups and by the state’s community colleges, which serve as regular feeders to the university system.
But CSU leadership warns that those extra benefits come at a cost: Approximately 39,000 fewer grants for middle-class students.
If you happen to be one of those middle-class students and you’re starting to panic, don’t: Anyone currently receiving the financial award will continue to get it.
Backers of the bill say another financial aid program called the Middle Class Scholarship 2.0, coupled with the system’s internal financial aid money, can be used to make up the gap.
- Sacramento Democratic Assemblymember Kevin McCarty: Lawmakers “will make both work in tandem, and the very few students who’ll end up not being eligible for the Cal Grant will be supplemented through the Middle Class Scholarship.”
Other bills that beat today’s deadline and were sent to the other legislative chamber on Thursday:
- A contentious Assembly bill to abolish the requirement that coroners investigate stillbirths. Anti-abortion groups protested at the Capitol.
- A Senate bill to create a guaranteed income program for homeless high school seniors in the months between graduation and college or their post-school job. About 15,000 students would be eligible.
- An Assembly bill requiring any new distribution warehouses — including the ones used by Amazon — to be built at least 1,000 feet from homes, schools, daycares and schools. It was narrowed specifically to the Inland Empire, where such facilities are now ubiquitous.
- Another Assembly bill to reduce single-use plastics in packaging for online purchases.
- An Assembly bill preventing locals from slapping minimum parking requirements on new homes built near major public transit stops.
- And a bill to ban declawing of cats.
- On Wednesday, the Assembly advanced a bill allowing farmworkers to vote by mail in union certification elections. Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year.
Mea culpa: Thursday’s newsletter incorrectly said that Sen. Melissa Hurtado voted for a gas tax holiday bill in the Assembly. As seasoned Capitol watchers know, senators do not cast their votes in the Assembly.
2 Fissures and fallout in OC congressional races
With Election Day just 11 days away, heralded electoral oracle Dave Wasserman now says two of the most anticipated southern California congressional races — District 40 in east Orange County and coastal District 49 north of San Diego — are even more competitive than they had seemed earlier in the year.
Scratch beneath the surface and there’s some recent weirdness in both races:
- A fissure between California conservative titans: In the 49th, where a handful of Republicans are scrapping to edge out incumbent Democrat Mike Levin, Wasserman recategorized the race from “likely” to “lean” Democratic. One of his Republican challengers, terming-out OC Supervisor Lisa Bartlett has the backing of Larry Elder, the top Republican vote-getter in last year’s recall election and perhaps the closest thing the state GOP has to a standard bearer.
But the party, itself, endorsed Brian Maryott, Levin’s challenger in 2020. And earlier this week his campaign scored big endorsements of his own: Ward Connerly and Betty Chu, the de facto leaders of 2020’s successful effort to keep the statewide ban on affirmative action.
- Down the Raths rabbit hole: And in the 40th, where Republican Rep. Young Kim is hoping to stay in office, her GOP challenger Greg Raths, a Mission Viejo city council member and four-time congressional hopeful, has now been accused of being too conservative, too liberal and, most recently, of being an anti-Semite.
Then, evidently taking the Raths threat seriously, House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield rallied to Kim’s defense. A McCarthy-aligned SuperPAC lambasted Raths as a “liberal” (Raths insists otherwise), part of more than $550,000 in ad spending from that PAC since Tuesday in the race.
Finally came the Thursday post from the conservative outlet Washington Free Beacon, where Raths said the following when asked by U.S. foreign policy and Israel at a candidate forum.
- Raths: “The Israeli PAC in Washington, they got money, and they control a lot of these politicians…The Jewish community has never given me one dime, so I’m not beholden to them at all.”
Nathan Click, a spokesperson for Mahmood, called the comments “reprehensible.” On Twitter, Kim called the comments “vile.” I reached out to Raths for comment. He responded by email.
- Raths: “I have never been anti-Semitic in any way, shape or form. If I came across that I was stereotyping, I apologize….I was just saying that organization is very important to get the ears of politicians in Washington, D.C. Many politicians may deny that, but it’s a fact.”
Kim’s victory in 2020, one of a handful of Republican wins by candidates of color, offered a faint ray of hope for the California GOP. After the state redrew its electoral map, she found herself in a somewhat safer district. But whichever Republican makes the top two could have profound implications for November.
- Wasserman: “As the only Democrat on the ballot, Mahmood should finish first. If Kim finishes second, the race would be Likely Republican. But if Raths edges her out for the runoff slot, the race would move to Toss Up. For now, we’re splitting the difference at Lean Republican.”
Your guide to the 2022 general election in California
The United Democracy Project, a super PAC launched by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, has been in the news lately for backing moderate candidates in Democratic primaries — mostly recently in a Pittsburgh-area congressional race where their preferred candidate narrowly lost.
In California, the group has taken an interest in the open Long Beach congressional seat, where they’ve spent nearly $400,000 opposing Assemblymember Cristina Garcia in her challenge against the city’s mayor, Robert Garcia.
3 Always feel like somebody’s watching me
This week, the Assembly passed two bills aimed at protecting California kids from the excesses of social media.
- One would punish social media companies if they fail to address addiction among kids
- The second would force those companies to automatically apply stricter privacy settings and limit data collection on accounts run by kids
Apparently suspicion of social media platforms is bipartisan. The legislation was written by San Luis Obispo Republican Jordan Cunningham and Oakland Democrat Buffy Wicks. Concerns about data mismanagement — for profit or prosecution — abound.
On Thursday, Twitter and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement in which the San Francisco social media company agreed to pay a $150 million fine and come under new oversight of its data management. Federal prosecutors allege that Twitter collected the contact information of users, ostensibly for account security purposes, but then used that information to boost its advertising tools.
And on Thursday, Attorney General Rob Bonta, who happens to be running in a surprisingly competitive election, issued a stern reminder to companies that sell fertility tracking apps to keep the personal data of users private.
- Bonta: “Sensitive health data must remain secure and never be used against individuals seeking critical healthcare and exercising their right to abortion.”
California already has the nation’s strictest online privacy protections on the books and some other states are trying to follow its lead. But not if major tech companies have anything to say about it.
According to a lengthy investigation by The Markup, at least 445 lobbyists have been deployed to state capitols in 31 states to try to pass more business-friendly privacy rules. And that’s not the only Golden State connection: Many of the lobbyists work for the same Sausalito-based firm, Politicom Law.
- Justin Brookman, Consumer Reports: “Given how things don’t move at the federal level, we’ve seen them deploy and more proactively push weak legislation.”
Don’t close Diablo Canyon: California’s last operating nuclear power plant is the single-largest generator of zero-carbon energy in the state. All that’s needed to keep it open is a little political courage, write Alex Trembath and Adam Stein of the Breakthrough Institute.
Other things worth your time
Encinitas state Senate candidate threatened with suit over Facebook blocks // Voice of San Diego
In Long Beach, Los Angeles and Oakland, a generation of Cambodian Americans finds a path toward healing // Buzzfeed
The 1930s bargain dividing the Central Valley farmers into water haves and have-nots // Grist
Anaheim activists, Assembly candidate call for end to corporate influence in local elections // Voice of OC
California community colleges started ramping up the number Latino and Black students in college-level courses. Here’s how it’s going. // NBCNews
Newsom signs bill exempting tribal gaming projects from environmental review // The Bakersfield Californian
VIDEO: Seeking Refuse, a documentary at the U.S.-Mexico border // KCRA
Los Angeles port freeway expansion plan dropped // Los Angeles Times
Sen. Padilla pushes bill to have feds foot more of California’s wildfire bill // Sacramento Bee
Burned out by COVID, California medical residents are unionizing // California Healthline
“How to Murder Your Husband” writer found guilty of murdering her husband // NPR