Gov. Gavin Newsom takes a stance on decommissioning the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant and Poseidon’s Huntington Beach desalination plant.
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With the June 7 primary just over a month away, it’s getting harder to separate candidates’ policy positions from their political implications.
Although Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to easily sail to reelection, his stances on two controversial environmental topics — shared in editorial board interviews — could anger advocates already frustrated by his administration’s climate strategy.
- Newsom told the Los Angeles Times editorial board that he may seek to delay the planned 2025 closure of the hotly debated Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, California’s largest electricity source, amid concerns that the state could see rolling blackouts this summer and in the future. “We would be remiss not to put that on the table as an option,” Newsom said. “We’re going to worst-case scenario. We are being very sober.”
- And Newsom told the Bay Area News Group editorial boards that a powerful state panel should approve a contentious $1.4 billion desalination plant in Huntington Beach, which the panel’s own staff recently recommended rejecting. “We need more tools in the damn tool kit,” Newsom said. “We are as dumb as we want to be. … Seven out of the last 10 years have been severe drought.”
Though Newsom said he supports eventually closing Diablo Canyon, his partial about-face — as lieutenant governor he backed plans to shutter the plant — puts him in a sort of uneasy alliance with Michael Shellenberger, a longtime nuclear energy advocate and no-party-preference gubernatorial candidate.
- And Shellenberger appears to be taking some of the credit for influencing Newsom: “It took rolling black-outs, a change in public consciousness, and my run for governor, but our six-year long effort to save Diablo has finally won!!!” he tweeted.
- The strategy seems to be working: On Friday, the Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed about Shellenberger titled, “Is This Man Talking California Into Nuclear Power?”
Here’s a rundown of policy and political overlaps in other key races:
- Controller: In an 80-minute interview with CalMatters, candidate Malia Cohen said there are two parts to the job: the everyday functions, and making California a more equitable place with more diverse leadership, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports. Meanwhile, the Bay Area News Group editorial boards endorsed Democratic state Sen. Steve Glazer of Orinda, arguing that Cohen’s description of herself as a “social justice warrior” suggests she isn’t “the independent analyst state residents need to head the office.”
- Insurance commissioner: Democratic Assemblymember Marc Levine of San Rafael secured his latest endorsement over Democratic incumbent Ricardo Lara — this one from the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board.
- U.S. House of Representatives: Tensions are rising in a toss-up Orange County race, which has devolved into a “mud-slinging battle rife with accusations of racism, sexism and red-baiting between two Asian American candidates,” GOP Rep. Michelle Steel and Democratic former Navy commander Jay Chen, the Los Angeles Times and San Francisco Chronicle report.
- Los Angeles mayor: Billionaire businessman Rick Caruso may have poured $22.5 million into his mayoral bid so far — an unprecedented amount in local politics — but Rep. Karen Bass secured the endorsement from the Los Angeles Times editorial board. The five leading mayoral candidates convened Sunday night for a debate at Cal State LA that began with police officers forcibly removing Melina Abdullah — a professor at the university and a leader of Black Lives Matter-Los Angeles — and other activists. Abdullah said she was carried out for not having a ticket to the event.
Finally, data released Friday by Secretary of State Shirley Weber shows that as of April 8, California had about 3.15 million more registered voters than it did at a similar point in 2018, during the last gubernatorial election cycle.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 8,605,663 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 89,582 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.
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Other stories you should know
1. The battle for benefits
California on Sunday began expanding full benefits under Medi-Cal — the state’s health care program for the poor — to as many as 235,000 undocumented residents, age 50 and older. Newsom, who last summer signed the expansion into law, now wants to extend full Medi-Cal benefits to another 700,000 undocumented people between the ages of 26 and 49. (Medi-Cal already covers undocumented Californians up to age 26.)
- Newsom: “California is on the path to expand Medi-Cal to all eligible Californians regardless of age or immigration status, providing the most comprehensive health coverage in the entire country.”
- However, as CalMatters’ Ana B. Ibarra has reported, even if state lawmakers approve Newsom’s final expansion, roughly 450,000 undocumented immigrants under 65 would be left without health coverage because they earn more than Medi-Cal’s income limit.
In related news:
- Part-time instructors at California’s community colleges have to work multiple jobs to make a living wage, but some still don’t have health insurance or adequate coverage. A $200 million proposal from Newsom could help, according to union survey data exclusively shared with CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn. Meanwhile, declining community college enrollment is prompting course cuts and staff layoffs, further shrinking work for part-time instructors.
- Friday, after U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla joined striking Stanford Hospital and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital nurses on the picket line, the union and hospitals announced a tentative deal that, if ratified, would see nurses return to work Tuesday — a week and a day after they walked off the job.
- The agreement comes amid continued evidence of nurse burnout: Santa Clara police are investigating a shooting last week in which a Kaiser nurse apparently took his own life in a room adjacent to the hospital’s emergency department.
2. Growing rural districts feel shortchanged
The latest example of California’s urban-rural divide: While many large, urban school districts saw student enrollment plummet amid the pandemic, hundreds of mostly small and rural districts grew. Normally the uptick in students would have resulted in an uptick in state funding — but not last school year, when the state froze funding at pre-pandemic levels to protect the majority of districts that saw a decline in students. Now the 189 districts that saw enrollment increase during the pandemic — and had to serve more students with the same amount of money — want the state to reimburse them. But key lawmakers are divided about what to do, CalMatters’ Joe Hong reports.
- Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Democrat: “We have more funding for schools than we’ve had in the history of California. If you have to dip into your reserves for a year, that’s a small price to pay.”
- Assemblymember Patrick O’Donnell, a Long Beach Democrat: Growing districts “should be made whole. … We paid more attention to declining enrollment than we have to the few districts that have increased enrollment.”
Other education news you should know:
- As Newsom prepares to unveil his revised budget proposal by a May 15 deadline, state lawmakers agree that schools should receive billions more in unrestricted funding.
- A proposed initiative to increase arts and music education funding for public schools seems likely to land on the November ballot.
- And the U.S. Department of Education announced Thursday that Los Angeles Unified School District violated federal law by failing to provide appropriate education to students with disabilities amid the pandemic. The district must now provide those students with extra services to help them recover from significant learning loss.
3. Housing and homelessness updates
It’s a newsletter mantra at this point: All California news comes back to housing. Let’s dive into the latest housing and homelessness updates:
- Homelessness: “Here, in the political capital of Blue State America, even the homeless cannot believe how many homeless there are.” This stunning dispatch from the Washington Post’s Scott Wilson examines whether Sacramento’s controversial proposal to address homelessness — which will go before city voters in November — could serve as a blueprint for the rest of California.
- Never enough homes: California builders filed permits for 1.1 million housing units from 2010 through the first quarter of 2022, even as companies added 3.1 million workers — resulting in a “homebuilding hole” of 2 million units, according to a Southern California News Group analysis. Meanwhile, a state commission voted unanimously Friday to recommend historic designation for San Francisco’s St. Francis Wood neighborhood, which could allow it to avoid a state law permitting duplexes and in some cases, fourplexes, on most single-family parcels.
- “Extraordinary” wealth creation for those with homes: California is home to five of the country’s 10 metro areas with the largest two-year increase in “tappable equity” — the amount of cash households can access while keeping 20% of equity in their homes, according to the New York Times. The reason: high demand and low supply, which caused home values to skyrocket amid the pandemic. San Jose saw the fastest increase in tappable equity from 2019 to 2021, with the average mortgage holder picking up $230,000. Meanwhile, in an attempt to expand homeownership — especially in communities of color — California launched a new forgivable loan program for first-time homebuyers.
- Fear many with homes could lose them: At least 13,600 Bay Area tenants have seen the state reject their applications for pandemic rent relief, leaving small landlords in the lurch and sparking fears that tens of thousands of people could end up homeless, the Mercury News reports.
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Sacramento is a microcosm of California’s homeless crisis.
Big Tech’s right-to-repair programs need fixing: California needs legislation to require manufacturers to make parts, tools and service information available so customers can fix their own devices, argues Sander Kushen of CALPIRG.
Other things worth your time
California visitors spent $100 billion last year, but state tourism still struggling. // Sacramento Bee
How some Bay Area home buyers are saving thousands a year in property taxes. // San Francisco Chronicle
San Diego proposes sweeping crackdown on scooters as usage revives after pandemic lull. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Non-U.S. citizens could become police officers in California, if this bill passes. // NPR
Union Station janitors and retail workers live in fear amid violent crime, verbal abuse. // Los Angeles Times
Man fatally stabbed in fourth killing in cul-de-sac along Lake Merritt. // Mercury News
S.F. dad solves stolen luggage case for police — and do-little cops still haven’t made arrests. // San Francisco Chronicle
‘Scared to drive the freeway’: Surge in Bay Area freeway shootings yields few arrests. // Mercury News
LAPD officers shoot man holding a cellphone, not a gun. // Los Angeles Times
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office says internet child porn task force funding threatened. // KCRA
Inside the DIY effort to deliver tiny homes to homeless people: $1,000 a piece, built without permission. // San Francisco Chronicle
An entire neighborhood is being flipped by a Los Angeles developer. // Bloomberg
Critics blast plan to relocate youths from L.A. juvenile hall. // Los Angeles Times
Kathy Boudin, formerly imprisoned radical leftist and mother of San Francisco D.A. Chesa Boudin, dies. // San Francisco Chronicle
In civil rights case, county seeks to shed $85 million verdict or get a new trial. // San Diego Union-Tribune
USC makes confidential settlement with 80 students, many LGBTQ, who accused doctor of misconduct. // Los Angeles Times
New law helps three women fight back decades after they were sexually abused. // Orange County Register
Major milestone reached in litigation surrounding San Diego’s $400M Ponzi scheme. // San Diego Union-Tribune
California bill would clash with NCAA ban on paying athletes. // Chronicle of Higher Education
An old toxic dump brings new worries for Lincoln Heights. // Los Angeles Times
California’s giant sequoias are being destroyed by our wildfires. Scientists are resorting to extraordinary methods to save them. // San Francisco Chronicle
How California is frantically trying to protect endangered salmon from extinction. // Sacramento Bee
Warmer oceans threaten another California forest, this one underwater. // New York Times
See you tomorrow.
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