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“Build the wall” — a slogan associated with former President Donald Trump and his supporters — is now being repurposed by California Democrats, who say they want to build metaphorical walls via legislation protecting abortion and LGBTQ rights.
“We know we can’t trust the Supreme Court to protect reproductive rights, so California will build a firewall around this right in our state constitution,” Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said Monday night, hours after Politico published a draft U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion suggesting justices are poised to strike down Roe vs. Wade and the federal constitutional right to abortion.
And on Tuesday, Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco announced that lawmakers in 18 other states have introduced or plan to introduce bills modeled on his proposal to provide legal protection for out-of-state families seeking gender-affirming care for their transgender kids.
- Wiener: “We are building a coordinated national legislative campaign by LGBTQ lawmakers — a rainbow wall — to provide refuge for trans kids and their families.”
The two efforts are the latest indication that Democrats may turn to “states’ rights” — a legal argument often invoked by Republicans to challenge federal policies they say encroach on states’ authority to set their own rules — if the U.S. Supreme Court weakens or overturns federal precedents such as Roe vs. Wade.
- We got a preview of that possible future in December, when the nation’s highest court declined to block a Texas law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” an abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy.
- Other states immediately started introducing bills modeled on Texas’ law, including California: Democratic lawmakers are advancing a Newsom-backed bill to allow private Californians to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes or sells assault weapons or ghost guns. “If states can now shield their laws from review by the federal courts,” Newsom said in December, “then California will use that authority to protect people’s lives, where Texas used it to put women in harm’s way.”
- Atkins used similar language on Tuesday: “If you look at the draft opinion, it references states’ rights,” she said. “We are a state and California intends to use its full authority to defend our residents.”
In related news:
- Billionaire Rick Caruso, one of the frontrunners in the Los Angeles mayoral race, pledged to donate $1 million to support a constitutional amendment enshrining abortion rights if lawmakers place it on the November ballot — but is facing criticism for past donations to politicians who oppose abortion.
- An anti-abortion activist was arrested after scaling San Francisco’s 1,070-foot Salesforce Tower.
- California LGBTQ activists and legal scholars told the San Francisco Chronicle they fear the draft opinion, if made final, could pave the way for other rulings overturning federal protections for gay marriage and sex.
- Hundreds of people rallied in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and other cities across the state Tuesday night to protest the potential rollback of abortion rights.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 8,631,663 confirmed cases (+0.3% from previous day) and 89,694 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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Other stories you should know
1. Murder charges filed in Sacramento shooting
Three men have each been charged with three counts of murder in the April 3 Sacramento shooting that killed six and wounded 12, Sacramento Police Chief Kathy Lester and Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert announced Tuesday. All three men — brothers Smiley and Dandrae Martin, both booked in Sacramento County jail, and Mtula Payton, who prosecutors allege was out on bail for felony possession of a firearm at the time of the shooting and remains at large — are eligible for the death penalty, though prosecutors haven’t yet decided whether to pursue that option. However, capital punishment is for all intents and purposes outlawed in California — Newsom placed a moratorium on the practice on his first day in office, and the state hasn’t executed anyone since 2006.
At the Tuesday press conference in downtown Sacramento, prosecutors seemed frustrated with state laws they suggested have constrained their ability to charge suspects:
- For example, Schubert said her office can’t file gang enhancements against the three men due to recent changes in state law — even though “evidence shows” the shootout “was a gun battle between two rival gangs.”
- Schubert, who is running for California attorney general, has also slammed the Newsom administration for increasing inmates’ good conduct credit earning rates amid the pandemic, which contributed to Smiley Martin spending just four years in prison despite a 10-year sentence.
- Last but not least, enter California’s beleaguered unemployment department: Prosecutors allege Payton scammed the Employment Development Department out of $45,000 while in prison in 2020. EDD has acknowledged paying at least $20 billion worth of fraudulent claims during the pandemic, including nearly $1 billion to jail and prison inmates.
2. Sports betting battle intensifies
The battle over sports betting is heating up, with at least two of four competing initiatives poised to land on the November ballot unless state lawmakers can strike a deal to avert a costly ballot box fight — as they did last week with an agreement on medical malpractice awards. On Tuesday, online sports betting giants FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM submitted 1.6 million signatures backing their measure; around 1.1 million of those will need to be valid for it to qualify for the ballot. If approved, it will join another eligible measure to allow in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and four horse race tracks.
- FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM are pitching their measure — which would require gaming companies to pay a $100 million licensing fee and be licensed in 10 other states in order to do business in California — as one that would generate “significant revenue to fund homelessness housing and mental health treatment and provide financial support for California Tribal nations,” initiative spokesman Nathan Click told CalMatters’ Grace Gedye.
- But many Native American tribes are campaigning against the gaming companies’ initiative.
- “The out-of-state online gaming corporations’ flawed measure is full of loopholes and deceptive promises,” said Roger Salazar, a spokesperson for Californians for Tribal Sovereignty and Safe Gaming, which is backing another proposed ballot measure that would exclusively allow tribes to offer online and in-person sports betting. “These out of state operators don’t care about California. 90% of the profits from this measure go to these out of state corporations, leaving only pennies for the homeless.”
3. Three Capitol dispatches
Tuesday was a busy day in the state Capitol, so let’s catch up on must-know news:
- Matt Haney was sworn into the state Assembly, where he will represent San Francisco after winning a special election runoff to replace David Chiu, who contributed to the “Great Resignation” of state lawmakers when he was appointed San Francisco city attorney. Haney has said building a substantial amount of housing will be his top priority in Sacramento.
- California parents would be allowed to sue social media companies for harms caused by hooking their kids on addictive algorithms under a bill unanimously approved by a key committee. The full Assembly could vote on the proposal — which some lawyers warn violate fundamental rights — by the end of the month. Newsom, meanwhile, issued a proclamation declaring this week as “Children’s Mental Health Awareness Week.”
- And California’s recently formed union of child care providers rallied at the state Capitol alongside Democratic Assemblymember Miguel Santiago of Los Angeles, calling on the Newsom administration to strengthen their health care and retirement benefits. Although Child Care Providers United recently announced an agreement with the state for supplemental pay of up to $10,000 per provider, the union said more than 50% of California providers have delayed medical treatment due to inadequate or nonexistent health insurance and just 10% have retirement plans.
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s treasury is awash in cash, and the Capitol’s dominant Democrats now must decide how to handle the cornucopia.
San Francisco pilot project would help secure voting rights: Secretary of State Shirley Weber must take a key step by May 7 toward approving open-source voting for California, long advocated by election security experts and election integrity activists, argue Carolyn Fowler and Christine Pelosi, chair and past chair, respectively, of the California Democratic Party Women’s Caucus.
Housing shouldn’t be a worry for college students: Financing more student housing at California’s public colleges and universities is an investment in the state’s economic future, write Dick Ackerman and Mel Levine, co-chairs of the California Coalition for Public Higher Education.
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Podcast: Deplorable conditions and poor oversight in Los Angeles apartment complex. // CalMatters
Can sustainable suburbs save Southern California? // New Yorker
Homicides in L.A. on pace to match 15-year high from 2021. // Los Angeles Times
L.A. County D.A.’s office under Gascón is at war with itself. // Los Angeles Times
State orders investigation of alleged hazing at Golden West police academy. // Orange County Register
San Jose mayor calls for stronger alcohol, drug testing after report of officer under the influence. // Mercury News
California man convicted of sexually assaulting homeless women. // Associated Press
Los Angeles County looks to form new entity to solve homeless crisis. // Daily News
Amazon to add 2,500 office jobs in Southern California. // Los Angeles Times
Why are so many people in California seeking unemployment benefits? // Sacramento Bee
45% of undocumented Californians are going hungry. How CalFresh might fill the gap. // Sacramento Bee
Lithium in California electric cars takes climate change toll. // Los Angeles Times
Feds will release less water from Colorado River reservoir. // Los Angeles Times
Federal plan to thin forest on Pine Mountain draws lawsuits from Patagonia, Ojai and others. // Los Angeles Times
After more than a century, California condors soar over Yurok tribal lands once again. // Los Angeles Times
Norman Mineta, transportation secretary in 9/11 era and former San Jose mayor, dies. // Associated Press
Ukrainian students in California find warm welcome in schools. // EdSource
L.A. County seeks bids to bring high-speed internet to poor Black, Latino areas. // Capital & Main
CalMatters journalists honored for stories examining home ownership, nursing home oversight and racial justice. // CalMatters
See you tomorrow.
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