In summary

California lawmakers pass a bill to allow youths 12 and older to get vaccines without parental consent, despite lots of controversy.


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California kids 12 and older are one step closer to being able to get vaccinated without parental consent after a key legislative committee on Thursday passed a controversial bill on a 7-0 vote despite hundreds of people expressing fierce opposition.

Just five of the eight bills introduced this year by a vaccine working group of Democratic lawmakers are still alive — and state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco’s proposal to allow kids ages 12 to 17 to receive FDA-approved vaccines without a parent’s permission is by far the most contentious.

Public comment in the Senate Judiciary Committee’s unwieldy hearing was dominated by those who oppose the bill. One woman, who described herself as “an ambassador for Jesus Christ,” labeled it “demonic.” Others called lawmakers “delusional” and “pedophiles,” and one caller told the committee, “I hope God forgives you.”

Many callers said they opposed the bill because their kids had been “vaccine-injured.” Maribel Duarte, a single mother of six who attended the hearing in person, spoke tearfully about the worsening health problems her son, who suffers from asthma and a bleeding disorder, began experiencing after he received the COVID-19 vaccine at school without her consent “for an exchange of pizza.”

  • Duarte: “I feel that in that age, they still don’t have that mentality or rightness to choose if they’re OK or healthy enough to make that decision.”

The hearing illuminates the increasingly urgent challenges state lawmakers will face as California approaches the new start date of its postponed student COVID vaccine mandate, which is no earlier than July 2023: How can the state boost low youth vaccination rates while simultaneously building trust in the community — and supporting families whose kids may experience adverse reactions?

  • Wiener: “No one argues that vaccine injuries never happen. No one is saying that. And the people who have testified about their kids, that’s their experience, and I’m not in any way disputing what they said about their child. … I imagine that there are rare instances in which the polio vaccine harmed someone, but put that against all the children that would have been debilitated, paralyzed or dead had we not had a mass vaccination campaign for polio.”
  • State Sen. María Elena Durazo, a Los Angeles Democrat: “I think younger people should be empowered to know … as much as possible about their health care. … We want them to grow up to be, you know, fully informed adults who can make decisions.”

Republican state Sen. Brian Jones of El Cajon, who said he opposed the bill but wasn’t in the room when the final vote took place, argued that “some of the arguments on this parental consent breaks down” when one considers that state lawmakers in 2011 passed a bill to ban minors from using ultraviolet tanning devices.

Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story

D

Scott Wiener

State Senate, District 11 (San Francisco)

State Senate, District 11 (San Francisco)

How he voted 2019-2020
Liberal Conservative
District 11 Demographics

Race/Ethnicity

Latino 16%
White 37%
Asian 37%
Black 5%
Multi-race 4%

Voter Registration

Dem 62%
GOP 7%
No party 27%
Other 4%
Campaign Contributions

Sen. Scott Wiener has taken at least $885,000 from the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 13% of his total campaign contributions.

R

Brian Jones

State Senate, District 38 (El Cajon)

State Senate, District 38 (El Cajon)

How he voted 2019-2020
Liberal Conservative
District 38 Demographics

Race/Ethnicity

Latino 29%
White 54%
Asian 8%
Black 4%
Multi-race 4%

Voter Registration

Dem 33%
GOP 37%
No party 24%
Other 5%
Campaign Contributions

Sen. Brian Jones has taken at least $461,000 from the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 15% of his total campaign contributions.

In other COVID-19 news:


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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.

California has administered 75,238,171 vaccine doses, and 75.4% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.


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1. Keep an eye on the controller’s race

Controller candidate Malia Cohen gives an interview at CalMatters’ office in Sacramento on April 5, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

Four indications the race for state controller might be one of the spiciest in California as the state gears up for the June 7 primary election:

  1. Democratic candidate Malia Cohen called on one of her opponents, Republican Lanhee Chen, “to come clean to California voters about his position on a woman’s right to choose and our state’s efforts to codify this freedom for California women” — the latest example of Democrats leaning into abortion rights to galvanize voters.
  2. Chen clapped back with a tweet slamming his opponents’ “flailing campaigns,” writing, “The last things my opponents want to talk about are the $20 billion in unemployment benefits sent to convicted felons and fraudsters, the billions spent each year on homelessness with dismal results, the billions in shady no-bid contracts doled out to their political donors, and the innumerable other examples of failed fiscal leadership in California.”
  3. Democratic state Sen. Steve Glazer told CalMatters that he’s better suited for the controller position than Chen because “you have to know stuff. You don’t have to sit in an ivory tower pretending like you know what’s going on. You have to really have some experience to understand where the bodies are buried or how things are really done.”
  4. Democratic candidate Yvonne Yiu poured another $3 million into her campaign, bringing her total investment to $4.5 million — nearly as much as the $5.1 million raised by the other five candidates combined.

2022 Election

Your guide to the 2022 general election in California

Other election news you should know:

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom received the endorsement of the Los Angeles Times editorial board, while the virtually unknown candidate Reinette Senum sent out an email blast saying that as governor, she would reverse Newsom’s decision to deny parole to Sirhan Sirhan, Robert F. Kennedy’s assassin.
  • Although the California Democratic Party endorsed U.S. Sen. Alex Padilla, it forgot to communicate that to local elections officials — meaning the endorsement won’t show up on voter guides and sample ballots, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
  • Supporters of the effort to recall Los Angeles County District Attorney George Gascón say they have collected more than 400,000 of the nearly 567,000 signatures necessary to force a special election. Meanwhile, the union representing Gascón’s deputy district attorneys has filed a labor complaint against him, alleging that he’s refusing to engage in collective bargaining because 98% of union members support the recall.

2. Bullet train negotiations at standstill

A rendering of the proposed California High-Speed Rail. Courtesy of the California High-Speed Rail Authority

California Democrats are locked in one of the most consequential disputes in modern state history over the future of the Los Angeles-to-San Francisco bullet train project after a decade of troubled construction, as Ralph Vartabedian puts it in this stunning story for CalMatters. The project, whose cost is now estimated at $105 billion, would be the largest single investment in state history and the most ambitious civil works effort in the nation — if it gets built.

  • Newsom wants lawmakers to hand over $4.2 billion to continue work on the train’s Central Valley segment. Assembly Democrats are not convinced.
  • Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Lakewood Democrat: “There is no confidence in the project. … We had an end date of 2020 and now we don’t have an end date.”
  • Assemblymember Laura Friedman, a Glendale Democrat and leader of the Assembly Transportation Committee: “It seems like there’s pressure being put on us to very quickly give them their money and just move on. ‘Legislature, get out of our way,’ which to me is really, really committing legislative malfeasance.”

For some perspective on just how far the project is from completion:

  • A 119-mile stretch of Central Valley construction, which was supposed to be completed by 2017, likely won’t be finished until 2026 at the earliest, despite the state’s new 2023 deadline.
  • 57% of 1,850 utility relocation projects remain uncompleted some 10 years after construction began.
  • The state lacks 222 land parcels out of 2,291 that it needs.
  • Only 28 of the 66 structures across four counties have been completed. 

3. Welcome to the world, baby falcon!

A newly hatched chick at UC Berkeley on May 5, 2022. Photo courtesy of Cal Falcons

Yes, there can be depressing environmental news in California — like state fire officials saying Thursday that residents should “prepare for the absolute worst” this wildfire season. Also Thursday, the State Water Resources Control Board released a report that found more than half of California’s 1,300 state small water systems (which serve fewer than 25 people) and 312,00 domestic wells are at risk or potentially at risk of experiencing drinking water shortages and failing to meet water quality standards amid punishing drought. Those water systems and wells are “typically located in areas with higher pollution burdens, higher poverty and serve a higher percentage of non-white customers,” according to the report.

But are also stories that make your heart soar. On Thursday, the three chicks of Annie the peregrine falcon — who nests on the Campanile tower in UC Berkeley — began to hatch. The happy news comes about a month after Grinnell, Annie’s longtime partner, was found dead on a Berkeley street. She has since re-mated with another falcon, Alden, who is helping her incubate the eggs.

One of the three chicks has fully hatched so far, and it is adorable beyond belief. You can watch the hatchings in real time here.


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CalMatters commentary

Desalination plant is money down the drain: Less expensive, more equitable alternatives to Brookfield-Poseidon’s proposed Huntington Beach facility could keep water taps flowing in Southern California, argue Kelly E. Rowe, Orange County Water District director, and Karl W. Seckel, director of the Municipal Water District of Orange County, Division 4.

Desalination plant is crucial tool in California’s climate change arsenal: It would help ensure reliability of the state’s long-term water supplies and ecosystem health, argues Mark Donovan, chair of the CalDesal board of directors.


Other things worth your time

Cities that failed to meet California’s housing deadline seek rezoning extension. // Daily News

S.F. has 305 affordable housing units sitting empty, despite more than 20,000 applications from potential residents. // San Francisco Chronicle

They wanted a house in Los Angeles without the bidding war. // New York Times

S.F. teacher got paid $0 in April. Her principal loaned her $4,500 for rent amid payroll debacle. // San Francisco Chronicle

California taco chain withheld overtime, tips from workers, feds say. // Sacramento Bee

Telecom groups end fight against California net neutrality. // Associated Press

Oakland, California’s new CIO to tackle digital divide. // Wall Street Journal

We watched Rick Caruso’s campaign commercials so you don’t have to. // Los Angeles Times

What does the future hold for Orange County’s once powerful John Moorlach? // Orange County Register

California voters agreed to give prisoners shorter sentences. Did they mean violent ones, too? // Sacramento Bee

L.A. city attorney charges suspect in Dave Chappelle attack at Hollywood Bowl. // Los Angeles Times

Investigators unable to fully exonerate Alameda police officers in pinning of Mario Gonzalez. // San Francisco Chronicle

Staff at a San Francisco hotel battle an overdose crisis. // KQED

Tenderloin has a new supervisor. Can Dean Preston tackle the district’s homelessness and drug crisis? // San Francisco Chronicle

More police or more alternative responses to 911 calls? Berkeley leaders clash on reimagining public safety. // San Francisco Chronicle

26 arrested in child pornography, sex offender registration cases in Riverside County. // Los Angeles Times

Abuse-clouded California prison gets attention, but will things change? // Associated Press

Sacramento landlord blocks street with marijuana warehouses. // Sacramento Bee

Sports collides with shipping in battle over proposed Oakland ballpark. // Wall Street Journal

CalMatters’ Robert Lewis two-time finalist in Silver Gavel Awards. // CalMatters

Satellites detect California cow burps, a major methane source, from space. // Reuters


See you Monday.

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Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...