Abortion amendment heads to California voters
California voters will decide in November whether to enshrine the right to abortion and contraception in the state constitution — making the Golden State the first to put reproductive rights on the ballot after a watershed U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down the federal constitutional right to an abortion.
The amendment — introduced last month by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature’s Democratic leaders — cleared its final legislative hurdle on Monday, when, after an emotional and passionate debate, more than two-thirds of lawmakers in the Assembly voted to send it to the November ballot.
- Democratic Assemblymember Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens and state Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, who lead the California Legislative Women’s Caucus: “With the recent U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, it is vital that we in California protect an individual’s reproductive freedom in their most intimate decisions.”
- Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, a Rocklin Republican, asked if the amendment would overrule a California law that generally prohibits abortions after fetal viability and instead allow them “up until the moment of birth.” Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, a Corona Democrat, answered, “This bill just ensures that all Californians enjoy reproductive freedoms, and that they have the ability to make these decisions themselves.”
Also Monday, lawmakers advanced a pile of gun control bills, some of which were sponsored by Newsom. Among them: a bill modeled on Texas’ six-week abortion ban that would allow private Californians to sue manufacturers, sellers and distributors of certain illegal guns and to collect at least $10,000 in civil damages per weapon.
Another proposal would permit residents, local governments and the state attorney general to sue firearm manufacturers and retailers for the harm their products cause when they don’t follow California’s strictest-in-the-nation gun laws — punching a hole in a 2005 federal law that shields gun makers from responsibility when their products are used to commit crimes.
- Assemblymember Phil Ting, the San Francisco Democrat who authored the latter bill: “Given last week’s (U.S. Supreme Court) Bruen decision, we must make our communities safer with stronger gun legislation. The firearms industry has enjoyed federal immunity from civil lawsuits for far too long, providing them no incentive to follow our laws.”
The legislative actions signal California’s diametrically opposed position to many of the policies upheld by the nation’s highest court and Republican-led states — and push the Golden State to the forefront of a national culture war over issues ranging from abortion to LGBTQ rights to public school curriculum.
Also seemingly pushing himself to the forefront: Newsom, who signed an executive order Monday to prevent state agencies from disclosing patient information in investigations to enforce other states’ laws restricting abortion access. The governor’s action appears to preempt a bill working its way through the Legislature that would enhance privacy protections for abortion-related medical records against disclosures to law enforcement and out-of-state third parties.
Also Monday, Newsom bought at least $105,000 worth of TV ads in Florida, including some that will air on Fox News starting July 4, according to AdImpact.
- When asked to confirm the ad buy and explain the governor’s rationale for targeting the Florida market, Nathan Click, a spokesperson for Newsom’s reelection campaign, said, “Stay tuned!”
Newsom, who has insisted he has “sub-zero interest” in running for president, has nevertheless sparked rumors to the contrary by excoriating his fellow Democrats, joining former President Donald Trump’s social media platform Truth Social to call out “Republican lies,” and repeatedly blasting the GOP on Twitter.
- Newsom tweeted Saturday: “The GOP’s America: the nation of gun care and health control.”
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 9,312,854 confirmed cases (+0.5% from previous day) and 91,420 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.
Other Stories You Should Know
1 Inside California’s $300 billion budget deal
How complicated is California’s budget process? Well, Newsom on Monday signed into law the placeholder budget state legislators approved earlier this month to avoid foregoing their paychecks. But that framework is very different from, and will soon be superseded by, the $300 billion budget deal Newsom and top Democratic lawmakers struck late Sunday night — for the fiscal year beginning Friday. That deal sailed through key legislative committees in hasty Monday hearings, even as Republican lawmakers decried the process as opaque and criticized the budget for lacking specific details. “We are going through this relatively quickly,” acknowledged state Sen. Nancy Skinner, the Berkeley Democrat who leads the Senate Budget Committee.
- Assemblymember Vince Fong, a Bakersfield Republican and vice-chairperson of the Assembly Budget Committee: “We should not be budgeting via press releases. The budget deserves more transparency that is essential to proper oversight. A $300 billion budget requires thorough public review and discussion. Unfortunately, having … this one hearing for one hour, mere hours after budget bills materialize, is certainly not adequate in my mind.”
So what’s in the budget deal, apart from the well-publicized tax rebates for millions of Californians? The CalMatters team has a comprehensive, easy-to-read breakdown of key allocations for health care, social safety net programs, homelessness and housing, public schools and universities, small businesses, cannabis, prisons and high-speed rail. Check out the report here.
And here’s an important reminder from CalMatters higher-education reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn: Not everything noteworthy comes with a massive price tag, such as $47 billion in infrastructure projects or $9.5 billion for tax rebates. Tucked in the budget’s copious pages are relative bargains, including $3 million for a gun violence research program at UC Davis, $1.25 million to UCLA for a Hollywood diversity report and $2.5 million for California’s reparations task force to bring on consultants who will help finalize recommendations.
2 New power plant proposal alarms advocates
Also part of the budget negotiations: changes to an expansive and highly controversial energy bill that would have given a state commission Newsom appoints unilateral control over the development of clean-energy projects while prolonging use of four natural-gas power plants scheduled for closure and allocating billions of dollars to fossil fuel power sources. Under intense pressure from clean-energy advocates and local government officials, the bill was softened to restore oversight of new energy projects to some critical state agencies.
But, in revisions published late Sunday night, the Newsom administration also added a new section that greatly expands the authority of the state Department of Water Resources — effectively allowing it to construct and operate power facilities anywhere it chooses, including sensitive coastal areas under the jurisdiction of the Coastal Commission, CalMatters’ Julie Cart reports.
- Environmental consultant Kim Delfino: “This is a carte blanche approach — you can do this and you are not accountable to anyone. No daylight, no discussion. This was too massive a policy decision to be kept behind closed doors.”
3 New state audits on the way
Capping off a very busy Monday in the state Legislature, the Joint Legislative Audit Committee approved a series of audits to be conducted by the California State Auditor. They include: a high-profile audit into the California State University system’s handling of sexual harassment complaints and investigations; another to assess the California Department of Technology’s oversight of state information technology and security; and another into California’s wildly inaccurate system for forecasting snow runoff and statewide water supply.
- Adam Gray, the Merced Democrat who requested the audit of California’s water operations: “Errors on this scale have real and measurable consequences. The managers of the largest local, state and federal reservoirs use this information to determine when to let water accumulate and when to let water out to make room for the coming snowmelt. Growers use the information to predict how much water they can expect for their farms and how many acres they can afford to plant. The estimates are used to inform everything from flood control to power generation and water quality standards.”
The Joint Legislative Audit Committee is still in the process of deciding which candidates to send to the governor for consideration as California’s next permanent state auditor; Elaine Howle, who held the job for 21 years, stepped down at the end of 2021.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California lawmakers, only a handful of whom have direct professional medical training and experience, exercise minute control over who can perform what medical procedures on which part of the human anatomy.
Tying water access to labor in state prisons is wrong: The Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation should allow every prisoner a five-minute shower every day — regardless of whether they work — to protect basic human dignity and prevent the spread of disease in overcrowded facilities, argues Steve Brooks, a staff writer for the San Quentin News.
Other things worth your time
U.S. Supreme Court rejects challenge to California’s worker classification law, letting AB 5 stand. // San Francisco Chronicle
State agencies told to end ‘good cause’ requirement for concealed weapons permit. // Times of San Diego
California bill would help poor people access cancer trials. // Los Angeles Times
A portrait of California farmworkers: Aging, underinsured and stressed by pandemic. // Sacramento Bee
Grand jury report hammers Sonoma County Department of Health Services. // Press Democrat
What the Supreme Court ruling could mean to Black gun owners in California. // Los Angeles Times
San Francisco’s Pride celebration disrupted after unknown chemical fired into large crowd. // San Francisco Chronicle
Irvine mayor’s efforts to repair relations with Armenian community could lead to memorial, school curriculum. // Orange County Register
L.A. County school district misled public about finances, state audit finds. // EdSource
San Dieguito school board fires superintendent without cause. // San Diego Union-Tribune
California colleges are leaping onto the cannabis bandwagon. // EdSource
San Francisco housing development has slowed to a crawl, with no uptick in sight: ‘The costs are simply too high.’ // San Francisco Chronicle
L.A.’s last Japanese boarding house is safe, for now. Elderly tenants still worry. // Los Angeles Times
Drought and bark beetles threaten California’s bristlecone pine trees, the oldest on Earth. // Los Angeles Times
Huge reservoir near Bay Area could be expanded to store more water. // Mercury News
Heat wave keeps grip on much of California. // Associated Press