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Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Ben Christopher June 1, 2022
Presented by Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership

Assembly Speaker Rendon keeps his crown

After a weekend of lobbying, jockeying and speculating, then a flurry of parliamentary maneuvers and a six-hour closed-door caucus meeting on Tuesday, California Assembly Democrats finally came to a decision about who ought to serve as speaker.

The answer: The current speaker, Anthony Rendon.

The announcement came not with a bang but a whimper: At 8 p.m., Rendon and his would-be successor, Salinas Democrat Robert Rivas, issued a joint statement

  • From Rivas: “I agree with the majority of our current caucus that Speaker Rendon should remain as Speaker for at least the rest of this legislative session.”

Translation: There’s always 2023. 

  • From Rendon: “I applaud Robert Rivas for securing the support of a majority of the current Democratic Caucus to succeed me as Speaker of the Assembly.”

Translation: Nice try. Maybe next time.

If you need a quick refresher: On Friday, Rivas announced that 34 of the Assembly’s 58 Democrats supported him to become the next speaker. Rendon refused to acknowledge the declaration publicly. All manner of machinations and mishigas ensued. 

It may not be entirely bad news for Rivas. A majority of the current caucus really does want him (for now) to become the next speaker (at some point). The question is whether that will still hold true once other ambitious members start jockeying again — and after 13 current Assembly Democrats leave after this session. With the exodus of lawmakers this year, the internal caucus politics could be very different in 2023.

Watch the money: Since 2019, Rivas has transferred $400,000 from his own campaign account to candidates and Democratic Party organizations, including nearly $200,000 to Assembly candidates. But Rendon and other aspiring speakers may want to throw some campaign cash around, too. 

My heroic colleague, Alexei Koseff, spoke to Rivas Tuesday night after all the drama. 

  • Rivas: “This is an important first step in working with Speaker Rendon to build a transition that works…There’s going to be a large class coming in, and I’m excited to work with them and start to plan for the future.”

But some of Rendon’s allies don’t have a transition in mind. Sacramento Democrat Kevin McCarty told Alexei that Rendon plans to run again for speaker next year and that while Rivas may have a big lead over any other challenger, without a formal agreement, he’s still just in the race to succeed Rendon.

Don’t miss this tomorrow:

In the four years before he killed himself, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation transferred one mentally ill inmate 39 times, bouncing him from one institution to another. Then, as his mental health deteriorated in the early months of the pandemic, he ended up stuck in his Central Valley prison cell.

In a story coming out tomorrow, CalMatters investigates why the state’s prisons move around certain inmates, and what it means for them, their mental health and their families.

A message from our sponsor

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 8,955,662 confirmed cases (+0.5% from previous day) and 90,719 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 76,314,328 vaccine doses, and 75.3% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.


1 First reparations report drops

People line up to speak during a reparations task force meeting at Third Baptist Church in San Francisco on April 13, 2022. Photo by Janie Har, AP Photo

Though California entered the union as a free-state, some 1,500 enslaved Black people were living here in 1852. In the 1920s, there were more KKK rallies in California than in Jim Crow Mississippi or Louisiana. And in the 1950s, San Francisco razed the Fillmore neighborhood, “the Harlem of the West,” shuttering 883 businesses and displacing roughly 20,000 people.

These are among the findings in a 500-page report set to be released today by California’s reparations task force, as Lil Kalish with CalMatters’ California Divide team explains.

The first-in-the-nation committee was launched in 2021 to study the state’s history of anti-Black discrimination and to recommend legislative correctives to the descendants of slaves. Some of the possible policies described in the report include interest-free loans, housing grants, college tuition grants and raising the minimum wage.

One possible sticking point that remains: In March, the task force voted to restrict targeted reparations to the direct descendants of slaves or of free Black people living in the United States prior to 19th century. That leaves Black immigrants and many of their descendants out of luck, to the consternation of many. 

The Legislature will ultimately decide whether to turn the recommendations into law, but not anytime soon. How much compensation would each eligible Black resident receive? How will a person actually prove their eligibility? These are some of the questions that will be left to a final report that isn’t due until July 2023.

Still confused? Check out Lil’s comprehensive explainer.

2 Election roundup: T-minus 6 days

Ricardo Lara (left) and Marc Levine are candidates for Insurance Commissioner. Photos by Max Whittaker and Anne Wernikoff

As a nonpartisan nonprofit, CalMatters doesn’t make election endorsements. But plenty of media outlets do. 

Once upon a time, a nod from a local newspaper could carry significant persuasion power. These days, opinions and opinionators are easier to come by and both the reach of, and the public’s trust in, papers is waning. But in lower profile, down-ballot races, they often still matter.

Here’s a roundup of recommendations from the state’s biggest editorial boards in a few of the most competitive statewide races:

Editorial boards on the attorney general raceRob BontaAnne Marie Schubert
Los Angeles Times
Sacramento Bee
San Diego Union-Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Examiner
San Jose Mercury News

The race to run the state’s Department of Justice is a three-, going on four-way, competition, but you wouldn’t know it from the endorsements. Incumbent Rob Bonta has secured most of them, all of which make some version of the argument that now is not the time to revert to the old “tough-on-crime” playbook of the 1990s.

The endorsements for Anne Marie Schubert argue that the Sacramento County district attorney would be the strongest candidate to take on Bonta in November.

Editorial boards on the controller raceLanhee ChenMalia CohenSteve GlazerRon Galperin
Los Angeles Times
Orange County Register
Sacramento Bee
San Diego Union-Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Examiner
San Jose Mercury News

California newspaper editorial boards don’t always look favorably on Republican candidates, but Lanhee Chen, a relatively moderate Republican who is running to be controller, the state’s chief financial oversight officer, seems to have provided a good opportunity to show off their nonpartisan credibility. 

Some other boards went with Steve Glazer, a Democrat, but one who often breaks with party orthodoxy.

Editorial boards on the insurance commissioner raceMarc Levine
Los Angeles Times
Sacramento Bee
San Diego Union-Tribune
San Francisco Chronicle
San Jose Mercury News

No, that isn’t a typo. Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara — backed by the governor and the California Democratic Party — is absent from the table above because his opponent, Marin Assemblymember Marc Levine, swept the state’s major editorial boards. 

For extra, neutral analysis of the races on your ballot, here’s our voter guide.

2022 Election

Your guide to the 2022 general election in California

3 Auditor: Child abuse index is flawed

The seal above the offices of the California Department of Justice in Sacramento on April 19, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

Since 1965, the state of California has maintained a list of adults who are credibly believed to have abused children. 

Police and prosecutors use it when evaluating suspects. Child care facilities and schools check the Child Abuse Central Index when evaluating a potential hire, as do many other public and private employers.

But according to a new report by the state auditor’s office, the database is completely unreliable.

  • Acting Auditor Michael Tilden: “Users of this database cannot depend on it to help protect children from being placed in the care of individuals with a history of abusing children.”

The blistering critique of a vital system, run by the state’s Department of Justice, by the numbers:

  • Between July 2017 and June 2021, county social workers substantiated more than 52,000 cases of child abuse
  • Only about 25,000 of those reports made it into the statewide database
  • In at least 224 incidents, authorities or child care centers were told by the state that an individual was not in the database when they should have been

What’s the hang-up? The culprit, according to the audit, is outdated technology and bureaucracy. Filing a report is a tedious process and the index can take a month or more to update. 

In response to the audit, a spokesperson from Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office provided a letter it sent to the auditor’s office and said that discrepancies between the state and county systems could be the result of different reporting requirements. 

  • Bonta’s office: “Our office has already taken several steps to strengthen CACI, including reaching out to the California Department of Social Services to ensure any additional eligible records are entered into CACI and improving tracking and follow-up with local agencies on incomplete reports.”

While the auditor’s report slams the system for allowing substantiated cases of abuse to fall through the cracks, others have criticized the system for snaring the innocent. 

The San Diego Union-Tribune reported earlier this year that a foster mother named “Lynn” was placed on the index after the infant she was caring for took a tumble from her car seat. A judge later threw out the finding, but it took four years and thousands of dollars in legal fees for Lynn to get her name expunged.

  • Kerri Melucci, Lynn’s lawyer: “Due process means you have an opportunity to know what the evidence is against you, and (to) defend yourself…before they do something as damaging as declaring you a child abuser and putting you on a list that your employer could find.”

CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: A scandal unfolding in Anaheim is the latest chapter in a long-running saga about corruption in Southern California cities.

Care, not courts: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new proposed CARE court program does nothing to address California’s seriously under-resourced mental health care system, writes Kara Chien from the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office.

Other things worth your time


Some stories may require a subscription to read

Housing crisis vs the drought: Does California have enough water for lots of new homes? // Los Angeles Times

Why East County and San Diego are fighting over sewage // Voice of San Diego

We built an algorithm that analyzes hair representation in the media // San Francisco Chronicle

The long and winding path to sheltering unhoused people in LA // LAist

Misunderstood California law could protect your home’s fire insurance. How does it work? // Fresno Bee

Revoking pensions from crooked city employees in San Francisco is easier said than done // Mission Local

Poll: SF workers strongly prefer permanent ‘hybrid’ work // SF Standard

California drought resurrects decades-old plan for controversial Sites Reservoir // Los Angeles Times

It’s summertime and the fast food jobs are easy — and, occasionally, dangerous // Capital & Main

See you tomorrow

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