Growing clarity on November ballot measure battles
Even though it isn’t yet clear who will face off against Democratic incumbent Ricardo Lara for California insurance commissioner in the November general election, the slate of statewide ballot initiatives is beginning to take shape.
On Tuesday, two days before the deadline to finalize the list of ballot measures, Secretary of State Shirley Weber announced the latest initiative to qualify: one that would impose a 1.75% tax on Californians earning more than $2 million to fund an array of environmental programs, including rebates for buying electric cars and developing electric-vehicle charging infrastructure.
- Lyft, which poured millions of dollars into qualifying the measure, is facing a state mandate to log 90% of California miles in electric vehicles by 2030.
On Monday, another ballot measure qualified. Sponsored by gaming giants including FanDuel, DraftKings and BetMGM, the initiative would allow companies to offer online sports betting in California if, among other requirements, they partner with a Native American tribe and pay a one-time licensing fee of $100 million.
That primes the state for what is likely to be a highly expensive and highly emotional battle over sports betting: Also eligible for the ballot is a separate measure backed by a group of Native American tribes that would allow tribal casinos and the state’s four horse race tracks to offer sports betting while expanding the games tribal casinos can offer.
The battle over capturing California’s sports betting market, which experts say could be the most lucrative in the nation, originally featured four separate ballot measure campaigns and pledges from one tribal coalition to spend at least $100 million on ads. The face-off between the two remaining measures has the potential to shatter spending records set in 2020, when nearly $226 million was spent by the campaigns on both sides of a ballot measure to exempt Uber, Lyft and other gig-economy companies from a state labor law.
Meanwhile, it’s looking increasingly likely that the backers of a measure to reduce single-use plastics will withdraw it from the November ballot, following fierce negotiations with lawmakers and others on a bill that aims to achieve many of the same goals and was passed on a unanimous, bipartisan vote during a hastily called Tuesday hearing, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports.
That marks a noticeable shift from last week, when the initiative’s proponents expressed serious concerns that the legislative workaround didn’t go far enough in reducing plastic waste and holding manufacturers accountable.
- Nicole Kurian, policy analyst for Californians Against Waste, which opposed earlier versions of the legislation: “Based on the most recent amendments and the author’s commitment to continue to work on the one outstanding issue raised by environmental justice groups around definitions, we are happy to express our support.”
If lawmakers pass the plastics bill by Thursday and initiative proponents agree to withdraw their measure, it will be the second time in as many months: Gov. Gavin Newsom in May signed a law to reform California’s medical malpractice system, avoiding what would have been a costly and complex fight at the ballot box in November.
Other measures eligible for the November ballot:
- An amendment to enshrine the right to abortion and contraception in California’s constitution. As CalMatters columnist Dan Walters pointed out to me, one of the many budget “trailer bills” state lawmakers unveiled over the weekend would require this amendment “to be designated as ‘Proposition 1’ and placed as the first measure on the ballot.”
- An initiative to strengthen regulations of kidney dialysis clinics — the third time California voters have been asked to vote on this issue in four years.
- An initiative to set aside a certain amount of state money each year to fund arts and music education in K-12 public schools, primarily by employing teachers.
- A referendum to overturn a state law Newsom signed in 2020 banning the sale of flavored tobacco products.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 9,378,193 confirmed cases (+0.7% from previous day) and 91,516 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 77,484,870 vaccine doses, and 75.6% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.
Other Stories You Should Know
1 A closer look at budget negotiations
CalMatters reporters are delving into the hundreds of pages encompassing the budget deal Newsom and state lawmakers struck late Sunday night, as well as the more than two dozen “trailer bills” implementing some of its provisions and even proposing new policies that may or may not be related to the budget itself. Here’s a look at two especially noteworthy findings:
- From CalMatters political reporter Alexei Koseff: Following Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, California Democrats emphasized that abortion remains legal here and said the state would welcome women from across the country who could no longer get the procedure closer to home. But it turns out the state will not pay to help those women get to California. Although the budget includes a $20 million “abortion practical support fund,” language specifies that only “in-state travel” — including airfare, lodging, ground transportation, gas money and meals — is eligible under the program, which will provide grants to nonprofits that help low-income women obtain abortions. Legislative leaders originally wanted to allow those organizations to also use the money to help out-of-state patients travel to California, but their budget staff said that provision was removed in negotiations with Newsom. A spokesperson for the governor said the budget includes significant additional funding for abortion providers to cover the procedure for uninsured patients, giving clinics flexibility to put their own resources toward travel expenses for out-of-state women.
- And, as CalMatters environment reporter Nadia Lopez writes in this exclusive story, a contentious energy trailer bill negotiated by Newsom’s administration would pave the way for California to extend the life of Diablo Canyon power plant — the state’s last nuclear facility, owned by PG&E and slated for closure in 2025 — by giving the state Department of Water Resources a reserve fund of as much as $75 million to prolong the operation of aging power plants. Although it’s only a contingency fund, Nadia points out that the optics of sending millions of state and federal dollars to the state’s largest utility — which has a recent record of responsibility for deadly wildfires and state “bailouts” — are not ideal. “The governor requested this language, not as a decision to move ahead with continuing operation of Diablo Canyon, but to protect the option to do that if a future decision is made,” said state Sen. John Laird, a San Luis Obispo Democrat.
2 California eyes changes to concealed-carry law
Here are some eye-opening numbers to start your morning: Over the last decade, Orange County issued 65,171 permits to carry a concealed handgun and both Fresno and Sacramento counties issued more than 45,000 — while San Francisco issued just 11, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. Those massive gaps — revealed in an online database the California Department of Justice published Monday — are likely to narrow following last week’s U.S. Supreme Court opinion striking down a concealed carry law in New York state. On Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers advanced a bill to bring California’s concealed carry law into compliance with the ruling — while simultaneously creating a new statewide application process that explicitly disqualifies certain people seeking permits, Ben reports.
Meanwhile, the new concealed-carry database was removed Tuesday after reporters discovered it included the full legal names, home addresses and other personal information of more than 200,000 permit holders across the state — raising numerous legal, ethical and safety concerns, Ben writes.
- Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association: “You basically advertise to criminals: ‘There’s a gun; here, come take it.'”
- Attorney General Rob Bonta’s press office: “Any unauthorized release of personal information is unacceptable. We are working swiftly to address this situation and will provide additional information as soon as possible.”
Also unavailable online Tuesday was a new report on California hate crime data in 2021. According to a press release from Bonta’s office, residents reported 1,763 bias events in 2021 — a nearly 33% increase from the year before and the highest total since the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. Anti-Black hate crimes were the most numerous, with a total of 513 reported incidents. Meanwhile, hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by a whopping 178% to 247 incidents, and those motivated by a bias against sexual orientation increased 48% to 303 incidents. Anti-Jewish bias events saw a 32% uptick to 152 incidents.
3 Auditor slams state developmental services agency
From CalMatters health and youth welfare reporter Elizabeth Aguilera: The state Department of Developmental Services has failed to adequately fund or oversee regional centers, nonprofit agencies that contract with the state to offer services to 380,000 Californians with developmental and intellectual disabilities from birth to death, according to a scathing Tuesday report from the California State Auditor.
The audit — which reviewed processes at three of the state’s 21 regional centers — found the lack of funding has resulted in workers with larger caseloads than allowed by law, centers improperly monitoring vendors and delayed responses to client complaints.
- The audit reported: “Although DDS has been aware of many of these issues, it has not always taken timely and adequate actions to address them. As a result, it cannot be certain that regional centers are effectively serving Californians with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”
- Although a 2016 state audit also found the Department of Developmental Services had failed to monitor vendors working with regional centers, the problem has yet to be addressed.
- The department in a formal response to the audit accepted some of the auditor’s recommendations, but disagreed that it should review and update its staffing formula — based on 1991-92 figures — to ensure adequate salaries. The department didn’t respond to CalMatters’ request for comment.
Meanwhile, regional centers are facing criticism of their own. The Western Center on Law & Poverty in November filed a lawsuit against the Harbor Regional Center in Los Angeles on behalf of a group of Latino parents, alleging racial discrimination and arguing the center failed to meet children’s needs during the pandemic when schools and day programs shut down.
- Lynn Martinez, senior litigation counsel at Disability Rights California, which is co-counsel on the case: “We are pleased that the auditor issued a report that affirms DDS’s role to oversee California’s regional centers, and how its failure to provide adequate oversight harms people with intellectual and developmental disabilities who access the regional center system. In fact, these are the problems our clients have fought against for years.”
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom and legislative leaders negotiated a new state budget in secret and then began the enactment process while giving the public very little time to figure out what they’re doing.
The UC’s tuition-waiver policy for Native Americans has fatal flaws: It would give tribal councils — many of which are corrupt and enroll and disenroll members in arbitrary and unfair ways — blank-check authority to decide who will get free tuition and who will not, argues Donald Craig Mitchell, an attorney and nationally recognized expert on federal Indian law.
Other things worth your time
California relief payments could make inflation even worse, experts say. // Sacramento Bee
California’s plan to close the digital divide hits industry roadblocks. // Capital & Main
Newsom and lawmakers want to cut marijuana taxes. Here’s why the industry isn’t happy. // Sacramento Bee
Chesa Boudin won’t rule out running for San Francisco District Attorney again. // San Francisco Chronicle
Rick Caruso spent $176 per vote for Los Angeles mayor, and Karen Bass shelled out $11.79. // Crosstown
Sacramento County’s homeless population surpasses San Francisco’s for first time, report shows. // Sacramento Bee
San Francisco is ending single-family zoning. Why housing advocates aren’t happy. // San Francisco Chronicle
Court upholds California law requiring landlords to pay evicted tenants one month’s rent. // San Francisco Chronicle
How Houston moved 25,000 people from the streets into homes of their own. // New York Times
L.A. Metro will try to prevent gentrification near its future rail lines by ‘land banking.’ // Daily News
Oakland photographer puts images of California decline on billboards around state. // CBS News
Great America might close in six years after developer buys land under Santa Clara park. // Mercury News
Muni shooting: No homicide charge for man accused in San Francisco fatal shooting. // San Francisco Chronicle
Longtime Sacramento State administrator tapped to head Sonoma State in wake of Sakaki’s resignation. // Santa Rosa Press Democrat
Orange County grand jury: Anaheim leaders ‘betrayed’ residents with secretive Angel Stadium sale. // Voice of OC
Mayor Gloria withdraws proposed Ash Street settlement minutes before Monday council meeting. // San Diego Union-Tribune
$225,000 and counting: Contra Costa jails were hotbed for EDD fraud. // Mercury News
Indictments: Donovan prison guard accepted bribes from inmate who also ran COVID benefits fraud. // San Diego Union-Tribune
California land taken from Black couple returned to heirs. // Associated Press
California’s drought means less water to go around. Who is winning the pursuit for water — and who is losing? // San Francisco Chronicle
1 dead in brushfire as heat wave grips much of California. // Associated Press
Wildfire in Nevada County burns structure, prompts evacuations. // Sacramento Bee
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