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Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven July 11, 2022
Presented by Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership, Californians Against Higher Taxes, Save our Capitol and Sutter Health

Will California gun laws pass muster?

This week, Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to sign a bill on his desk that would create a “standard of conduct” for the gun industry — and permit California residents, the state attorney general and local governments to sue noncompliant manufacturers, retailers and distributors.

Once signed, it’s almost certain to be hit with legal challenges. On Friday, guns rights groups sued to block a California law banning firearm companies from advertising certain weapons to minors — which Newsom had signed just the week before.

  • Chuck Michel, president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, a plaintiff in the suit, told the Orange County Register: “This law is a clear First Amendment violation of speech and assembly. … It’s really an attempt to wipe out the next generation of hunters and shooters. Politicians in Sacramento are not even trying to hide their disdain for the ‘gun culture,’ which they neither understand nor support. They want to wipe it out.”
  • Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office told Reuters it plans to “take any and all action under the law to defend California’s commonsense gun laws.”

The lawsuit is the latest chapter in a long-running feud between the gun industry and the Golden State over its strictest-in-the-nation firearm laws. But the fight seems primed to escalate following last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling dramatically expanding gun rights — and a growing divide between red and blue states as each side seems intent on remaking the nation in its image and litigating what residents can and can’t do in other states.

But one of California’s own laws has come under scrutiny following Newsom’s Fourth of July trip to his in-laws’ ranch in Montana, which I was the first to report. (Newsom returned to California on Saturday, according to his office.) Montana is one of 22 states to which California has banned state-funded and state-sponsored travel, citing policies it deems discriminatory to LGBTQ+ people.

Newsom’s vacation was not paid for by the state, and although he likely had a state-funded security detail accompany him to Montana, a California Highway Patrol spokesperson said the travel ban includes exemptions “for the protection of public health, welfare, or safety.”

But the governor’s trip nevertheless highlighted the “ineffective” nature of the travel ban — which state lawmakers should consider repealing, the Los Angeles Times editorial board argued Sunday: “It’s created a raft of bureaucratic work-arounds inside state government and thwarted some academic research — without achieving demonstrable economic impact on the offending states” or discouraging “red states from passing discriminatory laws.”

And a Friday opinion column in the Wall Street Journal pointed out that UCLA, which recently announced it will join the Big Ten Conference in 2024, will likely “have to figure out how to avoid using state funds on a number of conference road trips,” potentially forcing it to “structure much of its activities to legally operate as private entities to get around California’s official condemnations of other states.”

In other Newsom administration news: Ana Matosantos, the governor’s cabinet secretary and a Capitol insider routinely named one of the most influential people in Sacramento, will step down from her post at the end of the legislative session on Aug. 31, the Los Angeles Times reports. Matosantos — who was charged with translating Newsom’s ideas into government policy and action — is the latest top-ranking official to leave his administration. Though “I have loved working for him and with him and I have loved this job,” she told the Times, “I’d like to sleep.”

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 9,540,194 confirmed cases (+0.4% from previous day) and 91,930 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 77,851,959 vaccine doses, and 71.4% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated. (This reflects a one-time decline due to the inclusion of Californians under 5, who recently became eligible for the vaccine.)

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1 Minimum wage measure lands on 2024 ballot

Starting wages are advertised on a sign in the window of a Taco Bell in Sacramento on May 9, 2022. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo

An initiative that would boost California’s minimum wage — which is set to jump to $15.50 an hour starting Jan. 1 — to $18 per hour is eligible for the November 2024 ballot, Secretary of State Shirley Weber said Thursday. The measure, which failed to qualify for the November 2022 ballot, is set to go before voters in two years along an initiative that would hike taxes on Californians earning more than $5 million annually to pay for pandemic detection and prevention programs.

The executive board of the California Democratic Party, which gathered Friday through Sunday in Los Angeles, voted to support the minimum wage ballot measure. It also voted to oppose a ballot measure backed by gaming giants DraftKings, FanDuel and BetMGM that would legalize online sports betting for large companies that partner with a Native American tribe — and remained neutral on a competing measure backed by some tribal governments that would authorize in-person sports betting at tribal casinos and California’s four horse race tracks. The executive committee supported all of the remaining measures on the ballot, including ones to enshrine the right to abortion and contraception in the state constitution, funnel additional state money into arts and music education in public schools, slap more regulations on kidney dialysis clinics, raise taxes on millionaires to pay for programs designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and back a state law blocking the sale of flavored tobacco products.

In other ballot measure news: California voters approved Proposition 63 in 2004, which levied a tax on millionaires to fund mental health programs. “No one who is mentally ill and now on the street will be on the street in five years,” said the late Rusty Selix, executive director of the Mental Health Association of California and a co-author of the initiative. But, although the tax has so far raised a staggering $29 billion, California’s homelessness and mental health crises appear more dire than ever. So where did all the money go? The Los Angeles Times takes a look in this gripping investigation.

2 Are pandemic programs failing the most vulnerable?

Food bank volunteer Betty Kimmel hands out oranges to seniors in Martinez on March 19, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

As the pandemic frays California’s social safety net and inflation stretches residents’ budgets, the state is stepping in with programs to help people stay afloat. But two CalMatters dispatches illuminate how some of California’s poorest and most vulnerable residents may be left behind:

  • As CalMatters’ Grace Gedye reports in this stunning story, many low-income Californians — including some seniors and people living on disability benefits — will be left out of the state’s latest round of rebates, which will drop $200 to $1,050 in millions of bank accounts. Why? Because they don’t file tax returns. “They’re saying: ‘Look, pal, you don’t make enough money that you and your wife have to file an income tax’ return,” said Kerry Weber, a retiree in San Diego. “‘That’s great, I agree with you 100%.’ ‘Oh, by the way, you don’t get any stimulus.’ What?” The Legislature “really wanted to get help to these people, but … we were not able to do it logistically,” said a spokesperson for Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a South Gate Democrat. “There were concerns that there wasn’t an efficient and secure way of accomplishing a grant program to non-tax-filers,” said the office of State Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat.
  • From CalMatters housing reporter Manuela Tobias: California’s housing department must stop denying people’s applications for pandemic rent relief and temporarily suspend any rejections issued in the last 30 days, an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled Thursday. Those rejections — which tenant groups estimate could total as many as 100,000 — are on pause until the court makes a final determination on the lawsuit, filed by multiple tenant groups in June. The groups allege that the California Housing and Community Development Department is denying rental assistance to qualified tenants and is failing to provide enough information for them to appeal — putting them at risk of eviction, as protections for those with pending applications expired June 30. “It is crucial to prevent further denials and existing denials from becoming final until HCD gives tenants the information they need to challenge a wrongful denial,” said Nisha Kashyap of Public Counsel, a nonprofit law firm representing the tenants. The court on Aug. 18 is set to hear HCD’s motion to dismiss the case. “We stand by the work we have done to keep more than 340,000 low-income households — over 700,000 Californians — stably housed,” said HCD spokesperson Alicia Murillo. “We are disappointed by the court’s ruling and will continue to defend California’s COVID-19 Rent Relief program.”

3 Californians cut water use — barely

Sprinklers water a lawn in Sacramento on June 29, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

From CalMatters water reporter Rachel Becker: Urban Californians slashed their water use by 3.1% in May compared to the same month in 2020, according to figures released Friday by the State Water Resources Control Board. Although that marks a significant improvement from earlier this year — urban residents’ water use spiked by nearly 19% in March and almost 18% in April compared to the same months in 2020 — it still falls far short of Newsom’s entreaty for Californians to cut water use by 15%. And drought conditions are worsening: In a move described as “in many ways unprecedented,” state officials last week ordered even more water users in the vast Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta watershed to stop pumping from rivers and streams

  • The greatest savings in May of 18.6% came from the North Lahontan region that spans the high desert and mountains of the state’s northeast. By contrast, water use climbed 8.9% in the state’s dry southeast, which includes the Imperial and Coachella Valleys.  
  • Conservation numbers look more promising for June: Updated preliminary data shared Friday with CalMatters shows savings of about 7.7% from nearly a third of the population served by urban water systems. But statewide savings from last July through May stand at just 2%. 
  • The State Water Resources Control Board said in a news release: “So far, weather and precipitation have been determining California’s water use instead of our collective drive to conserve. Many Californians turned on irrigation systems earlier this year in response to historically hot and dry conditions, increasing water use. We must continue to make up lost ground from past months to meet the 15% goal; doing so will require more aggressive conservation actions on everyone’s part.”  

In other environmental news: The quickly growing Washburn Fire more than doubled in size after sparking Saturday, and on Sunday was threatening the historic Mariposa Grove in Yosemite National Park, which contains hundreds of ancient giant sequoias protected by former President Abraham Lincoln. Hundreds of people in the historic community of Wawona were also under evacuation orders. Officials fear the blaze could keep spreading this week amid hot and dry conditions.

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CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a New York gun control law could also erase many of California’s toughest-in-the-nation firearm laws.

Solving California’s substitute teacher shortage: Policymakers should consider significantly reducing the fee to apply for a substitute teaching permit — and waiving it altogether for those who annually renew their permit, argues Hope Gorecki, a substitute teacher in San Diego and Grossmont district high schools.

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Other things worth your time


Some stories may require a subscription to read

Protecting politicians: California bill would allow Zoom meetings from undisclosed locations. // Times of San Diego

Ron DeSantis rips Gavin Newsom: In California, ‘You ain’t seeing very many Florida license plates.’ // Sacramento Bee

California Democrats bet on abortion in bid to oust pro-impeachment Republican. // Politico

‘There’s more they can do than nothing’: Democratic voters want to see their leaders fight. // San Francisco Chronicle

Inside ‘horrible,’ ‘icy’ first meeting held by new San Francisco District Attorney Brooke Jenkins. // SFGATE

Activists push L.A. to the left, targeting Democratic old guard. // Los Angeles Times

A new, young voice emerges in San Diego’s war between housing density, neighborhood character. // San Diego Union-Tribune

2 California teachers attacked over LGBTQ outreach are cleared of wrongdoing. // San Francisco Chronicle

State Bar files disciplinary charges against former director Joe Dunn. // Los Angeles Times

State worker overtime pay increased during COVID-19 pandemic, but not because all its workers wanted it. // Sacramento Bee

Medi-Cal’s reliance on prisoners to make cheaper eyeglasses proves shortsighted. // California Healthline

Turpin children were ‘failed’ and ‘unheard’ by California social services, investigation finds. // Los Angeles Times

In wake of 8-year-old’s death, officials ask: Where were Hayward schools? // Mercury News

California high school removes name of priest from aquatic center amid sex abuse claims. // Mercury News

Alameda County child care measure upheld in court. // EdSource

State to pay $250 million to rebuild defective Lynwood High School. // Los Angeles Times

U.S. Army offers money to save JROTC in three San Francisco high schools. But district officials have been reluctant to accept. // San Francisco Chronicle

As monkeypox hits California’s LGBTQ community, activists say not enough is being done. // Los Angeles Times

Victims of Rancho Tehama mass shooting still suffering. // Los Angeles Times

A simple way to cut water use many Californians don’t know about. // San Francisco Chronicle

California’s AB5 throws 70,000 truckers in gig-work legal limbo, risking supply chains. // Bloomberg

See you tomorrow

Tips, insight or feedback? Email emily@calmatters.org.

Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

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