Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven July 13, 2022
Presented by Health Net, California Water Service, Dairy Cares, and Agriculture Energy Consumers Association

Mr. Newsom goes to Washington

KEEP TABS ON THE LATEST CALIFORNIA POLICY AND POLITICS NEWS

Gov. Gavin Newsom is poised to burnish his national profile this week on a trip to Washington, D.C., where he’s set to accept an award recognizing California’s financial investments in public education and discuss such issues as gun safety, abortion, climate change and homelessness with Biden administration officials and other high-profile lawmakers.

One person the governor won’t be meeting with, however: President Joe Biden himself, who is on a trip to the Middle East. Newsom’s office told the Associated Press the conflicting schedules were coincidental.

Although Newsom has affirmed his support for Biden amid polling that shows a majority of Democratic voters want their party to back another nominee, some of his recent actions — including calling on the Democratic Party to be more aggressive in standing up to Republicans and airing campaign ads in Florida — have fueled rumors that he might be eyeing a presidential run of his own.

And previews of comments the governor is scheduled to give today — when he’ll accept the Frank Newman Award for State Innovation from the Education Commission of the States — suggest he’s preparing to forge ahead with his strategy of bashing red states.

Before Newsom left for Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, he signed into law several gun control bills, including a high-profile measure to create a “standard of conduct” for the gun industry and allow California residents, the state attorney general and local governments to sue manufacturers, retailers and distributors if they don’t take adequate steps to limit the harm caused by their products.

  • Newsom: “Our kids, families and communities deserve streets free of gun violence and gun makers must be held accountable for their role in this crisis. Nearly every industry is held liable when people are hurt or killed by their products — guns should be no different.”

The law — set to go into effect July 1, 2023 — will almost certainly be hit with legal challenges following last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling expanding gun rights, as will another bill awaiting Newsom’s signature. Modeled on the logic of Texas’ abortion ban, it would allow private Californians to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes or sells certain illegal firearms.

  • Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, told the Los Angeles Times: “None of this stuff, none of the bills that are going to the governor’s desk that he is going to sign pass that (constitutional) test, from our opinion. And I think we will find out in court if our opinion is correct.”

Newsom is set to return to California on Friday. Meanwhile, Democratic Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins of San Diego is serving as acting governor, as Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is in Greece visiting her family, according to her office.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 9,619,398 confirmed cases (+0.8% from previous day) and 92,055 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.

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1 Public universities to expand abortion access

The UCLA campus in Los Angeles on Feb. 18, 2022. Photo by Raquel Natalicchio for CalMatters

As California supercharges its efforts to expand access to abortion following last month’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade, the California State University and University of California systems are preparing to come into compliance with a 2019 state law requiring them to provide on-campus access to medication abortions by Jan. 1, 2023. As it stands, none of the Cal State campuses offer medication abortions, and access within the UC system varies by campus, Mallika Seshadri reports for CalMatters’ College Journalism Network. A 2018 report from Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, a research program at the University of California San Francisco, found that between 322 and 519 Cal State and UC students seek medication abortions each month, and as many as of two-thirds of them have to travel at least 30 minutes on public transportation to reach the nearest off-campus clinic. Expanding on-campus access to medication abortions, advocates say, could help free up spots at clinics bracing for an influx of out-of-state patients.

2 State closer to making pandemic prison rules permanent

Inmates walk in the exercise yard at San Quentin State Prison on April 20, 2015. Photo by Robert Galbraith, Reuters

Remember the state prison system’s controversial proposal to make permanent emergency rules adopted during the pandemic that allow eligible inmates to shave more time off their prison sentences by increasing good conduct credit earning rates and adding credit opportunities? After collecting thousands of public comments on the proposal, including those voiced during an April hearing plagued by persistent tech issues, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation submitted the permanent regulations to the Office of Administrative Law late last month, Vicky Waters, the department’s special advisor and assistant secretary of communications, told me Tuesday. Waters said the office has 30 working days to review the permanent rules, which are “substantively the same as the regulations which are currently in emergency effect.” After the office approves the rules, they would go to the Secretary of State’s office to be filed into law, a process the department expects to be finalized this summer, Waters said.

Waters previously told me that “increasing the rate of credit earning in furtherance of Proposition 57 — which was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2016 — provides a compelling reason for individuals to engage in positive programing while serving their time.” But Republican lawmakers and some victims’ advocates have raised concerns that the rule changes could endanger the public, citing cases such as that of Smiley Martin, one of the suspects charged with murder in the April 3 Sacramento shooting that left six dead and 12 injured. Before the shooting, Martin spent just four years in prison despite a 10-year sentence, due in part to the emergency rules allowing him to collect good conduct credits at an accelerated rate.

Meanwhile, two civil lawsuits are moving forward against the prison system’s accelerated credit earning proposal, Rod Norgaard, Sacramento County’s chief deputy district attorney, told me Tuesday. Although 44 California district attorneys were originally plaintiffs in one of the cases, they are no longer party to the lawsuit, Norgaard said. He said the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, representing crime victims and their next kin, are among the plaintiffs in both suits.

3 Subtle change to COVID workplace safety rules

Roxanna Torres prepares to-go meals at Baker & Commons in Berkeley on Jan. 19, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

California’s complex rules surrounding COVID workplace safety just got more confusing, according to the California Chamber of Commerce. The powerful business group, in a Tuesday blog post, noted that the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), in a little-noticed June 8 announcement, changed the definition of “close contact” from someone who stands within six feet of an infectious person for 15 minutes to someone who shares “the same indoor airspace (e.g. home, clinic waiting room, airplane etc.)” as an infectious person for at least 15 minutes. The public health department on June 20 posted a list of answers to frequently asked questions about the new rule, but “they are not exactly easy to apply for employers,” the Chamber wrote.

  • Of particular interest to the Chamber was the public health department’s assertion in the FAQs that groups can “prioritize” their response to a potential COVID exposure by identifying “high-risk contacts.” But under the emergency rules established by Cal/OSHA, the state’s workplace safety agency, employers are required to respond to all close contacts, not just those determined to be high-risk, according to the Chamber. “In other words, it remains unclear whether the flexibility suggested by CDPH in identifying close contacts will be similarly embraced by Cal/OSHA,” the Chamber wrote.
  • Cal/OSHA did not respond to a request for comment, but the California Department of Public Health told me in a statement that its new definitions do in fact apply to Cal/OSHA’s standards. It added, “CDPH updated its definition of close contact … to acknowledge that COVID-19 is an airborne disease (similar to measles and varicella), rather than one spread by respiratory droplets.”
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CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s November ballot measures illuminate that despite Democratic hegemony in the Capitol, ideological fault lines often make it difficult — and perhaps impossible — for party allies to have their way.

State’s wimpy plan to cut pollution needs muscle: The California Air Resources Board is showing it won’t resist automakers’ pressure. Newsom needs to take the wheel and drive the state to a safe, pollution-free future, argue Dan Becker and Scott Hochberg of the Center for Biological Diversity.

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Stunning spread of BA.5 creates dangerous California COVID wave. // Los Angeles Times

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Homes for people with severe mental illness are rapidly closing. Will help come fast enough? // Los Angeles Times

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Faculty perk at center of issues that led to Castro resignation in use on other CSU campuses. // EdSource

UC regents to discuss UCLA’s Big Ten move, agenda cites ‘litigation.’ // Mercury News

Preventative fires credited with saving Yosemite sequoias. // Associated Press

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