5 days for Newsom to decide 550+ bills
I’m back from a lovely vacation! Many thanks to my wonderful colleague Ben Christopher and other CalMatters reporters for guest hosting the newsletter while I was gone.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has until midnight Friday to determine the fate of the more than 550 bills on his desk — or risk turning into a pumpkin.
That last part may not be exactly true, but the bill tally from veteran Sacramento lobbyist Chris Micheli is, and underscores just how much work Newsom has ahead of him: He needs to sign or veto an average of about 110 bills per day to get through all of them by the Friday deadline.
CalMatters is tracking Newsom’s decisions on some of the most interesting, controversial or noteworthy bills state lawmakers sent him before the 2022 legislative session ended last month. Here’s a closer look at three proposals that especially caught our eye — and the politically fraught choices they may pose for Newsom:
- A bill that would usher in the nation’s most wide-ranging changes to solitary confinement by preventing inmates in California’s prisons, jails and immigration detention facilities from being held in solitary confinement for more than 15 consecutive days, and for more than 45 days out of 180. The proposal would also ban the practice altogether for people younger than 26 or older than 59; women who are pregnant, recently had a baby or suffered a miscarriage; and those with physical or mental disabilities. The bill’s proponents say solitary confinement is tantamount to torture and does nothing to rehabilitate inmates. But a former member of the Mexican Mafia, who spent decades alone in 8-by-10 cells, much of it in solitary, told CalMatters’ Nigel Duara that he disagrees. “Without some kind of deterrent, I mean, you go whack a guy and you get 15 days in the hole and you’re back in a regular general population yard,” he said. “Is it a bad place? Sure. But they have to have bad places for bad people.”
- A bill that would extend by one year the lifespan of California’s first-in-the-nation reparations task force, allowing it to deliberate until July 1, 2024 on how to best compensate African Americans for slavery and its lingering effects. The proposal would also permit state lawmakers to remove and replace people on the nine-member task force. Advocates voiced alarm about these provisions when the reparations task force met Friday and Saturday in Los Angeles, CalMatters’ Lil Kalish reports: Audience member Tiffany Quarles described the bill as “a betrayal of Black Americans,” adding, “We’ve been waiting for 400 years. We do not need an extension.” Meanwhile, Chris Lodgson, an organizer with the Coalition for a Just and Equitable California, said the removal clause “politicizes” the process: “If some of the politicians don’t like the fact that we’re getting cash reparations, they could simply remove people on the task force who support them,” he said. During the two-day meeting, the task force also began putting dollar figures to potential compensation for Black Californians who can establish lineage to enslaved ancestors. For more, check out Lil’s story.
- A bill that would allow jaywalking on empty streets, permitting law enforcement officers to stop pedestrians only when “a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision,” CalMatters political intern Ariel Gans reports. Newsom last year vetoed a similar bill that would have repealed the state’s jaywalking laws and prohibited fines until Jan. 1, 2029, warning that it would “reduce pedestrian safety” even as he denounced the “unequal enforcement of jaywalking laws” and their use as a “pretext to stop people of color.”
- Last year, pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. hit a four-decade high, and California recorded the highest number of any state. At the same time, California’s local law enforcement agencies write thousands of jaywalking tickets every year, which studies find disproportionately impact people of color.
- Kevin Claxton, interim executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition: The bill “allows police to issue a ticket when someone crosses the street in a way that puts them or others in danger, but it will end biased and pretextual jaywalking stops that don’t improve public safety.”
- California District Attorneys Association CEO Greg Totten: “This is very bad public policy that’s going to endanger pedestrians and really tie the hands of law enforcement who are trying to do their job and keep pedestrians safe.”
Join CalMatters and the Milken Institute on Tuesday, Oct. 4 from 12-1:30 p.m. for a free, virtual event exploring California’s path to creating more climate-friendly job opportunities and helping underserved communities access them. Register here.
Other Stories You Should Know
1 Newsom acts on key bills
Newsom has so far signed nearly 550 bills and vetoed just over 60, according to Micheli. Here’s a look at some of the most noteworthy and interesting bills on which he took action on Friday and over the weekend:
- The governor on Sunday signed a raft of bills and vetoed a handful of others, including a high-profile proposal that would have mandated kindergarten for California children. In his veto message, Newsom cited the state’s “lower-than-expected revenues over the first few months of this fiscal year” and a need for “disciplined” spending, a familiar refrain in his recent veto messages. Also Sunday, Newsom announced that he’d signed two bills that aim to crack down on surging catalytic converter theft by making it illegal to buy the parts from anyone other than licensed auto dismantlers or dealers and by requiring buyers and sellers to keep detailed records so stolen products are easier to track.
- On Friday, which Newsom proclaimed Native American Day in California, the governor signed a package of bills that he said would support the state’s Indigenous communities. Among other things, the bills would:
- Remove the word “squaw” — which the Newsom administration described as a “racist and sexist slur” for Native American women — from “all geographic features and place names in the state.”
- Rename University of California’s Hastings College of the Law as the College of the Law, San Francisco — part of a series of restorative justice efforts for Native Americans “whose ancestors suffered mass killings and other atrocities funded and supported by college founder Serranus Hastings in the mid-19th century,” according to Newsom’s office.
- Encourage schools to partner with local Native American tribes to develop educational material highlighting “the unique history, culture and government of tribes in their region.”
- Set up an emergency “Feather Alert” system — similar to Amber or Silver alerts — to strengthen search efforts for missing and murdered Native Americans, particularly women and girls.
- Also Friday, Newsom signed a bill to permit undocumented Californians without drivers’ licenses to obtain a state ID, which will make it easier for them to open bank accounts, obtain housing and access health care and other benefits. He also greenlighted a bill to loosen the requirements for street food vendors to get health permits.
- And in Newsom’s final Friday legislative action, he signed a ream of bills — including one to allow Californians to sue adults who electronically send them unsolicited sexual images or videos — and vetoed a handful of others, including one to strengthen oversight of California’s cryptocurrency industry.
2 Newsom takes Texas
Newsom is on an interstate roll: The governor on Saturday traveled to Texas — home to one of his chief political nemeses, GOP Gov. Greg Abbott — to speak on a panel at the Texas Tribune Festival about “what the nation’s most populous state can teach the other 49 — including this one.” The trip came just two days after Newsom returned to California from New York, where he touted the Golden State’s environmental policies at Climate Week NYC.
The Texas and New York appearances are just the latest in a long string of actions — including running campaign ads in Florida and Texas, promoting California’s policies in D.C., putting up billboards in seven states with near or total abortion bans urging women to seek reproductive care in California, and challenging GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis to a debate — that suggest Newsom may be positioning himself for a presidential run as soon as 2024.
- But the governor, for the umpteenth time, unequivocally shot down that notion at the Texas Tribune Festival: “No, not happening,” Newsom said. “I cannot say it enough. I never trust politicians, so I get why you keep asking.”
- Nevertheless, Newsom used part of his time in Texas to reiterate his call for Democrats to more aggressively combat Republicans on such hot-button topics as abortion, LGBTQ rights, immigration and education: “These guys are ruthless on the other side,” he said. “They dominate the most important thing in American politics today and that’s the narrative — facts become secondary to narrative. They dominate with illusion. And we are getting crushed. … We have to meet this moment head on, and damn it, the Democratic Party has to assert itself much more aggressively than we have.”
- In regard to spending money from his reelection campaign on ads in other states, “Our donors are asking for more of that,” CBS News reported Newsom as saying. “The people in the state of California are asking for more leadership in this space.”
Meanwhile, some California Republicans slammed Newsom for appearing in Texas, one of the nearly two dozen states to which California has banned state-funded travel for policies it deems discriminatory to LGBTQ people. Newsom’s reelection campaign paid for his travel to Texas, spokesperson Nathan Click told me Sunday. The California Highway Patrol did not respond Sunday to a question about whether taxpayers covered the cost of his security detail.
- In July, Newsom sparked controversy for vacationing in Montana, another state on the travel ban list. Though he paid for the trip with personal funds, it appears taxpayers covered the cost of his security detail. The governor’s office and the California Highway Patrol have said the travel ban exempts state-funded travel for “the protection of public health, welfare, or safety.”
3 Amid ambitious climate moves, concerns remain
There’s never a shortage of environmental news in California, so let’s dive right into the latest:
- California air regulators on Thursday approved a sweeping plan outlining rules they plan to enact in coming years to meet federal air quality standards for smog. Among them: a proposal to phase out the sale of new gas-powered furnaces and water heaters by 2030 and require homes and businesses to install zero-emissions alternatives such as electric heaters. Many environmental groups applauded the move: “These proposed regulations, in concert with new funding for heat pumps from the state’s budget, can ensure not only emissions reductions but also access to electric appliances for all Californians,” Brandon Dawson, director of Sierra Club California, said in a statement. But Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City slammed the proposed regulations, which he said “will drive the cost of energy and building a home in California even higher.” And the Wall Street Journal editorial board mocked the decision: “Californians were told during a heat wave a couple of weeks ago not to run large appliances or charge electric cars in peak hours. Soon blackout warnings could happen during the winter. Will Californians have to avoid running hot water and heating their homes too?”
- Speaking of charging electric cars, a study published Thursday in the scientific journal Nature Energy found that more California drivers will need to charge their vehicles during the day — when more solar energy is available — to avoid overtaxing the power grid. (And charging demand is only going to go up: Not only has California banned the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, but air regulators last week also moved to phase out diesel medium- and heavy-duty trucks by 2040.)
- Meanwhile, concerns continue to grow about the long-term reliability of California’s electric grid, which narrowly avoided rolling blackouts after a prolonged extreme heat wave earlier this month. Case in point: Although state regulators want offshore wind to produce 25% of California’s power by 2045, Politico reported Friday that “even the most optimistic people acknowledge that those wind turbines won’t start producing power for the grid until at least 2029” — just one year before Diablo Canyon, the state’s last nuclear power plant, is slated to go offline after receiving a five-year extension from Newsom and lawmakers.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Pressure is building for another overhaul of California’s multibillion-dollar workers’ compensation system for dealing with job-related illnesses and injuries.
California needs to protect families from displacement: My family has worked relentlessly to maintain our roots in East Palo Alto, because the city is our home. But we can no longer live there because there aren’t any affordable homes, writes Heleine Grewe, a sophomore at Menlo College.
Other things worth your time
Why Californians are working to flip red state legislatures blue. // Los Angeles Times
Why is California gas $1.89 higher than the national average? // Mercury News
California’s homelessness crisis hits new flash point: Private residents suing cities over encampments. // San Francisco Chronicle
California Attorney General now involved in dispute between San Diego County, El Cajon over hotel voucher program. // CBS 8
California cities took over their houses. Then a private company drove them into debt. // Sacramento Bee
Los Angeles homeless count raises doubts about accuracy. // Los Angeles Times
Do trendy tiny homes really work as a solution to homelessness? // Mercury News
L.A. agencies returned $150 million in federal homelessness funds. // Los Angeles Times
CalPERS underperformed for a decade, investment chief says in pitch for more risk. // Sacramento Bee
State delays public release of English, math and science test score results to later this year. // EdSource
How the pandemic saved one of California’s smallest public schools. // Los Angeles Times
Therapists on strike refuse Kaiser’s offer as contract dispute enters second month. // Mercury News
They were entitled to free care. Hospitals hounded them to pay. // New York Times
Imperial County’s use of psychiatric holds appears to violate state law. // inewsource
Alleged stalker returns to S.F. after judge dismisses case, sparking outcry. // San Francisco Chronicle
2 ex-Alameda County deputies charged in S.F. beating received quiet plea deals from Boudin’s office. // San Francisco Chronicle
Breed to end practice of making appointees sign undated resignation letters in face of legislative action. // San Francisco Standard
Suit blames PG&E equipment for Mosquito Fire, California’s largest wildfire in 2022. // Sacramento Bee
Families sue SoCal Edison over deadly Fairview fire in Hemet. // Los Angeles Times
Why does California still have manned fire lookouts in the age of cell phones and cameras? // San Francisco Chronicle
Big waves move railroad tracks, again, in south San Clemente. // Orange County Register