Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Ben Christopher September 13, 2022
Presented by Pacific Environment, California School Boards Association, and California Water Service

The new face of No on 30: Gavin Newsom

The opponents of Proposition 30, a proposal to tax millionaires to fund electric car incentives and infrastructure, want California voters to keep one thing in mind when they decide how to vote on the measure: 

Gavin Newsom’s face.

A new “No on 30” ad features the governor — and only the governor — speaking out against the proposal in no uncertain terms.

  • Newsom: “Prop. 30 is a Trojan horse that puts corporate welfare above the fiscal welfare of our entire state.”

The battle over that measure may be the clearest recent example of how politics makes strange bedfellows. One one side: Lyft, facing a regulatory deadline to electrify its fleet of cars, has teamed up with environmental activists, the California Democratic Party and some of the same labor groups that so vociferously opposed the ride-hailing company’s successful bid in 2020 to exempt itself from a law making it harder to classify workers as independent contractors.

Now the editorial board at the governor’s hometown paper has weighed in

  • San Francisco Chronicle: “The clock is ticking to decarbonize California. For all its flaws, Prop. 30 is a crucial effort to meet the urgency of the moment.”

Standing against the measure are the Chamber of Commerce and the California Republican Party, but also the California Teachers Association and, as the new ad makes very clear, Newsom. 

Yes, that Newsom, who wants to phase out the use of gas-powered cars by 2035.

For the No camp, adopting the governor’s chiseled face as a campaign logo is a calculated political move. A July survey of likely voters in California found that 63% support the concept of the initiative. But according to an internal poll conducted by the “No” camp, those numbers flipped when its respondents were informed that the state’s top Democrat doesn’t like it.

  • A statement from Clean Air California, the coalition supporting Prop. 30: “It is disappointing that the Governor would side with the California Republican Party and a handful of San Francisco billionaires who would rather kids breathe toxic, polluted air than pay their fair share.”

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Though the spending data isn’t public yet, the No campaign says it plans to broadcast the ad across the state at a “seven-figure” cost. 

That may explain why the campaign raised an extra $2.1 million last Friday alone. That new round of cash to fight the measure came from those who would be most likely to pay a new income surtax, should it pass (i.e. super rich people).

The biggest givers included San Francisco real estate investor Bob Emery, private equity investor Bruce Karsh and — through a 0% interest loan — Catherine Dean, chief operating officer of Govern For California, an organization at the center of a politically influential donor network that has up until now focused on legislative races and that my colleagues Alexei Koseff and Jeremia Kimelman and I wrote about recently

In an email sent to Govern For California’s supporters at the end of the legislative session last month, founder David Crane wrote that the organization would now “turn our attention to the opposition campaign against Proposition 30.”

Dean, along with Mark Heising, a major Govern For California supporter, are listed in the ad as the campaign’s top funders. Full disclosure: Heising, along with many Govern For California donors are financial supporters of CalMatters, which retains full authority over editorial content and makes news judgments independent of donor support.

2022 Election

Your guide to the 2022 general election in California

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 10,329,995 confirmed cases (+0.01% from previous day) and 94,558 deaths (+0.2% 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 79,697,832 vaccine doses, and 72.1% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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1 On the picket line

National Union of Healthcare Workers member Pablo Canosa stands with a sign as he and fellow members protest in front of Kaiser Permanente in Fresno on Aug. 15, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

From trains to brains to franchise chains, labor disputes are simmering across California.

  • Rail: Two unions representing roughly half of the nation’s rail workers are threatening to go on strike as early as Friday if they don’t secure more flexible attendance and vacation-day policies.

Major rail users have already started to pare down operations, with Union Pacific holding off on new shipments of “hazardous and other security-sensitive” material and Amtrak announcing cuts to service along three long-distance routes.

The two unions — SMART Transportation Division and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen — lambasted these preemptive responses, calling them “extortion” and “corporate terrorism.”

The possible shuttering of the national rail system comes at an inopportune time for the California economy, which is still trying to uncork its bottlenecked ports. 

  • Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka in a statement: “With two-thirds of our cargo leaving California by rail, the supply chain and the U.S. economy need all of us working at maximum effort.”

In both June and July, more than 75% of rail-bound shipping containers coming into Los Angeles and Long Beach had to wait at least five days before getting a spot aboard a train, Bloomberg reported.

  • Mental health: Today marks Day 29 of Kaiser Northern California’s mental health workers’ strike.

The National Union of Healthcare Workers launched the open-ended work stoppage last month. Though the two sides finally agreed to talk last week, the negotiations have been an on-again off-again variety with the latest sit-down scheduled for Wednesday.

It’s unclear how far the two sides are from reaching a deal, but from the outside things don’t look good. On Friday, the union filed a complaint with state regulators, accusing Kaiser of hiring unqualified nurses to fill in for licensed mental health professionals during the strike, which the union says violates a new state law.

In a statement, a Kaiser spokesperson strongly denied the allegation saying that the nurses “audit the documentation for every appointment affected by the union’s unnecessary strike.”

  • Spokesperson Deniene Erickson: “Contrary to NUHW’s allegations, the nurses are not providing clinical assessments or making appointments, and they are not making any judgments with respect to the care that has already been provided.”

The Department of Managed Health Care, which received the complaint, launched an investigation into Kaiser late last month. Asked about this latest complaint, spokesperson Rachel Arrezola said that investigation “includes issues raised by NUHW, including in this letter, that may present potential violations.”

And remember the bill that Gov. Newsom signed on Labor Day that will create a council to regulate wages and working conditions across the fast food industry? The restaurant industry is paying to gather enough signatures to put that law on the 2024 ballot. The Attorney General’s office is charged with writing the title and summary of that measure — influential wording that can sway many voters. The deadline is this Friday.

2 Can California take the heat?

A man sits in the shade of a tree to escape the heat at Echo Park Lake in Los Angeles on Sept. 4, 2022. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters

Tweeting may be the go-to time suck for those interested in getting into endless heated arguments with strangers on the internet, but at the height of California’s recent heat wave, things got even too hot for Twitter. 

According to documents leaked to CNN and the Washington Post, the company’s Sacramento data center overheated on Sept. 5 and was briefly knocked offline. Thanks to the company’s backup server farms in Oregon and Georgia, the social media service went uninterrupted — a mixed blessing, perhaps. 

But the incident offers a reminder of how ill equipped some of the state’s infrastructure is to withstand the extreme summer temperatures that are becoming a more common feature of California life.

That’s the conversation happening in L.A., where bus-riders were left sweltering, often unshaded, in the triple-digit heat last week, the Los Angeles Times reported.  The countywide Metropolitan Transportation Authority is preparing to appeal to federal and state funding sources to build sun shades and rain covers for its more than 9,000 uncovered stops.

  • Eva Griego, an 87-year-old bus rider in East Los Angeles: “It’s hard but I don’t drive. I have to take it.”
  • UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies’ Juan Matute: “We actually have to make adjustments for the built environment…Climate change is changing the baseline of all these past decisions.”

State lawmakers are thinking along those lines, too. Monday, I mentioned that Newsom signed a bill into law that will create a statewide extreme heat warning system. He also signed a bill allowing local governments to set aside new property tax money to fund climate change “resilience” projects to prepare for rising sea levels, wildfire, drought or extreme heat.

3 School data fail

Students at a classroom at St. HOPE Public School 7 Elementary in Sacramento. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

How many of California’s 6 million public school students have learning disabilities? How many are learning English as a second language? How many are experiencing homelessness? 

California policymakers may not know for sure. Thanks to a buggy software update at the state’s Department of Education, they haven’t gotten updated numbers in months

That’s according to a new report by CalMatters K-12 education reporter Joe Hong. 

As Joe points out, that data goof-up comes at a cost. State officials use demographic information stored in the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System to allocate funding to school districts. After an update to the system last spring generated thousands of instances of wrong enrollment numbers, duplicate student information and missing data, school officials across the state started to get nervous.

  • Fullerton School District assistant superintendent Jeremy Davis: “Some districts felt at the time they were going to lose funding because of no fault of their own.”
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CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: As California struggles to close its huge shortage of housing, two new superagencies, one for the San Francisco Bay Area, the other for Los Angeles County, are experiments aimed at breaking the housing logjam.

Sign the Legislative Women’s Caucus’ package: The governor must sign legislation to expand access and safeguard protections for sexual and reproductive health care here in California — including abortion care, writes Assemblymember Cristina Garcia and Senator Nancy Skinner.

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