2024 election fights begin to brew
California’s Nov. 8 election is less than two weeks away, but battle lines are already being drawn for elections in 2024 and beyond.
Here’s a look at two key fights:
First up: Not so fast, fast food companies. That was the message sent Thursday by the state’s largest labor union, SEIU California, when it asked both Attorney General Rob Bonta and Secretary of State Shirley Weber to investigate the fast food industry’s tactics in gathering signatures for a proposed 2024 referendum to overturn a new law establishing a state council to regulate industry wages and working conditions.
SEIU California, which sponsored the controversial law, alleged that signature gatherers hired by the fast food industry are “willfully misleading voters to believe that the petition they are signing raises minimum wage for fast-food workers.”
Save Local Restaurants, the coalition behind the referendum — led by the International Franchise Association and the National Restaurant Association — needs to collect about 623,000 valid signatures by Dec. 5 to put it before voters. That would put on pause the law — which could otherwise raise fast food workers’ minimum wage to as much as $22 starting next year — until voters determine its fate.
Fast food workers said they plan to strike across California on Nov. 15 to protest “deceit” in the signature-gathering process.
- Save Local Restaurants told the Los Angeles Times in a statement that it “has been vigilant in maintaining compliance with California’s election laws” and called the complaint “frivolous,” adding, “This is another brazen attempt by the SEIU to force a law on Californians that they do not want and that they cannot afford.”
- The coalition also told the Times it has collected “nearly a million” signatures so far.
- Ingrid Vilorio, a Jack in the Box worker from Castro Valley, said in a statement: With the new law, “McDonald’s, Starbucks and other corporations have an opportunity to sit down with us and work together to find solutions to improve the entire fast-food industry in California, but instead they are spending millions of dollars trying to mislead voters to deny Black and Latino workers a voice on the job.”
Second: Rethinking who gets to draw the lines. Recently leaked racist comments that Los Angeles City Councilmembers made during redistricting last year have thrust back into the spotlight the politically perilous process of redrawing legislative, congressional and other districts every 10 years after the U.S. Census.
So has a case the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Dec. 7. One of its central questions: whether state courts or state legislatures should have the final say over those district maps. At the state level in California, the maps are drawn by an independent commission; in some other states, they’re drawn by lawmakers, and tend to favor whichever political party is currently in power. Courts currently have the power to decide whether the maps meet constitutional requirements.
On Thursday, Bonta and 21 other attorneys general filed a brief in the case, urging the nation’s highest court to uphold current law.
- Bonta said in a statement: “The extreme legal theory being put forward in this case is a recipe for disaster for elections nationwide. Our democracy is built on a system of checks and balances. Allowing state legislatures to ignore other branches of government in setting rules for federal elections — bypassing the will of the people and state constitutions — runs counter to the history and practices of our nation.”
Former Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a similar argument in his own filing submitted Wednesday.
- He summed it up in a tweet thread: “First, legislators draw district lines to lock in legislative incumbents so the people have no recourse at the ballot box, and then they tell us that only the state legislature, which they have now made certain the people can’t throw out in fair elections, can change the law. … James Madison said: ‘You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.’ These legislators want an uncontrollable government, and the Court shouldn’t give it to them.”
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 10,499,008 confirmed cases and 96,068 deaths, according to state data now updated just once a week on Thursdays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
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1 Understanding election mishaps
From CalMatters political reporter Sameea Kamal: As long as the U.S. has held elections, there have been mishaps — yes, even in 1789. This year is no different. Here’s what we’re seeing in California as Nov. 8 approaches:
- In Riverside County, 5,000 voters in Canyon Lake, Menifee, Murrieta, Wildomar and Winchester received duplicate ballots due to a computer error. Officials reassured the public that those voters’ ballots won’t be counted more than once, and that the error has been fixed.
- In Los Angeles County, a software company executive was arrested in an investigation into the possible theft of personal identifying information of election workers. There was no impact on ballots, according to District Attorney George Gascón’s office: “In this case, the alleged conduct had no impact on the tabulation of votes and did not alter election results. But security in all aspects of any election is essential so that we all have full faith in the integrity of the election process.”
- 780 voter guides were found in recycling bins in Elk Grove and redelivered on Oct. 19. The Sacramento County Voter Registration and Elections Department said in a statement that it is “working closely with local, state, and federal officials to investigate how this incident occurred and are working on preventing any future incidents.”
Mishaps don’t equal fraud. But it can shake some voters’ confidence in the process. This comprehensive CalMatters explainer has more on how officials try to keep your vote safe.
Your guide to the 2022 general election in California
If you see something suspicious, you can report it to your county elections office or the Secretary of State’s office. You can also contact Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Khasigian, who on Thursday was named district election officer for California’s Eastern District based in Sacramento. Khasigian will work with the federal Justice Department to oversee complaints of election fraud and voting rights abuses, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Scott will prepare for and respond to digital election threats. Khasigian can be reached at (916) 554-2700 or (916) 554-2723.
2 Zero-emissions trucks rule divides Democrats
Just how contentious is California air regulators’ proposal to ban the sale of new gas-powered big rigs and other trucks by 2040 and force truck companies to convert their existing fleets to zero-emissions vehicles? Contentious enough to divide Democrats in the state Legislature, who weighed in Thursday in the first of two public hearings hosted by the California Air Resources Board ahead of a vote scheduled for the spring, CalMatters’ Nadia Lopez reports. Some Democratic lawmakers sided with environmental justice advocates, urging the board to adopt more aggressive rules that would require 100% zero-emissions sales by 2036. But another group of Democrats sided with the trucking industry, citing concerns that the proposed rules would harm small businesses and strain the state’s already overburdened electric grid.
- Andrea Vidaurre, a policy analyst at the People’s Collective for Environmental Justice: “Our communities who are majority immigrant and Black have to deal with higher levels of asthma, respiratory issues, cancers and literally shortened life because of the pollution caused by diesel trucks. Please use this opportunity to transform this logistics system that historically has done so much harm.”
- Jeff Cox, owner of the Madera-based trucking company Best Drayage: “Obviously we all want cleaner air, but this would be catastrophic to the industry. … Getting the cart before the horse isn’t going to help matters by forcing the purchase of a vehicle that doesn’t exist today. This is both impractical and impossible to comply with.”
In other California environmental news:
- Some of the world’s largest oil companies, including Shell and ExxonMobil, are selling thousands of wells in California — raising concerns that taxpayers could be left to shoulder the cleanup bills, ProPublica and the Los Angeles Times report.
- A whopping 30% of forests in the Sierra Nevada mountain range between Lake Tahoe and Kern County were killed from 2011 to 2020 due to the combined devastations of fire, drought and bark beetles, according to a UC Berkeley-led study published Thursday in Ecological Applications. “It’s kind of wake-up call, even to those of us that are kind of steeped in this field,” Zackary Steel, the study’s lead author, told the Sacramento Bee.
3 Will new law improve access to cancer care?
California is set to become the first state in the country to offer universal health care coverage to all income-eligible residents — but coverage doesn’t always equal access. Take cancer: Although it’s the second leading cause of death in California, studies have shown that cancer patients covered by Medi-Cal — the state’s health insurance program for the poor — are less likely to get recommended treatment and have lower survival rates than people with private insurance. A new state law aims to address this disparity by requiring Medi-Cal plans to try to contract with cutting-edge cancer centers, but some supporters worry it doesn’t go far enough, CalMatters’ Ana B. Ibarra reports.
- Linda Nguy, an advocate with the Western Center on Law and Poverty: “Actually requiring plans (to contract with cancer centers) — that would have brought some meat to the table. From our understanding, plans already make efforts to contract with as many providers as possible, but it comes down to a reimbursement issue.”
- Democratic state Sen. Anthony Portantino of Glendale, the bill’s author: “I think making incremental change has the ability to save lives and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
Vote yes on Prop. 30: Vehicle emissions remain the single largest source of air pollution and greenhouse gases in California. To clean the air and avoid climate catastrophe, we must get them down to zero. Prop. 30 is the jumpstart we need, argues former state Sen. Fran Pavley, who authored several landmark climate laws.
Vote no on Prop. 30: Ride-hailing companies have been resisting California’s clean air regulations since 2018. This is their attempt to secure a taxpayer handout, rather than spend their own money to support drivers and comply with state rules, argues Matt Rodriguez, founder and CEO of Rodriguez Strategies.
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