Recall over, bills signed — now what?
By JEREMY B. WHITE, CARLA MARINUCCI and ISABELLA BLOOM
10/12/2021 09:14 AM EDT
Presented by United Healthcare
THE BUZZ — TURN, TURN, TURN: With some final swipes of his pen this weekend, Gov. Gavin Newsom closed out an unprecedented political year this weekend. That means it’s time to prepare for the next one.
Policymaking in 2021 was less chaotic than in the pandemic’s inaugural year, although the virus still forced lawmakers to jettison some bills as Capitol cases proliferated. Even under the shadow of a recall election, some consequential policy came out of Sacramento. Newsom signed legislation to create an ethnic studies high school graduation requirement; offer job security to coronavirus-affected essential workers (repairing ties with labor after vetoing a similar 2020 bill); allow for decertifying abusive cops; permit zoning for up to four units on heretofore single-family lots; continue mailing ballots to all voters in future elections; regulate Amazon warehouse quotas; outlaw piece-rate garment pay; halt mandatory incarceration for drug crimes; limit vaccine site protests; curtail gang sentencing enhancements; require gender-neutral toy sections; ban gas-powered leaf blowers; and build out broadband Internet.
Plenty of bills didn’t make it. Falling short of Newsom’s desk were measures to institute single-payer health care; decriminalize hallucinogens; set climate targets; ban fracking and separate oil wells from schools and homes; regulate fast food jobs; offer essential workers “hero pay” bonuses; tax gun and ammo sales; increase family leave wage replacement rates; and overhaul plastics recycling. Newsom vetoed measures to outlaw pay-by-the-signature petition gathering and streamline farm worker organizing.
SO NOW WHAT? The 2022 legislative agenda is already taking shape. It’s clear lawmakers will try to place a constitutional amendment on next year’s ballot overhauling California’s recall process, the contents of which will be shaped by what can get two-thirds’ support in Sacramento and pass muster with voters. The oil spill defiling the waters off Orange County’s coast will spur efforts to entirely shut down offshore drilling in state waters. And now that California will require students to get vaccinated for coronavirus, lawmakers may try to tighten up personal belief exemptions. (As anyone who’s followed past iterations of the vaccine wars knows, that could get ugly.)
If that wasn’t enough, don’t forget we’re heading into an election year. A half-dozen battleground seats could swing control of the House. Newsom is up for reelection and progressive Attorney General Rob Bonta will need to defend his seat. Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara will look to fend off an intraparty challenge. Los Angeles is choosing a new mayor. There will be ballot initiative fights over sports wagering and medical malpractice and recycling. Voters could also get the chance to ban public employee unions, expand school choice and open battles over teacher employment rules by enshrining a right to a quality public education.
But before the voting will come the new maps. Prospective candidates are in a state of suspense as they wait to see the shape of new districts. Once the California Citizens Redistricting Commission releases the new contours in late December, look out: The churn of retirements and the campaign launches that follow will reshape the political landscape – while ensuring we California political reporters stay busy even without a gubernatorial recall to cover.
BUENOS DÍAS, good Tuesday morning. Jeremy is off for a little while, so please send your tips, feedback, funny memes and recipes to Carla (or backstage helper Graph) in the interim.
Got a tip or story idea for California Playbook? Hit firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or follow us on Twitter @cmarinucci and @jeremybwhite.
QUOTE OF THE DAY: “I’ve known Elon 20 years, and I really appreciate the investments he’s made, his innovation, his entrepreneurial spirit, pushing out the boundaries, and affording himself appropriate status of being one of the world’s greatest innovators and entrepreneurs. … I have reverence and deep respect for that individual.” Newsom on Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who announced he’s moving headquarters to Texas.
TWEET OF THE DAY: California Secretary of State Shirley Weber @DrWeber4CA: “Let's call the Arizona 'election audits' for what they really are-- a farce, and a dangerous one, at that. We cannot let this become a precedent or a norm, and I am so grateful to our elections officials across the state who work with dignity to count every vote securely.”
WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.
HOUSING MUST-READ — “Where the Suburbs End: A single-family home from the 1950s is now a rental complex and a vision of California’s future,” by NYT’s Conor Doughrty: “Across America, housing is for the most part built in one of two familiar ways. … In the vast zone between those poles lie existing single-family neighborhoods like Clairemont, which account for most of the urban landscape yet remain conspicuously untouched.
“The omission is the product of a political bargain that says sprawl can sprawl and downtowns can rise but single-family neighborhoods are sealed off from growth by the cudgel of zoning rules that dictate what can be built where. ... And now it’s being torn up.”
BACK IN COURT — “A fraud conviction ended his battles for civil rights. 14 years later, Stephen Yagman is back,” by the LA Times’ Doug Smith: “Stephen Yagman was a high-powered civil rights attorney until his conviction on fraud charges and subsequent 2010 disbarment. Yagman has passed the bar exam and won reinstatement to practice law.”
DEEP DIVE — “Hedge Funds Cash Out Billions in PG&E Stock. Fire Survivors Suffer and Wait,” by KQED”s Lily Jamali: “ A KQED/California Newsroom analysis of documents on file with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, or SEC, found that 20 Wall Street hedge funds have collectively dumped 250 million PG&E shares — two-thirds of their collective holdings in the company — since PG&E emerged from bankruptcy protection last year. Those hedge funds grossed at least $2 billion dumping the stock, our analysis found. At least seven funds have sold off their entire PG&E stake.”
FRONTLINE DISPATCH — “Inside the massive and and costly fight to contain the Dixie fire,” by NYT’s Brent McDonald, Sashwa Burrous, Eden Weingart and Meg Felling.
CALIFORNIA AND THE CAPITOL CORRIDOR
SOCIAL SNAFU, via POLITICO’s Susannah Luthi: Facebook’s sudden removal last week of a California parents’ group openly critical of the state’s Covid-19 school policies revived angst lingering from the failed recall attempt and brought some of the political heat boiling in Washington over social media and free speech to Sacramento. Facebook, without warning or explanation, seemingly disappeared an 18,000-member group called “Reopen California Schools” and a similar group called “Reopen California Schools and Sports.” Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, a candidate to replace Newsom in the recall, condemned the groups’ “chilling” removal and alleged that the crackdown was politically motivated.
By Friday afternoon, the groups were just as suddenly restored — not long after a POLITICO inquiry to the company about what had happened. After the groups were returned to the platform, a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement that they had been “removed in error.”
BLACKOUTS — “PG&E blackouts spread to 23 counties as fierce winds raise wildfire danger in California,” by The Sac Bee’s Dale Kasler: “Under scrutiny because of its wildfire safety record, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. started blacking out customers in portions of Glenn, Colusa, Tehama and Butte counties amid a red flag warning from the National Weather Service for much of Northern California.”
ALISAL FIRE GROWS — "Wildfire closes major California highway, prompts evacuations," by NBC's Tim Stelloh: "U.S. Highway 101, which stretches from California through Washington State, was closed near Santa Barbara."
SPILL UPDATE — “California to Investigate Oil Spill,” by The Wall Street Journal’s Talal Ansari and Allison Prang: “Huntington Beach reopens, but authorities urge visitors to avoid areas where they smell oil.”
— “O.C. oil spill leaves many clues, but so far, few answers,” by the LA Times’ Thomas Curwen, Anita Chabria and Laura J. Nelson: “Like other investigations into mechanical failures that have led to catastrophic results, an understanding of the chain of events that led to the spill is playing out like a twist-filled thriller. Leads are being followed. Some have already resulted in dead ends; others are still unfolding.”
PACIFIC PARADOX — “How California Lost a Million Jobs and Gained $342 Billion,” opines Bloomberg’s Justin Fox: “The West Coast has seen the biggest increases in GDP and income over the course of the pandemic, even amid major employment declines.”
FIERY DEBATE — “Impact of forest thinning on wildfires creates divisions,” by the AP’s Don Thompson: “Firefighters and numerous studies credit intensive forest thinning projects with helping save communities like those recently threatened near Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada, but dissent from some environmental advocacy groups is roiling the scientific community.”
THE $100B TRAIN — “Cost overruns hit California bullet train again amid a new financial crunch,” by the LA Times’ Ralph Vartabedian: “The California bullet train is facing at least another billion dollars of proposed cost increases from its contractors, following a history of sharp cost growth on construction work over the last eight years, The Times has learned.”
HARASSMENT LAWSUIT — “California union lobbyist sues SEIU Local 1000 president, alleging harassment, retaliation,” by The Sac Bee’s Wes Venteicher: “A former senior employee of SEIU Local 1000 is suing union president Richard Louis Brown and his chief of staff, alleging Brown harassed her in a closed-door meeting and then fired her after she attempted to report it.”
COVID IMMUNITY — “California's COVID cases are lower than in other states that are more vaccinated. Why?” by the SF Chronicle’s Kellie Hwang: “As horrific as the winter surge was, with hospitals overwhelmed and death rates hitting pandemic peaks, experts say California emerged from it with a relatively significant amount of natural immunity.”
PATCHWORK POLICIES — “In California, inconsistent school COVID rules are the norm,” by the AP’s Jocelyn Gecker: “Now that schools are back in session, parents are mastering this year’s new school vocabulary: Modified quarantine, antigen vs. PCR testing and the so-called Swiss cheese model for keeping classrooms safe, which has become the butt of a few jokes.”
— "Community Clinics Shouldered Much of the Vaccine Rollout. Many Haven’t Been Paid," by Kaiser Health News' Rachana Pradhan and Rachel Bluth: "Community clinics in California say they haven’t been paid for at least 1 million covid-19 vaccine doses given since January, creating a “massive cash flow problem” for some and complicating efforts to retain staff."
FRACKING FRUSTRATIONS — Oil group sues California over fracking permit denials, by POLITICO’s Colby Bermel: A powerful industry group representing California fossil fuel companies sued the state on Friday, arguing that recent rejections of fracking applications for climate and health reasons are an overreach by regulators.
— “A group of California inmates just earned bachelor's degrees while behind bars,” by CNN’s Alaa Elassar: “The 25 students, who are incarcerated at California State Prison, Los Angeles County (LAC), celebrated their commencement ceremony in the prison yard, 70 miles away from the campus that made it possible.”
SOUTHLAND SPAT — “Who Really Controls Local Politics?” by NYT’s Jay Caspian Kang: LA City Council member Nithya Raman “has a wide range of progressive policy ideas, but as is typical in blue California cities, the real contention points come down to her stances on housing and, by extension, homelessness.”
COVID'S COLLEGE COST — "How the pandemic affected enrollment at the University of California and California’s community colleges differently," by the SF Chronicle's Nami Sumida: "Ordinarily, community college enrollment increases during an economic recession, with students choosing to attend school instead of compete for scarce jobs. But the pandemic is fundamentally different."
BIDEN, HARRIS AND THE HILL
PRISON PROFIT PREVAILS — “Private Prisons Still Make Money From Federal Inmates Despite Biden’s Executive Order,” by The Wall Street Journal’s Alexander Saeedy: “Private-prison operators are replacing revenues from some lapsed federal contracts by clinching deals at the city or county level to house federal inmates.”
TAX HIKE — "Biden’s spending plan has big income tax changes. Here are the Californians who would benefit," by The Sac Bee's David Lightman: "About 2.4% of Californians would see individual income tax increases under the plan approved by the Democratic-run House Ways and Means Committee, the plan now being seriously considered in Congress. Virtually all of those facing income tax hikes earn more than $400,000, according to a study by Washington’s Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy."
WHERE IN THE WORLD IS RYAN ZINKE? — Ryan Zinke is Running for Office Again in Montana. On Instagram, He’s Often in Santa Barbara, by Miranda Green for POLITICO: Donald Trump’s scandal-plagued first Interior secretary has a good shot at winning Montana’s new House seat. But his opponents have seized on a weak point.
TECHIES TAKE LEAVE — K Street scoops up tech-savvy Hill staffers, by POLITICO’s Emily Birnbaum and John Hendel: “The brain drain has seen more than a dozen senior Democratic tech and telecom policy staffers leaving their posts this year, according to a POLITICO review of recent exits, with many taking lobbying roles at powerhouses including Facebook, Verizon, Apple, Charter Communications, the National Association of Broadcasters and the cloud company VMware.”
RECLAIM THE INTERNET — “Frank McCourt Wants to Build a New Model for Social Media,” by The Wall Street Journal’s Emily Bobrow: “The real estate magnate’s Project Liberty is a $250 million effort to remake the ways we share information online.”
— “Hollywood Media Mogul Is ‘Degrading’ Boss From Hell, Her Staffers Say,” by The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona and Diana Falzone: “TheWrap’s founder, CEO, and editor has created a toxic workplace culture, said 20 current and former staffers. Sharon Waxman is ‘very sorry’ to hear this.”
— “Netflix suspends trans employee who tweeted about Dave Chappelle special,” by The Verge’s Zoe Schiffer.
— “Inside Stoney Slice, L.A.’s Exclusive, Underground Neapolitan Cannabis-Infused Pizza Parlor,” by Forbes’ Lindsey Bartlett: “In the heart of downtown Los Angeles, you’ll find a private cannabis chef cooking weed-infused pizza à la Naples, Italy, in a wood fire oven.”
— “A small plane crashed in a San Diego suburb, killing at least 2 people,” by NPR’s Laurel Wamsley.
— “San Diego County’s first pregnant woman dies of COVID; unborn child dies, too,” by The San Diego Union-Tribune’s Jonathan Wosen.
DRINK UP — “Takeout cocktails? Gavin Newsom signs law extending sales of ‘to go’ alcoholic beverages,” by The Sac Bee’s Kim Bojórquez and Sophia Bollag.
— “Meet Dr. Color, who's painted more than 17,000 SF buildings,” by SFGATE’s Michelle Robertson.
PERILOUS PARKS — “These are the deadliest national parks in the U.S.,” by the SF Chronicle’s Matthias Gafni and Nami Sumida.
WHERE TO WORK? — “Home or office? New telework policy gives eligible California state workers a choice,” by The Sac Bee’s Wes Venteicher.
SPORTS SCHEME — “2 Parents Are Convicted in the Varsity Blues Admissions Trial,” by The NYT’s Anemona Hartocollis.
— “Ying Zhao joins San Francisco Chronicle as a newsroom engineer,” via the SF Chronicle.
CHANGES AT EQUALITY CALIFORNIA: Equality California Executive Director-designate Tony Hoang has announced the organization’s new staff leadership team, as he prepares to succeed Rick Chavez Zbur as executive director this week. Communications Director Samuel Garrett-Pate has been promoted to managing director of external affairs, to oversee the organization’s strategic communications and media relations, state and federal legislative advocacy, political affairs and impact litigation. Program Director Robbie Rodriguez has been promoted to managing director of operations. Associate Program Director Erin Arendse has been promoted to program director. Stacy Triolo of Evergreen Alliance CPA will serve as interim director of finance and administration. Other new roles and promotions: Tami Martin, legislative director; Sarah Morrow An, development director; Valerie Ploumpis, national policy director; André C. Wade, Nevada state director and Alice Kessler, senior legislative advisor.
NEW ADDITION: Street Level Strategy LLC announced that Julissa Gomez has joined the firm as a vice president. The Southern California-based political and public affairs consulting firm has a clientele that includes three current Los Angeles City Council members, the California Association of Realtors, Uber Technologies and Mazda USA. The firm most recently managed the successful Yes on Proposition 19 campaign in 2020.
AFTER THE RECALL: On the one-month anniversary of the recall attempt, join California Humanities for “After the Vote: Recall Elections in California,” a free online panel discussion that’s part of the group’s ongoing electoral engagement discussion series, California on the Ballot. Panelists: POLITICO’s Carla Marinucci and LA Times’ Seema Mehta, moderator Dan Schnur, political strategist and professor at the USC Annenberg School of Communications and UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies. Thursday, Oct. 14, 4-5 p.m. free. Register here.
CALIFORNIA POLICY IS ALWAYS CHANGING: Know your next move. From Sacramento to Silicon Valley, POLITICO California Pro provides policy professionals with the in-depth reporting and tools they need to get ahead of policy trends and political developments shaping the Golden State. To learn more about the exclusive insight and analysis this subscriber-only service offers, click here.
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