By Emily Hoeven
Good morning, California. It’s Friday, June 11.
Reverse of past approach
Democratic lawmakers are taking steps to move up the date of the all-but-certain election to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom — a sign they may be listening to arguments that doing so could help him stay in office.
Thursday morning, the state Department of Finance released estimates showing it would cost California’s 58 counties at least $215 million to hold the recall election. A few hours later, the leaders of the state Assembly and Senate announced they would include the money in the state budget they’re required to pass by Tuesday — and would waive the 30-day period the law gives them to review election costs. That helps pave the way for the election to be as soon as September instead of the traditional November.
- Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon: “This funding will allow for an earlier recall election.”
Ironically, Democratic lawmakers are waiving the very rules they wrote in 2017, when they added more steps to California’s recall process in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat the recall of Democratic state Sen. Josh Newman of Fullerton. In that case, they were trying to delay the election. Now, they’re trying to accelerate it — though the jury’s still out on whether the legislators’ maneuvers will help Newsom any more than they helped Newman.
The rapid-fire changes illustrate the power the Legislature’s supermajority of Democrats wields over state law. They also underscore the fact that although election dates may seem set in stone, some can be shaped by the party in charge. That’s one reason why you’ll likely vote twice for the same California U.S. Senate seat in 2022.
Back to the Newsom recall: Even with the truncated timeline, there are still a lot of steps to go before the election becomes official. Check out this explainer from CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall to see what comes next.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 3,693,362 confirmed cases (+0.02% from previous day) and 62,538 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.
Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.
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Other stories you should know
1. State appeals assault weapons ruling
California will appeal last week’s decision from a federal judge deeming the state’s three-decades-old ban on assault weapons unconstitutional, Attorney General Rob Bonta announced at a Thursday press conference also attended by Newsom. The governor excoriated U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez, referring to him as a “a stone-cold ideologue” and “a wholly owned subsidiary of the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association.” His comments infuriated gun rights advocates, with the Firearms Policy Coalition slamming Newsom for his “continuing disrespect for the rule of law, the judiciary, the Constitution and the human rights of California citizens.” Meanwhile, some experts suggested that Benitez — who’s blocked two other California gun laws — appears to be trying to get gun control cases in front of the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court. (The nation’s highest court has already dealt the state of California quite a few legal blows for its pandemic restrictions on houses of worship.)
Also Thursday, Assemblymember Marc Levine reintroduced a bill rejected by lawmakers last week that would tax firearms and ammunition to fund gun violence prevention programs.
- Levine, a San Rafael Democrat: “When you have a federal judge making rulings that potentially make our communities less safe and more dangerous, that puts added responsibility on lawmakers to act.”
2. A mixed bag of unemployment news
California got the best unemployment news in months on Thursday, when the federal government released figures showing that 53,000 Californians filed new jobless claims for the week ending June 5 — the lowest total since the state shut down in March 2020. Meanwhile, the pile of unemployment claims awaiting action from the state Employment Development Department also decreased for the first time in two months — though as of June 5, a sizable 221,000 claims had still been pending action for more than 21 days. Many jobless Californians continue to have abysmal experiences with EDD: During a radio call-in show on KALW that I did Wednesday, numerous out-of-work Californians described being unable to get their benefits despite repeated calls to EDD and their state representatives. One man resorted to printing out and sending his complaints via certified mail to get a response from the department.
California also got some news Thursday that could bode poorly for unemployment levels down the line: The Golden State’s spring 2021 college enrollment dropped by about 123,000 students, according to a report from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. The 5.3% decline — the largest in the nation — was driven primarily by a steep drop in community college students.
- Paul Feist, spokesperson for California Community College Chancellor Eloy Ortiz Oakley: “Retaining and attracting more students will be vital to California’s economic recovery and long-term well-being.”
3. Public health officers beg for funding
Before the pandemic thrust California’s public health labs into the spotlight — an often harsh one, with multiple officials receiving death threats — they operated largely behind the scenes. Although the labs themselves were often invisible, their work — which includes registering births and deaths; testing for syphilis, HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases; and holding classes to help Californians manage conditions such as asthma and diabetes — helped contain outbreaks and keep residents healthy. But public health officers have become increasingly strained as funding dwindles and labs shutter, and many were shocked that Newsom didn’t include a massive infusion of cash for public health in last month’s proposed budget. Instead, he proposed studying future public health spending, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov and Ana B. Ibarra report.
- Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s director of public health: “If we don’t get out of the boom and bust cycle after this pandemic, where … hundreds of thousands of people have died, God help us. We need … to have a shared understanding that public health is the backbone for community health.”
4. More cities raise Pride flag
A topic that’s both divided and unified local California governments in recent weeks: whether to fly LGBTQ Pride flags over City Hall in recognition of Pride Month. Several cities, including San Diego, Huntington Beach, Garden Grove, Pasadena, Delano and Gilroy, decided to raise the flag for the first time in history — though the idea was met with resistance in several areas, the California Sun reports. In Shasta County, for example, the board of supervisors narrowly voted to declare June LGBTQ Pride month for the first time, with one dissenting supervisor asking, “Would we present a heterosexual day? Would we represent, I’ll just say, ‘fat white day?’”
In Fresno, a majority Democratic city, GOP Mayor Jerry Dyer originally opposed the city council’s resolution to fly the Pride flag over City Hall. But meeting with LGBTQ residents and hearing their stories changed his mind, Mark Barabak writes for the Los Angeles Times.
- Dyer: “The countless stories” of people who had been “excluded from friends that walked away from them, family that walked away from them, churches that, in their eyes, had excluded them. … I have my foundational faith in Christ, I don’t hide that. But I don’t want that to stand in the way of me causing people to feel loved and supported in our community.”
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Don’t delay Newsom’s broadband plan: State lawmakers must lock in details for a “middle mile” broadband infrastructure plan before June 15 to secure billions in federal funding, writes Joy Sterling, a member of the California Food and Agriculture Board.
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Other things worth your time
Los Angeles teacher union pact requires masks, COVID tests in fall. // Los Angeles Times
Bay Area school reopenings still have cloud of uncertainty despite unity from health officials. // San Francisco Chronicle
Feds to restore $1 billion for California high-speed bullet train. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Police reform bill to strip bad cops of badges stuck on who should decide. // San Francisco Chronicle
Lawmakers pressure Newsom to ‘step up’ on racism as a public health issue. // California Healthline
Developers funded Sacramento County climate action plan. Environmentalists see a conflict. // Sacramento Bee
Calls grow for California to tighten redevelopment rules in wildfire zones. // Mercury News
Photos: California’s growing drought disaster. // The Atlantic
California ‘housing crash’ searches surge. // Mercury News
Venice Beach’s homeless encampments could be gone soon. // Los Angeles Times
Fresno State wrestling’s stripper party just part of sexual misconduct pattern, report finds. // Sacramento Bee
Six women said a wealthy California surgeon raped them. They may never get their day in court. // BuzzFeed News
‘Bubble baby’ treatment shifted to California stem cell agency, UCLA. // Capitol Weekly
New redwood canopy boardwalk hangs 100 feet off the forest floor in Eureka. // San Francisco Chronicle
The curious rise of Twitter power broker — and former Newsom adviser — Yashar Ali. // Los Angeles Magazine
City supervisor Aaron Peskin says he’s entering ‘alcohol treatment’ after complaints. // San Francisco Chronicle
See you Monday.
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This article was originally published by CalMatters.