California budget: Battles intensify amid competing priorities

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Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, May 12.

More $$ for reproductive health

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during the State of the State in Sacramento on March 8, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

Everyone wants a piece of California’s surplus pie — one that could be worth as much as $68 billion — and Gov. Gavin Newsom, state lawmakers and advocates all have different ideas for how it should be split up.

Newsom on Wednesday offered a sneak peek of his revised January budget proposal, which he’ll unveil in full on Friday: He wants to expand his $68 million “reproductive health package” to $125 million, following the U.S. Supreme Court’s draft majority opinion to overturn the federal constitutional right to an abortion.

And, in a dig at Texas, Florida and other states, he wants to create incentives for businesses to relocate to California “from states with anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ+ laws.”

The $57 million in proposed new funding, some of which mirrors bills moving through the Legislature, includes:

  • $40 million to cover abortions for uninsured low- and middle-income patients.
  • $15 million for community organizations to conduct “medically accurate and culturally competent outreach and education” on sexual and reproductive health.
  • $1 million for a one-stop-shop reproductive health website.
  • $1 million to research “unmet needs for access to reproductive health care services.”

Here’s a look at how other California leaders want to spend the state’s budget surplus:

As CalMatters housing reporter Manuela Tobias reports, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat, unveiled an ambitious proposal that would earmark $1 billion a year for 10 years to help a projected 7,700 low- and moderate-income families buy their first home.

The California Dream For All proposal differs from existing state programs to help first-time homeowners in two significant ways:

  • It wouldn’t cap assistance at a fixed amount, but would instead offer about 17% of the total home price — which varies widely by region. However, that number could change amid legislative negotiations.
  • The state would own a minority share of the home — the return on which would be put into a revolving fund to help as many as 150,000 households purchase homes over a 40-year period. 

The Senate Republican Caucus also released its budget priorities, including a gas tax holiday, an increased renter’s tax credit, a tax credit for certain college students, paying down unemployment debt and significant investments in mental health, homelessness, drought and wildfire prevention. But their priorities are unlikely to sway negotiations — with their supermajorities, Democrats can pass budgets without a single Republican vote.

Meanwhile, advocacy groups convened virtually and at the state Capitol to make the case for their own budget requests:

Perhaps the biggest challenge Newsom and lawmakers face in reaching a deal before the June 15 deadline to pass the budget: settling on the size and and form of rebates for skyrocketing gas prices and the soaring cost of living. Their latest point of disagreement: which state agency should oversee the program.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 8,687,626 confirmed cases (+0.4% from previous day) and 89,957 deaths (+0.1% 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 75,088,046 vaccine doses, and 75.1% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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1. CA gun law unconstitutional, panel says

A custom-made semiautomatic hunting rifle with a high-capacity detachable magazine at a gun store in Rocklin on Oct. 3, 2013. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo

California’s ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to adults under age 21 is unconstitutional, a federal appeals court panel ruled 2-1 on Wednesday — the latest entry in the state’s long-running saga of defending its strict gun laws in court. Although guns rights advocates heralded the ruling as a victory, it nevertheless left in place a provision they had sought to overturn: a requirement that adults under 21 who aren’t in the military or law enforcement obtain a hunting license before purchasing rifles or shotguns.

  • Judge Ryan Nelson of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals: “America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army. Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms.”
  • Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office told my colleague Ben Christopher: “We are reviewing the decision. California will continue to take all necessary steps to prevent and reduce gun violence. We remain committed to defending California’s commonsense gun laws.”

In other criminal justice news:

  • Transgender-rights advocates are petitioning a judge to let them intervene in a case challenging California’s law allowing transgender inmates to be housed in the prison corresponding with their gender identity, arguing the state won’t defend it ardently enough, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
  • A new San Francisco Standard voter poll found that public safety is a major concern for city residents, with 65% saying they feel either less safe or much less safe now than they did in 2019. A whopping 73% supported arresting those who commit minor property crimes, 66% backed forced treatment for people suffering from severe substance use disorders, and 44% said they would target “policing” for increased city spending — the No. 1 response. That same percentage of voters — 44% — said they plan to eventually leave the city.
  • Police morale there is apparently so low that billionaire Chris Larsen is using $1 million to create the San Francisco Police Community Foundation — even though he opposes the recall of District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a progressive prosecutor whom many frustrated residents blame for the uptick in crime. The San Francisco Standard poll found that 57% of registered voters support the Boudin recall. The Standard also found that nearly a quarter of the more than $4 million raised by the recall campaign came in the form of four tax-free stock contributions from Bay Area venture capitalists.

2. Sacramento’s family — and friend — trees

Sen. Bob Hertzberg and his son Daniel on the Senate floor during swearing-in ceremonies in 2014. Photo by Lorie Shelley, California Senate

The convoluted game of political musical chairs linking Los Angeles Democrats state Sen. Sydney Kamlager, U.S. Rep. Karen Bass and Los Angeles County Supervisor Holly Mitchell underscores how departing lawmakers can seek to bequeath their seats to chosen successors — a trend that’s become particularly evident this year due to an unusual number of vacancies in the state Legislature, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports.

  • Kamlager is running for the congressional seat soon to be vacated by Bass, a candidate for Los Angeles mayor.
  • When Bass left the state Assembly in 2010, she endorsed Mitchell to take her place.
  • When Mitchell jumped from the Assembly to state Senate three years later, she endorsed Kamlager, her former district director, to replace her.
  • When Mitchell last year left the Senate for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, she once again endorsed Kamlager to take her spot.
  • Who took Kamlager’s seat in the Assembly when she moved to the Senate? Her former policy advisor, Isaac Bryan.

But, as Ben writes, few instances of incumbent intervention this election season have raised as many eyebrows as Daniel Hertzberg’s bid to fill the San Fernardo Valley state Senate seat being vacated by his father, Bob, who — you guessed it — is running for a seat on the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

  • Daniel, a business development manager for a DoubleTree Inn in the South Bay, has raised four times more campaign cash than his three opponents combined despite not having any electoral experience — prompting some critics to levy charges of nepotism.
  • Daniel Hertzberg: “The experience I bring as a minimum wage worker, as a millennial renter, I mean, those things are important. … I do think we need to start redefining what we mean as ‘qualified.’ I think some of the brightest minds in United States politics come out of minimum wage work. And I think differentiating perspectives is important. I don’t think every politician should have a paint-by-numbers resume.”

3. Inequality takes many forms

Students at St. HOPE’s Public School 7 Elementary in Sacramento on May 11, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

Addressing pervasive inequality is one of the biggest challenges — and opportunities — facing California. Here’s a look at some problems and the responses they’ve sparked from lawmakers and advocates:

  • Substitute teacher shortage: CalMatters’ Joe Hong analyzed January data from California’s seven largest urban school districts and found that on average, substitutes filled just 42% of teacher absences at schools with the most high-need students, compared to 63% at schools with the fewest high-needs students. Low-income, underserved “schools have the most turnover and the most difficulty attracting subs,” said David Fisher, president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association. State lawmakers are considering a bill to boost substitute teacher training and pay — but it doesn’t currently incentivize focusing on schools with more high-needs students.
  • School closures: A group called Justice for Oakland Students filed a lawsuit Wednesday against Oakland Unified School District, alleging that its plan to close or merge about a dozen schools in the next two years violates California’s landmark environmental law. The closures “will displace Black students and families from their schools and neighborhoods” and “will further exacerbate the significant environmental harms to low-income Black and Brown communities which will be absorbing those displaced students,” the group wrote. The ACLU of Northern California has also asked Attorney General Rob Bonta to investigate the planned closures.
  • Seeds of reparations: A racial equity organization is pairing with the California Truth & Healing Council, which Newsom established in 2019, to distribute $500,000 to Indigenous communities and nonprofits throughout the state to help them preserve tribal history and document tribal land loss, CalMatters’ Lil Kalish reports.

But policies to reduce inequality meet resistance even in liberal California — and a new UC Berkeley study could help explain why, CalMatters’ Jeanne Kuang reports: People who have social or economic advantages tend to believe they’ll be harmed by such policies, even when those policies don’t lessen their own access to resources.

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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California cities have responded in myriad ways to state pressure for more housing construction, but the oddest may be a newly passed law in Santa Ana.

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Other things worth your time

Fast-moving Coastal fire destroys homes in Laguna Niguel. // Los Angeles Times

Two Santa Cruz Starbucks vote in favor of unionization, a first in California. // Lookout Santa Cruz

McDonald’s hiring thousands of workers across Southern California. // San Bernardino Sun

Bass campaign demands that TV stations drop ‘defamatory’ ad. // Los Angeles Times

Anne Marie Schubert’s gamble: After ditching the GOP, can she win a statewide office? // Sacramento Bee

Vivian Villanueva holds sway in L.A. Sheriff’s Department, staff say. // Los Angeles Times

Sacramento Sheriff Scott Jones reignites fight with Black Lives Matter in new ad for Congress. // Sacramento Bee

Case dismissed against former D.A. Jackie Lacey’s husband, who pointed gun at protesters outside home. // Los Angeles Times

Wife of Little Saigon politician files defamation suit against talk show. // Orange County Register

Editorial: Sen. Steve Glazer has the right stuff to be controller. // Sacramento Bee

Anthony Avalos’ family, L.A. County reach tentative $32 million settlement. // Los Angeles Times

California court shortens state worker probation periods. // Sacramento Bee

Santa Rosa’s St. Rose Catholic School cancels classes in midst of COVID outbreak. // Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Sacramento Unified to extend school year after teacher strike. // Sacramento Bee

The future of the state’s public education system is questioned in a new report. // EdSource

Gay pride videos prompt threats against Glendale third-grade teacher. // Los Angeles Times

LAUSD passes controversial deaf education plan despite opposition. // Los Angeles Times

Dorsey seeks to unify opposing sides of hotly contested addiction debate. // San Francisco Standard

Methadone access is limited at L.A.’s overdose ‘epicenter.’ // Los Angeles Times

Metro rail passenger set ablaze in unprovoked attack by apparently homeless woman. // Los Angeles Times

City attorney: Company overcharged for showers at Convention Center shelter for homeless during pandemic. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Berkeley to defend new natural gas ban in Ninth Circuit. // Bloomberg

Electrical homes are the future. The grid isn’t ready. // Mercury News

Popular giant sequoia trail to reopen Friday after narrowly escaping fire. // San Francisco Chronicle

See you tomorrow.

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