What’s more American than a mass shooting?
That was the question posed by the Sacramento Bee editorial board following a spate of Fourth of July shootings in California and across the country: In Highland Park, Illinois, a gunman killed at least six people and injured dozens more during an Independence Day parade. In Sacramento, one person was killed and four others shot outside a nightclub early Monday, three months after a gang shootout that left six dead and 12 injured. And in South Los Angeles, a street takeover ended in a fatal shooting early Monday.
The shootings came just a few days after Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a pair of bills that he said would help protect Californians, especially kids, from rising rates of gun violence: One bill tightens restrictions on so-called “ghost guns” — those intentionally made untraceable — while another would hold companies liable for marketing certain firearms to minors.
- Newsom: “As the Supreme Court rolls back important gun safety protections and states across the country treat gun violence as inevitable, California is doubling down on commonsense gun safety measures that save lives.”
- But Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, told the Associated Press he believes both laws will be overturned under the higher standard for gun rights established by very U.S. Supreme Court ruling Newsom referenced.
Interestingly, guns are not among the hot-button topics Newsom mentions in a 30-second ad from his reelection campaign that began airing Monday not in California, but on Fox News stations across Florida.
- Newsom: “It’s Independence Day, so let’s talk about what’s going on in America. Freedom is under attack in your state. Republican leaders, they’re banning books, making it harder to vote, restricting speech in classrooms, even criminalizing women and doctors. I urge all of you living in Florida to join the fight, or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom.”
The ad appears to be Newsom’s latest attempt to elevate his national profile amid intensifying culture wars — and his latest attempt to draw a stark contrast with Ron DeSantis, the Republican governor of Florida said to be contemplating a 2024 presidential bid.
- Newsom told CNN: “We’re as different as daylight and darkness.”
- Newsom has repeatedly said he has no plans to run for president, but when “he makes these moves, it makes political folks roll their eyes and say, ‘Of course he’s running,” Andrew Acosta, a Democratic political strategist, told the San Francisco Chronicle.
Due to what aides said was a prior family commitment, Newsom didn’t participate in a virtual meeting President Joe Biden held Friday with a handful of Democratic governors to discuss the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the federal constitutional right to an abortion.
- Newsom left California Friday and will return at the end of the week, Anthony York, the governor’s senior advisor for communications, told me Monday. He did not respond to questions about Newsom’s whereabouts.
Newsom took action on a handful of key items before his departure. Let’s dive in:
- He signed into law a controversial bill to decriminalize loitering with the intent to commit prostitution, a move applauded by supporters who said it will prevent police from detaining women of color and transgender people simply because of how they look or where they’re standing. But critics warned the move would endanger trafficking victims while enabling pimps and sex buyers, a concern to which Newsom alluded in a signing message: “We must be cautious about (the law’s) implementation. My Administration will monitor crime and prosecution trends for any possible unintended consequences and will act to mitigate any such impacts.”
- He granted 17 pardons, 15 commutations and one medical reprieve. Among those who received a pardon was Sara Kruzan, who spent nearly two decades behind bars for killing at age 16 a man who had sexually trafficked her since she was 13.
- He proclaimed states of emergencies in several California counties to help expedite their recovery from recent wildfires.
- And he appointed Joe Stephenshaw as director of the California Department of Finance and his chief fiscal policy advisor. Stephenshaw replaces Keely Bosler, who announced in March her plans to step down after the state budget was finished in June.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 9,431,299 confirmed cases (+0.6% from previous day) and 91,701 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.
Other Stories You Should Know
1) California’s 2022 ballot measures are set
California voters will be asked to weigh in on seven statewide ballot measures in November, the fewest measures in an election year since 1916. (In November 2020, for example, voters determined the fate of 12 statewide ballot measures.) On Friday, Secretary of State Shirley Weber assigned numbers to the initiatives, which CalMatters breaks down in this comprehensive explainer. Here’s a quick overview:
- Proposition 1: Enshrining the right to abortion and contraception in California’s constitution. Newsom last week signed into law a bill requiring this constitutional amendment — placed on the ballot by state lawmakers following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade — to be designated as Prop. 1 and listed first.
- Prop. 26: Authorizing in-person sports betting at Native American casinos and designated horse race tracks.
- Prop. 27: Legalizing online sports betting offered by large, well-established companies that pair with Native American tribes.
- Prop. 28: Funneling more state money into arts and music education for public school students.
- Prop. 29: Strengthening regulations for kidney dialysis clinics — and yes, this is indeed the third time you’ve been asked to vote on this issue in four years.
- Prop. 30: Hiking taxes on millionaires to pay for electric cars and build charging infrastructure.
- Prop. 31: Reconsidering California’s ban on the sale of flavored tobacco.
Many other measures failed to qualify for the November ballot by last week’s deadline, including a high-profile initiative to boost California’s minimum wage to $18 per hour by 2025, CalMatters’ Jeanne Kuang reports. But voters will likely consider that measure in 2024 — along with one to raise income taxes on Californians earning more than $5 million to pay for pandemic detection and prevention programs and another to overturn a state labor law recently limited by the nation’s highest court.
2) State budget leaves some dissatisfied
In politics — as in life — it’s impossible to please everyone. If you don’t believe me, consider California’s budget for the fiscal year that began Friday: Despite a record $308 billion spending plan — buoyed by a nearly $100 billion surplus — some lawmakers, advocates and residents have accused the state of falling short in key areas, including:
- Cannabis tax relief. California is significantly overhauling its cannabis tax structure in an attempt to boost a legal industry struggling to compete with the illicit market six years after voters legalized recreational marijuana. Although prominent industry groups praised the plan, it was met with disappointment from retailers who say they won’t benefit and from several lawmakers who complained that it doesn’t do enough to address ongoing racial disparities in the industry, CalMatters’ Alexei Koseff reports. “What we’ve gotten are essentially crumbs from this bill,” said Amber Senter, executive director of Supernova Women, which seeks to empower cannabis entrepreneurs of color.
- Tax rebates. Although millions of California taxpayers will receive rebates ranging from $200 to $1,050, many retirees who receive federal Social Security benefits and don’t file taxes will be left out of the program — as will Californians who receive federal disability insurance. State officials have said they have no way to account for those residents. “I feel very cheated and let down,” 78-year-old Karen Boyles of Manteca, who lives solely on social security benefits, told KCRA.
- Paid family leave and disability benefits. Lawmakers’ proposal to significantly increase the percentage of wages low-income Californians could receive while taking family or disability leave didn’t end up in the budget deal, frustrating advocates who say the lowest-paid workers who can’t afford to take time off are essentially subsidizing the leave of wealthier workers, KQED reports. However, a bill to make California’s paid family leave program more affordable and accessible is currently moving through the Legislature.
3) Drug courts face uncertain future
How might California most effectively help residents struggling with substance use disorders? That question was reignited last week, when state lawmakers advanced a controversial bill that would allow Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland to offer “supervised injection sites” where opioid users could use drugs in the presence of medical professionals in a bid to limit potential overdoses. And this fall, California is set to launch a pilot program that will reimburse participating health care providers in two dozen counties for gift cards of as much as $599 to incentivize people to stop using meth and other drugs, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The new approaches come as the number of Californians participating in drug courts — which give offenders a chance to avoid criminal conviction by entering a court-overseen treatment program — has declined precipitously. Research has shown that in the four years following the 2014 passage of Prop. 47 — which slashed sentences for certain theft and drug offenses — statewide participation in drug courts fell 67%, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports.
- Greg Totten, CEO of the California District Attorneys Association and a longtime opponent of Prop. 47: “The promise of the law was, more treatment, less jail. But there’s actually less treatment when people don’t go to drug courts. From a common-sense standpoint, why go into a treatment program rather than just walk out of the courthouse free?”
In other courthouse news: The California Judicial Council, which governs the state’s court system, voted to end remaining COVID emergency rules as of last Friday — a move that could help ease a massive backlog of cases accumulated during the pandemic.