Another bid to recall Newsom and rob voters

Sore losers’ 7th effort to oust him is a waste, and points to larger ill: Unending elections due to denial

Gov. Gavin Newsom at a press conference in the state capitol following the first COVID-19 death in California. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Gavin Newsom is hardly beyond reproach.

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California faces a massive budget deficit, which may be worse than the governor acknowledges. There’s been voluminous amounts of talk about but no end to the state’s housing and homelessness crises.

The time and energy Newsom devotes to boosting his national profile — traipsing around the country, running red-state ads promoting abortion rights — could be better spent at home. Instead of visiting Florida and Alabama, Newsom should take a tour of rural California, stopping in flyover places like Alturas, Sonora and Red Bluff.

It may not boost Newsom’s 2028 presidential prospects or win many converts. But it would acknowledge the disconnect their residents feel from the rest of the state, and show their concerns matter as much as those of Democrats in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

None of that, however, justifies the latest attempt to drive Newsom from office.

A group of Republicans involved in the failed 2021 recall effort announced this week that they’re trying again — marking the seventh attempt to short-circuit Newsom’s governorship.

It’s a waste of time and, potentially, a whole lot more taxpayer money. It should force lawmakers in Sacramento to finally make some badly needed fixes to the state’s broken recall process.

It’s also symptomatic of a larger ill.

For more than a generation, we’ve lived in the age of the permanent campaign. The line between governing and eyeing the next election has become indistinguishable — much to the chagrin of those who wish expedience and partisanship had less influence over lawmakers and their decisions.

But in recent years, the negative effects of the permanent campaign have been exceeded by something even more pernicious: the election without end.

Rather than admitting defeat, Donald Trump and his followers insist on relitigating the 2020 presidential contest. In Arizona, gubernatorial hopeful Kari Lake and other Republicanspulled the same stunt after losing their statewide races, refusing to recognize the results.

(For those who insist those elections were stolen, here’s a suggestion: Get together with Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and discuss ways to prevent similar “fraud” in 2024. You’re welcome.)

Elections used to have winners and losers, with both sides acknowledging as much. Now those who don’t like the results simply refuse to accept the outcome, ignoring the will of voters.

In Oregon, that meant lawmakers boycotted the Legislature to deny majority Democrats a quorum. In Wisconsin, unhappy Republicans threatened to nullify a state Supreme Court election and impeach a liberal justice simply because their preferred candidate lost. (The legislators were finally shamed out of such a flagrantly undemocratic move.)

That mindset, that elections don’t count unless they turn out the way you wish, is evident in the renewed effort to recall Newsom.

Like him or not, he has twice been elected governor. He decisively beat back the attempted 2021 recall; the 61.9% “no” vote precisely matched Newsom’s winning percentage in 2018 — meaning nearly $250 million was spent on a special election so voters could say, in effect, yep, we meant it when we chose this guy.

They chose Newsom again in 2022, when he cruised to reelection.

The GOP is in pathetic shape in California. That’s nothing new. It’s been nearly two decades since voters elected a Republican governor, the sui generis Arnold Schwarzenegger.

So now the strategy seems to be, if you can’t beat ’em, harass ’em.

And make some money in the process.

The San Francisco Standard reported that Rescue California, the campaign committee behind the 2021 recall election, is more than $1 million in debt. Fundraising for the latest effort could easily wipe away that debt and reap a hefty sum for organizers who profited nicely from the last go-round.

In the weeks and months after that costly, pointless election, lawmakers in Sacramento considered ways to overhaul the recall process, which has aged poorly since its conception more than a century ago.

Click here to read the full story in the LA Times

Walters: Newsom chides Ohio GOP for trying to change voting rules yet adopts the same tactics

After Ohio voters approved a state constitutional amendment to protect abortion rights last month, California Gov. Gavin Newsom chided Ohio’s Republicans for trying to change voting rules to thwart the abortion measure.

GOP political figures had placed a measure on an August election ballot that would have raised the minimum vote needed to pass an abortion rights amendment from a simple majority to 60%, but it had been defeated.

What happened – or rather didn’t happen – in August was pivotal to what happened three months later. The abortion rights amendment was passed with 56.6% of the votes cast. In other words, had the anti-abortion Republicans succeeded in raising the approval threshold to 60%, November’s measure would have failed.

“Here’s a tale of a party out of touch with the American people,” Newsom declared on X, formerly Twitter. “Ohio Republicans were so desperate to block abortion access they tried to change the rules in a special election and require 60% support to pass constitutional amendments. But they failed.

“Then, they tried to block a ballot initiative to protect abortion rights. They failed again. Now, they are claiming election interference and are even saying they will strip the Courts of power to overturn the will of voters. Spoiler: You’re going to fail, again. They really can’t seem to take a hint.”

Newsom’s crowing about Republican manipulation of voting rules was particularly noteworthy because he and his fellow Democrats in the Legislature are trying to do precisely the same thing to block a business-backed ballot measure that would make it more difficult to raise state and local taxes.

The tax measure is scheduled to appear on the November ballot next year. It would require voter approval of any new taxes passed by the Legislature and two-thirds voter approval for local taxes.

The California Constitution currently says that statewide ballot measures need only a simple majority of voters to approve. However, the Legislature has placed another constitutional amendment on the same ballot that, if passed, would require any measure to increase voting thresholds for taxes to reach the same thresholds themselves.

Thus, it would raise the voting requirement for the tax measure to two-thirds, making it much more difficult, or perhaps impossible, to pass.

It’s part of a multi-pronged drive by the tax measure’s opponents – Newsom, Democratic legislative leaders and public employee unions – to block it from appearing on the ballot or gaining approval.

Newsom, et al, have also filed a lawsuit asking the state Supreme Court to remove the business-backed tax measure from the ballot, contending that it is not merely an amendment to the state constitution but rather a “revision.” The court has agreed to hear the case.

While constitutional amendments may be placed before voters either by initiative petition or legislative action, any revisions must be proposed by the Legislature through a constitutional revision commission or by calling a statewide constitutional convention.

Newsom, through a spokesperson, says he is challenging the validity of the tax measure because it would “effectively block the state’s ability to quickly respond to major challenges.”

Were the state Supreme Court to declare that the tax measure is a constitutional revision, it would be game over. However, the legal dividing line between a constitutional amendment and a revision is hazy, and the court might postpone the issue until after voters have spoken next November.

One can rationally debate the merits or negative aspects of making it more difficult to raise taxes, but trying to strangle such a measure before voters have their say, as occurred in Ohio and is now occurring in California, is troublesome.

Click here to read that the full article in CalMatters

California spending billions to expand transitional kindergarten. How effective is the program?

Two years ago, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed off on an ambitious plan to make a pre-kindergarten program available to California’s 4-year-olds for free.

That effort, already underway, is an attempt to reduce learning disparities and improve outcomes for the state’s children.

Education officials and close observers, however, are still grappling with essential questions: Just how effective is the program, known as transitional kindergarten, or TK, and for which children is it most beneficial?

Researchers at the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan think tank, explored an early version of the program in the state in a recent study. Transitional kindergarten has been available for a decade in California, on a more limited basis.

The researchers found the pre-expansion version of transitional kindergarten led to earlier identifications of students with special education needs and those who were growing up learning a language other than English. At the same time, they discovered the program did not appear to improve test results for students in third and fourth grades more than other pre-kindergarten options.

Nonetheless, transitional kindergarten has support among education experts who urged caution against reading too much into the PPIC report.

Major shifts in the program have occurred in the years after the period studied, they noted. It also only involved five large districts in the state and the tests were taken years after the students left transitional kindergarten. Beyond that, childhood development can’t just be measured by test scores alone.

The PPIC authors also said their findings weren’t a sign that the program wasn’t helping students.

Still, the results not only raise some questions about the effectiveness of transitional kindergarten in California but also highlight another concern: Despite pledging to spend several billion dollars to expand the program, the state currently has no plans to formally evaluate its benefits before it becomes available to all 4-year-olds by the 2025-26 school year.

H. Alix Gallagher, director of strategic partnerships for Policy Analysis for California Education, a non-partisan research center, points to other unknowns.

“What do we mean when we say TK? Gallagher asked. “Because it’s not all the same, at all.”

For example, Gallagher added, districts can offer either half or full day instruction and be called transitional kindergarten. The benefits and experiences of each for students might not be the same. And the data collected by the state does not distinguish between those two options.

“We need more information about what kids are getting in TK,” Gallagher said, “in order to understand what program features are effective.”

Sarah Neville-Morgan, a deputy superintendent of public instruction for the California Department of Education, said the research from the PPIC and others helps the department refine and improve. Next year, the agency plans to release standards for transitional kindergarten that will identify skills children can develop while in it.

As for evaluating the program, Neville-Morgan said that is hard to do while it is still being rolled out.

“You actually have to wait until things are stable, fully implemented,” she said, ”to be able to look at true effectiveness.”

Catching up

Research has shown that early childhood education programs benefit students in the classroom and beyond. One study found California students who attended an early version of transitional kindergarten entered kindergarten with stronger math and literacy skills than those who didn’t. Less is known about the program’s longer-term benefits.

Head Start, which is federally funded, and the California State Preschool Program are among other pre-kindergarten options. Like those, transitional kindergarten is not mandatory. It is, however, the only program that will be available and free for all 4-year-olds.

One benefit of funding the program is that it provides access to a preschool option “in every corner of the state,” said Jessica Holmes, a chief deputy executive director with the State Board of Education, in an emailed statement. Elementary or unified school districts must offer transitional kindergarten. “While not every community has a Head Start or State Preschool program, they all have public schools and options to meet their needs.”

Deborah Stipek, an professor emerita at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education, said the program is still developing and may look different once it is fully implemented.

“In a way,” Stipek said, “we created TK and now we’re catching up with all the policies that are needed to make it work effectively.”

The current expansion concerns Bruce Fuller, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Education.

“We don’t have real-time evidence as to whether this spending is really paying off for kids,” Fuller said.

That includes knowing more about how transitional kindergarten compares with other subsidized preschool options.

“Given the scope,” Fuller said, “it’s shocking that the administration is not carefully trying to commission an evaluation to see if there are short-term and immediate-term benefits to 4-year-olds.”

Holmes said the state is reviewing the transitional kindergarten program, and other preschool options, on an ongoing basis.

State education and social services agencies have formed a group of experts to analyze the quality of and access to all of the state’s preschool options, she added, including transitional kindergarten. The group plans to provide recommendations to the Legislature and Governor’s Office by March, Holmes said.

Neville-Morgan, from the education department, said the agency is hoping a long-term study of the program will eventually occur.

“It would have to happen through the budget process,” she said, “and that isn’t something that we have right now.”

In the meantime, E’Leva Gibson, an assistant superintendent for early learning and care at the Sacramento City Unified School District, is looking for more information.

While calling transitional kindergarten a “wonderful thing” Gibson also wants to know how to make it better and how to best measure students’ progress once they leave the program.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee Via Yahoo News

The Intensifying Newsom–DeSantis Rivalry

A 2024 general election between the two of them — as hypothetical as that is — would be a fascinating battle in the nation’s culture wars.

Last Fourth of July weekend, Gavin Newsom ran ads in Florida urging “all of you living in Florida to join the fight. Or join us in California, where we still believe in freedom.”

The rivalry between the governor of California and the governor of Florida, who each have four more years in office, has become increasingly fraught in recent months. Newsom has called Ron DeSantis a “small, pathetic man” for sending migrants to California, which he describes as “kidnapping.” DeSantis has been similarly personal. On the Mark Levin Show, the Florida governor suggested Newsom’s “obsession” with the Sunshine State might stem from the fact that his in-laws “moved from California to Florida during our administration, and they left during his administration.”

A few weeks ago, on Fox News, Sean Hannity asked Newsom if he would agree to a two-hour debate with DeSantis. “Make it three,” Newsom replied. “I would do it one day’s notice with no notes. I look forward to that.”

DeSantis said Newsom should stop “pussyfooting” around and throw his hat in the ring to “challenge Joe.” Newsom insists that he supports Biden entirely and has no intention of running for president.

A 2024 general election between the two of them — as hypothetical as that is — would be a fascinating battle in the nation’s culture wars. Both men are more ideological than either Biden or Trump. And in terms of strategy, Newsom and DeSantis are more similar than they’d like to think.

Consider their handling of corporations when they come under the influence of their political enemies. When Disney, under pressure from LGBT activists, proclaimed its aim to defeat DeSantis’s education-reform bill, the governor moved to strip the corporation of its 56-year-old “independent special district” status. Similarly, when Walgreens, in response to the Dobbs ruling, decided not to dispense the abortion drug mifepristone in certain states, Newsom suspended the state’s multimillion-dollar contract with the company.

“We stand for the protection of our children,” DeSantis said. “We will fight those who seek to rob them of their innocence. And on that point, there will be no compromise.”

Newsom justified his actions in the same terms: “California will not stand by as corporations cave to extremists and cut off critical access to reproductive care and freedom.”

With immigration, DeSantis has gone on the offensive — busing and flying migrants to blue states, including California. Newsom has acted with similar aggression on other culture-war issues. The transgender “sanctuary” bill he signed into law encourages children to come to California from out of state to receive trans drugs and surgeries. And trans isn’t the only tourism on offer. Newsom also funded a billboard campaign in other states, encouraging women to come to California to end their pregnancies. One ad promoting abortion even used a Bible verse.

Both Newsom and DeSantis are generally quick on their feet. Both present themselves as family men. And both have spoken about their faith-based values. DeSantis is a practicing Catholic. Newsom is definitely not, though he has spoken about the important “Jesuit values” he picked up while in college at Santa Clara University.

Their political differences are perhaps most obvious in their contrasting responses to the pandemic. And it’s on this that DeSantis could do serious damage to Newsom in any televised debate. In 2021, a year after Newsom’s first shutdown, masks were still mandated, indoor dining was limited, and schoolchildren were ordered to get the Covid vaccine (which was later walked back) in California. Meanwhile, Florida had no restrictions and banned private employers from mandating Covid vaccines.

According to the February PPIC Statewide Survey, 58 percent of California adults approve of Newsom’s handling of his job. However, it’s not clear that would carry over to the national level. In March, a Quinnipiac University poll of registered California voters found that 70 percent of voters, including 54 percent of Democrats, felt that Newsom shouldn’t run in 2024.

Click here to read the full article in the National Review

Newsom Proposes U.S. 28th Amendment on Gun Control

UC law dean calls the governor’s plan ‘terrible’

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday called for a U.S. constitutional amendment on gun control that would ban assault weapons and mandate background checks and waiting periods for purchasing firearms, a proposal that has little chance of passing in a nation deeply divided on the issue.

For Newsom’s proposed 28th Amendment to be considered, legislatures in two-thirds of the states must vote in favor of a constitutional convention. Republicans currently control more than half of the nation’s state legislatures, some of which have recently taken action to reduce gun restrictions.

Newsom’s announcement is likely to be politically popular among national Democrats and in California, which has some of the toughest gun control restrictions in the nation. It could further the liberal governor’s efforts to expand his political influence on some of the most pivotal and controversial issues facing the country.

The proposal comes after Newsom in March launched a federal political action committee, dubbed the Campaign for Democracy, which he said he created to boost Democrats before the 2024 election and push back on Republican leaders who “ban books,” “kidnap migrants” and “stoke racism.”

Newsom’s proposed amendment on gun restrictions, which he announced Thursday on NBC’s “Today” show, would outlaw the civilian purchase of assault weapons, raise the federal minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, mandate universal background checks for gun purchases and institute a “reasonable waiting” period for all gun purchases.

“The 28th Amendment will enshrine in the Constitution common sense gun safety measures that Democrats, Republicans, independents, and gun owners overwhelmingly support — while leaving the 2nd Amendment unchanged and respecting America’s gun-owning tradition,” Newsom said in a statement Thursday morning.

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the school of law at UC Berkeley, called Newsom’s plan a “terrible idea.”

Under Article V of the U.S. Constitution, an amendment may be proposed by a two-thirds majority vote in both chambers of Congress or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the state legislatures. None of the 27 amendments to the Constitution have been proposed in a constitutional convention under that process.

“To me, what’s really frightening about it is we’ve never had a constitutional convention under that procedure of Article V,” Chemerinsky said.

“No one knows would it be limited to just the 2nd Amendment, or could it do anything? Could they do abortion or rewrite the Constitution? How is it going to be constituted? What are its rules?”

Chemerinsky said calls for constitutional conventions from conservatives have gained traction over the years, including a proposal to mandate a balanced federal budget. He said a balanced budget would devastate social programs, and liberals have argued against it by saying a constitutional convention is unprecedented and dangerous.

By endorsing the process for gun control, Newsom is eroding that argument, he said.

Chemerinksy also made the case that it’s unnecessary. Newsom’s gun control proposals could be carried out by state legislatures or Congress and would not violate the 2nd Amendment, he said. If Congress or lawmakers don’t have the political will to enact the measures through legislation, he said, they won’t do so through a constitutional amendment.

“That’s why I think that Newsom is making a huge mistake in calling for a constitutional convention,” Chemerinsky said. “It’s incredibly unlikely, because I can’t imagine two-thirds of the states calling for this and three-quarters of the states approving changing the 2nd Amendment when you’ve got a majority of states controlled by Republican legislatures, and it’s dangerous to be opening the door to giving credence to the idea of a constitutional convention.”

Newsom’s aides said the governor is calling for a constitutional convention after federal courts struck down several of California’s gun control measures. While rejecting the state’s 30-year ban on assault rifles in 2021, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez compared the AR-15 semiautomatic rifle to a Swiss Army knife and called it “good for both home and battle.”

“If judges are taking radical approaches, the only recourse is to change the actual Constitution,” said Anthony York, a spokesperson for Newsom.

But Chemerinsky pointed out that none of the changes Newsom is proposing have been addressed by the Supreme Court yet.

“So maybe the Supreme Court will say these things violate the 2nd Amendment, but it hasn’t happened yet,” said Chemerinsky, who predicted the high court would at the least continue to allow background checks.

Newsom said he is working with the state’s Democratic-controlled Legislature to make California the first state to call for the constitutional convention.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) did not comment Thursday. Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) commended Sen. Aisha Wahab (D-Hayward), the lawmaker who intends to draft California’s resolution to carry out Newsom’s plan.

The governor intends to travel to other states to make the pitch over the summer, his aides said.

Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher accused Newsom of chasing the national spotlight.

“Newsom’s proposal is a poorly thought out, attention-seeking stunt from a governor desperate to distract from his ever-growing record of failure,” Gallagher tweeted.

Click here to read the full article in LA Times

President Biden Arrives in Southern California

LOS ANGELES – President Joe Biden arrived in Los Angeles Wednesday evening for a two-day stay in Southern California. 

Air Force One landed just before 5 p.m. at LAX. The president was greeted on the tarmac by Sen. Alex Padilla, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and mayoral candidate Rep. Karen Bass.

Prior to visiting LA, the president was in Vail, Colorado, where he gave a speech on protecting and conserving America’s iconic outdoor spaces. 

On Thursday, Biden will visit a construction site on the extension of Metro’s D line and deliver remarks on infrastructure investments in Brentwood

From there, he will then attend a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 

Once done in LABiden will then travel to Orange County on Friday, where he will talk about “lowering costs for American families.”

His journey then continues to Portland, Oregon where he will participate in a grassroots volunteer event with Democrats, the White House said.

Biden was last in Los Angeles in June where he attended Summit of the Americas as well as two Democratic National Committee Fundraisers.

Click here to read the full article on Fox News

Gavin Newsom’s Lithium Valley – Spinning Yet Another Field of Dreams

Technological advances, geopolitical interruptions, and alternative capital choices make this newly forming industry unpredictable

It is no surprise that Governor Newsom’s recent promises of visionary breakthroughs in clean energy in Southern California comes with breathtaking assurances of game-changing technology plus equity for all. Quite a spin of the facts, courtesy of his senior advisor Dee Dee Myers, previously of the Clinton Administration and advisor for the TV show The West Wing.

His February 22 formal statement is chock full of qualifiers: “could be,” “positions the state,” “experts estimate,” and “committed to.” Conveniently, results from this so-called green initiative won’t come due until after he has left office. Accompanying tax credits and earmarking taxpayer dollars to fund investments questionable in their long-term viability aren’t surprising either.

Newsom’s only credible assurance is to include labor standards, which President Biden also emphasized in the video conference highlighting just California’s contribution to the supposed nationwide effort to create a domestic supply chain for critical minerals. Tellingly, the press and public were excluded from discussions with Union guests.

So what’s really happening?

Proponents of mandating unrealistic policies and tight deadlines to fight climate change are finally having to confront the consequences of those sweeping decisions against a backdrop of an unreliable global supply chain impacting our national security.

The foundational elements to build all of these “climate change fighting machines” like wind turbines and EV batteries require literally tons of minerals to be extracted, processed, shaped, shipped, combined, and finally formed into a final product. The original Silicon Valley hardware engineers understood how to apply mind-boggling characteristics of many minerals into the advanced technology we blithely use today. But we have since ceded that expertise.

China now has a commanding chokehold on each of these steps producing the smartphones we hold in our hands, the Teslas zipping around our freeways, and the submarines and air fleet we rely on for national security.

Scrambling for answers, the Biden Administration made a series of federal grants and contracts mostly linked to our defense, not energy. Yet Newsom is re-labelling this transfer of funds from the Federal government to California to position himself as a global leader on climate change. Quite a spin.

The Pentagon intends to stockpile lithium in case of war, as we are woefully dependent on other countries to produce and China to process for us. Fully permitted lithium mines in Nevada are ready to go. Funding a future source in Imperial County on Federal and indigenous lands raises questions about whether this is about urgent stockpiling or political lobbying.

The Pentagon also granted $35 million to MP Materials in San Bernadino County (headquartered in Las Vegas with known ties to China, currently exporting its full output to China for processing) in order to create a HEAVY rare earths processing plant for a product it can’t mine—a significant differentiation. Its touted mines-to-magnet supply chain ends with manufacturing in Texas, not California.

Yes, the Department of Energy approved a small $1.2 million to the US Lawrence Berkeley national Laboratory to lead a joint effort to quantify and characterize lithium resources in the underground geothermal reservoir near the Salton Sea. Yet it granted $14.9 million, added to California’s previous grant of $6 million, to Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway Energy for a demonstration facility to capture these indeterminate battery-grade compounds of lithium. It is unknown if it can scale to deliver on the promises of output in quantity, quality, and cost-justifiability, let alone its environmental impact. Thus far this administration’s EPA and Interior Secretary have shown stunning deference to any requests to delay, reconsider, and halt existing domestic efforts to extract critical minerals, including lithium.

Contrary to quotes in Newsom’s advance press announcement, the local community representative at the White House live event expressed only “cautious optimism,” noting they have basic problems like reliable power, environmental damage, and “unfulfilled promises.”

Technological advances, geopolitical interruptions, and alternative capital choices make this newly forming industry unpredictable. Before California’s lumbering legislative processes and bureaucratic oversight can even begin, it’s likely that lithium-ion batteries may be improved upon, replaced, or deemed irrelevant in a world where India and China embrace fossil fuels, volcanoes explode, and wars occur, impacting the global air despite good intentions.

If Newsom has political capital to spend, perhaps he should lobby to mine the tonnage of copper being blocked in Alaska and Arizona by Biden’s Administration. Without copper, no electrical grid can be built out, no battery charging stations will exist, and we’ll have another taxpayer-funded boondoggle project.

Click here to read the full article at California Globe

Homelessness, Crime Damage Newsom In Poll

The governor’s approval rating falls as a majority of voters say state is heading in the wrong direction.

SACRAMENTO — Less than five months after Californians overwhelmingly rejected a recall effort against Gov. Gavin Newsom, voters are growing more dissatisfied with the governor, and a solid majority believe the state is headed in the wrong direction, according to a new UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.

Concerns about rising crime and California’s seemingly intractable homelessness crisis emerged as the top political undercurrents driving voter dissatisfaction, with most of those surveyed giving Newsom poor marks on how he has handled those issues. Californians praised Newsom’s ability to guide the state through the COVID-19 pandemic, but two-thirds believe the crisis is subsiding, diluting its effect on his overall job approval ratings, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the poll.

“You see a lot of changing going on in the public’s mind. I think they’re focusing less on COVID, more on the other long-standing issues that the state has been facing,” DiCamillo said. “The state has some major issues, and he’s the governor. The buck stops there.”

Newsom’s prospects for reelection in 2022 still appear strong, however, with less than four months to go before the June primary.

Thus far, Newsom’s top challenger is Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle, a seasoned Northern California conservative lacking a statewide political profile. During his nine years in the Legislature, Dahle has never had to raise the tens of millions of dollars necessary to run for governor in a state as vast as California. Newsom already has raked in $25 million for his reelection effort. When announcing his candidacy, Dahle likened the task to “David versus Goliath.”

After the failed Sept. 14 recall election, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer said he would consider running for governor in 2022 and on Monday said he will be announcing his decision soon. The moderate Republican received little support when he ran as a replacement candidate in the recall election.

According to the poll, 48% of registered voters surveyed approved of Newsom’s job as governor, while 47% disapproved — a difference within the survey’s margin of error. That’s down from the 64% approval rating California voters gave Newsom in September 2020 amid the first wave of the pandemic.

More than half of registered voters polled, 54%, believe California is on the wrong track, compared with 36% who believe the state is on the right path, with the remainder expressing no opinion. Voters were evenly split just last May.

While disapproval of Newsom has always been strong among conservatives, the poll found criticism rising slightly — 7 percentage points — among Democrats compared with six months ago, although Democrats still overwhelmingly give Newsom high marks.

Among Californians registered as “no party preference” or with other political parties, 41% approved of Newsom’s job as governor and 51% disapproved.

Majorities of Latino, Black and Asian American/Pacific Islander registered voters approved of Newsom’s job as governor, while a majority of white voters disapproved.

Since September, voter dissatisfaction has risen slightly among white, Latino and Asian American/Pacific Islander voters. Newsom gained support among Black voters during that time.

A spokesman for Newsom’s reelection campaign said the governor has “decisively guided California through historic and unprecedented crises” of the pandemic while taking action to address California’s most entrenched and challenging problems.

“His actions saved lives and provided real help to families as they faced uncertainty,” said spokesman Nathan Click. “He remains 100% focused on providing solutions to California’s most vexing challenges — from the pandemic and climate change to homelessness and public safety.”

Though the Berkeley poll found strong voter support for Newsom’s actions addressing the pandemic and climate change, the biggest danger sign for Newsom is growing voter anger over crime and homelessness, DiCamillo said.

Two out of three registered voters said Newsom is doing a poor or very poor job addressing homelessness, an increase of 12 percentage points from 2020, according to the survey.

On crime and public safety, 51% of voters surveyed said the governor was doing a poor job, up 16 percentage points from 2020.

“There’s a long history of state residents being concerned about crime. It hasn’t been that prominent in recent years, but now appears to be coming back,” DiCamillo said. “That issue has become much more prominent, and Newsom is much more vulnerable.”

Rising crime promises to be a major issue for Republicans in the 2022 election, especially in the races for governor and California attorney general.

Conservatives blame California’s ongoing struggles with crime on policies embraced by Newsom and the Democratic leadership at the state Capitol for decades.

That includes Democratic support for Proposition 47, the 2014 voter-approved ballot measure that reclassified some felony drug and theft offenses as misdemeanors, and Proposition 57, a parole overhaul measure ratified in 2016. This year, the Newsom administration expanded good-behavior credits permitted under Proposition 57, allowing an additional 76,000 prisoners to qualify for early release.

The Berkeley poll found that most voters want to see changes to Proposition 47.

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

California Throws More Money at COVID-19 Contact Tracing, But Is It Too Late?

One expert says that because omicron spreads so quickly, the millions spent on contact tracing could be better spent on more effective masks and more testing

Intensive contact tracing has helped contain COVID-19 outbreaks in some Asian countries. People test positive, they quarantine, and the folks they’ve had contact with are tracked down and asked to — or, in some nations, forced to — quarantine as well.

The U.S. has spent billions on contact tracing, and California alone will have spent $300 million on it through the next fiscal year. But researchers have found that 2 of 3 people with confirmed COVID-19 in the U.S. were either not reached or wouldn’t name contacts when interviewed, and public health authorities haven’t been able to monitor enough cases to stem the tide.

Now, as the pandemic enters its third year, the highly contagious omicron variant spreads like fire through dry grass. The incubation period can be as short as two days. The Centers for Disease Control recommends isolation for as little as five days. More people are testing at home — cases authorities don’t even count in their tallies — and some officials are throwing their hands up and suspending contact tracing.

“(T)he sheer speed of omicron’s transmission means people are exposed, infected and then contagious before the local health department can even identify an outbreak, much less get word to those who are exposed,” said officials in Oregon’s Multnomah County. “Because of that dynamic, contact tracing has become much less effective at lowering COVID-19’s risk, especially when cases are surging so high and when spending time in any indoor public space is essentially considered an exposure for anyone who isn’t up-to-date on their vaccines.”

Financial commitment waning

The financial commitment to contact tracing in California appears to be waning, but remains. The governor’s proposed budget shows that $258.3 million was spent on contact tracing over the first two years of the pandemic, with another $38.9 million going forward through the end of the next fiscal year.

The current and future spending breaks down to a projected $20.6 million this fiscal year, and $18.3 million next fiscal year, said Sonja Petek, principal fiscal and policy analyst for the Legislative Analyst’s Office.

“Contact tracing remains one of our many key tools in responding to the spread of COVID-19,” said a statement from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s press office. “It’s also an important measure utilized in high-risk and congregate settings. Contact tracing assists with notifying exposed people for possible post-exposure treatment, testing, and quarantine in a timely manner.”

Overall, Newsom’s budget proposes $110 million to increase public health and humanitarian efforts at the California-Mexico border — including vaccinations, testing, isolation and quarantine services — “and expanded statewide contact tracing activities to help keep Californians safe and slow the spread.”

Currently, 268 state employees have been redirected to contact tracing efforts, the governor’s press office said. But experts aren’t sure the investment will bring great returns — at least not right now.

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

Newsom Budget: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

The governor’s budget is a tale of the good, the bad and the ugly. We won’t see a real state budget until it emerges from the smoke-filled backroom following the May revise, but that didn’t stop Gov. Gavin Newsom from gleefully announcing to reporters how he would like to spend the windfall of other people’s money in a 400-page “summary” presented last week.

Here’s the good, the bad and the ugly of his proposal.

The Good.

The governor’s budget puts more money into the reserve accounts, accelerates the paydown of state retirement liabilities, eliminates some budgetary debt, and allocates 86 percent of the discretionary surplus to one-time spending rather than ongoing liabilities that has so often happened in past years.

That’s good because the good times won’t go on forever. While the budget projects healthy returns for the next couple of years, it notes that “[s]tructural (non-pandemic) downside risks to the forecast remain, including the challenges of an aging population, declining migration flows, lower fertility rates, higher housing and living costs, increasing inequality, and stock market volatility.”

That’s important because the top 1% of California taxpayers pay more than 50% of the state’s income tax revenues. The state is currently riding high on the wealthy’s stock market gains, but as the Federal Reserve starts raising interest rates, the party could be coming to an end, and soon.

The Bad.

The bad is that an already bloated bureaucracy is getting even more bloated. Under the requirements of Proposition 98, increases in spending for public schools and community colleges will be dramatic and, as has been much talked about in these pages recently, California’s public schools aren’t hurting for cash as it is.

According to the federal government’s National Center for Education Statistics, in inflation-adjusted constant dollars, per-pupil spending in California for public elementary and secondary schools in 2017-18, the most recent year for which statistics are available, was $13,129, the highest ever.

Under the governor’s budget, schools would see more than $20,000 per student, putting California in the top five of states in education spending – with little to show for it.

Even worse is the fact that there is little in the budget to address waste, fraud and abuse generally, not just in education. There is nothing to prevent another fiasco like we saw with the $20 billion in fraudulent claims paid by the Employment Development Department; still no accountability with the bullet train project and, in fact, the boondoggle is getting billions more.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register