Capitol Alert

Addressing mental health + Digging into Newsom’s first budget + PG&E woes


Gov. Gavin Newsom made lots of news when he presented his first budget last week, from suggesting a drinking water tax to tackling homelessness and housing costs. But here’s one plan that may have flown under the radar: Student mental health.

In his budget, Newsom proposes $5.3 million in ongoing funds to help colleges in the University of California system add more counselors. This proposal is similar to a bill former Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed last year.

Senate Bill 968, which unanimously cleared the Legislature, would have required UC and CSU campuses to have one full-time counselor for every 1,500 students — the recommended ratio, according to the International Association of Counseling Services.

State Sen. Richard Pan, D-Sacramento, introduced the bill and said Newsom’s budget item indicates the governor “has made mental health a priority.” Still, Pan wished Newsom included money for community colleges and CSU campuses to hire mental health professionals.

Newsom’s budget team says UC has yet to hire 15 more counselors and three psychiatrists. “The funds will be used to support UC’s efforts to hire additional clinicians and improve access to student mental health services, despite enrollment growth outpacing the UC’s assumptions in its five-year plan for the student mental health initiative.”

Pan is reviewing options, including whether to re-introduce his bill in the coming months.

“When someone has untreated mental health issues and they can’t complete their schoolwork and perform worse, that’s a tremendous loss not only to the individual but to the state of California,” Pan said. “It’s ultimately about trying to get students access (to mental health care). I view this as an investment.”

Outside of universities, Newsom’s budget puts tens of millions of dollars into mental health programs. The biggest mental health item is $100 million for so-called “whole person care” programs that address housing and mental health needs for homeless Californians.

Other items include $50 million to support on-the-job training for mental health workers, $35 million for law enforcement training that focuses on deescalating crises and $25 million in grants for projects that would help identify young people who appear to be at risk of experiencing psychosis.


Newsom’s budget is filled with many interesting proposals. Here’s a few of them:

  • *$50 million to increase California’s participation in the 2020 Census
  • $5.5 million to improve literacy within the state’s prison population
  • $3 million for Alzheimer’s research on an ongoing basis. It also supports the launch of a new “Governor’s Task Force on Brain Health
  • $2.5 million to expand a tattoo removal program for adults in jail
  • $1 million one-time for libraries to create summer meal programs for students in poor communities

*Note: Shortly after Newsom unveiled his budget, California Secretary of State Alex Padilla praised him for the added Census money. He said in a statement, “At a time when the 2020 Census has been put in grave danger by the Trump Administration, California is stepping up. An undercount in the 2020 Census jeopardizes billions of dollars of federal funding, as well as California’s political representation.”


PG&E’s stock tumbled on Monday, after the company announced its plans to file for bankruptcy. By the time the markets closed, PG&E stock price dropped to $8.38 — a decrease of more than 52 percent from $17.59. PG&E will submit bankruptcy paperwork on Jan. 29, the company said in a statement. “The Company does not expect any impact to electric or natural gas service for its customers as a result of the Chapter 11 process.”

In light of the news, Newsom held a press conference in the late afternoon where he said the lights won’t go out. “All of the options are on the table,” he said.


I wanted to offer a couple quick notes on last week’s podcast. At Minute 15, there is a technical error that lasts about two minutes. The inaudible portion of Adam Schiff’s interview will re-air at the end of our next episode, which is scheduled for Jan. 24. Apologies for the error, thanks to the listeners who caught it.

Also, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon and Senate leader Toni Atkins were interviewed on Dec. 3 and Dec. 4, respectively. The airing of those interviews was pushed back to Jan. 10 due to the holidays and other news developments in mid-December.


House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (@GOPLeader) — “Let me be clear––Rep. King’s language is reckless, wrong, and has no place in society. As @HouseGOP leader I will not let this stand. Action will be taken.”

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