Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

Amended vaccine bill faces next hearing + What’s CSU doing with $3.7 billion? + Trump’s clean energy rollbacks

Happy Thursday California! Three weeks until Summer Recess. Lots to get done between now and then!

The Senate and Assembly both gavel in at 9 a.m.


Get your head outta the gutter, not that kinda shot.

Today the Assembly Health Committee is scheduled to hear Senate Bill 276, the newly amended vaccine measure that’s kicked up controversy over the last three months.

TLDR ⁠— California doctors are issuing “fraudulent” medical exemptions, according to state Sen. Richard Pan, a Sacramento Democrat who wrote the bill. Overall vaccination rates in California schools are above 95 percent, the threshold necessary to maintain “community immunity” against preventable diseases. But 20 percent of schools across the state don’t maintain that rate, and medical exemptions among kindergarteners surged from 0.2 percent to 0.9 percent in recent years.

But after Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed skepticism over tenets of the bill ⁠— namely that government bureaucrats would have control over who gets exemptions — Pan loosened some of its stricter elements.

The Department of Public Health will still check the California Immunization Registry to monitor which schools are not hitting that 95 percent rate, and they’ll flag doctors who are signing off on more than five exemptions per year. Public health officials can still deny or revoke exemptions that do not fall under a handful of nationally accredited guidelines.

But parents will have the chance to appeal the decision, and a panel of doctors organized by the California Department of Health and Human Services will review the exemptions for a final recommendation.

Those changes earned the support of Newsom, who said he’d sign the bill in its current form. Some of the once-hesitant Democrats on today’s committee also told me they’ll vote for the changed proposal, though the opposition’s lobbyists were still talking with staffers about additional amendments on Wednesday.

“We cannot ignore the evidence that the medical exemption is being exploited,” said Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda. “I was concerned that SB 276 in its original form did not include all legitimate medical and science-based reasons, such as family medical history, for a medical exemption. Senator Pan’s recent amendments remedy this concern.”

Educate.Advocate and Advocates for Physicians’ Rights are two organizations that still oppose the bill, and they’ll likely have a few Republican allies during today’s hearing.

“The concept of informed consent is a core tenet of medical ethics,” said Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, R-San Diego. “Whether to vaccinate a child is a decision that should be made between parents and their family doctors. Physicians who know their patients, not unaccountable bureaucrats in Sacramento, should be the ones to determine if a child is able to safely receive a vaccine.”

The hearing will begin following the adjournment of session in room 4202.


What’s California State University doing with accounts carrying $3.7 billion held outside of the state Treasury?

Today California State Auditor Elaine M. Howle is scheduled to release the findings of an audit that looked into the accounts. The CSU Employees Union argues that more than half of these funds are being diverted as surplus dollars rather than academic needs.

The audit was originally requested last year by Assemblywoman Sharon Quirk-Silva, D-Fullerton.

Per Quirk-Silva’s request, the audit covered how the system is handling its parking program at its Channel Islands, Fullerton, Sacramento and San Diego campuses, as well as investigating whether the outside accounts are susceptible to abuse.

The Bee’s education reporter Sawsan Morrar will have updates for you after the audit is released.


President Donald Trump’s administration rolled back yet another of former President Barack Obama’s environmental regulations yesterday. This time, the Environmental Protection Agency shredded the Clean Power Plan, a 2014 proposal to regulate carbon pollution from power plants.

The agency announced on Wednesday that it will now allow states to determine how much they want to scale back emissions, according to The New York Times.

California v. Trump, again?

“California and a coalition of states will initiate a legal challenge against the Trump administration’s continued attempts to prop up the coal industry by ignoring sensible efforts to use cleaner, healthier and more efficient energy sources,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said.

“President Trump’s Dirty Power Plan is more than just disgraceful and immoral, it is unlawful,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra echoed. “While the Trump Administration might lack the necessary courage, we’re prepared to confront the climate crisis head-on.”

For your radar ⁠— Gov. Newsom announced that a special election for the 1st Assembly District will be held on Nov. 5, 2019, with the primary scheduled for Aug. 27, 2019.

The position was vacated by now state Sen. Brian Dahle, R-Bieber, who won the chamber seat in a special election earlier this month.


June 19 — First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom (belated)

June 22 — Assemblyman Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica


When is Newsom’s bunny going to get a Twitter account?

Best of The Bee:

Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.