Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

Clean car battle + Likely 2020 voters + Newsom’s vaccine misstep

Happy Wednesday, alerters! We’re nearly halfway to the weekend. Let’s get to it.


The next California vs. Trump lawsuit could center on a regulatory power the state claimed 52 years to clean the smog out of Los Angeles’ skies.

The White House indicated on Tuesday that it would revoke California’s legal authority to set its own clean air standards by Wednesday, attempting to end an authority used by the California Air Resources Board since 1967.

Trump’s ire reportedly stems from a climate change pact California struck with four automakers earlier this summer committing them to aggressive targets for reductions in vehicle emissions. The deal gives Ford, Honda, BMW and Volkswagen until 2026 to bring their fleets up to higher mileage standards.

Both Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Xavier Becerra said the state would duke it out with the Trump administration to preserve the voluntary clean car agreement and protect the Air Resouces Board’s power.

“California won’t ever wait for permission from Washington to protect the health and safety of children and families,” Newsom responded. “California, global markets, and Mother Nature will prevail.”

“You have no basis and no authority to pull this waiver,” Becerra said. “We’re ready to fight for a future that you seem unable to comprehend; we’ll see you in court if you stand in our way.”


The Golden State has found itself in a unique position to influence the 2020 election by moving its primary date up to March of next year. But that doesn’t mean eligible voters are likely to flood voting centers.

Instead, according to Public Policy Institute of California President Mark Baldassare, “only about half of California’s approximately 31 million adults will vote in the November 2020 general election, and far fewer will cast ballots in the March 2020 primary.”

Baldassare’s conclusion is based on an analysis of nearly 15,200 California adults surveyed by PPIC.

The report found:

  • 5 million adults are not eligible to vote
  • 5 million more are eligible, but not registered
  • 7 million eligible voters didn’t cast a ballot last November

The numbers could certainly be disappointing for state leaders who pushed for a March primary, especially because voter turnout was notably so high last year following a lack of enthusiasm among voters in 2016.

On top of the ineligible and non-registered voters, Baldassare notes, the California electorate is not representative of the state’s residents.

“Voters in California tend to be white, affluent, college educated and homeowners,” he explains in an opening statement for an institute event. “Nonvoters are more likely to be younger, Latino, renters, lower income, less educated and to self-identify as the ‘have nots’ in society. While some gaps have narrowed, a wide gulf remains between voters and nonvoters.”


It’s been more than a week since Newsom signed two vaccine crackdown bills that seemingly consumed the Capitol all session, but the controversy surrounding the path to earn his signature still has its ripple effects.

“A measure to regulate vaccine exemptions had just passed the state Assembly when the governor threw lawmakers a curveball,” Capitol bureau reporter Sophia Bollag writes.

“The bill needed more changes, his office said in a tweet, ‘so medical providers, parents and public health officials can be certain of the rules of the road once the bill becomes law.’

The problem? Newsom had previously said he would sign the bill, and it was too late to amend it without a separate piece of legislation.”

The last-second switch confused Democratic leadership and state Sen. Richard Pan, the Sacramento Democrat who wrote the bill.

“We were surprised at the late tweet,” Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon told The Sacramento Bee early Saturday morning after the Legislature adjourned for the year. “It was something that we hadn’t seen coming.”

And that communication misstep is what might distract voters from Newsom’s other first-year accomplishments, according to political science experts.

The governor signed off on one of the strictest police use-of-force laws in the country. He’s supported legislation to classify independent contractors as employees. He wanted a strict renter protection bill, and got it.

Voters will remember those efforts, said Wesley Hussey, a political science professor at California State University Sacramento.

But Capitol lawmakers have a memory, too.

“I think governors have to learn that through doing,” Hussey said. “He has to learn he can’t do things like that, particularly not with a tweet.”


Best of The Bee:

  • California wants you to build a ‘granny flat’ in your garage or backyard. Here’s why by Tony Bizjak
  • Trump administration threatens jail time for California officials over river project by Dale Kasler and Ryan Sabalow
  • White House says it knows how to cut San Francisco’s homeless population in half by Michael Wilner and Bryan Anderson
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.