Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

Increasing ballot box access + Newsom’s promises + earthquake warnings

It’s Thursday, alerters! Which means I’m signing off until Monday as I head to Houston to stand next to my childhood best friend as maid of honor at her wedding this weekend.

See you next week!


Uncle Gavin wants YOU to vote.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed into law a slate of bills aimed at expanding voter access to the ballot box, enticing more civic engagement and improving election transparency and accountability.

“Voting is the foundation of our democracy,” Newsom said in prepared remarks. “It is critical that we expand access to the ballot box for all eligible voters, while strengthening the integrity of our elections.”

Extra time:

  • Assembly Bill 49, sponsored by Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Riverside, requires county elections officials to mail out ballots no later than 29 days before Election Day.
  • Assembly Bill 1707, sponsored by Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, allows voters to use electronic devices at their polling place, lifting a previous restriction that had been in place.
  • Senate Bill 72, sponsored by Sen. Thomas Umberg, D-Santa Ana, requires county election officials to provide conditional voter registration and provisional voting at all satellite offices and polling places.
  • Senate Bill 523, sponsored by Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, gives voters more time to correct their signatures in the event of a mismatched signature.

Boosting student participation:

  • Assembly Bill 59, sponsored by Assemblyman Ash Kalra, D-San Jose, allows college and university buildings to be used as polling places or vote centers, and also requires county election officials to consider placing a vote center on a university or college campus.
  • Assembly Bill 963, sponsored by Assemblywoman Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Laguna Beach, requires all California Community Colleges and California State Universities to provide students with election dates and information and to designate a “Civic and Voter Empowerment Coordinator.”

Campaign transparency:

  • Senate Bill 47, sponsored by Sen. Ben Allen, D-Santa Monica, requires ballot initiative signature collectors to disclose the top three funders of the committee organizing the campaign.
  • Assembly Bill 201, sponsored by Assemblywoman Sabrina Cervantes, D-Riverside, requires campaign text messages supporting or opposing a candidate contain a disclosure of who paid for them.
  • Senate Bill 71, sponsored by Sen. Connie Leyva, D-Chino, prevents candidates and elected officials from using campaign or legal defense funds to pay settlements or judgments in cases of sexual assault, abuse or harassment.

Local elections:

  • Assembly Bill 571, sponsored by Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, D-South San Francisco, establishes campaign contribution limits, while allowing local governments to also set their own limits.
  • Senate Bill 359, sponsored by Sen. John Moorlach, R-Costa Mesa, allows municipal referendum petitions to contain “an impartial summary” rather than the full text of the ordinance.
  • Senate Bill 681, sponsored by Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, allows the proponent of a local referendum or charter amendment initiative to withdraw the measure before the election.


Capitol Bureau reporter Sophia Bollag has updated The Bee’s “Newsom’s Promises” tracker, our way to keep tabs on what the governor’s following through on and what’s falling flat.

“From phasing out private prisons to signing a new cap on rent increases, Newsom used his first year in office to make progress on many of the promises he made while campaigning for the job,” Bollag writes.

But he’s still “far from achieving many of his long-term goals.”

Among them is an ambition to build 3.5 million new homes and creating half a million apprenticeships to boost California’s workforce.

He’s also failed to appoint a cabinet secretary on homelessness, a post he promised to fill.

Check out the latest updates to Newsom’s top 10 promises, which range from extending gun control measures to limiting wildfire damage.


State officials are scheduled to announce a new earthquake alert system Thursday morning at the Bay Bridge, which partially collapsed during the deadly 1989 quake.

The project is a result of a multi-year effort to advance the ShakeAlert system, a UC Berkeley and United States Geological Survey collaboration.

The effort marks the first time Californians can receive earthquake alerts through their phones. The announcement arrives several months after two big earthquakes originated in Ridgecrest, prompting Newsom to declare a state of emergency. Smaller earthquakes have also rattled Bay Area residents in recent days.

Californians who live right above the epicenter of an earthquake aren’t likely to receive much warning in advance, said Richard Allen, director of the UC Berkeley Seismological Laboratory. Those who are warned will have a short amount of time to move away from windows and brace themselves.


October 19 — California State Controller Betty T. Yee


Best of The Bee:

  • California prison agency spent $12,000 on retiring manager’s farewell party, records show by Wes Venteicher
  • How a handful of vetoes disappointed Gavin Newsom’s liberal California backers by Andrew Sheeler
  • Called ‘greedy’ by Gavin Newsom and others, PG&E defends mass shutoff as ‘right call’ by Michael McGough
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.