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BY Sameea Kamal March 7, 2023
Presented by CalBroadband and Elected Officials to Protect America

Newsom vs Walgreens on abortion: Where California goes from here

Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, Gov. Gavin Newsom has sought to make California a sanctuary state for those seeking abortions.  He just threw yet another pebble in that pond – but it’s unclear how long and far it’ll ripple. 

Newsom tweeted Monday that California won’t be doing business with Walgreens, “or any company that cowers to the extremists and puts women’s lives at risk.” 

The governor’s move followed the drug store chain’s announcement last week that it will not distribute the medication mifepristone, used for abortions and miscarriages, in the 20 states where abortion is banned or severely limited. Walgreens’ move followed a February 1 letter from GOP attorneys general warning retail pharmacies of legal consequences if they sold the pills.

But Newsom’s tweet took health plans across the state by surprise and raised questions about the consequences, report CalMatters’ Kristen Hwang and Ana B. Ibarra.

The governor’s office said it was “reviewing all relationships” between Walgreens and the state, but did not provide further specifics. 

  • Brandon Richards, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, said Monday: “We will not pursue business with companies that cave to right wing bullies pushing their extremist agenda or companies that put politics above the health of women and girls.”

Following the governor’s tweet,  Walgreens’ stock price dropped nearly 2%. 

The company operates close to 600 stores in California, about 10% of the state’s pharmacy market, and is a key prescription provider for Medi-Cal insurers. 

  • A Walgreens spokesperson said: “From the outset, we have made our intentions clear to become a certified pharmacy to distribute Mifepristone wherever legally possible to do so.”

Newsom’s move also raised questions about whether Walgreens would be excluded from distributing the state’s generic insulin. And Blue Shield of California has a partnership with the company to make its pharmaceutical and preventive health care benefits more accessible.

From CalMatters politics reporter Alexei Koseff:

In other news from the governor’s office: Speeches are so last year.

Breaking with decades of tradition, Newsom will forgo a formal State of the State address in Sacramento and instead embark on a multi-day tour of California next week to unveil his policy agenda for the year, according to his office.

Rather than the usual remarks before elected leaders at the Capitol, Newsom plans to subsequently submit to the Legislature a letter summarizing his announcements from the tour, which is scheduled for March 16-19. The governor’s office declined to provide a detailed itinerary.

  • Anthony York, Newsom’s senior advisor for communications and strategy, in a statement: “Building on his inaugural address and January budget, the Governor looks forward to fulfilling his constitutional obligation to update the Legislature on the state of the state — and joining lawmakers across California to outline transformative policy proposals that will strengthen our communities.”

The State of the State address developed from a requirement in the California Constitution that “the Governor shall report to the Legislature each calendar year on the condition of the State and may make recommendations.”

For a long time, this was accomplished through a written report, according to Alex Vassar, communications manager for the California State Library. Then in the 1940s, news reports indicate that then-Gov. Earl Warren began accompanying the report with a speech.

Depending on the governor, the State of the State address has been a high-profile platform to launch major new endeavors or a bothersome afterthought. Sometimes both.

Newsom’s first two State of the State addresses, in the Assembly chamber, featured pronouncements about the high-speed rail and homelessness.  Then he went even bigger, delivering slickly produced remarks from Dodger Stadium that served as the kickoff to his recall defense campaign. Last year, he spoke for an uncharacteristically brief 18 minutes in the auditorium of the state natural resources agency headquarters.

Former Gov. Gray Davis praised Newsom for taking his message out of the Capitol and directly to Californians. With technology changing how citizens engage with their government and people less likely to tune in for a speech, Davis added, the tour gives Newsom a better opportunity to connect with his constituents — as long as he listens as much as he speaks.

  • Davis: “Bringing the dialogue to communities up and down the state is wise. It engages the communities.”
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1 Bigger budget woes

The state Capitol in Sacramento on July 6, 2022. Photo by Rahul Lal, CalMatters

The latest numbers confirm what many, including the Legislative Analyst’s Office, predicted: California’s revenues will be lower than expected. 

February’s personal and corporate income taxes fell $1.2 billion below the administration’s January budget projection.

The shortfall was driven largely by layoffs in the tech and finance sectors — despite an otherwise strong labor market — and the collapse of the IPO market last year.

Scott Graves, director of research at the California Budget and Policy Center, said the latest numbers mean policymakers may end up having to look at solutions that the governor didn’t propose in January: 

  • Graves: “We may see a situation in May or June that they decide, we actually need to dip into the reserves to help bring the budget into balance without making deep cuts to public services.” 

Another option is to raise revenues, including by trimming corporate tax breaks. 

A special challenge during the budgeting process will be working off of numbers that remain uncertain due to the federal and state extensions of the tax filing deadline to October 16. 

“They’ll be making some assumptions with really incomplete info about how revenue comes in later in the year,” Graves said. “So we may see some corrections down the road.” 

2 Disability rights: A new precedent?

Accessibility signs at the entrances of a business in Chinatown in San Francisco on Feb. 18, 2023. A recent court ruling has paved the way for more lawsuits to be filed related to ADA violations in California. However, some believe these complaints are targeting immigrant communities. Photo by Shelby Knowles for CalMatters

California has had more than 30,000 federal disability rights lawsuits filed in the last decade, far outpacing the rest of the country. 

In large part, that’s because state law allows plaintiffs to be compensated -– beginning at $4,000. In most other states, any awards won in federal disability rights cases can only be used to pay legal fees.

Some ‘serial litigators’ say it’s not about the money. It’s about disability rights, reports CalMatters’ Nigel Duara. Chris Langer has filed more than 2,000 disability access claims over the past decade – and one of those cases before a federal appeals court could set a new precedent.

  • Dennis Price, Langer’s attorney: “There’s no three-letter agency that’s going around and enforcing these laws. What my clients are doing is basic code enforcement, and that’s what California law specifically encourages.” 

In the town of Julian, for instance, lawsuits led to “wider doors, lower counters, repaved parking lots, more disabled parking and signs, signs, signs.”

But some business owners push back, saying the lawsuits exploit the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Business owners with a direct interest in the Langer case, in a friend-of-the-court brief: “Make no mistake, these ADA lawsuits are not about promoting the ideals of the ADA, but rather, they are about the illegitimate transfer of wealth from historically marginalized communities and into the pockets of ADA plaintiff’s lawyers.” 

And others say the lawsuits could impact store owners with lower profits who feel forced to settle because they may not speak the language or understand the legal system.

3 More ire from housing mandates

Montecito, California. Image via iStock

If the state achieves its goal of building more houses, it’s going to require participation from neighborhoods throughout the state.

But that’s easier said than done. Take the wealthy enclave in Montecito, an unincorporated area neighboring Santa Barbara, where the county’s planning director previously said there were no housing sites that meet the state’s requirements.

That meant other cities and neighborhoods would need to pick up the slack — drawing some ire from the nearby city of Goleta.

Before the battle between the neighborhoods heated up further, the county told news site Noozhawk that at least one site is now on the table. 

  • Lisa Plowman, the county’s director of planning and development:  “Since we released the draft document we have been contacted by an employer in Montecito that is interested in building employee housing on their site.” 

Some in Goleta pointed out that a mandate applying to only some communities was exclusionary.

  • Said Goleta City Councilmember James Kyriaco: “I’m glad to see that a community conversation about the need for all our communities to participate in addressing our regional housing challenges is leading to new progress in Montecito.”

In other housing news: Various state and local laws implemented during the pandemic protected tenants across California from being evicted. Now that most of those moratoriums have ended, we have a clearer picture of their impact.

After declining steadily over the past decade, the number of eviction filings plunged at the beginning of the pandemic to approximately 30% of filings in fiscal year 2018, according to the Public Policy Institute of California.

In fiscal year 2019, there were about 129,000 eviction filings, compared to about 92,000 in 2020 and 35,000 in 2021.

Now the courts are likely to see a significant uptick in eviction filings. A February 2023 Census Household Pulse Survey found more than one in three Californians who fell behind on rent think it’s at least somewhat likely that they will have to leave their home in the next two months due to an eviction.

  • The institute’s Joseph Herrera and Jennifer Paluch: “ An increase in evictions could increase California’s homeless population and catalyze emigration away from the state.”

For the record: This item has been updated to say that the recent Census Household Pulse Survey found that more than one in three Californians who fell behind on rent think it’s at least somewhat likely that they will have to leave their home in the next two months due to an eviction. Yesterday’s newsletter attributed the concern to a third of all Californians, based on a PPIC blog post that has since been corrected.

CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: In 2015 and 2017, the Legislature reformed how tax and bond measures are presented to voters, but there’s now an effort to undo many of those reforms.

Other things worth your time


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Children of couple killed in Sacramento police pursuit file wrongful death lawsuit // Sacramento Bee 

Oakland ransomware hackers dumped gigabytes of sensitive city files on the web // Oaklandside

After an investigation, not everyone’s ready to welcome billionaire T. Denny Sanford back to philanthropy circles // Voice of San Diego

Nabokov, Naipaul … and Narcan? Kern Libraries’ naloxone program still going strong // Bakersfield Californian

We found 95 instances of plagiarism in a USC scientist’s new book. Sales have been suspended // Los Angeles Times

Assemblymember wants greater penalties for ghost guns // Orange County Register

‘Started to get a little stressful’: Woman gives birth at snowed-in Lake Arrowhead home // NBC LA

Californians still digging out from severe snowfall // KTLA

Thousands are still out of power in Nevada County // KCRA

At Elon Musk’s ‘brittle’ Twitter, tweaks trigger massive outages // Washington Post

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Tips, insight or feedback? Email sameea@calmatters.org.

Follow me on Twitter: @sameeakamal

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