Seeing as this weekend marks the annual autumnal equinox, let’s look at a few policy and political storylines in California for the fall season ahead.
That would include:
Bill Signing in Sacramento. Given last week’s deadline for passing bills out of the California state legislature, the focus turns to Governor Gavin Newsom’s decisions on what all arrived in his office (under Golden State law, a California governor has thirty days to either sign or veto legislation; otherwise the bills automatically become laws).
So what to expect from Newsom?
First, look for those opportunities when the governor can “flex”—i.e., boast about California’s doing something no other state has. One such example: Assembly Bill 418, which bans the sale of food and drink in California containing red dye no. 3, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil, or propylparaben beginning in 2027 (If Newsom signs the bill, California becomes the first US state to ban food additives approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.)
Odds are, that won’t be Newsom’s lone “pioneer” moment in October. Senate Bill 253 would force large companies doing business in the Golden State to disclose how much carbon dioxide pollution they create—the first mandate of its kind in the nation. In case there’s any doubt as to Newsom’s intentions, he’s already told reporters that he’ll sign the measure (rarely does a California governor tip his hand in advance of actually signing the bill).
Then there are those measures that may put the governor in a bind as he weighs policy and political benefits and liabilities.
One such example: Assembly Bill 28, which imposes an 11% excise tax on retailers and manufacturers of guns and ammunition. Why would this put Newsom in a bind? On the one hand, few governors are as vocal as Newsom when it comes to the presence of guns in American society (that includes his quest for a constitutional amendment to restrict gun ownership). On the other hand, Newsom is not always in sync with the legislature’s seemingly insatiable appetite for higher taxes.
Likewise a hot potato for Newsom: Senate Bill 799, which would allow workers to collect unemployment benefits after being on strike for two weeks. Why the consternation? Because Newsom understands that California’s Unemployment Insurance fund already is more than $18 billion in debt; thus the sensible fiscal policy isn’t to make it more tempting for unions to stage walkouts across the Golden State. And there’s a political consideration: does Newsom want to take sides in the present Hollywood impasse between studios and writers and actors (Newsom having offered to broker a deal but otherwise not signalling that he has a dog in the hunt)?
Finally, it wouldn’t be the bill-signing season without California’s governor addressing a measure that could make the Golden State the butt of late-night TV humor (well, that is if the Hollywood strike ever ends). This year’s candidate: Senate Bill 58, which decriminalizes the possession and personal use of a range of hallucinogens—such as psilocybin, psilocyn, DMT, and mescaline—the magic in “magic mushrooms.”
Yes, there’s a serious side to the matter: some military veterans claim that psychotropics help with their overcoming trauma; law enforcement doesn’t relish the notion of Californians finding a new way to drive under the influence.
But again, the giggle factor that pop culture will find hard to resist: for example, is this good news for Prince Harry?
The “Circular Firing Squad” Reconvenes. That “squad”: California’s Republican Party, which holds its three-day fall convention in Anaheim at the month’s end (a gathering that commences two days after the GOP presidential candidate debate at the Reagan Presidential Library & Museum in Simi Valley).
What’s telling about this Republican convention?
First, it underscores the national party’s struggles to find consensus on polarizing cultural issues, with convention attendees expected to bicker over a draft platform that drops the party’s opposition to same-sex marriage and lightly touches on reproductive rights by suggesting “adoption as an alternative to abortion.”
Second, it could highlight the complicated nature of President Biden’s impeachment inquiry—“complicated” in that what’s red meat for red-state conservatives maybe doesn’t play as well in “split” districts that chose Biden and a GOP congressman in 2020’s national election. There are 18 such districts nationwide, including five in California that Democrats will attempt to flip next year.
Finally, there’s the question of Donald Trump and his disruptive brand of pandemonium (the former president likely won’t be at the Reagan Library debate, but he is scheduled to speak in Anaheim). Back in April 2016, at the California GOP’s spring convention, the confluence of Trump and frenzied protestors (setting fire to an American flag and a Trump piñata) forced the candidate to cross a freeway and squeeze through a fence in order to reach the convention’s hotel.
One wonders what Trump can do for an encore this time around.
“Stressed by Mother Nature”? That’s from a quote by the late Montana senator Max Baucus (“a lot of America is stressed by Mother Nature”), who also advised: “Life has many twists and turns.”
Those “twists and turns” California hopes to avoid this fall: catastrophic natural disasters.
In California, an unusually wet winter has prompted a relatively low-key fire season—so far, no major conflagrations dominating state news as they have in recent years (indeed, the biggest fire-related story of late might be the climate scientist who denounced his own research, claiming that a paper he published on the likelihood of wildfire growth in California focused too narrowly on climate change).
Sadly, the months of September and October are well represented in lists of the largest and deadliest California wildfires. As for yet another category of disaster synonymous with California—earthquakes—next month marks 34 years since the Loma Prieta quake struck the San Francisco Bay Area, causing an estimated $10 billion in damage and business interruption and suspending that year’s World Series between two Northern California teams.
While there won’t be another all-California World Series this fall, let’s hope that California’s big-city, big-quake drought (Los Angeles spared any calamitous temblor since 1994) continues.
USC: Utterly Scrambled California. While we’re on the topic of sports, this fall in California marks the last football season of the Pac-12 Conference and the end of gridiron rivalries between California public and private universities dating back well over a century.
If one wants to make sense of a college sports world uprooted by changes to its transfer and monetization rules, plus the chase for television money, look no further than the University of Southern California.
Why single out to Trojans? Because they went out and paid a king’s ransom for a new coach, who promptly rebuilt his squad with over two dozen transfers, one of whom won the coveted Heisman Trophy (if you’re watching any college games this weekend, he’s the young man in the scarlet-and-gold jersey peddling fast food and soft drinks).
At some point, an entire book may be devoted to the demise of traditional West Coast college football. If so, will USC come across as one of the villains? By being one of two Los Angeles schools (UCLA is the other) to abandon the Pac-12 Conference for the Big 10 Conference, USC will quintuple its share of conference television money. But that move also hastened the Pac-12’s implosion by taking away the conference’s presence in the Los Angeles media market. Meanwhile, the school’s talent at luring top-level talent to LA with the promise of greater television exposure and endorsement deals is a model for other schools to emulate if, like USC, they want immediate gratification.
But is all of this good for the college game? Time will tell—just as two games in October (a visit to Notre Dame, then Utah visiting Los Angeles) will go a long way in deciding whether the USC Trojans qualify for the college football playoffs.
In other words, in California’s fall, the rise or fall of Troy.