Court Rules School Districts in California Can’t Mandate Vaccines

A California appeals court ruled on Tuesday that only the state, and not individual school districts, can issue vaccine mandates for students. [Napa Valley Register]

The ruling comes following a legal challenge to the San Diego Unified School District’s attempt to mandate COVID-19 vaccines for students ages 16 and older. It marks the first ruling by a state appeals court and will be binding on lower courts statewide unless overturned by the California Supreme Court or contradicted by another appeals court.

In Sept. 2021, the San Diego district, which is California’s second largest school district, proposed requiring its older students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 in order to attend classes and participate in sports and other in-person events. The proposed mandate would allow for medical exemptions but not religious or personal ones. Later, the district announced it would postpone any mandate until at least July 2023.

“The Legislature has mandated that public health officials — not school authorities — determine the disease(s) for which vaccinations are required,” the California 4th District Court of Appeal in San Diego stated on Tuesday.

California requires schoolchildren to be vaccinated against 10 communicable diseases, including measles, mumps, chicken pox, polio and rubella. The appeals court noted state law allows the California Department of Public Health to add diseases to that list, but it does not expressly authorize local agencies to do so.

Click here to read the full article in Cal Coast

Is There a Conservative Re-Alignment Taking Place in the Golden State?

Ric Grenell and Fix California are succeeding at an improbable task

Ric Grenell’s Fix California started a statewide inspection of the 58 counties’ voter rolls in July 2021 pushing voter integrity, as well as an effort to register Conservative voters.

An alarming report by the Election Integrity Project California following California’s November 3, 2020 election showed the election was marred by significant voting and registration irregularities. The non-partisan organization analyzed the state’s official voter list of February 9, 2021 and reported its findings to California’s Secretary of State Shirley Weber June 17, 2021 – to no avail.

Grenell and his team at Fix California launched their statewide legal survey analyzing the current status of voter rolls throughout the state.

Specifically, Fix California has been looking for and cross-checking inactive registrations, voter registrations cancelled, registrants not satisfying the citizenship requirements for registration, deceased registrants, individuals who moved out of state, the number of voter applicants providing applications to vote with either a blank affirmation of U.S. Citizenship or an affirmation of non-citizenship for 2016 to date, out-of-state change of address requests.

Public records requests have allowed Fix CA to cross check voter data with the California Secretary of State, Department of Motor Vehicles, U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Postal Service’s National Change of Address database, California Attorney General, any California Superior Court, the County Health Systems, county and city district attorneys’ offices, and county and city election departments.

This is cross checking which should have been going on all along by counties. And that’s been Grenell’s concern: “through our work on the data front, we are identifying key areas where there appears to be high concentrations of inaccurate or poorly maintained voter rolls.”

Results are starting to pour in for both voter integrity and voter registrations.

Upon founding Fix California only last year, Ric Grenell said he wanted to re-align California, the bastion of liberalism, to a place where conservative ideas and policies have a fighting chance. After this year’s pilot program, where the organization invested high-six figures into a statewide voter registration effort, he may be onto something. Fix California is currently registering over 10,000 conservatives a month at a fraction of the cost of many other national organizations.

Fix California spent 2021 investing in an extensive data analysis to:

(1) Identify California voter roles that were out of data. The organization put every county on notice through a broad legal effort to clean up their voter roles.

(2) Identify a target list of unregistered conservatives. All-in-all Fix California identified 1.4M unregistered conservatives.

In 2022, Fix California ran a two-phase pilot program in the months preceding the June Primary and November General Election working to begin registering these targets.

In total, over 50,000 of Fix California targeted residents have been registered, averaging more than 10,000 registrations per month – ahead of the 2022 Midterm Elections.

According to Grenell, these conservative registration efforts consisted of digital peer to peer engagement via SMS text messaging, emails, and digital advertising.

Fix California also ran engagement via phone banking, with callers making over 136,000 total phone calls to get conservatives registered to vote before the election.Volunteers were recruited at “Take Action” rallies held by Fix California in both Southern and Northern California, where hundreds of attendees came to hear speeches from local conservative leaders, headlined by Ambassador Ric Grenell.

Since the rallies, over 400 people have signed up to volunteer, and Fix CA has trained over 100 of them to use the phone banking system to call conservatives and get them registered to vote.

While the RNC typically spends over $45 per registration during voter registration efforts, Fix California spent under $15 per registration during 2022.

Fix CA’s 2022 engagement was targeted to Contra Costa, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Nevada, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus counties, determined to be most important for this year.

While Fix California is a non-partisan, non-profit organization, an independent review of the data shows the counties targeted by Fix California may have had major impacts in competitive state and federal elections. (The most recent data is from Friday 11/18/22. Vote/registration data is not finalized).

  • In Assembly District 7, Fix CA registered at least 1,037 new voters. Republican challenger Josh Hoover appears to be down only 906 votes to the incumbent Democrat Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Sacramento).  It’s a surprisingly close result.
  • In Assembly District 47, Fix CA registered at least 1,847 voters. The Republican Greg Wallis is only down by 1,138 votes, with Democrat Christy Holstege at 83,352 votes, and Wallis with 83,284 votes. The current result is so close, the Secretary of State reports candidates are tied at 50% each.
  • In Assembly District 40, Fix California registered 3,431 voters and Republican Assemblywoman Suzette Martinez Valladares appears to have defeated Democrat Pilar Shiavo by approximately 1,850 votes.

Click here to read the full article in California Globe

This Is How Much Money You’ll Get From the California Gas Rebate

California is sending money directly to millions of residents to help with rising costs and high gas prices. 

The payments, which started going out Oct. 7, range from $200 to $1,050, depending on income and other factors. About 18 million payments will be distributed over the next few months, benefiting up to 23 million Californians. The cash payouts are part of a June budget deal

CalMatters talked to the state’s Franchise Tax Board to parse what all this means for you. Check out our tool at the bottom of this article to find out how much you’ll get.

Are you eligible?

To be eligible, you need to have filed a 2020 California tax return by Oct. 15, 2021. There’s an exception for people who did not file by the October deadline because they were waiting on an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (so long as they filed by Feb. 15, 2022). 

People who didn’t file taxes for 2020, including some seniors and disabled people, will be left out. 

People who can be claimed as dependents for tax purposes won’t get their own payments. 

The payments also won’t go to married or domestic partners who have an adjusted gross income over $500,000. Same goes for many individuals who have adjusted gross incomes over $250,000.

You also had to be a California resident for at least six months of 2020, and be a resident when your payment is issued. 

Undocumented Californians with a valid taxpayer number or Social Security number, who filed complete 2020 tax returns and meet all of the eligibility requirements, can receive the payments.

You don’t need to send any additional forms, or fill out any application to get the payment.

How will you get the payment?

People who are eligible for the payment will get it either via a direct deposit to their bank account or by mailed debit card, according to the tax board. Generally, people who filed their 2020 tax return online and received their state tax refund via direct deposit will get a direct deposit. Most other people who are eligible will get debit cards in the mail. The envelope will be clearly marked with the phrase “Middle Class Tax Refund.”

When will you get the payment?

The first round of payments will go to people who received one of the two Golden State Stimulus payments from 2021 and are eligible for a direct deposit. The first round of payments are expected to go out between Oct. 7 and Oct. 25. 

The rest of the direct deposits are expected to go out between Oct. 28 and Nov. 14. The tax board expects 90% of direct deposits to be sent out in October, according to its website. 

Debit cards for people who got one of the Golden State Stimulus payments are expected to be mailed out between Oct. 25 and Dec. 10. All of the remaining debit cards are expected to be mailed by Jan. 15

Why can’t they all be sent out at once? “There are constraints on the number of direct deposits and mailed debit cards that can be issued weekly,” Franchise Tax Board spokesperson Andrew LePage told CalMatters. “Logistically it takes time to deliver approximately 18 million payments to Californians effectively and accurately, protecting both taxpayers and California.”

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

President Biden Arrives in Southern California

LOS ANGELES – President Joe Biden arrived in Los Angeles Wednesday evening for a two-day stay in Southern California. 

Air Force One landed just before 5 p.m. at LAX. The president was greeted on the tarmac by Sen. Alex Padilla, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, and mayoral candidate Rep. Karen Bass.

Prior to visiting LA, the president was in Vail, Colorado, where he gave a speech on protecting and conserving America’s iconic outdoor spaces. 

On Thursday, Biden will visit a construction site on the extension of Metro’s D line and deliver remarks on infrastructure investments in Brentwood

From there, he will then attend a fundraiser for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. 

Once done in LABiden will then travel to Orange County on Friday, where he will talk about “lowering costs for American families.”

His journey then continues to Portland, Oregon where he will participate in a grassroots volunteer event with Democrats, the White House said.

Biden was last in Los Angeles in June where he attended Summit of the Americas as well as two Democratic National Committee Fundraisers.

Click here to read the full article on Fox News

California Elections Attorney/Official Says Be Patient – May Be Millions of Votes Left to Count

The 2020 General Election was the first all-mail-in-ballot election under California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s then-executive order, now a law. Since then, many voters still are not sure about the process. And after Tuesday’s California Primary Election, many voters have reservations.

The Globe spoke with Audrey Martin, an Elections attorney and Elections official for the Republican National Lawyers Association who works on election integrity, as well as with many county registrars.

Martin says California does mail-in voting well.

I told her that right before the 2020 General election I visited the Sacramento County’s Voter Registraton and Election office to learn what happens after a mail-in ballot is dropped off.

What I witnessed was a sophisticated production process replete with checks and double checks.

Martin agreed. She said she doesn’t necessarily agree with all of California’s voting laws, but most county registrars “are very well run.”

Martin said not all county voter registrars have the same computerized capabilities as Sacramento, so when some counties were sharing early totals on Election night, others still had bags of ballots stacked throughout their offices which had not yet been processed and counted.

“Theoretically there could be a lot of ballots to process – it’s usually a big number,” Martin said. Maybe millions? She said with so many people waiting to drop off their ballot, or mailing it on Tuesday, “it takes much more time by registrars on the back end.”

And this happens “because it is so easy to vote in California,” Martin said. There are many options, which also means people don’t always know the way to vote, particularly those who always voted on Election Day in person. The voting-by-mail for them just isn’t clear. For many, they are worried that their mailed ballot doesn’t get to the registrar, so they show up in person on Election Day to cast their vote. Martin said this takes county registrars so much extra time because they have to check the voter logs against the mailed ballots.

In the  Sacramento County’s Voter Registraton and Election office, ballots collected from the more than 170 official collection boxes around the county are sorted by precinct. Those ballots go next to employees operating the machines that slice open the return envelope, and a poof of air allows the operator to lift the ballot out, while a second operator separates but saves the envelope, which are used later for audits.

The ballots are scanned into the computer system, and voter signatures on the envelope are matched to the voter’s signature in the county elections system. If the operator feels the signatures don’t match, the voter is mailed a new signature page, which they fill out and send back.

Deep inside of the elections offices is a production center which resembles the production process in a printing plant bindery. Operators feed ballot return envelopes in stacks into a large machine which scans them, and separates by batches and precincts. Other operators act as auditors along the way. And there are phone banks of employees taking calls about the process.

There are employees in teams of two who analyze the actual ballot for any votes “X’d” out as a mistake, looking for voter intent. If they cannot make out the voter intent, it is left blank.

All of these operations are monitored by “Big Brother” – cameras in every room, from several angles.

With so many outstanding ballots, and 36 days to count them, expect some of the races to tighten up, or other candidates to pull away with bigger leads.

Photos: Scouts Roll Out Thousands of Flags in Annual LA Memorial Day Tradition

Every Year on the Saturday prior to Memorial Day, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and members of the community get together to place 88,000 Flags on the final resting place of thousands of servicemembers at Los Angeles National Cemetery.

Maintaining their Memorial Day tradition, the Western Los Angeles County Council of the Boy Scouts of America paid tribute to fallen members of the armed services on Saturday, May 28, at Los Angeles National Cemetery.

Every Year on the Saturday prior to Memorial Day, the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts and members of the community get together to place 88,000 Flags on the final resting place of thousands of servicemembers.

More than 5,000 people were to attend the event.

What became Memorial Day was first observed on May 30, 1868, as Decoration Day, a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the Civil War dead with flowers.

It was established 25 days earlier by Maj. Gen. John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of veterans who fought for the Union in the Civil War. It is believed that date was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the nation.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Daily News

At $6.09 a Gallon, Los Angeles Pays Record Gas Price Over US Average

Los Angeles drivers know they pay more for gasoline than the average US driver: It’s the price for cleaner air in a state that’s made being green part of its DNA.

What motorists in LA — a city famed for its car culture — may not realize is that the amount they pay over the national average soared to more than $1.80 a gallon in late March, the widest in at least 10 years, according to data from the AAA.

So far, at least, the cash squeeze at the pump isn’t crimping travel plans, even though each tank costs about $24 more. The Auto Club of Southern California predicts 2.6 million local residents will take to the highways this Memorial Day weekend. That’s up 5% from 2021 but about 7% below 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic.

The cause for the spike in prices earlier this year was refinery outages, according to Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy, which tracks prices at 150,000 US gas stations.

While the local refinery issues have largely been resolved, prices nationally have kept on climbing. Regular gasoline rose to $6.09 a gallon in LA this week, according to the AAA, still almost $1.50 more than the national average of around $4.60.

The higher prices in California are partly the result of taxes and state programs to reduce greenhouse gases, like a rule requiring a less-polluting blend of fuel. These measures add about $1.30 to the cost of a gallon, according to the Western States Petroleum Association, a trade group.

California also imports both oil and refined products, which must be trucked in or brought by tanker.

“We don’t have pipelines coming in from Texas and other parts of the country,” said Kevin Slagle, a spokesman for the oil group. “We have to ship it in from around the world.”

Prices, including the extra amount LA drivers pay, could spike again in the summer when travel picks up and a planned increase in the state tax is due to take effect. At the same time, a Chevron Corp. refinery in the state is scheduled for maintenance, and a South Korean refinery that supplies the US West Coast had some units offline after a fire.

To offer drivers some relief, Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who’s running for re-election this year, has proposed an $11 billion package that includes $400 refunds to personal car and truck owners, with a maximum of $800 for up to two vehicles.

Click here to read the full article in the Mercury News

Voters Say State Is On Wrong Track

Californians surveyed cite homelessness, gas prices and housing among top concerns.

Tents from a homeless encampment line a street in downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2016. Some 7,000 volunteers will fan out as part of a three-night effort to count homeless people in most of Los Angeles County. Naomi Goldman, a spokeswoman of the organizer the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority, said the goal is to “paint a picture about the state of homelessness.” (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

Coronavirus cases are dropping and the state’s unemployment rate is on the decline, but most California voters still say the Golden State is headed in the wrong direction, with high gasoline prices, low housing affordability and persistent homelessness cited as the biggest challenges.

In a new survey on some of the most prominent economic topics, nearly 6 in 10 voters said the state is on the wrong track and more than 70% rated high gasoline prices as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. The survey of registered voters by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies was co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times.

“Californians are giving a negative rating of the direction of the state,” said Mark Di Camillo, director of the Berkeley institute’s poll. “That coincides with how voters are viewing their personal financial situation.”

In response to the pain at the pump, voters said they are likely to cut back on driving.

Few, however, said they expected to switch to public transit. Only 25% said they were likely to take buses or trains more often.

By contrast, 7 in 10 said they were likely to drive less around town or cancel vacations or weekend road trips because of the high prices.

The pain of high gasoline prices, which last month reached a statewide average of $5.73 a gallon — up $1.79 from a year ago, is felt most keenly by lower-income Californians, Black and Latino residents and those under 30, according to the survey.

Among California voters earning less than $40,000 a year, 81% said gasoline prices were a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem. At the other end of the income scale, 57% of those earning more than $200,000 said the prices were not a serious problem.

Gasoline prices were described as a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem by 79% of Black voters, 85% of Latino voters and 75% of voters under 30, according to the survey.

Lorena Mendez, an airline catering company worker at Los Angeles International Airport, struggles weekly deciding how to fill her tank and buy groceries, among other household expenses. She bought a house in Bakersfield because housing is more affordable there, but her commute to LAX is two hours in each direction. On some days, rather than driving home she stays with her mother, who lives closer to her job, to save on gas.

“Everything has gotten more expensive, gas and groceries,” she said in Spanish. “It’s hard to figure out which bill to pay first.”

Until recently, Mendez said, she earned about $22 an hour, but her bosses have cut her pay to about $18 an hour. She hopes to work extra hours to make up for the pay cut.

“I was barely able to pay my bills, and now with everything getting more expensive, it’s a struggle,” she said.

For many workers like Mendez who have long commutes, public transit isn’t a viable option. The poll asked voters who said they were not likely to take transit more often to choose up to two main reasons. Among the most common responses were that buses or trains were not convenient either to their destinations (45%) or their homes (35%), that transit takes longer than driving (39%) or that service isn’t frequent enough (20%).

A significant number said they don’t feel safe waiting for or riding on a bus or train (34%) or that they worry about catching COVID-19 or some other illness (16%). Safety concerns were more common in Los Angeles and Orange counties than in the San Francisco Bay Area or San Diego. Few voters — 3% statewide — said transit costs too much.

In 2016, Los Angeles County voters showed just how frustrated they were with traffic. They approved a half-cent sales tax that will pump out $120 billion over four decades to further build out a massive rail system that can carry commuters from the foothills to the sea and to make highway improvements.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has already spent $9.2 billion in the last 10 years on transit projects, including a yet-to-open light rail line running from the Mid-City area to the South Bay, a regional connector line and an extension of a line that connects the Westside to downtown L.A.

The agency projects it will spend an additional $30 billion on rail in the coming decade and will over the next few decades double the length of its interconnected rail system in the hope that it will lure more commuters across the region.

Academics said voter reluctance about riding transit in response to gas prices was not surprising.

“While gas prices have gone up, most roads and parking continue to be free and plentiful, incentivizing their use,” said Jacob Lawrence Wasserman, research project manager at UCLA’s Institute of Transportation Studies. “And, with transit not given the priority and service to get Angelenos to many destinations reliably, many are left stomaching higher gas prices instead.”

At the same time, by 56% to 35%, voters supported the state’s effort to build a high-speed rail system between Los Angeles and San Francisco that is already expected to be more than three times the original cost estimated when voters approved funding in 2008.

Registered Democrats favored the project 73% to 18%, but Republicans opposed it 66% to 25%. Nonpartisan voters supported the project 55% to 35%.

The glum attitude about the state’s direction was shared, to varying degrees, by California voters of nearly every age group, ethnicity and political stripe.

Just over half of Democrats said the state is headed in the wrong direction, and 93% of Republicans agreed with that gloomy assessment.

Only 21% of voters said they were financially better off than they were a year ago, 42% said they were worse off and 34% said there had been no change.

The survey showed voters are pessimistic about the future: Only 21% predicted they will be better off financially in a year, 30% said they would be worse off, and 44% expected no change in their financial situation.

The poll found that voters now rank the coronavirus near the bottom of a list of 15 challenges facing the state, far behind problems such as housing affordability, homelessness, crime, gas prices and climate change.

Over the last week, the state has averaged 2,824 new coronavirus cases, a decrease of 

Click here to read the full article at the LA Times

Working Californians Hit Hard By Gasoline Prices

A recent column in this space was headlined “Inflation, the cruelest tax.” Well, if inflation is the cruelest tax, then inflation’s impact on gasoline, combined with the nation’s highest tax, can only be characterized as “cruel and unusual punishment.”

In addition to inflation and taxes, other government policies related to petroleum are counterproductive. These include regulatory burdens and open hostility to the entire petroleum industry currently on display in both Washington and Sacramento. All this adds up to a lot of unnecessary pain being inflicted on the middle class and working poor.

But now, progressive politicians are looking at poll numbers with alarm as they discover that most Americans believe the nation is on the wrong track, due in large part to feckless and incompetent leadership. Rather than fix the problems, however, the reaction of both the Biden and Newsom administrations has been to deflect blame.

A couple of months ago, the Biden administration blamed rising fuel costs on supply chain issues. Then, returning to an old excuse resurrected when the need arises, the blame shifts to the “greedy oil companies.”

But even the most artful political spin is unlikely to change the public’s understanding of who is at fault. Republicans are replaying the video clip on a constant loop where Biden stated unequivocally, “No more drilling on federal lands. No more drilling, including offshore. No ability for the oil industry to continue to drill, period.” Moreover, the attempt to blame the war in Ukraine is especially easy to expose as unfounded. Gas prices were already at record levels before the hostilities began.

In California, Gov. Newsom is attempting to blunt the political backlash by promising some sort of rebate to taxpayers out of the state’s massive surplus. But any notion that he would do so out of the goodness of his heart would be in error. Taxpayer advocates in 1979 sponsored the Gann Spending Limit which voters overwhelming approved. It is the Gann Limit, not Newsom’s benevolence, that might afford some relief for California drivers filling up their tanks.

If skepticism among voters when it comes to energy policy is high nationally, it is even more so in California due to the long history of misspending and gas tax proceeds. For example, in 1990, voters were told that California’s roads, freeways and bridges were crumbling and that spending on transportation was so seriously inadequate that a gas tax increase was desperately needed to save California from ruin. Fast forward to 2017 with the infamous passage of Senate Bill 1, a massive tax increase of another 12 cents per gallon on gasoline, an additional 20 cents per gallon on diesel fuel and a sharp increase in the cost of vehicle registration.

Voter anger at high gas prices might be less intense if they believed they were getting good value in the form of well-maintained roads and highways. But California consistently ranks in the bottom ten of all states in highway maintenance despite having the highest gas tax.

Our political leaders claim that the pain we’re feeling is because addressing climate change is our highest priority. But many of the restrictions they impose are counterproductive to environmental well-being. For example, rather than encourage drilling in North America, we are increasingly reliant on oil shipped from overseas, including from despotic regimes. But oil tankers run on massive diesel engines and foul our ports. How does that help address climate change?

Click here to read the full article at the OC Register

How Can You Help People In Ukraine From California? A Ukrainian Lawmaker Has Some Ideas

Oleksandra Ustinova — who has been a member of the Ukrainian parliament for almost three years — was visiting her husband in Texas, where he is based, when Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

Ustinova, a former anti-corruption activist, quickly flew to Washington D.C. to advocate for help for the country.

“I know a lot of decisions, unfortunately, regarding the lives of Ukrainians are taken here,” she said of the United States’ Capitol. “How strong the sanctions are going to be, how strong the response to what Putin is doing is going to be, is directly aligned with how many people die in Ukraine.”

The Sacramento Bee spoke with Ustinova on March 3, 2021, offering her views on how people in California and across the United States can help Ukraine from afar. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

WHAT IS HAPPENING IN UKRAINE?

“Lately, Putin has gone nuts. The first few days, he was shooting military bases and infrastructure. Airports were destroyed. Bridges are blown out. Main roads are totally destroyed. I cannot imagine how long and how expensive it’s going to take to fix this disaster, because the country lies in ruins.

Click here to read the full article at the Sacramento Bee