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Safe injection sites in Newsom’s hands- POLITICO


THE BUZZ: The California Legislature just handed Gov. Gavin Newsom an extraordinarily contentious decision.

California could soon allow sanctioned drug use sites in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland if those cities/counties authorize it. Or they could remain prohibited from doing so. It’s now up to Newsom, with the state Senate yesterday sending the governor legislation permitting California to adopt an increasingly popular but still-controversial approach to substance abuse.

On the campaign trail in 2018, candidate Newsom pronounced himself “very, very open” to the policy — a notable distinction to then-Gov. Jerry Brown, who denounced what he called the folly of “enabling illegal and destructive drug use” as he vetoed an earlier bill. A Newsom signature would align him with the local leaders whose cities would oversee the pilot projects. San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who holds Newsom’s old job, has been an especially vocal proponent.

But campaigning isn’t governing. Newsom’s office declined to comment Monday on his stance. Future votes loom: Newsom is on the ballot in November and is widely perceived to be keeping his national options open (although he strenuously denies interest in seeking the White House in 2024). While Newsom is likely to coast to a second term, Senate Bill 57 carries political risk in a challenging year for Democrats: It passed the Senate with the bare 21-vote minimum. Multiple Democrats in tough campaigns held off.

There’s growing momentum for addressing drug abuse through a harm-reduction lens rather than focusing on punishment. The U.S. Department of Justice telegraphed some openness to safe injection earlier this year. President Joe Biden’s new drug czar has evinced excitement, telling The New York Times last week he was “enthusiastically waiting” for DOJ’s decision. It’s becoming more common to find fentanyl test strips in restaurant bathrooms.

Supporters call safe injection sites a vital tool for curbing an overdose epidemic. That national crisis has hammered California cities such as San Francisco, where fentanyl’s pervasiveness has pushed up the death toll and public opioid abuse is all but unavoidable in the Tenderloin neighborhood. Sen. Scott Wiener argued his bill would reduce fatalities and boost treatment while cutting down on the painfully visible hallmarks of drug abuse — like syringes littering the ground and people shooting up on sidewalks.

But detractors see what Jerry Brown saw: the government encouraging illegal behavior. That counter-argument resonates with Californians who regard public drug use among a ballooning homeless population as a sign of fundamental government failure (gubernatorial candidate Michael Shellenberger won national attention and around 300,000 votes by campaigning on that point). Senate Republican leader Scott Wilk denounced the bill as “one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation that I’ve seen sent to the governor.”

Newsom thrives on touting California progressivism as a national model, but it’s not hard to envision Republican ads attacking the governor who permitted drug use. Zooming out, California lawmakers continue pushing the governor to reduce criminal penalties: Newsom last month signed a contested bill decriminalizing loitering with the intent to commit prostitution. We’ll soon see if the Legislature sends Newsom legislation decriminalizing hallucinogens and MDMA.

BUENOS DÍAS, good Tuesday morning. In Sacramento, the tobacco industry’s expensive referendum to overturn California’s flavored tobacco ban gets vetted in the Legislature today. In San Francisco, the school board will consider reprimanding embattled member Ann Hsu for racist comments.

Got a tip or story idea for California Playbook? Hit us up: [email protected] and [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @JeremyBWhite and @Lara_Korte

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “There is no reason for Beijing to turn a potential visit consistent with longstanding U.S. policy into some sort of crisis or use it as a pretext to increase aggressive military activity in or around the Taiwan Strait.” National Security Council spokesperson John F. Kirby on Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s planned Taiwan visit.

TWEET OF THE DAY: Assembly member @laurafriedman43 on the National Conference of State Legislatures: “Not everything is rosy at @NCSLorg. Just endured a seminar in which private companies told the legislators that people were leaving public education because we have brought politics into the classroom with sex ed, CRT, etc. so we need to “reimagine” & privatize public education.”

WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.

PELOSI’S TRAVELS — White House promises ‘safe and secure’ Pelosi trip to Taiwan, if she goes, by POLITICO’s Matt Berg: “At a White House press briefing, [National Security Council spokesperson John] Kirby repeatedly refused to confirm whether Pelosi would visit Taiwan — which POLITICO confirmed earlier in the day through officials familiar with the itinerary. But when asked by a reporter whether the speaker could be at risk of an attack from China, Kirby confirmed that the government would provide protection.”

MONKEYPOX — California declares state of emergency over monkeypox, by POLITICO’s Victoria Colliver: The state will ensure those most at risk for the disease would be the focus of vaccine efforts, using testing, contact tracing and community partnerships developed during the COVID-19 pandemic, [Gov. Gavin Newsom] said.

— “One last trip: Gabriella Walsh’s decision to die — and celebrate life — on her own terms,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Marisa Gerber: “Within two hours, she would drink a fatal dose of medications prescribed under California’s death-with-dignity law, which allows some terminally ill patients to request drugs to end their lives.”

ON AND ON: First, Gov. Gavin Newsom targeted GOP Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis with a television spot in Florida. Then the Western States Petroleum Association assailed Newsom’s energy policies on Florida’s airwaves. Now Republican former Florida Rep. Trey Radel’s PAC is mocking Newsom with a $25,000 California-focused digital ad buy that spoofs Newsom’s Florida spot to highlight California issues. Take a look.

TEAM EFFORT: Frontline Democratic House candidate and Assembly member Adam Gray challenged $50,000 to pass the Legislature’s amendment enshrining abortion in California’s constitution. As of late April, Gray’s ballot measure committee had about $400,000 on hand.

SWING BACK — “In a key swing district, Katie Porter clashes with GOP opponent over inflation and ‘Orange County values’,” by NBC’s Sahil Kapur: “California’s new 47th District sits at the nexus of cross-currents shaping the 2022 election. While economic pain and President Joe Biden’s unpopularity threatens Democrats’ hold on power, cultural issues like abortion, as well as Trump’s enduring grip on the party, could put a ceiling on GOP prospects in the suburbs.”

Trump-era plan for more drilling in California paused in settlement, by POLITICO’s Camille von Kaenel: Environmental groups also reached a separate agreement with the bureau that requires the federal agency to do additional analysis before it allows drilling on 4,000 acres leased in December 2020 in Kern County.

PEOPLE AND PLACES — “Here’s why Austin and Seattle are building way more housing than San Francisco,” by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Adriana Rezal: “Experts say the city’s main roadblocks to housing production include opposition from local groups, geographic limitations and complex regulatory processes.”

California’s bill to test supervised injection sites heads to the governor, by POLITICO’s Victoria Colliver: Supporters of this “harm reduction” approach contend the sites will help combat the explosion of opioid-related overdose deaths in California and around the country. More than 5,500 Californians have died of opioid-related overdoses since 2020. Opponents have argued they will not only be ineffective, but exacerbate drug use and illegal activity in the surrounding areas.

ONE-TRACKING COVID — “How Some Parents Changed Their Politics in the Pandemic,” by the New York Times’ Sheera Frenkel: “Almost everyone in the crowd of more than three dozen was a parent. And as they protested on a recent Friday in the Bay Area suburb of Orinda, Calif., they had the same refrain: They were there for their children.”

— “Failure to Disclose Evidence in Murder Case Led to Full Review of DA Brooke Jenkins’ Work Under Chesa Boudin,” by the San Francisco Standard’s Michael Barba: “There are no indications she intentionally withheld evidence or committed misconduct, but Jenkins left her job late last year without giving the defense a heap of evidence that included handwritten notes from a police inspector and video footage, according to emails and court records obtained by The Standard.”

— “Mudslides, rainfall, trapped motorists as intense monsoonal storm hits California,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Nathan Solis: “Approximately 30 drivers were stranded in their cars Sunday as heavy rain sent mud and debris onto Highway 38 leading to Big Bear. The Angelus Oaks area in San Bernardino saw a little more than an inch of rain, according to the National Weather Service, which was just enough to send mud flowing down from the 2020 burn scar left by the El Dorado fire.”

— “Monkeypox antiviral drug TPOXX promises treatment — if you can find it,” by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Catherine Ho: “The issue is not supply but rather the bureaucracy health care providers must navigate to prescribe the drug, a two-week course of pills, which may prevent lesions from worsening.”

— “GEICO closes California insurance offices, lays off hundreds. State is ‘monitoring’ situation,” by the Sacramento Bee’s Randy Diamond: “‘We continue to write policies in California, and we remain available through our direct channels for the more than 2.18 million California customers presently insured with us,’ the company said in an unsigned emailed statement to The Sacramento Bee.”

Did Biden Just Boost U.S. Tech — or Fund a Bunch of Solyndras? By POLITICO’s Bob Davis: Industrial policy has a storied lineage in the United States, but it had largely fallen out of favor in recent decades, especially after attacks during the Reagan administration. To conservative hardliners, it had the whiff of Soviet economics; many more opponents dismissed it as the government picking winners and losers. But the political environment has shifted lately.

CRISIS AFTER CRISIS — “Citing ‘climate crisis,’ Harris announces $1 billion in grants to respond to floods, fires,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Matthew Daly: “The Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities, or BRIC, program, supports states, local communities, tribes and territories on projects to reduce climate-related hazards and prepare for natural disasters such as floods and wildfires.”

Amazon hires key Senate Judiciary staffer working on tech antitrust bills, by POLITICO’s John Sisco: The legislation — the most serious attempt at tightening oversight of the tech industry in years — would bar those companies from prioritizing their products over their competitors who rely on those companies to reach customers. Amazon, for example, would be barred from promoting its own private-label products over rival items on its e-commerce platform.

— “How will social media platforms respond to election misinformation? It isn’t clear,” by PolitiFact’s Hana Stepnick: “Major social media platforms have policies that prohibit spreading falsehoods about elections. But their enforcement of these policies varies and is hard to track.”

— “L.A. Unified estimates tens of thousands of students are missing from back-to-school rosters,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Howard Blume.

— “How to make real L.A. friends, according to Angelenos who swear it’s possible,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Nicole Kagan.

— “Large new apartment building planned for ‘most blighted lot’ in downtown Sacramento,” by the Sacramento Bee’s Ryan Lillis.

OVER TIME AND CLIMATE — “California’s High Sierra used to be perfect for hiking in August. Here’s why it’s all changed,” by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Kate Galbraith.

CAN’T BEAR IT — “Column: Why make the grizzly bear California’s state animal — after they’re all gone?” by the Los Angeles Times’ Nicholas Goldberg.

WAIT FOR THE DROP — “How the slowing economy is affecting theme parks this summer,” by the Orange County Register’sBrady Macdonald.

— “Mo Ostin, executive who transformed Warner Bros. into revered record label, dies at 95,” by the Los Angeles Times’ Melissa Gomez.

CALIFORNIA POLICY IS ALWAYS CHANGING: Know your next move. From Sacramento to Silicon Valley, POLITICO California Pro provides policy professionals with the in-depth reporting and tools they need to get ahead of policy trends and political developments shaping the Golden State. To learn more about the exclusive insight and analysis this subscriber-only service offers, click here.

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