CALMatters | Palo Alto Online |

CALmatters is a Sacramento-based nonpartisan, nonprofit journalism venture committed to explaining how California's state Capitol works and why it matters. It works with more than 130 media partners throughout the state that have long, deep relationships with their local audiences, including Embarcadero Media (publisher of the Palo Alto Weekly, Mountain View Voice, Pleasanton Weekly and The Almanac in Menlo Park and their websites.)

Here are the most recent stories reported by CALmatters' team of journalists:


Homelessness, vaping, potholes and kicks for a governor

Good morning, California. Ben Christopher is sitting in for Dan Morain, who is off for a couple more days. “San Francisco, where streets are named after union organizers and Mexican anti-imperialists, and local landmarks include murals from the Depression-era Public Works of Art Project, is becoming a paradoxical urban space: a homogenous corporate campus run […]

Mon, May 20, 2019 4:30 am
California gets a hollow win in tax battle

As California prevails in its tax battle with inventor Gilbert Hyatt, the Supreme Court's ruling for the state in his case could foretell a battle over abortion rights.

Mon, May 20, 2019 12:01 am
Industry aims to extinguish bills that would make California first state to ban flavored tobacco

As legislation to outlaw the sale of flavored-tobacco products flounders in the California Legislature, health advocates blame the influence the tobacco industry has with key state lawmakers. Vaping has skyrocketed among middle and high schoolers, many of whom are attracted by the sweet flavors. E-cigarette manufacturers such as Juul Labs in San Francisco say their products are intended only for adults and help them quit traditional cigarettes.

Sun, May 19, 2019 8:00 pm
Stalled bills, bashed bullet trains, spell check and an acquittal

Good morning and TGIF, California. Ben Christopher is sitting in for Dan Morain, who is taking time off. “This fight is far from over.”—Sen. Scott Wiener on Senate Appropriations Chair Anthony Portantino’s decision to hold his  SB 50, which would have forced cities to allow more housing around mass transit and in single-family neighborhoods.   Not going […]

Fri, May 17, 2019 4:30 am
Feds’ harassment of journalists threatens coverage at the border

As our border becomes more of a battleground, it is high time for a set of Justice Department-style news media guidelines for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement to give journalists the protection they need to keep the public informed.

Thu, May 16, 2019 8:00 am
Fire, water, a Trump pardon and crunch time in the Capitol

Good morning, California. Ben Christopher is sitting in for Dan Morain, who is off this week. “Queen @LorenaSGonzalez, first of her name, House of San Diego, protector of budget.”—Assemblywoman Wendy Carillo on the eve of a key legislative deadline, giving a “Game of Thrones”-style shoutout to the chairwoman of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, which will vote […]

Thu, May 16, 2019 4:30 am
A dangerous conflict-of-interest loophole

Public works project contracts are susceptible to insider dealing, and a pending bill in the Legislature might invite more misbehavior.

Thu, May 16, 2019 12:01 am
California can fix the bad math of new motherhood

Being a pregnant woman in California, in America, is fraught. I don’t feel supported, even as our society romanticizes motherhood. That's why Senate Bill 135 by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson is so critical. It would expand our family leave laws to cover nearly all workers in California.

Wed, May 15, 2019 9:00 am
This legislation would pry open hard-to-find government data

Good government is open, clear government. Citizens who are not accountants also should be able to easily read government financial documents. Senate Bill 598 encourages the adoption of a readily accessible digital reporting standard. Legislators should approve it.

Wed, May 15, 2019 8:00 am
California can help provide opportunity for its heartland. Here’s how

Stockton did not fall behind by accident. Years of redlining, tax structures that undercut development and missed opportunities led to California's fragmented economy. It doesn’t have to be this way. One way we can spur a resurgence of economic prosperity is to use a new tax incentive called opportunity zones.

Tue, May 14, 2019 10:00 am
CALmatters takes home 23 awards from the California News Publishers Association

CALmatters took home 23 awards, including nine first place winners, at the California News Publishers Association Journalism Awards dinner in Long Beach, CA. The awards, given out May 4, celebrate the best journalism in the state. This was the first year digital news outlets like CALmatters could enter. “We’re very proud of our very talented […]

Tue, May 14, 2019 9:06 am
New currents of cooperation on California’s wicked water problems

Difficult negotiations on how to efficiently and fairly share water among farmers, cities including San Francisco, and fish and wildlife have been underway since 2012 with little resolution in sight—until last month. With the leadership of the Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration, representatives of farmers, cities and conservation groups are having productive negotiations.

Tue, May 14, 2019 8:00 am
Weakling or bully? The battle over CEQA, the state’s iconic environmental law

Inside the Capitol’s corridors and pro-development quarters around the state, the California Environmental Quality Act is increasingly disparaged as a villain in the state’s housing crisis. But the act’s environmentalist defenders are pushing back, saying many projects slip too easily through—leading to overdrawn groundwater tables and disappearing forests. And whatever the urgency to build more housing, environmentalists say there’s nothing to preempt a rigorous review of commercial proposals—even ones as visually appealing as vineyards in the Napa Valley.

Mon, May 13, 2019 7:50 pm
As more Californians borrow at shockingly high interest rates, will state crack down on ‘predatory lending’?

Loans of less than $10,000 with rates of over 100% have swelled to nearly one-third of California's non-bank consumer lending market. Consumer advocates say that lenders are profiting off of borrowers’ desperation or lack of financial sophistication, and often make a bad situation worse. The lenders say the charge up to 200% to cover the risks they incur. The Legislature is considering a bill to cap the interest rate for such "small dollar" loans.

Mon, May 13, 2019 6:37 pm
California schools haven’t fully embraced laws protecting LGBTQ kids, study shows

In the past decade, California has adopted more than a half-dozen laws intended to prevent bullying, strengthen suicide prevention and cultivate inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ students in the state’s public schools. But the state’ school districts are implementing these new laws inconsistently, according to a new sweeping report-card style analysis from the Equality California […]

Mon, May 13, 2019 6:34 pm
How much do you and your neighbors pay in state taxes?

Think you pay too much in state income taxes? Well, if you made $82,643 and paid $5,000 to Sacramento, then for better or worse, you are the average California taxpayer. The state’s Franchise Tax Board breaks down personal income tax collections and total tax liability by ZIP Code. For the 2018 filing year, CALmatters took […]

Sun, May 12, 2019 12:01 am
Demography is California’s destiny

Demography is destiny, and California is experiencing it right now. One consequence is a relative decline in political influence.

Sun, May 12, 2019 12:01 am
5 takeaways from Newsom’s revised budget plan

Buoyed by California’s strong economy, Gov. Gavin Newsom sent state lawmakers a revised budget on Thursday that boosts his already-hefty January proposal to $213.6 billion. Ka-ching! Public schools will reap most of the gains if the Democratic-controlled Legislature rolls with him. Newsom also upped his ante on the housing crisis with a proposed $1 billion […]

Thu, May 9, 2019 6:23 pm
Californians must pitch in to make drinking water safe for everyone

Groundwater basins drawn down by years of drought contain dangerously high levels of nitrates, arsenic and other contaminants. One million Californians don't have safe drinking water and nearly 2 million more are not served by a regulated public water system and may not know if their water is contaminated. The Legislature must step in.

Thu, May 9, 2019 3:29 am
Excluding hydropower makes no sense

Excluding hydroelectric power from the state's renewable portfolio to reduce greenhouse gases makes no sense. A pending bill would bring some rationality to the situation.

Thu, May 9, 2019 12:01 am
USC’s George Tyndall is gone, but sexual abuse survivors still deserve a choice

Dr. George Tyndall was the only gynecologist available to women such as Vanessa Carlisle at USC. Now, survivors finally do have a choice: Accept a settlement offered by USC, or, if the Legislature approves a bill by Assemblywoman Eloise Reyes, file a separate suit. Legislators should approve the bill.

Wed, May 8, 2019 4:29 am

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