NEWSOM vs. BENITEZ — FINANCE estimates $215M RECALL — LEVIN targets auto donations — LEYVA to ARB — PESKIN to treatment

THE BUZZ — THE GOVERNOR VERSUS THE JUDGE: It was an extraordinary example of executive versus judiciary conflict — with enormous implications for California’s gun laws.

An incensed Gov. Gavin Newsom yesterday excoriated the federal judge who discarded California’s assault weapons ban. Judge Roger Benitez’s ruling — likening AR-15s to pocket knives and dubiously claiming that coronavirus vaccines kill more Californians than mass shootings — has drawn incredulity and outrage among Democrats and gun control activists. Newsom immediately condemned the ruling. And at an event yesterday outlining California’s appeal, the governor escalated into an extraordinarily direct attack on Benitez.

We need to call this federal judge out. “He will continue to do damage. Mark my words,” Newsom said, calling Benitez a “stone-cold ideologue” and a “wholly owned subsidiary of the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association” whose decisions are “press releases on behalf of the gun lobby.” Newsom and fellow gun control advocates accused gun rights backers of judge-shopping to get cases before the sympathetic Benitez, who has issued a string of decisions undercutting California gun laws.

This type of rhetoric from Newsom isn’t exactly new. The governor has long assailed the NRA as he has championed gun restrictions like a 2016 ballot initiative requiring background checks for ammunition sales (Benitez struck down that one, too, which undoubtedly added to Newsom’s ire). That’s a matter of both principal and effective politics in Democratic California, where gun control tends to enjoy broad public support. It’s no coincidence Newsom has sought to build his donor list with emails condemning Benitez’s latest decision.

But the intensity and the directness of Newsom’s confrontation was striking. And that points to the larger context here: this case could be headed to a U.S. Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority could both uphold Benitez’s ruling and create a broader precedent that invalidates or limits the stringent gun laws California has steadily piled up.

Newsom clearly understands those dynamics, noting there’s “a lot on the line” as the case could ultimately land before “a stacked court that went through a vetting process” to produce Supreme Court justices who believe in an “expansive right to bear arms.” Newsom and other California Democrats pride themselves on having acted on gun control even as DC remains locked in a perpetual stalemate. Newsom again pointed to that leadership on Thursday, citing laws to limit ghost guns and bullet buttons and allow gun violence restraining orders. Now the federal judiciary could put that record in jeopardy.

BUENOS DÍAS, good Friday morning. California Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly will be talking about the state’s imminent June 15 reopening during a Commonwealth Club event today. If you’re interested in checking it out, you can register here.

Got a tip or story idea for California Playbook? Hit [email protected] or [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @cmarinucci and @jeremybwhite

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “If democracy were in jeopardy, I would want to protect it. But I don’t see it being in jeopardy right now.” Sen. Dianne Feinstein on the filibuster, via Forbes’ Andrew Solender.

TWEET OF THE DAY: Assemblyman and progressive @Ash_Kalra responds: “This is a California Senator. Unbelievable but, unfortunately, not surprising from Feinstein. Incredibly wealthy and unbelievably out of touch with the state of our democracy.”

WHERE’S GAVIN? Nothing official announced.

— “S.F. supervisor Aaron Peskin says he’s entering ‘alcohol treatment’ after complaints,” by the S.F. Chronicle’s Mallory Moench, Heather Knight and Trisha Thadani: “Peskin’s announcement that he will enter rehabilitation came as several of Peskin’s colleagues, department heads and other city staffers became increasingly frustrated with the supervisor, a domineering figure in San Francisco politics for more than two decades.”

CRISIS RESPONSE — “Homeless camps, trash and crime have transformed Venice boardwalk, eluding easy solutions,” by the LATimes’ Doug Smith and Benjamin Oreskes: City Councilmember Mike “Bonin disclosed outlines of his plan to clear the illegal encampments in what he characterized as a more orderly and humane replay of the closure of Echo Park Lake in March. A coordinated push by homeless services providers and city crews will clear the homeless camps in small zones, Bonin said, using robust outreach, offers of shelter or housing, and lots of persuasion.”

CA CAPITOL RIOT LINK — “O.C. Stop the Steal organizer Alan Hostetter indicted on Capitol riot conspiracy charges, by the LATimes’ Anita Chabria, Paige St. John, Del Quentin Wilber, Richard Winton and Hannah Fry: “Two Orange County extremists — a former police chief and his partner in organizing Stop the Steal rallies — have been indicted along with members of the Three Percenters militia for their roles in the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.”

— “Insider investigation reveals officials helped sell access to California public schools to Chinese elite,” by Business Insider’s Nicole Einbender.

COST AND CONSEQUENCES: The California Department of Finance released a preliminary estimate pegging the Newsom recall’s cost at $215 million. Having that in hand could also expedite Finance’s formal estimate as part of the recall process itself. The faster that goes — Finance has 30 business days — the sooner we get an election date. Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Speaker Anthony Rendon pledged yesterday to send counties the money and said they would waive the Legislature’s subsequent finance analysis, which is the final step before Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis sets a date.

POLITICO SCOOP — RECURRING RUMBLE: Levin seeks ban on recurring donation tactic made famous by Trump, by POLITICO’s Jeremy B. White: The bill by the California Democrat, co-authored by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Rep. Deborah Ross (D-N.C.) and Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), would prohibit campaigns from automatically converting donations into recurring monthly payments on an opt-out basis. Campaign websites have increasingly included an automatically marked box that commit donors to regular payments unless they uncheck it.

RECALL AIR WARS — Pro-Faulconer committee spends $1.2M on California recall ads, by POLITICO’s Jeremy B. White.

EASTERN FRONT?Republican gubernatorial candidate Caitlyn Jenner told “The View” yesterday that she would “finish the border wall” and work on “protecting our eastern front.” Fact check: California has no international border at its eastern front. And asked specifically if she’s among Republicans who believe Joe Biden was not elected president, Jenner sidestepped the question. “I’m not going to get into that, that election is over with,” she said, adding that “Donald Trump did some good things” and praising him for being “a disrupter.” Watch here.

HILL’S RETURN? — “Katie Hill fights to make revenge porn a federal crime and ponders another run for office,” by the LATimes’ Seema Mehta.

— “Newsom is staring at a recall. He’s not the only one,” by the LATimes’ Julia Wick: “During the first five months of 2021, active recall efforts — those in which an official step has been taken — have targeted at least 68 local officials in California, according to a Times analysis. The total has already surpassed the number of local recall attempts seen during four of the last five years in California, according to Ballotpedia, a nonpartisan website that tracks American politics and elections.”

POLITICAL GUT-PUNCH‘: Organizers of a new Democratic SuperPAC called StrikePAC say they aim for an aggressive “political gut-punch” by drawing a direct line between the very far right — including Hitler and the Nazis — and the Republican party. The PAC, which founder Rachel Bitecofer calls a “war machine of the left,’’ debuted last week on Morning Joe with a national spot using images of Hitler that went viral.

Bitecofer tells POLITICO that Democrats’ efforts in California against the GOP recall today have been woefully ineffective, and that Democrats must engage in a “brand offensive” that defines Republicans’ extremist bent. SrikePAC launches its first ad specifically on the California recall today, and the spot, called “Stop Them Now,’’ sounds the alarm on the Jan. 6 insurrection. It argues the far right insurrectionists are bringing “their hate to California” in a recall that is “against California values.” Watch it here.

AND THERE’S THIS…. YOUTUBE STAR Kevin Paffrath, who has 1.65 million social media followers —and whom we wrote about last week — holds his first gubernatorial recall campaign rally Saturday in SF at Civic Center Plaza. Details here.

CALEG TO CARB — Leyva to join CARB in oversight slot by POLITICO’s Debra Kahn: (Sen. Connie) Leyva’s San Bernardino County district has seen a boom in warehouses and other shipping facilities, and she has focused on reducing pollution from trucks…Leyva is a former president of the California Labor Federation. Labor and environmental justice advocates have been clashing over representation at CARB and whether the state should pursue greenhouse gas reductions directly from facilities.

ONE TO WATCH — “L.A. Times seeks to make depositions public in sexual harassment case involving former Garcetti aide,” by the LATimes’ Dakota Smith:

RED FLAGS‘He scares me’: VTA documents show coworker worried future mass shooter could ‘go postal,’” by the Mercury News’ Nico Savidge: “The gunman who killed nine of his Valley Transportation Authority coworkers was the subject of four investigations into his workplace conduct before he carried out the Bay Area’s deadliest mass shooting.”

— “Police reform bill to strip bad cops of badges stuck on who should decide,” by the SFChronicle’s Alexei Koseff: “Law enforcement organizations contend that the proposed system is slanted against them, giving too much power to a civilian-controlled advisory board that could be stacked with biased members. That concern has resonated with even some supportive legislators, who are seeking changes as the measure moves toward a September deadline for final approval.”

A CRISIS WORSENS ANOTHER — “How dire is the drought? One of California’s biggest reservoirs could hit its lowest level ever,” by the SFChronicle’s Michael Cabanatuan: “While most reservoirs are receding in this second year of negligible rainfall, Oroville has shrunk to just 37% of its full capacity, the steepest decline among the state’s largest reservoirs, according to a Chronicle data analysis. Just two years ago the lake was more than 97% full and in 2017, water flowed into its emergency spillway.”

— “The Drought In The Western U.S. Is Getting Bad. Climate Change Is Making It Worse,” by KQED’s Lauren Sommer: “Warming temperatures make it less likely for a raindrop or snowflake to reach a reservoir due to increased evaporation. As a result, the people who manage the West’s complex water systems are realizing that with climate change, they can no longer rely on the past to predict the future.”

UNDER PRESSURE — “Lawmakers Pressure Newsom to ‘Step Up’ on Racism as a Public Health Issue,” by California Healthline’s Angela Hart: “State Democratic lawmakers are not waiting for Newsom to make a declaration and are pressuring the first-term Democrat to dedicate $100 million per year from the state budget, beginning July 1, to fund new health equity programs and social justice experiments that might help break down systemic racism.”

SCHOOLS — “L.A. teachers union pact mandates masks and coronavirus tests for all this fall,” by the LATimes’ Howard Blume: “The mask mandate would continue regardless of whether employees or students are vaccinated, with rare potential exceptions for students with disabilities. And the coronavirus testing would take place at least once every two weeks.”

AUDITOR HOWLE INTERVIEW — “How California Detects Fiscal Distress in Local Governments,” via Pew Charitable Trusts: “With the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic putting fiscal pressure on state and local government budgets, states are looking to identify municipalities most at risk of fiscal distress so that local officials can address problems early on, allowing them to perhaps avoid drastic measures such as cutting programs or services.”

SHROOM BOOM? — “Will psychedelics become legal in California?” by CalMatters’ Marissa Garcia: “Senate Bill 519 would decriminalize the possession and non-commercial sharing of psychedelics by people age 21 or older. It would not permit the sale of psychedelics in government-sanctioned shops the way cannabis is allowed under state law, but sets up the framework for California to move toward regulating psychedelic drugs in the future.”

ENROLLMENT DROP — “California has the largest drop in spring college enrollment numbers in the nation,” by the LATimes’ Colleen Shalby: “The decline in community college students accounts for a large majority of California’s loss, which is in keeping with a national trend as community college enrollment was hardest hit by the pandemic.”

PANDEMIC FALLOUT — “Why remote work is here to stay for California state employees after Newsom’s reopening,” by the Sac Bee’s Wes Venteicher: “Across 15 state departments, 73% of employees who are eligible for remote work are teleworking full-time, according to data the Department of General Services posted on a new telework website. About 23% are teleworking part-time, and only 4% are not teleworking, according to the data.”

— “Telemedicine took off in the pandemic. California is now debating costs if it endures,” by the Kaiser Health News’ Rachel Bluth: “In California, the Democratic-controlled Legislature wants the state’s Medicaid program for low-income people — called Medi-Cal — to keep paying for phone appointments at the same rate as for video and in-person visits, a policy that began during the pandemic. But Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget plan directs Medi-Cal to reduce the rate.”

RACIAL JUSTICE — “Black city employees accuse Long Beach of racial discrimination in lawsuit,” by the LATimes’ Faith E. Pinho: “The lawsuit cites a 2018 report about demographics at the Civic Center, showing that 65% of Black employees in the city are paid less than $60,000 annually, compared with 34% of the city’s white employees who are in that salary category. In 2018, 9% of Black people who applied for the city’s classified positions were hired, while 33% of white applicants, 45% of Latino job candidates and 13% of Asian job seekers were hired.”

‘They have to understand’: Cuellar urges Biden, Harris to visit southern border by POLITICO’s Quint Forgey: But Cuellar on Thursday praised the vice president’s posture on the trip, offering a respite from the more moderate corner of her party as the White House contends with the political fallout from Harris’ remarks.

TOSS THE MASK? — “California reopens next week — Can I trash all my COVID masks?” by the Mercury News’ Ethan Baron: “The rules set by local, state and federal governments are not in sync, and another announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected Friday. But Californians’ new mask-wearing future is coming into focus, despite confusion and a beleaguered workplace-safety board’s reversal this week of guidelines it adopted last week after a marathon nine-hour meeting.”

— “California COVID-19 plunges to new lows, fueling hope big reopening won’t bring new surge,” by the LATimes’ Luke Money and Rong-Gong Lin II: “The state has for several months recorded one of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in the country, a distinction that’s endured despite the end of many restrictions and the rise of new variants. The numbers and rapid rollout of vaccinations have given public health officials even more confidence that life can return to some semblance of normal without the horrific surges that thwarted California’s two previous attempts at reopening.”

MASK ON, MASK OFFWearing a mask may go from a symbol of responsibility to vulnerability as California reopens,” by the LATimes’ Rong-Gong Lin II and Luke Money: “Given the heated debates over masking, officials are already warning the public against heaping scorn or dirty looks on those who decide to remain masked. Officials say it would be a mistake to start thinking that a face covering is indicative of someone’s vaccination status.”

VACCINE YOUTH TRIALKaiser launches COVID-19 vaccine trial for children 5 to 11 in Northern California,” by the LATimes’ Lila Seidman: “A few weeks ago, Kaiser’s Los Angeles Medical Center kicked off a trial evaluating a Moderna vaccine for children 6 months to 11 years old, a Kaiser spokesperson said. So far, it has enrolled participants as young as 6.”

— “Murdoch empire pushes Republicans to back tech antitrust bills,” by Axios’ Ashley Gold and Margaret Harding McGill: “Murdoch’s media businesses have aggressively positioned themselves in opposition to the power of tech companies like Facebook and Google.”

— “How smugglers use Facebook to prey on desperate migrants,” via NBC News.

— “Movie Theater, Live Venue Operators Call for Fixes to Delayed COVID Relief Grants,” by the Hollywood Reporter’s Katie Kilkenny.

CHEAP WEED — “Cannabis dispensary offering 1-cent products as COVID-19 vaccine incentives,” by the LATimes’ Hayley Smith: “The effort comes amid slowing vaccination numbers in California. During the week ending June 6, the state administered an average of about 129,000 doses per day, compared with about 284,000 per day during the same week the month prior, according to state data.”

ICYMI — “Witness says Garcetti expressed surprise city hadn’t been sued over his former aide,” by the LATimes’ Dakota Smith and Richard Winton.

— “How to support Black businesses and events in Sacramento as California reopens the economy,” by the Sac Bee’s Marcus D. Smith.

— “California vaccine lottery winner thought call from state ‘was a joke,’” by the SFChronicle’s Aidin Vaziri.

— “Elk Grove signals recovery, OKs $273M budget focused on roads, civic projects, businesses,” by the Sac Bee’s Darrell Smith.

— “The fight to save the only gay bar in Pasadena,” by the LATimes’ Jenn Harris.

— “The fallout from the Bay Area restaurant labor shortage? Complaints of slow service and ‘Karen’ Yelp reviews,” by the SFChronicle’s Elena Kadvany.

— “See’s Candies at 100: How Mary See and family created a California classic,” by the Mercury News’ Linda Zavoral.

Cisco’s Michael Timmeny … Salesforce’s Tom Gavin … Juliette Medina … Google’s Ramya Raghavan

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