Essential California Week in Review: An unsatisfying end

Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) talks with Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) on Monday in Sacramento.
Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) talks with Assemblyman Ian Calderon (D-Whittier) on the Assembly floor on Monday in Sacramento. Lawmakers had until midnight Monday to finish all business before the end of the two-year legislative session.
(Hector Amezcua / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Sept. 5.

Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:

What Sacramento got done. It wouldn’t be the end of session without some drama and a flurry of bills. As California lawmakers wrapped up their legislative session Monday, they passed legislation including protections for renters and workers, including expanded family leave, sick leave and labor protections.

And what it didn’t get done. With legislators unable to agree on some closely watched measures, a session with a promising agenda came to an unsatisfying end. One bill that would have allowed duplexes on most single-family lots passed in the Assembly, but the session ended before the Senate could act.

Police reform stalls. A package of police reform bills largely failed to pass, though small reforms were successful. Lawmakers say contention, stalling tactics and weeks of lobbying from law enforcement unions derailed this year’s effort. But it wouldn’t be the first time: A reform effort in Santa Ana that collapsed under similar opposition offers a cautionary tale.

Whose vote can be remote? California lawmakers expressed outrage that a Bay Area lawmaker was forced to soothe her fussy newborn on the Assembly floor. Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks’ request to vote remotely during the pandemic was denied despite a plan intended to allow remote voting for members considered high-risk for contracting the virus.

A test for public health. Labor Day weekend poses a double threat, state officials say: There’s the risky behavior and large gatherings that can come with holiday weekends as California continues to pay the price for parties and too-early reopenings. A ferocious heat wave is also expected to bring high temperatures, increased risk of fires and power grid strain.

Where are all the kindergartners? The numbers are in, and enrollment in the Los Angeles Unified School District is down as the pandemic drags into a second school year. Officials say the youngest students are missing in the biggest numbers: Kindergarten enrollment dropped by about 6,000.

Questioning police narratives. The stories law enforcement agencies tell about their work face new scrutiny and rising doubts — from questionable or inaccurate police reports to expensive police public relations teams that shape policy and public discussions about policing.

“They killed him.” The fatal shooting of Dijon Kizzee, 29, by police in the South Los Angeles neighborhood of Westmont elicited fresh waves of outcry and outrage and renewed calls for police transparency and the arrests of the officers who shot him.

More sexual assault charges. Ron Jeremy was charged by L.A. County prosecutors with 20 more counts of sexual assault and groping Monday — including an allegation of lewd conduct with a minor — after dozens of additional women came forward following the adult film actor’s rape arrest in late June.

The DMV aims for better. But it still falls short, visitors say. The pandemic has forced the agency to offer more online services, accelerate in-person ones and get up to speed with the modern world.

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1. Nancy Pelosi says her visit to a hair salon was a “setup.” The stylist backs her up. Los Angeles Times

2. “Throw Yourself Like Seed” by Miguel de Unamuno. The Gladdest Thing

3. How Big Sur’s Dolan fire turned California’s most scenic route into a smoldering ghost highway. San Luis Obispo Tribune

4. “September” by Joanne Kyger. Poetry Foundation

5. “Somewhere Holy” by Carl Phillips. Poetry Foundation

ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

The Eco–Yogi Slumlords of Brooklyn. How did a couple who built an empire of yoga studios and homes with “living walls” end up as pandemic villains? The Cut

“I met Lisa when my son went over a waterfall.” A woman recounts how a stranger helped her family during their darkest moment. The Atlantic

A white mom marched alone to say “Black lives matter.” Her Black son urged her to do more. Los Angeles Times

Oedipus Vex: A respected French philosopher has publicly disowned his equally famous philosopher son, not for stealing his girlfriend, but because the son also published a dishy autobiographical novel. The philosopher father summed up his critiques of the book to a French newspaper: “As Camus, who my son is so fond of quoting, said: ‘A man should restrain himself.’” (It should probably be noted that the girlfriend who left the father for the son is former first lady Carla Bruni.) The Guardian

Poem of the week: “I drew a line...” by Toon Tellegen, translated from the Dutch by Judith Wilkinson. Poetry Book Society

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes. (And a giant thanks to the legendary Laura Blasey for all her help on the Saturday edition.)