Essential California Week in Review: A plan for $200 cash rebates

Cars drive past a gas station sign with prices from $5.19 a gallon to $5.49 a gallon
Gas prices have sparked discussion about cash rebates for Californians. A plan unveiled Thursday would extend beyond drivers to include all lower and middle-income taxpayers.
(Al Seib / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, April 30.

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

Democrats in the state Senate unveiled a plan to give millions of California families cash rebates of $200 per person. Lawmakers are divvying up California’s towering tax surplus — some $68 billion over the next 14 months. Democrats proposed spending $8 billion on one-time cash rebates for families with adjusted annual incomes of less than $250,000 — $200 per taxpayer and another $200 for each child. For a family of four that meets the income requirements, that would amount to an $800 tax rebate. They also proposed subsidies to California small businesses that will soon be required to make new payments to cover the cost of COVID-19 jobless claims.

California’s attorney general said Exxon perpetuated a “myth” of recycling. Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta announced a first-of-its kind investigation into the fossil fuel and petrochemical industries for their alleged role in causing and exacerbating a global crisis in plastic waste pollution. He said his office had subpoenaed Exxon Mobil Corp. seeking information related to the company’s role in global plastics pollution. “For more than half a century,” he said, “the plastics industry has engaged in an aggressive campaign to deceive the public, perpetuating a myth that recycling can solve the plastics crisis.”

April precipitation across much of the Sierra was twice that of January, February and March. The late-season burst of snow and moisture that blanketed Northern California helped make a small dent in drought conditions, experts said, but the majority of the state is still far below where it needs to be as it heads toward the hot, dry months of summer.


The most contentious and closely watched California election in 2022 is likely to be the race for attorney general. The progressive incumbent, Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, will have to defend his record against candidates running tough-on-crime campaigns, including Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert. The race coincides with increased scrutiny of recent criminal justice reform efforts, a juxtaposition that Bonta’s opponents see as an opportunity to pin the blame for rising crime on Democrats.

A measure likely to be on California’s November ballot would tax the state’s wealthiest residents and fund public health initiatives. The goal is to prevent another pandemic from ripping across the country. The campaign is being spearheaded by former Wall Street trader Gabe Bankman-Fried, Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and Max Henderson, a former Google exec. These entrepreneurs say the government must dramatically increase its investments in the crumbling public health system, considering how unprepared California and the U.S. were for the COVID-19 crisis.

The first eyewitness account of L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva allegedly lying about his role in a cover-up was revealed in a legal filing. Former Assistant Sheriff Robin Limon, once one of Villanueva’s closest advisors, said she personally brought a DVD containing a video of a deputy kneeling on a handcuffed inmate’s neck to Villanueva — and watched it with him and two others five days after the incident. The sheriff has claimed he didn’t learn of the incident until eight months later. Also this week: The sheriff held a news conference where he said his department was targeting a Times journalist in a criminal leak investigation for her reporting on the cover-up. After a barrage of criticism from politicians, The Times and press freedom groups, he backed off his announcement and denied that he considered the reporter a suspect.

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A former DWP general manager was sentenced to six years in prison. Prosecutors said David Wright took part in a scheme to get a $30-million contract at the DWP approved so he could join the company it was awarded to, at a $1-million salary, after he retired from the utility. “The motive here was pure greed and the pursuit of excess riches,” the judge said.

Southern California officials declared a water shortage emergency and ordered restrictions. About 6 million people in parts of L.A., Ventura and San Bernardino counties will be limited to watering outdoors just one day a week under the restrictions announced by the Metropolitan Water District board. The rule takes effect June 1 and applies to areas that get their water from the drought-ravaged State Water Project. It’s the first time the board has taken such a step, and officials followed it up with a warning that, if conditions don’t improve, there could be a total ban on outdoor watering by September.

Wildlife officials busted a white-sturgeon poaching ring, authorities said. Two Oakland men allegedly caught sturgeon, removed their eggs and sold them to a San Francisco family who then processed the roe into caviar and sold it on the illegal wildlife market, according to officials with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the agency that conducted the investigation. Nine people have been arrested.

Rick Caruso has spent $23 million, largely out of his own pocket, in an effort to become L.A. mayor. By comparison, his closest competitor in the race, Rep. Karen Bass, has spent about $800,000 this year. The billionaire’s spending has reshaped the race to succeed Mayor Eric Garcetti.

A theft ring that stole $1 million in jewelry in California has been apprehended, said Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta. The suspects were caught after a two-year California Highway Patrol operation. Prosecutors have obtained guilty pleas from two of those who allegedly stole jewelry from JCPenney and Sam’s Club stores across the state, acting as a traveling crime wave.

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Thirty years ago, the police officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted, and L.A. burned. On the anniversary of the L.A. riots, The Times has a package of stories that includes some amazing video, riot photos overlaid on current neighborhood footage, 3D modeling, columns on the Black-Korean conflict and Latinos’ role in the uprising and more.

“I care for the environment. But I’m a hotrodder.” Converting internal combustion engine vehicles to electric “has become more and more popular,” particularly for owners of classic cars. For many of those owners, it’s less about the climate crisis, air pollution and the cost of gas and more about prolonging the longevity of their beloved autos.

Goodbye, L.A. and San Francisco. Hello, Riverside and the Central Valley. Across the state, Californians in search of more open space, a sense of community and affordable housing are trading city life in major urban centers like the Bay Area or Los Angeles for suburban and rural communities. A growing number of families have moved inland over the last few years, data show, but the migratory shift grew even more pronounced amid the pandemic as the barriers to moving dropped for many in large cities, spurred by a newfound ability to work remotely.

Today’s week-in-review newsletter was curated by Amy Hubbard. Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints and ideas to

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