Essential California Week in Review: What’s in store for the state post-Roe

Women embrace within a crowd of people holding signs; media take photos.
Abortion rights activists react outside the Supreme Court in Washington on Friday after justices overturned Roe vs. Wade.
(Stefani Reynolds / AFP/Getty Images)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, June 25.

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

What happens now? Despite the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe vs. Wade, access to abortion in California will continue to be protected under state law, and those rights will probably be expanded by Democratic leaders. The state’s been preparing for an influx from areas of the country where bans will be resurrected for the first time since 1973, with bills and budget proposals calling for millions to be set aside for abortion services for the uninsured, for workforce programs to increase providers, and to assist patients traveling from other states.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and state lawmakers reached a tentative deal on tax refunds. It would send $9.5 billion from surplus tax revenues to Californians, providing as much as $1,050 to families this fall in long-awaited financial relief from record-high gasoline prices and other rising costs.

After the Supreme Court gun ruling, California leaders vowed to create new restrictions. California Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta pledged to work with the governor and lawmakers to pass new gun control legislation “to keep Californians safe” in response to the ruling, which weakens requirements to obtain a license to carry a concealed weapon in the state.


California’s top military brass has been rocked by homophobia, antisemitism and indecent-exposure scandals. Those are among the latest embarrassing episodes to tarnish the Guard, a branch of the California Military Department that has been beset in recent years by allegations of cover-ups and retaliation against whistleblowers, a Times investigation based on Guard documents and interviews has found.

“When it comes to providing free school transportation to students, California comes in dead last.” So says state Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), the author of a new bill that would require districts to provide transportation to most students by 2027, with a boost from the state. Unlike some other states, California does not require school districts to provide buses, even if a student lives far from campus. The state pays a fraction of transportation costs for schools despite soaring inflation, increased demand, a sharp jump in gas prices and a projected record-high state budget surplus.

Not all fires are equal. New research from UC Irvine shows that fires caused by human activity — be it arson, a neglected campfire, sparking electrical equipment or ill-conceived gender reveal parties — spread faster, burn hotter and destroy more trees than those caused by lightning strikes.

California announced a legislative inquiry to determine whether oil companies were “ripping off” drivers. California’s highest-in-the nation gas prices remain a volatile political issue in the midst of an election year. Democratic Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said a select committee would consider what measures the state could enact to reduce gas prices and “stand up to the profiteers who are abusing a historic situation to suck profits from California’s wallets.”

Despite wide circulation of the coronavirus, the impact on the state’s hospitals has been relatively minor. Even with the uptick in transmission, COVID-19 deaths have remained fairly low and stable. And this has occurred even with officials largely eschewing new restrictions and mandates. But the coronavirus can mutate rapidly, potentially upending the public health landscape.

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The federal government told Western states to cut the amount of water they were taking from the Colorado River — now. With the river’s depleted reservoirs sinking to new lows, the Interior Department is seeking emergency cuts. “We need to be taking action in all states, in all sectors, and in all available ways,” said an official with the department. Meanwhile, Lake Oroville, the largest reservoir in a state system that provides water to 27 million Californians, has already reached its peak level for the year, barely surpassing half of its capacity.


Disney was part of a small, secretive group that pulled strings at Anaheim City Hall. The “cabal” steered policy, received contracts from the city and scripted remarks by Anaheim’s mayor, a Times investigation found. Hundreds of pages of campaign finance records, city documents, emails and interviews show how deep-pocketed corporate interests — Disneyland Resort chief among them — influenced the city.

Seven affordable housing projects in California are costing over $1 million per apartment to build. The developments, all in Northern California, received state funding and were under construction or close to breaking ground. They’ll provide homes for more than 600 families. But their exorbitant cost means taxpayers are subsidizing fewer apartments while waiting lists of renters grow, a Times review of data has found.

Where are California’s dirtiest beaches? Heal the Bay’s annual report card on the state’s beaches included eight beach bummers, including Santa Monica Pier and, in Marina del Rey, Mother’s Beach — where parents like to take their tots but poor water circulation means bacteria and pollution easily build up.

Monsoonal moisture moved through Southern California this week. Parts of the region were hit by thunder, lightning, rain, heavy winds and even hail. In Pico Rivera, a woman and her two dogs were fatally struck by lightning. A Kern County man walking a dog and pushing a baby in a stroller was injured by lightning. And elsewhere in Kern County, a wildfire that has burned about 2,500 acres near the Grapevine was probably ignited by lightning, officials said.

A bacterial outbreak in two state hatcheries spurred plans to euthanize 350,000 trout. The facilities typically stock waterways for recreational fishing in Imperial, Inyo, Mono, Riverside and San Bernardino counties, so availability in those areas will potentially be affected.

Investigators seized more than $1.5 million worth of fentanyl-laced drugs over the last two weeks in Riverside County. “Hundreds of people are dying every year in Riverside County due to fentanyl poisoning. Victims, including young people, are illegally obtaining pills they believe are oxycodone or Percocet but instead contain fentanyl,” the district attorney’s office said. “It only takes two milligrams of fentanyl to potentially be a fatal dose and a teaspoon contains 5,000 milligrams.”

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ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads

Tear out your lawn, check. Drought-tolerant plants, check. Next up: recycled water. Just 1 inch of rain falling on a 1,000-square-foot roof can produce about 580 gallons of water for storage, making the 50-gallon rain barrels typically available at hardware stores “a waste of time and money,” said one person in the know. We must be ready to collect the rain that will someday fall out of the sky, advocates say. These people have a vision that includes not only storing precious rainwater but also putting it to use in drip irrigation and aquaculture, as well as waterfalls surrounded by lush plantings and the soothing music of running (albeit recycled) water.

Where the Colorado River no longer meets the sea, a pulse of water brings new life. For decades, so much water has been diverted to supply farms and cities that the river has seldom reached the ocean, and much of its delta in Mexico has been reduced to a dry riverbed, with only remnants of its once-vast wetlands surviving. Over the last eight weeks, water has been flowing in parts of the delta once again, released from an irrigation canal to aid the parched environment as part of an agreement between the Mexican and U.S. governments and with support from environmental groups. Those involved say that even as drought and the warming climate sap the Colorado River, the initiative shows how small amounts of water can be used to benefit struggling ecosystems.

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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