Newsletter: What really went down in the fight over the state’s new vaccine law

Opponents of the recently passed legislation to tighten the rules on giving exemptions for vaccinations demonstrate outside the office of Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 9 in Sacramento.
(Rich Pedroncelli/AP)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Sept. 23, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

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Monday is the fall equinox — the first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere.

Tuesday is National Voter Registration Day. (Make sure you’re registered here!)

On Thursday, Endeavor Group Holdings Inc., owner of the powerful WME talent agency, is expected to announce the final pricing of its initial public offering. Endeavor Group shares are expected to commence trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.


From Friday through Sunday, streamers and their fans will gather in San Diego for the annual TwitchCon.

Also this weekend: the Monterey Jazz Festival in Monterey (headlined by Diana Krall and Chris Botti) and the Ohana Festival in Dana Point (headlined by the Strokes, Eddie Vedder and the Red Hot Chili Peppers).

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:


Of the more than 2,600 bills introduced this year in the California Legislature, few captured the public’s attention like Senate Bill 276, which tightened the rules on medical exemptions for childhood vaccinations. Prompted by an alarming rise in measles cases and allegations of questionable vaccine exemptions, it was the legislative equivalent of a Rorschach test. Some were convinced they saw it as government overreach, others as a victory for science over social media-fueled skepticism. Along the way, it became a measurement of Gov. Gavin Newsom himself — the charismatic new governor who had yet to establish firm relationships with many of his fellow Democrats in the Legislature.

The Times interviewed more than two dozen people involved in the private negotiations and public debate over SB 276, including legislators, state Capitol staffers, lobbyists and advocates. Here’s the inside story on the hidden battle over California’s new vaccine law. Los Angeles Times

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning for much of Northern California, as high winds are set to increase fire danger Monday through Wednesday. As many as 67,000 PG&E customers in Butte, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sutter and Yuba counties could be affected by a potential power shutoff. Sacramento Bee

The 71st Emmy Awards were held on Sunday night. Here’s a quick rundown on the highlights:

  • It’s Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s world, and we’re all just living in it. The “Fleabag” star and creator won lead actress in a comedy series in a stunning upset victory over Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who was favored to win for “Veep.” “Fleabag” also won for comedy series, and Waller-Bridge picked up another trophy for comedy series writing for the Season 2 premiere. Los Angeles Times
  • HBO led the awards with nine wins in the major categories, holding the encroaching streaming services at bay. Los Angeles Times
  • “Pose” star Billy Porter made history by becoming the first openly gay black man to win the lead actor in a drama category.Los Angeles Times
  • Plus, the 10 weirdest things at the very weird Emmys 2019. Los Angeles Times
  • And the complete list of 2019 Primetime Emmy winners. Los Angeles Times


“I used to be charming.” Legendary L.A. writer Eve Babitz reflects on the burns that almost cost the writer her life in this previously unpublished essay. Airmail

Eve Babitz on Sunset Boulevard in January 1980.
(Los Angeles Times)

L.A. Metro is running fewer Expo Line trains. Riders say they feel like sardines. Los Angeles Times

A Nashville-inspired hot chicken pop-up outside a Northridge car wash is drawing long lines on Reseda Boulevard. Los Angeles Daily News

How the Clippers won Kawhi Leonard and Paul George: A look at how the team was able to land two of the best players in the NBA over the summer. Los Angeles Times

Chinese grocery stores have been a mainstay of the Chinatown community for decades. Soon, the neighborhood will be left without a full-service Chinese grocery store. Columnist Frank Shyong looks into the impact these markets leave behind. Los Angeles Times

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This Turlock dairy farmer sued his boss for violating employment rights after a workplace injury. Then he was deported. “His story is just one example of the extra risks that undocumented workers face when asserting their employment rights, something that’s not new in the United States.” PRI’s The World


Why Bay Area transit is broken, and who is trying to fix it. Mercury News

Santa Rosa will explore accelerating the move to a $15-an-hour minimum wage. (The state mandates cities raise the minimum wage for workers to $15 by 2023; the Santa Rosa proposal will look at making the move by 2021.) Santa Rosa Press-Democrat

Animal advocates are divided on Bakersfield’s strategy for reducing rampant pet overpopulation. Bakersfield Californian


The rate of jail inmate deaths in San Diego County far exceeds other large California counties. At least 140 people have died in San Diego County jails since 2009, the year Bill Gore took over as sheriff. That’s an average higher than one inmate per month, every month, over the past 10 years. San Diego Union-Tribune

A federal court ruled against San Juan Capistrano in the Orange County city’s long battle to block an electrical substation. Orange County Register


Chemical exposures in California’s vast cropland spark fear for growers and workers. Two pesticide exposure incidents this summer opened old divisions over pesticide use and worker protections in the San Joaquin Valley. Fresno Bee

How decades of L.A. smog led to California’s war with Trump over car pollution. Washington Post

In Humboldt County, activists have been fighting for decades to preserve the forests and have embraced direct action tactics aimed at physically preventing logging companies from felling trees. Now, a new generation of activists has taken up the cause. The Intercept

Dangerous levels of E. coli haved turned the South Yuba River yellow. Officials have issued a no-swim advisory for a nearly 50-mile stretch of the river northeast of Sacramento. San Francisco Chronicle


A San Clemente investigation confirmed allegations that students from a San Diego high school were subjected to racial taunts and slurs at a football game a week ago. The San Clemente principal has issued an apology. San Diego Union-Tribune

Tension has grown at Airbnb where employees have become frustrated about not being able to cash in the stock they received as part of their compensation. New York Times

A tiny Marin County district got California’s first school desegregation order in 50 years. Now, Willow Creek is at the center of an emotional battle that has brought fresh attention to long-festering racial inequities in liberal Marin County. Los Angeles Times

The oldest park ranger in the U.S. is recovering from a stroke. Betty Reid Soskin, 98, fell ill recently while working at the Rosie the Riveter World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond. Sacramento Bee

Are Coachella Valley dates California’s next superfood? These growers see potential. Desert Sun

An unconventional food hall built out of shipping containers will open this week in Garden Grove. Orange County Register


Los Angeles: sunny, 83. San Diego: partly sunny, 74. San Francisco: partly sunny, 77. San Jose: sunny, 85. Sacramento: sunny, 90. More weather is here.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Rep. Doris Matsui (Sept. 25, 1944), actor Will Smith (Sept. 25, 1968), Lakers president Jeanie Buss (Sept. 26, 1961), tennis star Serena Williams (Sept. 26, 1981) and actress-entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow (Sept. 27, 1972).

“Los Angeles isn’t a city. It’s a gigantic, sprawling, ongoing studio. Everything is off the record.”

— -Eve Babitz, “Slow Days, Fast Company”

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

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.