Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It is Saturday, Jan. 11.
Here’s a look at the top stories of the last week:
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Setting the agenda: California has long been a trailblazer when it comes to new laws and ideas, and 2020 is shaping up to be no exception, as news of the agenda trickled out of Sacramento this week. Here’s some of what Gov. Gavin Newsom is proposing in the $222.2-billion state budget he sent to lawmakers Friday:
— Medi-Cal coverage for all Californians over 65, regardless of immigration status.
— More than $1.4 billion allocated for homelessness help, another major push to send state tax dollars to local communities struggling with the growing crisis.
— A $1-billion, four-year effort to encourage novel approaches to fighting climate change with low-interest loans to small businesses.
— A vaping tax based on nicotine content.
Still expecting a surplus: Under Newsom’s budget projections, California is poised to collect a sizable cash surplus for the seventh time in eight years, a remarkable streak even in the face of steadily higher spending made possible by a strong economy and hefty tax revenue.
— Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers summed it up this way: “The budget crafted by Newsom is hardly cautious. Although it seeks limited growth in long-term commitments, the governor proposes to expand state government’s reach into policy areas that have historically been the purview of local and federal governments.”
— Earlier in the week, columnist George Skelton urged Newsom to focus in 2020. “He doesn’t prioritize. But there’s a sign that could be changing.”
Billionaire beach battle: California officials have sued a Silicon Valley billionaire who has fought for more than a decade to keep San Mateo County’s popular Martins Beach to himself — a move to end one of the state’s most intense public access battles.
The Marathon Book Club: Nipsey Hussle was a bookworm. Now, nearing a year after his death, dozens of black men meet monthly in L.A., Oakland, New York and Washington, D.C., to discuss the books that motivated him and find inspiration for themselves, too.
Targeting tourists: Bay Area burglars are heading to L.A. to break into tourists’ cars to steal their valuables at shopping centers and museums, hunting for clues like out-of-state plates to find their targets, police say. Some victims describe ruined vacations that have tainted their ideas of the city.
New Weinstein charges: On the eve of his Manhattan trial, Harvey Weinstein was charged with four more counts of rape and sexual battery in L.A. It took Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey’s office two years to build its case. So why haven’t there been more charges?
Reggaeton radio war: For years, Mega 96.3-FM enjoyed a perch on the local market as the only full-time home for reggaeton on L.A. radio. But now it’s locked in a ratings battle with an upstart rival, Cali 93.9, that’s switched to a similar bilingual Latin urban format and is poaching on-air talent.
This week’s most popular stories in Essential California
1. How Hollywood changed in five years. Curbed
2. Why are we getting such amazing sunsets? Pasadena Star-News
3. A great deal for a vacation riding the rails. Los Angeles Times
4. Why are so many restaurants closing in Sacramento? CBS Sacramento
5. Harry and Meghan plan to step back from their royal duties. Los Angeles Times
ICYMI, here are this week’s great reads
It’s not easy being an atheist raised in a devoutly Catholic culture. But in the San Gabriel Valley, you don’t have to doubt God’s existence all alone. Los Angeles Times
They signed a contract on a Papa John’s franchise in South L.A. Then came the founder’s racist remarks. Los Angeles Times
How to get snow on that palm tree. The New Yorker
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 Diya Chacko for all her help on the Saturday edition.)