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(Christina House/For The Times)

Groups seeking a change in the law or California’s Constitution will find it significantly harder — and more costly — to qualify ballot measures beginning next year, following high voter turnout for the Nov. 6 statewide election.

State law links the number of voter signatures required on an initiative or referendum to the total number of votes cast in the most recent election of a governor. The threshold for qualifying a measure was at its lowest point in decades for elections in 2016 and 2018, after record low turnout in 2014 for the reelection of Gov. Jerry Brown.

Last month’s election, however, saw more than 12.4 million votes cast in the race between Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom and Republican businessman John Cox. By law, proponents of an initiative must gather signatures equal to either 5% or 8% of the total votes cast in the gubernatorial contest — depending on whether the initiative seeks to create a statute or a constitutional amendment. A ballot referendum, which asks voters to overturn a law passed by the Legislature, requires signatures equal to 5% of the governor’s race votes.

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  • State government
  • California Democrats
Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom talks to Fresno residents Friday after holding a town hall at the Teamsters Local 431 union hall.
Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom talks to Fresno residents Friday after holding a town hall at the Teamsters Local 431 union hall. (Phil Willon / Los Angeles Times)

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom spent Friday in Fresno reassuring business, agricultural and labor leaders of his commitment to the Central Valley, and dropped a few hints that his first budget will set aside more money for young children and to address contaminated drinking water in the region.

Newsom, who will take the oath of office on Jan. 7, also told a packed union hall at the Teamsters Local 431 that under his administration, California will become an assertive and aggressive voice in the nationwide debate over immigration.

Last week, Newsom visited a immigrant detention facility near the U.S.-Mexico border and accused federal officials of treating immigrants seeking asylum “like trash.”

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Cities and law enforcement leaders say a state proposal to allow pot delivery to homes would increase crime.
Cities and law enforcement leaders say a state proposal to allow pot delivery to homes would increase crime. (Mathew Sumner / Associated Press)

State officials on Friday moved ahead with a plan to allow marijuana deliveries to homes throughout California, including in cities that have outlawed pot shops.

The state Bureau of Cannabis Control said it sent the proposed rules to the state’s Office of Administrative Law, which has 30 days to conduct a routine review of their legality before the regulations become final in January.

The proposed rule has been vigorously opposed by the California Police Chiefs Assn. and the League of California Cities.

Former State Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) wants a recount after her election loss.
Former State Sen. Janet Nguyen (R-Garden Grove) wants a recount after her election loss. (Marc Martin / Los Angeles Times)

Days after Democrat Tom Umberg took the oath of office as the winner of the state’s 34th Senate District seat, Orange County elections officials said Friday that Republican incumbent Janet Nguyen’s camp has asked for a partial recount of the tally in their portion of the district.

Districtwide, Umberg has 3,088 votes more than Nguyen, a Garden Grove resident, but Nguyen received two more votes than the challenger in Orange County — 118,125 for Nguyen to 118,123 for Umberg.

The district also includes part of Long Beach in Los Angeles County, which put Umberg, a former state assemblyman from Santa Ana, over the top in the Nov. 6 election.

  • California Democrats

Gavin Newsom will be sworn in as California’s next governor in an outdoor ceremony on the steps of the Capitol next month. 

New details on the Jan. 7 inauguration were released Thursday and suggest a wider range of festivities than the last, no-frills gubernatorial induction.

The day before the inauguration, Newsom and his wife, Jennifer Siebel Newsom, will hold a children’s event at the California State Railroad Museum.

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  • State government

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom has hired a civil rights attorney to head legal affairs as he continues to shape the starting roster of his new administration. 

Catherine E. Lhamon currently serves as the chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, a position former President Obama appointed her to in 2016.

As Newsom’s in-house lawyer, a legal affairs secretary traditionally advises the governor on legislation and judicial appointments, crafts guidance for the executive branch and oversees pardons and paroles, among other duties.

  • State government

California Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom is expected to hire a seasoned legislative staffer as his top liaison with the Legislature. 

Anthony Williams will serve as Newsom’s legislative secretary, according to sources close to the transition. The move brings Williams, a director of government relations for Boeing Co., back on the state payroll. 

Williams was previously policy director and special counsel to former California Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg before going to work for Boeing. He also served as principal consultant to former Senate Pro Tem John Burton. 

Northern California’s recent wildfires have burned homes at a greater pace than developers are building them, deepening a housing shortage that already has left millions struggling to find affordable places to live.

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State Sen. Benjamin Allen (D-Santa Monica)
State Sen. Benjamin Allen (D-Santa Monica) (Kirk McKoy)

A new bill would allow the state to issue bonds and borrow money from investors to finance projects that reduce wildfire risks in California. 

State Sen. Benjamin Allen (D-Santa Monica) introduced the Wildfire, Drought and Flood Protection Bond Act of 2020 as another tool the state can use to offset a pattern of increasingly destructive and deadly blazes. 

“This year’s deadly wildfires, on the heels of last year’s catastrophic events and a devastating multi-year drought, clearly demonstrate that the impacts of climate change are here now and we need to be prepared,” Allen said in a statement. “This legislation sets a course to reduce the impacts of rising global temperatures and invest in necessary measures to protect communities.”

  • California Legislature
  • California Democrats
(Daniel Acker / Bloomberg)

After years of trying, two California lawmakers are once again attempting to eliminate sales taxes on diapers and tampons.

Democratic Assemblywomen Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher of San Diego and Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens have reintroduced bills to exempt purchasers from paying sales tax on the products.

“Every baby needs diapers,” Gonzalez Fletcher said in a statement about Assembly Bill 66. “The fact that we tax diapers is unfair and it’s a burdensome tax that hurts working class and middle class families.”