Newsletter: Essential Politics: Gov. Newsom hits the 100-day mark with a long to-do list

Essential Politics

Put yourself in the shoes of Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Long considered a rising political star, he waited eight years as the state’s second-in-command for his chance to stand in the spotlight. He won the top job by the largest electoral margin in modern history, quickly becoming California’s most powerful politician. Democrats were eager to see him put his many campaign promises into action.

It’s no wonder his to-do list is a long one.

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There’s certainly nothing magic about 100 days in elected office — it’s a political milestone best known for the man who used it to plant the seeds of a national rescue mission during the Great Depression, the late President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Now, it’s generally a marker for elected officials and the public at large to take a look at how a new leader is faring in the job.

Newsom, the 51-year old governor of America’s most populous state, chose to spend the early months sketching out an expansive government agenda: expanded education and healthcare programs for the working poor, a nationally watched moratorium on the death penalty and close to $2 billion to tackle the state’s housing and homelessness crises. In some cases, the ball is rolling in Sacramento; in others, there’s still a lot left to do.

“We said we wanted to be bold. We had a platform: Courage for a change,” Newsom said in an interview with The Times. “It wasn’t an indictment of the status quo. It was an expression of the willingness to take on some of these vexing issues, to lean in to some of these issues, and to see what we can shape.”


One of his proposals that still is in its early stages is to shift California’s juvenile justice system away from a focus on crime and punishment. Already, one key group of men and women in the juvenile system — probation officers — wonders whether the effort will move away from the programs they believe have shown real success.

And last week, the governor announced that Los Angeles County will join his effort in trying to lower the costs of prescription drugs, first those bought by government agencies and then perhaps those sold to consumers.

Meanwhile, the biggest test in the near future for Newsom is the state budget. Tax revenues collected through the first three weeks of April have been strong — erasing a shortfall through the early months of 2019 and putting his January revenue projections for the year back on track. The governor will propose a revised spending plan in mid-May.


Few questions are as ever-present — or consequential — as the one now facing Democrats on Capitol Hill. Did the final report of special counsel Robert Mueller III uncover actions by President Trump that rise to the level of impeachment hearings in the House?

Several leading Democrats said Sunday that impeachment must at least be considered on the basis of behavior detailed in the Mueller report released last week. The president’s allies, on the other hand, aggressively pressed their contention that Trump was exonerated.

Regardless, last week’s closely watched release of the report marked the beginning of the ultimate referendum on the president’s political fate — the intense debate over whether he should be reelected in 2020.

Our Times team also took a look at two other important parts of the story surrounding the Mueller report. First, why was there no finding of obstruction of justice?


And perhaps just as important, how does one square the stories told in public by those close to Trump with the about-face those men and women did when talking to federal investigators? It’s not a crime to lie to reporters and the American people and for that, the president’s team can be grateful.


-- Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren unveiled a plan to cancel up to $50,000 in student loan debt for households earning under $250,000 a year.

-- A federal lawsuit filed by death row inmates has renewed a court fight over whether the sedative Arkansas uses for lethal injections causes torturous executions, two years after the state raced to put eight convicted killers to death in 11 days before a previous batch of the drug expired.

-- A prominent Houston cancer center has ousted three of five scientists whom federal authorities identified as being involved in Chinese efforts to steal American research.

-- Hassan Whiteside, a Miami Heat basketball player, paid $2.75 million to his former girlfriend Alexis Gardner in a confidential legal settlement. Prosecutors say her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, stole most of the money.


Lawmakers in Sacramento will weigh in on one of the year’s most important housing bills this week, one generally described as an effort focused on boosting the population of urban communities situated near public transit. The Los Angeles City Council voted last week to oppose the legislation.


But Senate Bill 50 — as currently drafted — would also force wealthy communities near employment centers to allow apartments where only single-family homes are currently permitted, regardless of whether they’re close to transit lines. And it’s drawing considerable attention in places like Palo Alto, which could see its population rise dramatically under the legislation written by state Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco).

“It’s no longer acceptable to attract tons of jobs while refusing to build housing,” Wiener said. “That isn’t sustainable. It doesn’t work. And it has to change.”


-- A pair of California state legislators have introduced a package of bills to train doctors, nurses, judges and police officers how to spot implicit bias on the job that leads to disparities in treatment and care, justice and punishment.

-- Five California counties abandoned neighborhood polling places in 2018, mailing every voter a ballot and opening multipurpose voting centers. Five more counties will switch to the new system next year, including Los Angeles. Measuring success isn’t easy.

-- What would a universal basic income mean for America? Stockton thinks it has the answer.

-- California gives out too many tax breaks. And it’s losing billions on them each year, writes George Skelton.


Essential Politics is written by Sacramento bureau chief John Myers on Mondays and Washington bureau chief David Lauter on Fridays.

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