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Video recordings of Republican Party operatives meeting with grassroots activists provide an inside look at a multi-pronged strategy to target and potentially overturn votes in Democratic precincts: Install trained recruits as regular poll workers and put them in direct contact with party attorneys.
The plan, as outlined by a Republican National Committee staffer in Michigan, includes utilizing rules designed to provide political balance among poll workers to install party-trained volunteers prepared to challenge voters at Democratic-majority polling places, developing a website to connect those workers to local lawyers and establishing a network of party-friendly district attorneys who could intervene to block vote counts at certain precincts.
“Being a poll worker, you just have so many more rights and things you can do to stop something than [as] a poll challenger,” said Matthew Seifried, the RNC’s election integrity director for Michigan, stressing the importance of obtaining official designations as poll workers in a meeting with GOP activists in Wayne County last Nov. 6. It is one of a series of recordings of GOP meetings between summer of 2021 and May of this year obtained by POLITICO.
Seifried also said the RNC will hold “workshops” and equip poll workers with a hotline and website developed by Zendesk, a software support company used by online retailers, which will allow them to live-chat with party attorneys on Election Day. In a May 2022 training session, he said he’d achieved a goal set last winter: More than 5,600 individuals had signed up to be poll workers and, several days ago, he submitted an initial list of more than 850 names to the Detroit clerk.
Democrat Janice Winfrey, who serves as the clerk, would be bound to pick names from the list submitted by the party under a local law intended to ensure bipartisan representation and an unbiased team of precinct workers.
Separately, POLITICO obtained Zoom tapings of Tim Griffin, legal counsel to The Amistad Project, a self-described election-integrity group that Donald Trump’s former lawyer Rudy Giuliani once portrayed as a “partner” in the Trump campaign’s legal efforts to overturn the 2020 election, meeting with activists from multiple states and discussing plans for identifying friendly district attorneys who could stage real-time interventions in local election disputes.
On the recording, Griffin speaks of building a nationwide network of district attorney allies and how to create a legal “trap” for Winfrey.
“Remember, guys, we’re trying to build out a nationwide district attorney network. Your local district attorney, as we always say, is more powerful than your congressman,” Griffin said during a Sept. 21 meeting. “They’re the ones that can seat a grand jury. They’re the ones that can start an investigation, issue subpoenas, make sure that records are retained, etc.,” he said.
POLITICO obtained about a dozen recordings from people who were invited to listen to the meetings. Seifried referred POLITICO’s requests for comment to the RNC. Griffin, through the Thomas More Society, which runs Amistad, did not return repeated calls and texts to spokesperson Tom Ciesielka.
A spokesperson for the RNC said the party is attempting to rectify an imbalance in favor of Democratic election workers in large urban areas, particularly Detroit, a city that votes reliably Democratic by more than 90 percent. Just 170 of more than 5,400 Detroit election officials were Republicans in 2020, according to the RNC.
“Democrats have had a monopoly on poll watching for 40 years, and it speaks volumes that they’re terrified of an even playing field,” said RNC spokesperson Gates McGavick. “The RNC is focused on training volunteers to take part in the election process because polling shows that American voters want bipartisan poll-watching to ensure transparency and security at the ballot box.”
In the introduction graphic on his training presentation, Seifried says the RNC’s goal is to “make it easy to vote and HARD TO CHEAT.”
But election watchdog groups and legal experts say many of these recruits are answering the RNC’s call because they falsely believe fraud was committed in the 2020 election, so installing them as the supposedly unbiased officials who oversee voting at the precinct level could create chaos in such heavily Democratic precincts.
“This is completely unprecedented in the history of American elections that a political party would be working at this granular level to put a network together,” said Nick Penniman, founder and CEO of Issue One, an election watchdog group. “It looks like now the Trump forces are going directly after the legal system itself and that should concern everyone.”
Penniman also expressed concern about the quick-strike networks of lawyers and DAs being created, suggesting that politically motivated poll workers could simply initiate a legal conflict at the polling place that disrupts voting and then use it as a vehicle for rejecting vote counts from that precinct.
Democratic National Committee spokesperson Ammar Moussa said the DNC “trains poll watchers to help every eligible voter cast a ballot,” but neither the DNC nor the state party trains poll workers. The DNC did help recruit poll workers in 2020 due to a drop-off in older workers amid the pandemic; but he says it is not currently doing so and has never trained poll workers to contest votes.
On the tapes, some of the would-be poll workers lamented that fraud was committed in 2020 and that the election was “corrupt.” Installing party loyalists on the Board of Canvassers, which is responsible for certifying the election, also appears to be part of the GOP strategy. In Wayne County, which includes Detroit, Republicans nominated to their board a man who said he would not have certified the 2020 election.
Both Penniman and Rick Hasen, a law and political science professor at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, said they see a domino effect that could sow doubts about the election even when there was no original infraction: A politically motivated poll worker connecting with a zealous local lawyer to disrupt voting, followed by a challenge to the Board of Canvassers that may have nothing to do with the underlying dispute but merely the level of disruption at the polling place.
“You shouldn’t have poll workers who are reporting to political organizations what they see,” Hasen said. “It creates the potential for mucking things up at polling places and potentially leading to delays or disenfranchisement of voters,” especially “if [the poll workers] come in with the attitude that something is crooked with how elections are run.”
The recordings are among the first windows into what former Trump strategist Stephen Bannon, who’s been urging listeners to his podcast to take on election leadership positions, calls “the precinct strategy.”
But Penniman, the election watchdog, believes the strategy is designed to create enough disputes to justify intervention by GOP-controlled state legislatures, who declined to take such steps in 2020.
“Come election day you create massive failure of certification” in Democratic precincts, Penniman said. “The real hope is that you can throw the choosing of electors to state legislatures.”
Participants in the recorded training sessions said their goal is to root out fraud, not just achieve more Republican poll workers in majority Democratic precincts.
Among panelists at a May 14 “Election Integrity” summit in Detroit was Jacky Eubanks, a Trump-endorsed state house candidate who warned “kids my age who are communists do and will staff our elections” in urging Republicans to become “paid, full-time elections workers” to police absentee ballot signatures, according to a recording of the summit.
Speaking separately to Macomb County Republicans, Eubanks also recently said, “The election system is rigged, and who best to steal it but our clerks.”
During the May 14 election-integrity summit, Seifried said the party is now actively recruiting lawyers and that he wanted to “start reaching out to law enforcement.”
Patrick Colbeck, a former member of the Michigan state Senate and former gubernatorial candidate, said at the same summit that he is “working with another organization right now” on “developing a kit for law enforcement” because many don’t understand election law and it will give them “tools that identify and enforce election fraud more effectively.”
Eubanks did not respond to requests for comment. In an email to POLITICO, Colbeck said there should be “regular training” for law enforcement on election laws.
A central theater for the party’s “election integrity” organizing, Michigan is among a number of battleground states where party loyalists are being groomed to serve as inspectors in the next presidential election. Seifried estimated the RNC is committing $35 million to election integrity efforts nationwide, similar to what it spent in the last cycle in battleground state efforts. He is one of 16 state directors.
For decades, the RNC was barred from so-called “ballot security” measures after it settled an early 1980s case in which it was accused of voter suppression in violation of the Voting Rights Act, including sending armed police officers off duty to polling places in minority areas. In 2018, a federal judge allowed that consent decree to expire.
“The 2020 election would have been the first year that the RNC could have done anything with election integrity,” said Seifried in the tapes.
Of all former President Donald Trump’s battleground-state allies, Republican operatives in the state of Michigan came the closest to throwing the 2020 election — and the nation — into a constitutional crisis. So many volunteer challengers overwhelmed Detroit’s TCF Center, where votes were being counted, that police intervened because Covid safety protocols had been breached.
The poll watchers accused poll workers of “bullying” them and blocking them from voting tables due to pandemic social distancing requirements. They also falsely alleged “phony ballots” were smuggled into the center, helping lay the predicate for a weeks-long delay in certifying the state’s electoral votes. That’s despite the fact that then-Democratic candidate Joe Biden had won the state by more than 154,000 votes.
In the recorded meeting with activists in March, Seifried said there “was a lot of disorganization, a lot of lack of preparedness and I’ve heard horror story after horror story,” referring to the GOP watchers barred by police due to Covid restrictions.
“We’re going to have lawyers that work to build relationships with different judges so that when that happens, we’re going to have lawyers that have relationships with the police chiefs in the different areas, with the police officers in the different areas so that when that happens with preexisting relationships already established so that they can’t lie,” Seifried said during an October 2021 training session in Oakland County.
A GOP-led committee found no evidence of widespread fraud in Michigan’s 2020 election and recommended the state’s attorney general investigate those who made false claims “to raise money or publicity for their own ends.” Numerous lawsuits were dismissed in court.
In the tapes, Seifried cites specific grievances from 2020: that “unsolicited” absentee ballots were mailed by the Secretary of State, that not all clerks were required to match signatures on absentee ballot applications, that the number of ballot drop-off locations were dramatically increased and that Democratic areas received more outside funding to increase voting access than Republican areas.
In 2022 and 2024, instead of untrained volunteers, the goal is for GOP recruits to have undergone training and be equipped with new tools, according to Seifried.
Before sharing a slide on “How to Challenge a Voter,” Seifried outlined a series of scenarios under which recruits could contest voters or voting processes, though he cautioned it is illegal to challenge every vote.
“You have to have good reason to believe that an individual is not a citizen, that an individual is not of legal voting age. If an individual does not live at the location that they’re registered at, or if the person is not registered at all,” he said during a March 2022 meeting.
This also includes if a voter received an absentee ballot but is voting in person. He also urged recruits to approach clerks, including attending “public accuracy” meetings to question them about how voting machines work, recording machine numbers, requesting copies of tabulator results before and after voting begins and challenging clerks to prove their machines are not connected to the internet.
When asked about the strategy, an RNC spokesperson initially said recruits are not being trained to challenge voters. The RNC later responded by citing a Michigan election law excerpt that election workers “shall” challenge a voter if the inspector “knows or has good reason to suspect” the voter is ineligible and noted that a judge would ultimately review the case.
In an October meeting, Seifried said priority targets are Detroit, Pontiac and Southfield, which are heavily Democratic and minority areas. “Those are the ones that we need to focus all our efforts on,” he said.
Grassroots groups aligned with Trump are helping with recruitment. They include “Stand Up Michigan,” whose members adapted the Village People’s hit “YMCA” to “MAGA,” Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. While the law stipulates election inspectors must be trained by local clerks, candidates are also being coached on things to look out for by operatives in RNC-sponsored workshops.
Chris Thomas, who served for 36 years as elections director under one Democratic and three Republican secretaries of state, said he’s spent time with Seifried, who seems to be trying to be “above board” about his plans to create more equal representation among poll workers.
“He claims not to be a ‘Stop the Steal’ type but obviously all of the people he’s talking to are,” said Thomas. ”They’re going to be all ginned up thinking they’re going to see all kinds of stuff.”
“If Seifried is honest with them,” he will tell them they won’t see much, added Thomas. “There’s little to no history of election inspectors challenging people” based on qualifications to vote, and if they create chaos, “that’s just going to get them [the poll workers] thrown out.”
The potential for conflict is clear. In a training in March, Seifried told recruits to stand behind voter registration tables to “oversee the electronic poll book to make sure the person that is coming in to vote is who they say they are.” Voters should be challenged by alerting precinct chairs and then recruits should call the RNC legal hotline or log the complaint in a website with a live chat so “we can communicate with you real time.”
“Ideally, you guys will all be the election inspector,” said Seifried. “You have so much more authority because you’re the one that’s actually administering the election.”
While Seifried stressed challengers “cannot obstruct voting in any way” and not to be “adversarial,” Thomas said it is wrong to suggest a first-time worker would be in charge of a poll book and such workers have “no right to require inspectors to toggle through” poll books.
The first question in the Zoom chat: “How do we stop the counts if the person of authority doesn’t respect the challenges made like at TCF in Detroit?” Another asked what to do if someone is “clearly” using a fake I.D. to vote. Seifried said to “try challenging it.”
The effort has been underway for months, and GOP officials are planning to use Aug. 2 primary elections in Detroit as a dry run, according to Seifried.
“The early hours on election day Aug. 2 will tell the story about whether this is a legitimate operation or an attempt to slow the process to discourage voting,” said Thomas.
The approach is proceeding as planned.
In an interview, Winfrey, the Detroit elections clerk, confirmed that the RNC delivered a list of more than 800 names in early May and that she is likely to give “a good number” of the individuals roles as long as they attend training sessions and are confirmed registered voters.
“Before every election we always reach out to both the Democratic and Republican parties to let them know we are recruiting poll workers” and “we get what we get,” or mostly Democrats in a majority Democratic-voting city.
The list comes nearly a year after Griffin, during a June, 2021 meeting, outlined how GOP lawyers could corner Winfrey into either hiring their recruits or establishing the basis for a lawsuit. “How do we build the proper evidence and how do we build a trap for Janice Winfrey?” said Griffin.
Submitting a list of people “whom she’s not going to hire” would open “up the door for a mandamus lawsuit for them to start following the law,” or seating more Republicans. Two months later, in a separate meeting, Griffin reiterated the strategy is building lists of Republican poll workers who might be rejected and hence “creating the evidence for future cases.”
When informed of the tapes, Winfrey said she is “not shocked” and “not in any way intimidated.”
“Apparently they think I’m stupid,” she said. “Apparently they think I don’t follow the law. I’m not surprised by their ignorance.”
Okay, we have to admit this article title is a little deceptive… we are only covering 11 ways life was different before the 1973 Roe v. Wade landmark case that legalized abortion in the United States. One point we’ll cover is a similarity to today: people were still having abortions regularly. That hasn’t changed. Accessibility to safe abortions will always be within the reach of the rich and well-connected. Legalization only affects whether safe abortion is within reach of marginalized communities, because, you know, we really need more challenges.
Regardless of what you think about the medical procedure of abortion, the Supreme Court’s likely upcoming vote to overturn Roe v. Wade will have resounding consequences, most directly affecting people of color and people living in poverty. So, if our future will be a repeat of our history, what can we expect? What was life like before the court case we all know by name?
California’s 52 United States representatives and 120 state legislators are all elected from political divisions called districts. District lines are redrawn every 10 years following completion of the United States census. Federal law stipulates that districts must have nearly equal populations and must not discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity.
The California Citizens Redistricting Commission voted 14-0 in favor of a new congressional district map on Dec. 20, 2021, and delivered those maps to the secretary of state on Dec. 27. California was apportioned 52 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the 2020 census, a net loss of one seat compared to apportionment after the 2010 census. This map takes effect for California’s 2022 congressional elections. The California Citizens Redistricting Commission voted 14-0 in favor of a new state Assembly and Senate district maps on Dec. 20, 2021, and delivered those maps to the secretary of state on Dec. 27. These maps take effect for California’s 2022 state legislative elections. Click here for more information.
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BY DAN HELMER, OPINION CONTRIBUTOR — 11/12/21 01:00 PM EST 454
Election Day was a tough night for Democrats across the country. In Virginia, we lost all statewide races and a Democratic majority in the House of Delegates. In reliably blue New Jersey, Democrats are still wiping the sweat from their brows after a tight gubernatorial election. Nonetheless, we on in a suburban and exurban seat, gerrymandered by Virginia’s No. 3 Republican, held by Republicans for two generations until we won it in 2019, and where two of our three elected county supervisors remain Republicans. Not only did we win but we expanded both our total votes and margin compared to our win in 2019 while running ahead of statewide candidates. We believe that our values-based campaign building on previous wartime military service and direct constituent outreach while celebrating progressive successes provides a blueprint for holding and potentially even expanding on Democratic-held seats in 2022 and beyond.
For the past two years, our office has focused legislatively on authoring and passing progressive legislation to fight climate change, champion voting rights, support police reform, dispense prescription drugs to those in need, and provide new employee protections. We’ve led on and supported bills that prevent gun violence, legalize marijuana, and ensure women’s access to safe and legal abortion. I was one of 13 Democrats who voted to repeal Virginia’s anti-union “Right to Work” law and part of a bipartisan group that fought monopoly utilities to drive down excessive electricity rates. We’ve done this legislative work while focusing hard on constituent outreach and service, publishing a regular newsletter describing our work with the community, attending community events, celebrating community successes and mourning community losses. Our office raised money to send letters to every household outlining key services to get through the COVID-19 crisis, and in the year that followed, worked alongside the administration of Gov. Ralph Northam to provide nearly $1.2 million in grant money to assist small businesses to get back on their feet, to rehire workers laid off, and to stay open. We helped hundreds of people deal with challenges in navigating unemployment, schools, and the DMV throughout COVID. We conducted wellness check-ins to constituents 65+ to offer resources, and to communicate up-to-date information on the pandemic.
To win in 2021, we leaned into our success in building a Virginia that works for all, not just for some. We refused all corporate cash, even though such donations are mainstay in Virginia, and raised money from thousands of individual donors through individual outreach. We not only sent hundreds of volunteers door-to-door, but I went door-to-door as well, visiting thousands of households and giving each constituent I met my personal cell phone number with a particular focus on outreach to undecided voters. In our heavily Asian-American district, running against a well-funded Korean American challenger, we conducted in-language outreach to talk with Korean, South Asian, Vietnamese, and Chinese American voters across the district.
Those conversations with voters made it clear that they wanted representation that shared their values, cared about the issues that impacted their day-to-day lives, and was able to govern. They identified with my military service as an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran and appreciated that I reached across the aisle when working on legislation to combat hunger, expand voting rights, and tackle climate change — even when unified Democratic control of Virginia’s government meant that I did not have to. We also communicated clearly what was at stake in the election. We had removed barriers to safe and legal abortion in Virginia whereas my opponent opposed Roe v. Wade. Laser focus on the stakes of the election, door-to-door outreach, and our progressive record drove the highest voter turnout in any off-year election in our district’s history.
Tuesday’s results should scare Democrats. But if Democrats are serious about protecting federal House and Senate majorities in 2022 and having success in state legislatures, Democrats need to both deliver on legislation that improves the lives of the American people and conduct the service-oriented outreach that once defined our politics. Republicans are energized, and the far-right will continue to fuel the same vitriolic rhetoric in the coming months following this victory. Democrats need to be on offense, running on our values and a record of success, not playing defense responding to GOP attacks. That’s how we meet voters where they are, and that’s how we win.
Dan Helmer lives in Fairfax County with his wife, Karen, a public school teacher, and their two sons. He is a West Point graduate, served tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Korea, and remains a Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve. Today he represents Virginia’s 40th District and runs a small business ensuring veterans have access to quality health care.
In the face of another surge in COVID-19 cases, some states are requiring certain workers to be vaccinated or comply with mask and COVID-19 testing requirements. The map and tables show which states have adopted mandates and which populations are subject to the mandates.
COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates, as of November 30, 2021
So Mandel walked himself through the standard troll protocol: Escalate obnoxious behavior until the target is forced to block you, or in this case, kick you out. Then sanctimoniously declare yourself a victim to your own followers, martyred by the censorious liberals who can’t handle the truth bombs you were supposedly dropping.
Mandel followed this script faithfully. He declared on Twitter — freely and without a hint of self-awareness — that his “free speech” was being suppressed. He was just there to “defend moms and dads,” he sanctimoniously insisted, before accusing the school board of “using kids as pawns in a political game.”
As with most accusations leveled by right-wingers, this was really a confession.The Ohio school board — like every other school board affected by the coordinated assault by unhinged right-wingers screaming about mask mandates and “critical race theory” — is just trying to navigate the difficult problem of educating children during a pandemic. It’s Republicans who are using kids as political pawns, staging these increasingly ridiculous confrontations at school boards. It’s nothing more than political theater to motivate the GOP base for the 2022 midterms.
They learned these tactics from the QAnon cult.
QAnon is, at its heart, a fascist movement dedicated to ending American democracy and, like many fascist movements, regards their leader, Donald Trump, as a god-like figure. But coming at people straight with that pitch is a tough sell. So, instead, the QAnon pitch is about “the children.” They lure people in with lurid conspiracy theories about a worldwide pedophile cult, the sort of thing that, if it were true, really would be a cause to take action. Once in, the lies about “saving the children” serve as a justification, both to outsiders and to silence doubts in the followers. How can you call them fascists when all they want to do is “save the children?”
The beauty of using “the children” as a cover story is that it is blanket permission to be a monster. Any level of harassment or even violence can be justified, as long as protecting the innocence of children is invoked. (See: The attempted overthrow of American democracy by QAnon fanatics.) No wonder Republican operators have been inspired to take a page directly out of the QAnon playbook to manufacture this nationwide assault on school boards. Using imaginary threats to children as a recruitment-and-rationalization strategy works.
Republicans’ cleaned up the conspiracy theory a little, as accusing Tom Hanks of pedophilia is a tough one to trick mainstream journalists into repeating. So the mainstream GOP version of the conspiracy theory is now “critical race theory” and something about how mask mandates are a sinister effort to wrest away parental authority, instead of a common sense health regulation. But the basic gist is the same: Pretend to believe that evil liberals want to hurt children, and use that as a permission slip to act on every antisocial impulse.
To be certain, Republican organizers have long understood that their base is composed of wannabe trolls just aching for an excuse to freak out in public. This understanding was harnessed in the early years of Barack Obama’s presidency to protest his economic stimulus and in the GOP effort to prevent the Affordable Care Act from passing. The “Tea Party” started off as a total Astroturf affair, funded by the Koch brothers and organized by GOP operatives, built to look like a “grassroots” uprising of conservatives supposedly irate at social spending programs. But it tapped into a very real longing among everyday Republican voters to have racist temper tantrums in public. They just needed a cover story, and the Koch brothers gave it to them. Pop on a tricorner hat, drop the “without representation” part of the American revolutionary complaint about taxation, and now it’s “patriotic” to scream barely coded racist vitriol at the local town hall meeting. The current assault on school boards follows the same formula.
“The sudden interest in school boards is not an organic grassroots movement of angry parents,” but “an effort orchestrated by seasoned right-wing political operatives,” Judd Legum at Popular Info writes, in a piece that identifies both the organizers, drawn heavily from the GOP consultant class and their GOP-linked funders. These people are then laundered into “concerned parents” — with no mention of their political affiliations — on Fox News. The organizing is deliberately constructed to look amateurish, as if this were just local parents having authentic reactions to local politics, instead of a well-financed national movement to construct a mass hysteria, aimed solely at the goal of electing Republicans.
The strategy works very well, because, as GOP operatives understand the scream-at-waiters-and-flight-attendant energy of America’s Kens and Karens. Add to the mix the QAnon-esque fake concern for “the children,” and that anti-social energy becomes explosive, as school board members across the country are finding out to their dismay.
No one should be fooled. Neither the organizers behind this Astroturf effort nor the ordinary Republican voters caught up in the excitement care one whit about American children. If they did, they sure wouldn’t want them spreading COVID-19 in schools. In a broader sense, people who actually care about children want to fight climate change, want families to have access to affordable and quality child care, and want children born into homes where they are wanted and welcome — all values Democrats stand for (well, mostly) and Republicans universally oppose. Children are not harmed by learning racism is bad or by being protected from the novel coronavirus. But if these QAnon-style tactics work to elect Republicans in 2022, American children’s futures are in very real peril indeed.
Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of “Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself.” Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.
September 8, 2021Updated October 4, 2021
The second year of the coronavirus pandemic in California was shaped by two political undercurrents at the state Capitol: a budget awash with cash, thanks to a booming stock market and federal aid, and a looming recall election asking voters to throw Gov. Gavin Newsom out of office.
The massive budget surplus allowed Newsom and legislative Democrats to go big on a progressive agenda they believe will help the state recover from COVID hardships. They passed a $262.6 billion budget that includes preschool for all 4-year-olds, health insurance for low-income undocumented immigrants age 50 and older, and $600 stimulus payments for most Californians — landing in bank accounts just weeks before the Sept. 14 recall election.
But gobs of money and Democrats’ supermajority didn’t make everything possible. Tensions between moderate and liberal Democrats stymied many proposals. The recall threat also may have doomed some legislation that might have reflected unfavorably upon California and its governor. Bills that stalled included proposals to create single-payer health care, ban corporate donations to political candidates, legalize psychedelic drugs, sanction clinics where addicts can use illegal drugs under medical supervision, and allow people to turn their bodies into garden compost after death. Progressive legislation to allow more offenders to have their records expunged and overhaul the bail system also stalled amid concerns over California’s rising murder rate and an especially brutal killing in Sacramento.
With epic wildfires burning in a state stricken by drought, lawmakers approved $1 billion for wildfire prevention but rejected a bill that called for reducing greenhouse gas emissions beyond current mandates, which officials have said California is already not on pace to meet. Democratic Senate leader Toni Atkins told reporters after the last night of the session wrapped up that such ambitious legislation may take more time to negotiate, and she expects that to continue next year.
The final night was unusually subdued compared with the chaos of the last two years. At the end of 2020, Republican senators were forced to vote remotely because of a COVID infection while Assemblymembers were required to vote in person, prompting one to make a late-night floor speech cradling her newborn baby. Not to mention the previous year, when the Senate was evacuated and a hazmat crew called in after an anti-vaccine protester tossed a menstrual cup of blood from the overhead gallery, splattering senators.
Amid the relative calm of 2021, lawmakers managed to send the governor hundreds of bills, which he has until Oct. 10 to sign or veto. With Newsom having defeated the Sept. 14 recall, the fate of these bills is in his hands. Here are 21 of the most interesting or consequential. We’ll keep updating his decisions as he makes them.
— Laurel Rosenhall