California Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin, left, talks to Politico’s Policy Editor Debra Khan, right, about gas tax revenue and electric vehicles during the Funding The Future: California’s Transportation Transformation conference on June 18 in Sacramento. Screenshot.

Political Playback: California Capitol News You Might Have Missed  

Bo Tefu and Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media  

Calif. Sec. of Transportation: State on Course to Future Without Gas-Powered Cars

As California pushes toward a zero-emissions future by 2035, petroleum use is expected to decline significantly over the next decade.

But Secretary of Transportation Toks Omishakin said a decline in transportation revenue is currently not an “urgent” matter.

Omishakin explained how the state is projected to handle a $4 billion-plus shortfall in gas tax revenue at the “Funding the Future: California’s Transportation Transformation” seminar, held on June 18 at the Kimpton Sawyer Hotel in Sacramento.

“I would say that we are not at a place where we’re losing gas tax funding yet,” Omishakin said to moderator Debra Kahn, California Policy Editor at Politico.

“Some people say that we are, but we’re not,” Omishakin continued. “We’re going to be up 57.9 to 59.7 cents (after July 1). That’s going to be the gas tax but we’re not losing revenue,” he added.

According to a December 23 report by the Legislative Analyst Office (LAO), in the next 10 years, Californians could see a decline of $5 billion or 64% from the state’s gasoline excise tax, $290 million or 20% from the diesel excise tax and $420 million or 20% from the diesel sales tax. 

“We estimate that these declines will be partially but not fully offset by projected increases in revenues from an existing annual registration fee levied on battery-electric and hydrogen-fueled cell vehicles ($1 billion),” the LAO report stated. 

The projected revenue shrinkage is expected to affect some transportation programs that support state and local transportation projects and activities, according to LAO. The California Department of Transportation’s highway maintenance and rehabilitation programs, subsidized by state fuel taxes, could also be affected by cuts.

LAO’s report states that the existing annual registration fee attached to battery-electric and hydrogen-fueled cell vehicles should increase revenues to $1 billion. However, the report also projects an estimated decline of $4.4 billion in annual state transportation revenues.

“I haven’t had a lot of time to look at the LAO’s projections but (it’s) possibly accurate on many fronts,” Omishakin said. “So far, we’re not at a place where we are losing revenue. That is a key thing to keep in mind.”

Hosted by Politico and presented by California Alliance For Jobs, the event explored the future of transportation infrastructure, transit, pedestrians, bike lanes, local streets, highways, bridges, overpasses, and electric vehicles.

Other participants included Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson (D-Suisun City), chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee and the California Legislative Black Caucus; Emily Cohen, California High-Speed Rail Authority Executive Vice President of United Contracts; Michael Pimentel, Executive Director of California Transit Association; and Sen. Dave Cortese (D-Campbell).

As part of the Advanced Clean Cars II regulations, all new passenger cars, trucks, and SUVs sold in California will be zero-emission vehicles by 2035.

Omishakin said, across California there are up to 1.9 million “light-duty” EVs, 400,000 “medium-to-heavy duty” EVs (50% are public transportation buses), 105,000 charging stations, and 500,000 home chargers.

“On one side, we’re doing extremely well. The rest of the world is following our steps in leadership. Thanks to the leaders of the state, Gov. Newsom, the legislature, and key staff – we are leading the way on EVs,” Omishakin said. “We’re hitting the ball out of the park.”  

 Gov. Newsom, Other CaliforniaLeaders, Pay Tribute to Baseball Great Willie Mays

Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom, several California government officials, private sector leaders and Americans from all walks of life paid tribute to former San Francisco Giant, Major League Baseball (MLB) great, and Negro Leagues icon Willie Mays, who passed away at 93 on June 18.

Nicknamed “The Say Hey Kid,” Mays made history as one of the greatest baseball players in MLB. A powerful hitter and center fielder, his sportsmanship and athleticism earned him a spot in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1979.

Mays played in the Negro American League for the Birmingham Black Barons. He was a pioneer and legend in baseball as one of 10 Black players in the 1950s securing a contract with a major league team.

Newsom acknowledged Mays as a baseball icon and role model who broke barriers, set world records, and inspired future generations of athletes.

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of my friend, Willie Mays,” said the Governor.

“His impact extends far beyond baseball. He became an integral part of San Francisco’s cultural fabric and a cherished member of our community. His legacy will forever be intertwined with the legacy of the city he loved,” he said.

Throughout his career, Mays was renowned for ‘The Catch’ during the 1954 World Series after catching a fly ball over his shoulder with his back to the diamond. This play was marked as one of the greatest catches in the history of baseball.

San Francisco Giants Chair Greg Johnson called Mays a hero and praised the 24-time All-Star athlete for his contributions to the game of baseball and the fabric of America.

“Today we have lost a true legend,” said Johnson. “In the pantheon of baseball greats, Willie Mays’ combination of tremendous talent, keen intellect, showmanship, and boundless joy set him apart.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed called Mays “the greatest player of all time.

“To a native San Franciscan, some things just go without question: it’s foggy in the summer, cable cars go halfway to the stars, and Willie Mays is the best there ever was,” wrote Breed in a statement.  “It was an unbelievable opportunity of a lifetime to meet someone like Willie Mays. I remember hearing about the struggles that he endured because he was Black, and what he overcame to become an icon on the field.”

Sen. Steve Cortese (D-San Jose) said Mays contributions to baseball and the Bay Area are “immeasurable.”

Watching Willie Mays play was a privilege I will never forget. As great as he was at the sport, he was an even better man. His work through the Say Hey Foundation stands as just one example of how he made our community stronger,” said Cortese.

California Assembly Speaker Robert A. Rivas (D-Hollister) also saluted Mays.

“The greatest. Rest in Peace, Willie Mays,” Rivas posted on the social media platform X.

California’s U.S. Senators Padilla and Butler Support Bill That Would Double Pell Grants

California’s U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Laphonza Butler announced last week that they are backing White House efforts to expand Pell Grant awards for working students and families.

The Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act of 2024 is bicameral legislation that aims to make college more affordable for low-income students. The initiative will double the Pell Grant to students and undocumented immigrants pursuing higher education. The California senators are among several U.S. senators who have thrown their support behind the legislation.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) is the sponsor of the bill.

Butler, a former recipient of a Pell Grant, highlighted that the program helped her further her studies and afford a college education.

“As a proud recipient of the Pell Grant, I know the transformative power of the program in turning the dream of higher education into a reality for students in California and across the nation,” said Butler.

“We must expand the Pell Grant Program to put higher education in reach so that every student has the opportunity to succeed,” she said.

With this new initiative, the program will index maximum awards for inflation. If passed, the measure will make Pell Grant funding fully mandatory to protect it from funding shortfalls. The act would also restore eligibility for the program up to 18 semesters for students.

Padilla, a first-generation college graduate, acknowledged that the Pell Grant supported his goal to attend college and overcome financial challenges.

“Every student deserves the opportunity to pursue higher education, no matter the size of their parent’s paycheck,” said Senator Padilla.

“As a proud first-generation college graduate, I know the challenges students face in accessing an affordable education, especially as the cost of education continues to climb,” he said.

“A Time to Reflect and Rejoice”: Black Caucus Members Commemorate Juneteenth on Assembly Floor

On June 17, two days before Juneteenth, members of the California Legislative Black Caucus (CLBC) delivered remarks on the Assembly floor commemorating the national holiday and its significance in American history.

ACR 192, introduced by Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D-Los Angeles), aims to honor and reflect on the emancipation of African Americans from chattel slavery and honor their contributions throughout America’s history.

Speaking on the Assembly floor, Jones-Sawyer said the resolution is the CLBC’s annual commemoration of Juneteenth as “Freedom Day.”

“Two years after President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, The bell of freedom rang true for over three million Black Americans, marking the beginning of the fight to secure the freedom of those still enslaved and provide fair and equal treatment for the formerly enslaved,” Jones-Sawyer said.

“Juneteenth is a time to reflect and rejoice for all the work it took to reach this point, as well as a reminder that true equality is not accomplished overnight,” he added. “While there have been great strides to acknowledge and address the history and plight of Black Americans, society, as a whole, still has a long way to go. Juneteenth is an opportunity to educate all communities that we may not repeat injustices and abuses committed in the past.”

The resolution particularly highlights how Black Americans have helped enrich American civic life through their steadfast commitment to promoting unity and equality.

Assemblymember Dr. Akilah Weber (D-La Mesa), also a member of the CLBC, spoke on behalf of the Women’s Caucus in support ofAssembly Concurrent Resolution (ACR) 192, the California Legislature’s resolution acknowledging the federal holiday and celebrating the emancipation of African Americans from slavery.

Weber highlighted that African Americans won their hard-won freedom after providing free labor illegally for two-and-a-half years in Texas.

Weber shared the story of Opal Lee, known as the “Grandmother of Juneteenth.”  Lee is among numerous civil rights activists and leaders who campaigned for decades for June 19th to be recognized as a federal holiday. Lee traveled around the country educating people about Juneteenth and led walks each year commemorating Juneteenth before it was federally recognized.

At 89, Lee led a symbolic walk, said Weber, from her hometown of Ft. Worth, Texas, to Washington, D.C., leaving in September of 2016 and arriving in January of 2017.

Juneteenth became a federal holiday in 2021 and Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2024 for her activism.

“Lee represents the millions of women throughout the history of this country who have worked tirelessly to ensure that our history is not erased, reframed nor ignored,” said Weber.

Other lawmakers who recognized Juneteenth on the Assembly floor included Assemblymember Lori Wilson (D-Suisun City), Chair of the CLBC; Eloise Gomez Reyes (D-Colton), chair of the California Legislative Latino Caucus; Assemblymember Jim Patterson (R-Fresno); Assemblymember James C. Ramos (D-San Bernardino), chair of the California Native American Legislative Caucus; and Assemblymember Corey Jackson (D-Moreno Valley), also a member of CLBC.

“It is a call-to-action for all Californians to interrogate the systems that keeps others in bondage,” said Wilson.

Gov. Newsom Announces He Backs a Ban on Cellphones in Schools

Gov. Gavin Newsom wants to restrict the use of smartphones in K-12 schools statewide, he announced on Tuesday.

The Governor stated his intentions amid warnings from President Joe Biden on the harmful impact of social media on children. The announcement followed a report released by the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy that calls on Congress to regulate social media platforms. Proposed regulations include warning labels on harmful content that may hurt minors active on social media. The governor stated that he plans to sign a law that authorizes school districts to limit or ban the use of smartphones by students or require the supervision of a school employee.

“As the Surgeon General affirmed, social media is harming the mental health of our youth. Building on legislation I signed in 2019, I look forward to working with the Legislature to restrict the use of smartphones during the school day,” said Newsom.

“When children and teens are in school, they should be focused on their studies — not their screens,” he said.

In 2022, Newsom authored a letter urging companies in the tech industry to drop a lawsuit against the children’s online safety law he signed that same year. Newsom aims to take online safety laws a step further allowing school districts to ban or limit the use of smartphones to help protect children from the harmful effects of social media.

The California School Boards Association argues that any rules on the use of smartphones should be regulated by school districts as opposed to the state.

Troy Flint, the school board’s spokesperson, said that school districts should make the final decision on regulations over smartphones.

“We support legislation which empowers school leaders to make policy decisions at a local level that reflect their community’s concerns and what’s necessary to support their students,” said Flint.

The Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) supports Gov. Newsom’s plan to ban smartphones during school hours, stating that smartphones and devices distract students from learning and facilitate cyberbullying.

On June 18, LAUSD voted to ban the use of cellphones during the school day.

In a similar light, Sen. Henry Stern (D-Malibu) proposed SB 1283 earlier this year. If passed, the legislation will give school districts more authority to limit the use of social media at school. SB 1283 is currently under review in the Assembly Education Committee.

“It’s just too hard for every teacher, every school, or every parent to have to figure this out on their own,” said Stern. “There are some times when government just has to step in and make some bigger rules of the road.”

A similar bill, AB 3216, introduced by Assemblymembers Josh Hoover (R-Folsom), Josh Lowenthal (D-Long Beach) and Al Muratsuchi (D-Rolling Hills Estates), is being considered by the Senate Education Committee.

The bills would take effect in January if passed by the Legislature and is approved by the Board of Education in school districts that support the cellphone ban.

Calif. Supreme Court Upholds Decision That Eliminated Black Jurors From Death Penalty Cases

Last week, the California Supreme Court voted 5-2 to uphold an Alameda County court’s decision to issue death penalty sentences in over 30 trials, ruling that the prosecutors had valid reasons to dismiss Black jurors.

“We conclude in each instance the prosecutor’s reasons were inherently plausible and supported,” the court ruled. The court cited evidence from jury questionnaires and the prosecutors’ questions directed to the jurors removed from the trial.

In April, a federal judge ordered Alameda County to review over 30 death penalty convictions following allegations that the Alameda District Attorney’s office removed Black and Jewish people from juries.

The trials reviewed included a case that involved a jury in February 2000 that found Giles Albert Nadey guilty of murder and sodomy, sending him to death row. During this trial, a California prosecutor removed five out of six Black women from the jury pool. According to the prosecutor, some of the Black jurors were reluctant to impose the death penalty. Other Black women had liberal views, the court concluded, that may clouded their judgment. The defense team eliminated the last Black women from the jury and continued the trial with no Black women serving on the jury.

The court appeal in Nadey’s case alleged that his case was affected by racial bias. However, the Supreme Court decided to uphold the initial ruling and found that the State prosecutor’s decision to remove Black jurors was justified.

Capital punishment remains a complex issue in California’s criminal justice system, although Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on executions.

The executive order declared that “death sentences are unevenly and unfairly applied to people of color, people with mental disabilities, and people who cannot afford costly legal representation.”

report by The Sentencing Project indicated that African Americans are skeptical about pursuing the death penalty in cases. Therefore, criminal justice advocates argue that prosecutors prefer juries that support capital punishment, often excluding Black jurors.

California laws allow convicts to appeal court rulings based on racial bias in criminal hearings. Criminal justice advocates continue to push back on the death penalty and call for more accountability in the courts.

California Supreme Court Blocks Anti-Tax Measure From Appearing on November Ballot

On June 20, the California Supreme Court decided to prevent placing an anti-tax initiative on the November ballot, ruling in favor of Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislators.

The Taxpayer Protection and Government Accountability Act aimed to challenge the increase of taxes in California. The initiative calls for prohibiting the Legislature from raising or introducing new taxes without voter approval.

 Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic legislative leaders sued last year to block the tax anti-measure.

According to the court ruling, Gov. Newsom and legislators petitioned to halt the initiative, arguing that it “is invalid because it attempts to revise the California Constitution via citizen initiative.”

Court documents stated that the petitioners argued that the anti-tax measure, “is invalid because it would seriously impair essential government functions.”

Justice Goodwin Liu stated that the electorate had the right to enact the proposed changes.

In the court ruling, Liu stated that the proposed changes, “would substantially alter our basic plan of government. The proposal cannot be enacted by initiative. It is instead governed by the procedures for revising our Constitution.” Under current state law, only a supermajority of the Legislature or a constitutional convention can submit proposed revisions to voters for approval.

California labor unions celebrated the court’s decision and celebrated the ruling on the social media platform X.

Tia Orr, executive director of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) California Chapter, said the ballot measure was harmful.

“The threat to destroy California w/ greed and hubris lost today,” she wrote on the social media platform X, celebrating the High Court’s decision.

 “Developers, landlords & corporations: our democracy is not your plaything to rearrange with your checkbook,” Orr added.

The court ordered Secretary of State Shirley Weber to stop any efforts to place the anti-tax measure on the November ballot.

Antonio Ray Harvey

Antonio (Tony) Ray Harvey was born and raised in Champaign, Illinois, but has resided in Sacramento, California for 32 years. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism and a minor in photography from California State University, Sacramento.

Aside from reporting on local entertainment, community issues, city government, and political events at the California State Capitol, Harvey is also a freelance sports journalist in Northern California. He covers the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, and NCAA sports.

Harvey is a freelance reporter for California Black Media, is also the author of the Homicidal Handyman of Oak Park: Morris Solomon Jr. at Johnston College on the University of Redlands Campus 1974-76 and recently was awarded a Doctorate of Humane Letters from CSUSB in 2014


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