California Gov. Gavin Newsom, right, takes questions from the media after a visit to Ramona Gardens Recreation Center in Los Angeles to discuss the state’s efforts to vaccinate hard-to-reach and disproportionately impacted communities, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. California’s new system of delivering and scheduling coronavirus vaccines is being rolled out in select counties. It’s the first step in Newsom’s plan to smooth out what has been a disjointed vaccine rollout hampered by limited national supply.


Good morning and welcome to the A.M. Alert! Thanks as always for reading!


Via Sophia Bollag

Lawmakers on Monday afternoon approved nearly $7.6 billion coronavirus aid to help people and businesses recover from the pandemic-induced recession.

The series of bills include $600 direct payments for millions of low-income Californians and grants for small businesses that have suffered during the pandemic.

Lawmakers and Newsom announced a deal on nearly $9.6 billion in pandemic aid last week. Lawmakers passed bills to distribute most of that money Monday, but held off on one bill that would have created $2 billion in tax breaks for businesses that got federal paycheck protection program loans. Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins told reporters that the bill is still being negotiated and will likely be changed in the next few days, potentially to add more aid money.

The bills now head to Newsom for his signature. He is expected to sign them soon.


Following in Oregon’s footsteps, a California lawmaker has introduced a bill to decriminalize possession of most kinds of psychedelic drugs, arguing that narcotics like psilocybin and ketamine have important medicinal properties for mental health treatment, particularly for veterans grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, has introduced SB 519, which he says would end an outdated “War on Drugs” policy that punishes people for seeking medicine — an argument that successfully saw the legalization of adult-use cannabis just five years ago.

“It’s really tragic that as we have seen a worsening crisis in this country around mental health, around addiction, that people have been deprived of this treatment,” Wiener said in a telephone interview.

The federal government considers most psychedelics to be without medical value and high potential for abuse. Wiener’s office points out that “psychedelics have shown potential in treating mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and PTSD, and have also demonstrated benefits for end-of-life care.”

Is Wiener worried that decriminalizing psychedelics could put California in Uncle Sam’s crosshairs?

“We have an administration that believes in science, so I am optimistic that the federal government will be a positive force, not a negative force,” he said.

There is one notable exception in Wiener’s bill: Specifically, SB 519 does not decriminalize possession of peyote, or mescaline that is derived from the same.

Wiener said that exception came at the request of the Native American community, which views peyote as sacred. In addition, peyote is endangered, Wiener said, and there is concern that decriminalizing possession of it could lead to an influx of “peyote tourism” in the state.

But what about decriminalizing all drugs, as Oregon voters in 2020 voted to do?

Wiener said that it is an idea whose time has come, though he is unsure whether such mass decriminalization would come in the form of legislation or a ballot measure.

SB 519 is co-sponsored by a pair of veterans groups: Heroic Hearts Project, which connects vets with psychedelic therapy, and Veterans Exploring Treatment Solutions, which works to end the veteran suicide epidemic.

Wiener said he hopes that the bill’s importance to veteran groups will give it bipartisan appeal.


Via Lara Korte

The Gavin Newsom recall campaign is hoping to make it to 1.5 million valid signatures by March 17. But even if that happens, don’t expect an election right away.

As The Bee’s Sophia Bollag explained yesterday, Democrats could delay the effort, possibly into next year.

A later election might give opponents more time to raise money and build a case against him. But pushing a recall to the latest possible date may help him, if the pandemic is easing and COVID-19 restrictions are lifting.

And state Democrats have moved to delay a recall election before.

Until that happens, however, the governor’s strategy seems to be touting his administration’s work on vaccines and COVID-19 relief. He visited two mobile vaccine sites in Los Angeles on Sunday and two more in Long Beach on Monday.

California Democratic strategist Steven Maviglio noted on Twitter that Newsom’s vaccination site tours echo back to a similar strategy by Gov. Gray Davis during his own recall fight.

“This so reminds me of (Davis’) tour of power plants & other generating/conservation facilities during the energy crisis,” said Maviglio, who worked for Davis at the time. “We even gave away t-shirts resembling concert tour garb listing all the plant openings.”


California teachers say that the COVID-19 vaccine is essential for returning back to work, according to a new survey commissioned by the California Federation of Teachers.

The polling firm EMC Research surveyed 1,217 active CFT members between Jan. 28 and Feb. 5, and found that 90% said that ensuring a COVID-19 vaccine is readily available for all educators and classified professionals is either important or extremely important.

The same amount said having an adequate supply of personal protective equipment, PPE, such as gloves, masks and face shields is important, the survey found.

Meanwhile, 92% said that it is important to provide accommodations for staff members with pre-existing conditions that make them especially vulnerable to the virus.

“This poll confirms that, by overwhelming margins, educators and classified professionals agree on the safety measures that are essential to safely resume in-person instruction. We want to be back in the classroom as soon as we can do so safely,” said CFT President Jeff Freitas in a statement.


“I’m not some guy from San Francisco that doesn’t give a damn about the Valley.”

– Gov. Gavin Newsom, speaking on Monday in Kern County.

Best of the Bee:

Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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