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California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks at 2-1-1 San Diego / Photo by Megan Wood

Gov. Gavin Newsom has been widely praised for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, but in the limited official hearings state lawmakers are having, they’re beginning to express wariness that they’re being left out of the loop.

“We often as legislators hear maybe five minutes before an executive order comes out or by watching live the governor’s daily updates to get information, and that’s a challenge,” Assemblyman Jim Wood said during an oversight hearing this week.

Legislators have tried to flex their oversight muscles in the absence of regular hearings that would normally be in full swing in Sacramento right now.

“We’re getting very little information,” Assemblyman Phil Ting, chairman of the Assembly’s budget committee, told the Los Angeles Times. “We have great trust and faith in the governor, but we also have a job to do to ensure that every dollar he’s spending can stand up to scrutiny.”

But Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, who recently announced the creation of a COVID-19 response oversight committee, said she has been satisfied so far with Newsom’s communications with lawmakers.

“The governor and his administration have been very accessible to me and my staff. The Legislature does need as much information as possible to do our job as a co-equal branch of government. I believe the governor recognizes we need that information sooner rather than later, and on an ongoing basis,” she told VOSD in a statement.

Atkins speaks to Newsom “at least twice a week,” said her spokeswoman, Lizelda Lopez.

Atkins is a member of the governor’s new Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery, which met for the first time this week. Though the group has 80 members, there aren’t many San Diego representatives on the list. Assembly Republican leader Marie Waldron, who represents East County, is also a member, and former Gov. Pete Wilson is an “honorary member.”

Another member of the task force, Sen. Shannon Grove, the Senate’s Republican leader, sent a letter to the governor this week urging him to give governments flexibility in when they decide to reopen portions of their economy.

“This approach would be in line with President Trump’s Guidelines for Opening Up America Again, and it would also help restart many of our small communities who are facing the threat of recession and even bankruptcy,” Grove wrote.

Newsom seemed to dismiss that idea in a press conference, when he said the stay-at-home order would be lifted based on data, not any letter or tweet.

Judge Tosses Challenge to Law Requiring Women on Corporate Boards

One of two legal challenges to SB 826, the state law co-written by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Atkins that requires California-based public companies to have a woman on their board of directors, was thrown out by a federal judge this week.

Creighton Meland, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, is a shareholder for a company based in Hawthorne. He argued the law infringed on men’s rights. The state, tasked with defending the law, challenged his standing to sue.

The judge agreed with the state that Meland didn’t establish he’d be personally harmed in a way that would have granted him standing to challenge the law.

“Here, SB 826 places a requirement and a possible penalty on publicly held corporations, but Plaintiff is not a publicly held corporation.  He is a shareholder.  And that is a distinction with a difference,” wrote District Judge John Mendez.

The judge’s opinion notes that the company’s board went ahead and elected a woman to join in December 2019.

A separate lawsuit challenging the law, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, is still alive.

Leaders Search for ‘a Path Forward’ for Del Mar Fairgrounds

Even before the novel coronavirus turned San Diego upside down, the Del Mar Fairgrounds seemed to be going through an identity crisis.

Attorney David Watson resigned from the state board that oversees the site this week, blaming a “status quo” thinking.

“In the past, I would have said former leaders of the board were up to the task of navigating these treacherous times,” he wrote. “I do not believe that is true today.”

Watson declined to say more when we asked him, but his letter offers a few hints at the dispute that’s taking place internally. While he supported the decision to cancel the county fair, he expressed dissatisfaction over the fact bond financing is tied to horseracing and the creation of a new concert venue — sources of revenue that are both at risk.

His concerns about the viability of the fairgrounds were echoed in a statement from Assemblyman Todd Gloria, whose district includes Del Mar and who passed legislation last year banning gun shows on the property. Gloria thanked Watson for his work and said he hoped “a new director could assist existing board members with ongoing efforts to help chart a path forward.”

The Union-Tribune reported earlier this year that the state board Watson just left has been searching for new ways to make money as attendance levels off. Horse deaths haven’t helped. Nor did the decision by the promoters of KAABOO, a music festival, to leave Del Mar for San Diego’s Petco Park.

In the meantime, the Coast News Reports that because animal welfare was deemed an essential service by the state, the stables remain open to provide care for the horses on-site. The racetrack is keeping all its options open for the July kickoff. The game may go on without any spectators in attendance.

It’s happening across the country. Horseracing is the one American sport that persists throughout the pandemic because, as the Washington Post reports, gambling can occur from afar and track owners can still make money while insisting the operation is safe.

Jesse Marx

Golden State News

Sara Libby

Sara Libby was VOSD’s managing editor until 2021. She oversaw VOSD’s newsroom and content.

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