Tag Archives: Gavin Newsom

The Tandon V. Newsom Lawsuit: Negotiating Religious Gatherings During a Pandemic

On April 9, The Supreme Court ruled in favor of Ritesh Tandon et. al., plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the restrictions imposed by Governor Gavin Newsom on the people of California during the COVID-19 pandemic crisis. One of these restrictions, detailed under the “Blueprint for a Safer Economy,” implemented on August 30, 2020—based on a tiered evaluation of the number of positive COVID-19 test cases, ICU capacity, and a health equity metric—imposed limitations on religious gatherings at homes to three households at most.

The Tandon v. Newsom lawsuit stated that these restrictions violated the freedom to practice religion and increased economic hardship faced by some businesses. 

Indian American attorney and Republican party official, Harmeet Dhillon, partnered with the law firm Eimer Stahl to file the lawsuit on behalf of Ritesh Tandon, a Republican who lost to incumbent Democrat Ro Khanna in the last general election for U.S. House California District 17 on November 3, 2020 (28.7% to 71.3%). Dhruv Khanna, a winemaker at Kirigin Cellars, as well as nine others were parties to the lawsuit.

The Court’s Opinion on Removing California’s In-Home Religious Gathering Restrictions

In a 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court stated that government regulations “trigger strict scrutiny under the Free Exercise Clause.” The court’s opinion was that some activities, like frequenting a hair salon or shopping at a hardware store, were treated more favorably than at-home religious ceremonies since there were no restrictions on the number of households allowed to congregate at any given moment at these places of business. The Court noted that by custom-fitting the restrictions, the state opened itself up for stricter scrutiny. 

In the Court’s opinion, the government did not make a convincing case that in-home religious gatherings were more dangerous than other allowable activities, like shopping in a grocery store.

The Dissenting Opinions

Chief Justice John Roberts dissented with the Court’s stance, and Justice Kagan, joined by Justices Breyer and Sotomayor, filed a dissenting opinion. Justice Kagan wrote that “If the State also limits all secular gatherings in homes to three households, it has complied with the First Amendment. And the State does exactly that: It has adopted a blanket restriction on at-home gatherings of all kinds, religious and secular alike.” 

When comparing customers frequenting a hair salon or hardware store to in-home religious gatherings, Justice Kagan in agreement with the lower appellate court found that “when people gather in social settings, their interactions are likely to be longer than they would be in a commercial setting,” with participants “more likely to be involved in prolonged conversations.” And “private houses are typically smaller and less ventilated than commercial establishments,” with social distancing and mask-wearing more difficult to enforce. 

Justice Kagan summarized the Supreme Court’s decision as a command to California to ignore its experts’ scientific findings, thus impairing the State’s ability to respond to an emergency.

California’s restrictions are likely what got us Californians through the toughest period of the pandemic. Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, in an interview with KQED, agreed with the governor’s strict regulations stating that it would be dangerous to have a surge that could deplete the supply of necessary health care resources. “And because of the stress on the health care system, I think what the governor did was both prudent and advisable.”

Lessons from India

A glance at India, at this moment, gives credibility to Fauci’s remark. India did not impose restrictions on religious gatherings, indoor or outdoor. Indeed, as the second wave of infections began to rear its head in April, millions gathered in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, for the Maha Kumbh Mela, and then boarded buses to return to their hometowns. Experts concede that this religious gathering, as well as mass political rallies, caused the pandemic to proliferate unchecked. 

Ads placed by Tirath Singh Rawat (Image from Caravan)

Knowing that an activity will endanger the public and yet choosing to pursue that said activity is morally reprehensible. The chief minister of Uttarakhand, Tirath Singh Rawat, ran front-page advertisements in newspapers across India, persuading Hindu devotees to attend the festival. And Rawat’s rejoinder, amid concerns that the festival could turn into a super-spreader event, was to remark that “faith in God will overcome fear of the virus.”

Would hindsight knowledge of India’s outbreak have altered the course of lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions in California? It’s not exactly clear. 

Lawsuits Galore

According to Ben Christopher of CalMatters, since mid-January 2021, there were 64 lawsuits filed against the state of California, and Governor Gavin Newsom in particular. From gondoliers, manicurists, barbers to a saxophonist, and even “a disappointed bride-to-be,” many have found reason to claim hardship due to the state’s stringent regulations. 

The representing plaintiff in many of these lawsuits is Harmeet Dhillon, who, according to Christopher, remarked that “We do not shut down our highways because people die in car accidents.” However, as Christopher pointed out, a contagion can hardly be compared to an accident. One has a high risk of spread, while the other does not.

These lawsuits are stress-testing government procedures during an unprecedented crisis. While, certainly, the restrictions did impose hardships on small business owners and essential workers, there is strong evidence to suggest that it saved the lives of many. 

Religious worship aside, even the consideration of economic hardship is a balancing act during a health pandemic. Since March 2020, government leaders have had to balance the loss of jobs against the loss of lives. Both cause extreme distress. Yet, in only one case is there the possibility for future earnings. 

Religious Precept

Especially during a crisis, religion is necessary, but at what cost? Robert Jones, Founder of the Public Religion Research Institute, articulated it best in an article published by U.S. News and World Report: “For most religious traditions, the idea of self-sacrifice in service to the community and common good are core theological principles. These temporary measures [government restrictions] are consistent with those beliefs.” 

The Tandon v. Newsom lawsuit, in arguing for the right to hold in-home religious gatherings, muddles the very purpose of a faith and belief system that places religion above human lives, politics above protection, and profit margins over safety.


Jaya Padmanabhan is a guest columnist and her point of view is not necessarily that of India Currents. 

Featured Image sources – 

Governor Gavin Newsom: Wikimedia Commons by Gage Skidmore

Ritesh Tandon: tandonforcongress.com


 

Oxygen Cylinders being sent to India (Image from the Office of Gavin Newsom)

California Governor Gavin Newsom Sends Aid to India

Governor Gavin Newsom announced yesterday that California will send lifesaving oxygen equipment to India as that country faces a devastating and fast-spreading surge of COVID-19 cases.

“When communities across the world need help, California steps up. As we surpass 28 million vaccinations and continue to see the lowest positivity rates in the country, we must meet this moment with compassion by aiding those that are hardest hit by this pandemic,” said Governor Newsom. “Everyone deserves quality medical treatment against this terrible disease, and California will answer the call and provide aid to the people of India who so desperately need it.”

Specifically, California will send the following supplies:

• 275 Oxygen Concentrators. Concentrates the oxygen from a gas supply by selectively removing nitrogen to supply an oxygen-enriched product gas stream. These units are capable of producing 10 liters per minute of oxygen supplied directly to patients via a mask.
• 440 Oxygen Cylinders. These are large metal cylinders designed to store oxygen that are used for both hospital and at-home use.
• 240 Oxygen Regulators. The high-flow oxygen regulators for H tanks are used to adjust and control the rate of oxygen flow. These devices provide for greater efficiency in the rate at which oxygen is delivered to patients.
• 210 Pulse Oximeters. Small sensors generally clipped to the finger, toe or ear lobe that measure the oxygen saturation within an individual’s blood to determine whether they are getting enough oxygen into their bloodstream.
• 1 Deployable Oxygen Concentrator Systems (DOCS). Capable of producing 120 liters per minute of oxygen and is generally used to fill large cylinders.

The distribution of these lifesaving supplies is being coordinated through the U.S. Agency for International Development and will be provided directly to health care providers and front-line workers. India reported nearly 350,000 new cases on Sunday, the largest single-day total of cases ever recorded by a single country. California’s contributions come as part of a wider effort by the United States to fight the spread of COVID-19 in India. On Sunday, the Biden Administration pledged to provide more medical aid to the country, including raw materials for vaccine production, test kits, ventilators, and PPE. The supplies being sent to India are now being tested, packed and prepared for shipment at state warehouse facilities and are expected to be flown out as soon as tomorrow.

California is in a position to distribute these lifesaving supplies because of the early, aggressive actions that Governor Newsom to combat COVID-19, which has resulted in the lowest positivity rates in the entire country and more than 28 million vaccines already having been administered in California. Even while providing these needed supplies to India, California still maintains a robust state stockpile to rapidly respond to any additional outbreaks that may occur within the state. Previously, Governor Newsom loaned ventilators to Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, and Delaware and also sent millions of items of PPE to neighboring states along the West Coast.


Gavin Newsom is the Governor of California, formerly Lieutenant Governor of California, and Mayor of San Francisco. Governor Newsom is married to Jennifer Siebel Newsom. They have four children: Montana, Hunter, Brooklynn, and Dutch. Newsom has been a pioneer on same-sex marriage, gun safety, marijuana, the death penalty, universal health care, access to preschool, technology, criminal justice reform, and the minimum wage, which has led to sweeping changes when his policies were ultimately accepted, embraced, and replicated across the state and nation.


 

California Launches Website for COVID-19 Awareness

SACRAMENTO – California Governor Gavin Newsom today announced the launch of a new Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) public awareness campaign to provide useful information to Californians and inform them of actions they can take to further prevent the spread of the virus. The campaign is anchored by a new, consumer-friendly website, www.covid19.ca.gov, that highlights critical steps people can take to stay healthy and resources available to Californians impacted by the outbreak, including paid sick leave and unemployment assistance.

The campaign also includes public service announcements from Dr. Sonia Angell, California Department of Public Health Director and State Health Officer, and California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris. These announcements will be distributed on various state websites, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Facebook and Instagram have provided the state with $1 million in advertising credits to help promote the campaign.

“The state is mobilizing at every level to proactively and aggressively protect the health and well-being of Californians, but we cannot fight this outbreak alone,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “We need the participation and support of every Californian, and that’s why we’re providing recent, relevant and reliable information. Californians need to know how to stay healthy and where they can get help. These actions are critical, and there is no doubt our collective efforts will save lives.”

Click here to see California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ PSA directed at high-risk Californians.

Click here to see California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’ PSA regarding general health.

The one-stop website reminds Californians that their actions can save lives. The website’s toolkit includes volunteer opportunities and public service announcements, social media messages, and additional videos that can be shared to help get the word out. The website also serves as the central location for up-to-date and simple guidance.

Click here to see California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell’s PSA directed at high-risk Californians.

Click here to see California Department of Public Health Director Dr. Sonia Angell’s PSA regarding economic resources.


Featured image license can be found here.

Governor Newsom: One Year of California for All

There’s no state in America quite like California. In troubled times for the Nation, California is where the American Dream is alive and well. The most diverse state in the world’s most diverse democracy, California is big-hearted, thriving, inclusive and bold.

This year, we’ve been working to build a California for All. Governing by our values of growth and inclusion, we have made principled yet practical investments in our people and our future.

Making sure that those investments are built to last, we have budgeted responsibly for the years ahead. Our balanced, on-time budget created the largest rainy day fund in state history and paid down California’s wall of debt.

That budget addressed the biggest challenges we face. Today, I will share our work to tackle the high cost of living in California, prevent and prepare for emergencies, and combat homelessness.

First, we’re working to confront the state’s affordability crisis. It is our state’s foundational economic challenge, which threatens lives and threatens futures. The things that make it possible to get ahead – housing, health care, saving for your kids’ college or your retirement – are getting farther out of reach for Californians.

When I took office last January, I got to work to make life more affordable for all. Together, we expanded healthcare subsidies to middle-class Californians. We took on rising prescription drug costs by seeking to establish the nation’s largest single purchaser system for drugs. We helped put higher education within reach of more Californians by providing two free years of community college to first-time, full-time students and negotiated tuition freezes at California’s universities.

We also put money back in the pockets of California parents by doubling the state’s Earned Income Tax Credit and adding a $1,000 credit for families with children under the age of six. We eased the financial burden on parents by repealing the sales and use tax on diapers.

Second, we are making sure that California is ready for the next natural disaster, and that communities still recovering from catastrophic wildfires have what they need to rebuild.

We invested $1 billion to build disaster resiliency, response and recovery – including funding the pre-positioning of emergency response teams in times of high-risk wildfire conditions. We launched Listos California, a statewide network of community organizations that build disaster resiliency in vulnerable communities.  We also moved the state toward a safer, affordable and reliable energy future by drafting wildfire safety and accountability measures and working with the Legislature to create a $21 billion wildfire fund.

Finally, we’re working nonstop to confront the statewide crisis of homelessness, which impacts 130,000 Californians in every corner of our state.

We’re pursuing solutions that work. We made a historic $2.75 billion investment — the most California has ever spent — on programs to fight homelessness and build more housing. That amount included $650 million in Emergency Homelessness Aid to cities and counties so that they can implement the best local solutions for their communities. We’re also striking at the root causes of homelessness, including the unacceptable lack of housing construction and unscrupulous landlords who price-gouge their tenants and unfairly evict them. We negotiated and signed the nation’s strongest statewide renter protections and worked with technology companies to secure $4.5 billion towards California’s housing crisis.

We’re “all in” on tackling this crisis because it is a major quality of life issue not just for the person sleeping on a sidewalk, but for everyone in their community. We recognize that every homeless individual is someone’s child, parent, or friend. Many times, they are our service members, who served honorably in our military and fell onto hard times after they got home. These individuals are often struggling with mental illness or substance abuse.

They deserve better than the reckless rhetoric and heartless cuts to the social safety net that Washington is offering. They deserve the thoughtful solutions that we are pursuing in California, in partnership with local governments, the private sector, and philanthropists statewide.

Make no mistake, we have so much more work to do. There are still too many Californians who do not get to share in the prosperity that they help to create. For them, and their children – and California’s continued leadership in the nation and the world – we must boldly confront our remaining challenges. These challenges demand bold solutions, and above all, the courage for a change.

Fortunately, we have no shortage of courage here in California, a state of dreamers and do-ers who are not afraid to take risks for what’s right.

In the year ahead, we’ll continue to work hard and aim high on behalf of all Californians, and everyone who looks to our state as a beacon of hope.

 

Governor Newsom Announces Quarterly “On the Record” Column to Reach Diverse Communities

SACRAMENTO – Governor Gavin Newsom today announced a historic media collaboration with California Black Media, Ethnic Media Services, ImpreMedia, Univision, and LGBTQ outlets Bay Area Reporter and the Los Angeles Blade to contribute an original quarterly column on timely public policy issues impacting Californians across the state. The quarterly “On the Record with Gavin Newsom” column will be translated into at least six languages and distributed quarterly starting in December. Each column will be posted for public access on the Governor’s website and published online or in print in the over 50 participating media outlets. Any media outlet is welcome to pull the column from the Governor’s website to publish in their outlet.

“California is proud to be the most diverse state in the world’s most diverse democracy,” said Governor Newsom. “All Californians deserve to know that their government is working for them, especially in rural and Inland communities that have long felt that they do not truly have a voice in Sacramento. We look forward to collaborating with our media partners—and inviting others who might be interested in partnering—to bring our California for All message to communities across our state.”

This announcement builds on Governor Newsom’s commitment to working with community, ethnic and diverse media outlets. Throughout his first year in office, the Governor and his senior staff have participated in several telebriefing media calls and meetings on a host of issues ranging from the death penalty to public charge to the 2020 Census.

“The idea for the column grew out of a two year effort by representatives of Black, Latino, Asian and Native media to educate state legislators and decision makers about the sector’s role and to forge a multi-ethnic media advocacy voice,” said Sandy Close who directs Ethnic Media Services, a nonprofit media consulting organization.

Regina Brown Wilson, director of California Black Media, says the column “couldn’t come at a more critical time. In this information era dominated by high tech platforms, Governor Newsom is sending an important signal that government needs high touch communicators embedded in and trusted by their local communities.”

Gabriel Lerner, veteran editor of ImpreMedia’s La Opinion, underscored the need for consistent outreach by the Governor as an antidote to the growing fear and distrust of government among immigrant audiences in the wake of Trump administration anti-immigrant measures. “Every new announcement from the White House creates a relentless campaign of terror. The column is one small but important counter-voice that all immigrants need to hear,” Lerner said.

“Establishing a direct and consistent way of communication with the people of California is essential to have an informed, engaged, and prosperous community,” said Marco Flores, Vice President of News for Univision Los Angeles.

Francis Espiritu, longtime publisher of Philippine News Today, a national Filipino news outlet headquartered in the Bay Area, was one of numerous Asian media leaders who joined the collaborative effort. He says he is eager to run the column to inform audiences about the Governor’s policy objectives and to reassure them that “the state has our back.”

Native media are also a key part of the collaboration. Joe Orozco, who directs the Hoopa reservation based KIDE radio in northern Eureka, says the isolation and diversity of tribal lands makes communications an even greater challenge. He hopes the column represents an effort to make communication two-way. “We want to tell our story as well,” said Orozco.

The partnership includes the LGBTQ publications Bay Area Reporter and Los Angeles Blade.

“The Bay Area Reporter looks forward to the quarterly columns by Governor Gavin Newsom. As one of the oldest LGBT newspapers in the country, we think our readers will enjoy learning about issues the governor writes about. California is in a state of constant change, and we believe our readers will be interested to hear directly from San Francisco’s former mayor through his columns on how he plans to address myriad issues statewide,” said Cynthia Laird, News Editor with the Bay Area Reporter.

 

Governor Gavin Newsom: Healthcare, Housing and Homelessness

As India Currents editor, I was invited to be part of a select group of journalists and writers from the Asian and Pacific islander communities to participate in a joint press conference call with Governor Gavin Newsom last week. My question on immigration was the first one that the Governor chose to respond to.

I asked the Governor about California’s stance, given the shifting policy suggestions at the federal level regarding legal immigration –  various proposals that might affect student visas and the H-1B visas – categories that are of particular interest to South Asians. He immediately said, “Yes – you are right to point out that immigration policy is indeed decided at the federal level, while enquiring about what we stand for as a state. As a state, we will use our moral authority – not the values of the Trump administration – to advocate for a thoughtful and judicious approach to legal immigration. We are focused on H-1 B immigraiton, seasonal agricultural workers’ visas, and will push back against arbitrary caps set in these areas. Also, we will be working to ensure protections under the Dream Act, while campaigning for overall, comprehensive immigration reform.”

—  Nirupama Vaidhyanathan

The following article was provided to us by Ehtmic Media Services and gives a clear account of the Governor’s views on the challenging problems that the state faces: healthcare, homelessness and housing.

In a conference call on May 28 with Asian Pacific Islander media, Gavin Newsom, five months into his term as governor of California, outlined aggressive strategies in current budget proposals to combat three of the state’s biggest challenges:  healthcare, housing and homelessness.

And in one of several overt challenges to current White House policies, he highlighted his recent pardoning of two Cambodian immigrants, Kang Hen and Hay Hov, thereby gutting the federal case for their immediate deportation. He also warned warned that the Trump administration’s deportation focus was expanding beyond the Latino community that is at the heart of the border wall controversy.

“Healthcare is front and center in the national discourse,” he said, “ever since the vandalism of the Affordable Care Act,” also known as Obamacare. And homelessness, growing by double-digit percentages up and down the state, according to the most recent accounting, released just last week, is “an out-of-control abomination, simply getting worse,” the governor said. Worse as in 43% increases in Alameda and Orange counties, and 64% in Bakersfield’s Kern County, the governor noted.

“I don’t want to over promise that we can turn this around overnight,” he warned, but his proposals represent “the most robust homeless investment the state has ever made.” Similarly, he said, the housing situation is “deeply complex. It’s taken us decades to get to this point.” The governor lambasted the state ranking 49th out of 50 when it comes to building new housing units (behind only Utah) last year and said, “We have got to get serious.” So he’s pressuring the most laggard communities, such as Huntington Beach, where no new housing was constructed, and generally using the “carrot and stick” approach on 49 other municipalities that haven’t done enough. The 77,000 new housing units built in the state last year, he said, is “not even close to where we need to go.

The governor said he’s allocating $1.75 billion into various “housing buckets” — plans to incentivize new construction, for instance, via tax credits, loan subsidies and infrastructure grants to help investment, creating “opportunity zones” and seeking lower voting threshold rules to streamline permitting, encouraging workforce housing along with low-income housing construction.

And to slow down the abominable growth in homelessness, Newsom had more than a billion dollars’ worth of proposals, including: $ 275 million to 13 counties and $ 275 million more to 13 cities with the most challenging circumstances surrounding homelessness. The dollars would go to such things as rapid rehousing programs, hotel conversions, navigation centers, workforce training and mental health programs.

“If you believe in universal health care, then you believe in covering everybody, regardless of immigration status,” he said. His plan would extend coverage to 2.5 million undocumented Californians, including 463,000 members of the Asian Pacific Islander community, he said,

In detailing his intentions, the governor argued that, in the long run, beyond the humanitarian or moral justifications for dedicating hundreds of millions to foster housing construction and homelessness prevention and re-establishing the health care individual mandate, the state will save money, too.

For instance, by enrolling everyone in Medicare, he said, including undocumented immigrants, the state would realize savings on the most expensive health care it provides: emergency room care to those who have no insurance. “We’re already spending the money,” he said. “We pay a fortune in the emergency room for the undocumented.”

But he envisions other cost-savings too.

“One of the most significant things we are doing in the budget,” he said, is being able to save $ 400 million annually from the $ 13.5 billion spent on pharmaceutical drugs by leveraging the state’s purchasing power and implementing bulk purchases. For another example of anticipated cost savings by expanding Medicare, Newsom pointed out how, subsequent to the elimination of the individual mandate, there was a 9% jump in insurance premiums. But not in Massachusetts, where the individual mandate is still in effect and worth about a 5% difference in premium costs, he said, citing Peter Lee, of Covered California. The Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate requirement was removed as part of the GOP tax bill that passed in December 2017. Other benefits to California health care he’s envisioning are significant boosts in Medi-Cal payments to physicians. Medi-Cal is California’s Medicaid program for low-income residents.

In response to a question from the media, Newsom confirmed that veterans would come in for considerable benefit through the housing and supportive services he’s proposing.

In response to another question, he praised state Attorney General Xavier Becerra and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera for their support of “sanctuary” status in their jurisdictions, reiterated his own long-standing support for such policies and expressed skepticism that those policies will ever cost the state federal dollars.

Citing a recent court victory against Trump proposals to redirect state resources to what Newsom called the “fake emergency” border wall, Newsom also stated his intention to fight for immigration reform, hopefully in conjunction with other border-state governors.

By Mark Hedin.