Columbus statue to come down + A cost to banning flavored tobacco + Let the kids play sports

Andrew Sheeler
·6 min read

Good morning and happy Wednesday. We’ve got lots to get into today, so let’s get right to it. As always, thanks for reading.

GOODBYE, COLUMBUS

Top California lawmakers on Tuesday ordered the removal of a marble sculpture depicting explorer Christopher Columbus and his patron, Queen Isabella, from the Capitol Rotunda.

The statue had been in the Capitol for more than a century. Top lawmakers called for its removal a day after a statue showing white settler John Sutter was taken down in front of the Sacramento hospital that bears his name.

“Christopher Columbus is a deeply polarizing historical figure given the deadly impact his arrival in this hemisphere had on indigenous populations. The continued presence of this statue in California’s Capitol, where it has been since 1883, is completely out of place today,” the lawmakers said in a joint statement.

The statement was signed by Senate President Pro Tempore Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, and Assembly Rules Committee Chairman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova.

At the end of the legislative session, Queen Isabella’s crown is a target for celebratory pennies. And to the baron who financed the statue in the late 1800s, it was a testament to Columbus’ visions of “marvelous lands beyond the setting sun.”

But what was once a symbol of Italian-American pride and Manifest Destiny is, to indigenous groups, a reminder of the cruelty and genocide their ancestors experienced as a result of Columbus’ voyages.

The removal of the statue shows that Columbus “will no longer be glorified,” said Ida Rodriguez, a member of the Statewide Coalition Against Racist Symbols. Having Christopher Columbus in such a prominent part of the Capitol makes the explorer seem like a “savior,” she said — when, in fact, “that’s not who he is.”

Sen. Henry Stern, D-Canoga Park, called for the statue’s removal last weekend. “I hope we can make a space now to tell the truth about our history, to reconcile our past with our present, and allow the original Californians, our indigenous peoples, and other historically marginalized Californians, to erect a monument that truly represents a California for All,” he said.

WHAT’S GOING ON WITH VAPING?

A California bill that would ban the sale of flavored tobacco products is set to go before the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee this Thursday. Currently, the bill is sitting in that committee’s suspense file.

The bill has been championed by author, Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, who said in a May statement that “1,300 people die every day due to tobacco related illnesses. There is no reason the most deadly product on earth needs to have a candy flavor.”

It has lined up nearly 40 co-authors and is co-sponsored by Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, the American Lung Association, the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (which has been running ads supporting lawmakers who back the bill) and Common Sense.

However, one thing lawmakers on the Appropriations Committee will have to consider is the potential loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in state revenue should the ban go into effect.

An Appropriations Committee bill analysis found that California would lose an estimated $407 million in excise and sales tax revenue over the next two fiscal years, according to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.

That’s not an insignificant amount of money, especially when lawmakers have to tackle a $54 billion deficit.

Still, the state could recoup some of that money in the form of a new tax proposed in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s budget.

Newsom has proposed a new vaping tax of $2 for every 40 milligrams of nicotine content, which is equivalent to the tax on a pack of cigarettes. That tax would go into effect in January 2021, and would raise $33 million in the 2020-2021 fiscal year, according to Newsom’s May Revision budget summary.

However, not everybody is a fan of the tax.

The Tax Foundation warns that a vaping tax would have a negative effect of smoking cessation efforts; many people vape as part of an effort to get off of cigarettes. In addition, a tax could create incentive for illicit activities.

“Cigarettes are already being smuggled into and around the country in large quantities, and nicotine-containing liquid is coming into the U.S. from questionable sources,” writes the Tax Foundation’s Ulrik Boesen. “Black market liquids and cigarettes have the problem of being extremely unsafe and cost governments billions in lost taxes.”

BRING BACK YOUTH SPORTS, LAWMAKER SAYS

One lawmaker said in a letter to Gov. Newsom that bringing back youth sports would restore “some semblance of normalcy into our children’s lives.”

That’s San Luis Obispo Republican Assemblyman Jordan Cunningham, who shared a copy of the letter with media.

Cunningham said in the letter he was speaking as a youth sports coach, and in the capacity of a father of four young athletes.

“As a former athlete yourself, I know you understand the positive impact playing sports has on our kids’ lives,” Cunningham wrote to Newsom.

As you may recall, youth sports all got put on hiatus along with other school activities when Gov. Newsom issued his March 19 stay-at-home order. It’s a big question this fall whether they will be able to return in some capacity.

Cunningham wrote that COVID-19 cancellations are having “dire impacts on the mental health of our kids,” and that responsible reopening would be in line with Newsom’s recent order that sporting events (sans audience) can start up in some areas of the state.

“Youth sports are not played in front of large crowds, and most can be played outdoors with ample room for parents to social distance,” Cunningham wrote. “Adults and kids alike have been allowed to pack into grocery stores and big-box retail locations for months – our kids should be allowed to play on a soccer field.”

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Momentum continues to build for #AB860, which will allow all California voters to have the opportunity to vote from the safety of their own home. The bill passed out of Assembly Elections today with tri-partisan (R/D/NPP) support. On to the Assembly floor on Thursday.”

- Assemblyman Marc Berman, D-Palo Alto, via Twitter.

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  • The California Highway Patrol spent more than $38.2 million in overtime costs associated with police brutality protests at the state Capitol and other areas in the state, according to new figures released Tuesday, via Sam Stanton and Sophia Bollag.

  • Last month, a Butte County church defied Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide order and opened its doors for services, despite warnings that people without symptoms could unwittingly spread the disease to others in crowded spaces, via Ryan Sabalow and Tony Bizjak.