A gas price watchdog + A ‘journalism usage fee’ + Sacramento seniors to march on Capitol

·6 min read
Hector Amezcua/hamezcua@sacbee.com

Good morning and welcome to the A.M. Alert!


The California Energy Commission would be empowered to levy price-gouging penalties on oil and gas companies “making excessive profits,” under the revised language of SBX1-2 released Monday.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, Senate President pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood, announced that they had reached agreement on legislation aimed at holding Big Oil accountable.

“Today’s agreement represents a major milestone in our efforts to drive the oil industry out of the shadows and ensure they play by the rules. This represents some of the strongest and most effective transparency and oversight measures in the country, and the penalty would root out price gouging,” Newsom said.

SBX1-2 would create a watchdog within the California Energy Commission tasked with keeping tabs on the state’s gas market on a daily basis. According to Newsom’s office, the division would have subpoena power to compel refiners to produce data and records that could show patterns of misconduct, as well as authority to refer violations of the law to the California Attorney General’s Office for prosecution.

As for that price-gouging penalty, the commission would be charged with creating a fine structure “that deters excessive pricing by imposing a civil penalty on refiners who charge more than a maximum allowable margin for the price of gasoline,” according to Newsom’s office.

With Atkins and Rendon on board, the proposal is likely to pass the Legislature.

Also praising the deal on Monday was Jamie Court, president of Consumer Watchdog.

“This will make California the first state in the nation to have the power to impose a price gouging penalty on refiners and to demand this level of transparency from them,” Court said in a statement.

Legislative Republicans were not impressed.

“Translation: After months of fruitless arm-twisting, #CALEG and @CAgovernor punt to unelected state bureaucrats to impose a new California #GasTax,” wrote conservative commentator George Andrews in a tweet.

Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher, R-Yuba City, wrote in a tweet that Newsom “can have all the studies, investigations & watchdogs he wants.

“The hard truth is that it’s the taxes, regulations & fees passed by the Democrat majority that are responsible for CA’s crazy high gas prices. Period. End of story,” Gallagher wrote.


Sharing this newsletter post on Facebook could soon cost the social media giant money, under a bill introduced by Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland.

AB 886 would assess a “journalism usage fee” to social media companies that run ads alongside content that they have “siphoned” from local news websites, according to a statement from Wicks’ office. News outlets that take the money would then be required to spend 70% of it on journalism jobs.

In a statement, Wicks said that the bill would provide a lifeline to news outlets large and small by making “Big Tech” shoulder some of the cost of gathering and reporting the news.

“These dominant digital ad companies are enriching their own platforms with local news content without adequately compensating the originators. It’s time they start paying market value for the journalism they are aggregating at no cost from local media,” Wicks said.

The California News Publishers Association and the News/Media Alliance have both announced their support for the legislation.

“Big Tech has become the de facto gatekeeper of journalism and is using its dominance to set rules for how news content is displayed, prioritized, and monetized,” said CNPA Chair Emily Charrier, who is the publisher for the Petaluma Argus-Courier. “Our members are the sources of that journalism, and they deserve to be paid fair market value for news they originate.”


On Tuesday, seniors with the group Third Act Sacramento will take to the streets as part of the “National Day of Action Against Dirty Banks,” to put pressure on big banks to stop funding fossil fuel projects.

“The action in Sacramento is one of over 85 events taking place across the country to protect our climate and ensure a livable future. Third Act is a national organization of elders over 60 years old,” according to a statement from the group.

The group specifically calls out JP Morgan Chase, Citibank, Bank of America and Wells Fargo for “propping up the fossil fuel industry.”

“These four banks have pumped more than $1 trillion into fossil fuel financing since the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015 to cut greenhouse gas emissions. And all of these banks are continuing to fund the fossil fuel industry,” the group said.

The protest march begins at 11:30 a.m. at the Capitol Mall. From there, protesters will march to the Wells Fargo Center “for songs, speeches, a ceremonial cutting of credit cards with 8 ft scissors cutting a giant card, and delivery of 17,000 bank customer pledges to withdraw funds,” according to the group.

Then, it’s off to the west Capitol steps for photos and then on to the Capitol Rose Garden for a “Staying Alive Flash Mob” and a silent “die-in.”


“20 years ago, the overly broad AUMF passed by Congress set the stage for any president to use military force — any time, any place, without Congressional approval. The American people do not want forever wars. Congress must repeal the AUMF and take back our oversight power.”

- Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, discussing the Authorization for Use of Military Force that led to the Iraq War, via Twitter.

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