Donald Trump clashed with California throughout his presidency like nowhere else in the country over everything from immigration to automobile efficiency. By a two-to-one margin, Californians backed his Democratic challenger Joe Biden for president.

So how might things be more golden for the Golden State with Biden in the White House?

Well for starters, California won't be suing the administration so much. Under Attorney General Xavier Becerra, California filed more than 100 lawsuits against the Trump administration — from protecting "dreamer" immigrants to regulation of gun parts.

"Our priorities in California transcend a president or an election," Becerra told the Bay Area News Group in a statement last week. "But, we much prefer a partner in Washington to advance our shared prosperity."

Trump's biggest head-butts with California involved immigration, environmental policy, health care and technology regulation. Here's how policy in those areas are expected to change.


Biden, who served as Barack Obama's vice president, has signaled a soft tone on immigration as a candidate, and Sarah Pierce, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., said the issue would look a lot different from Trump's hardline rhetoric and controversial policies.

California is home to nearly a quarter of the nation's undocumented immigrants, and they constitute more than 6% of the state's population, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. The state passed a "sanctuary" law to frustrate federal immigration enforcement during Trump's presidency, and that legislation survived a Trump administration lawsuit to overturn it.

Still, the Obama administration's history on immigration is complicated, Pierce said, noting that the Trump administration in its first three years deported only half as many people as the Obama administration during that same time frame.

Biden has indicated he wouldn't build more border walls, though he wouldn't tear them down either, Pierce said. Trump's zero-tolerance policy for unauthorized border crossings, with children separated from their parents at crowded holding facilities, sparked outrage. But children also were kept in crowded facilities during surges at the border under Obama, though they had arrived unaccompanied by family.

But Biden has promised to increase the allowable annual refugee caps that Trump dramatically curtailed from 110,000 at the end of the Obama administration to 15,000.

For the "dreamers" — non-citizens brought to the U.S. by their parents as children — Biden has pledged to restore Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that granted them protection from deportation and a path toward citizenship. One in four of them live in California, which successfully sued to block the Trump administration from canceling the program.

H-1B visas that temporarily allow skilled foreign workers into the U.S. and are popular hiring tools for Silicon Valley companies, were denied at much higher rates under Trump who sought to spur hiring of Americans. Pierce predicted that Biden would be more open to granting them.


A Biden administration would drop Trump's efforts for new offshore oil drilling along the California coast. It would end Trump's push for more oil drilling, fracking and mining on federal lands in California. And it would place more emphasis on protecting salmon and other endangered species in the Delta, and less on delivering as much water as possible to Central Valley farmers.

Perhaps most noteworthy, a Biden White House would embrace the science of climate change, re-enter the Paris Climate Agreement, and drop the Trump administration's efforts to block California from enforcing automobile emissions standards that are tougher than the federal government's.

A Biden administration also would likely offer new incentives for electric vehicles and charging stations, along with solar and wind energy, industries which employ thousands of California workers. It would accelerate efforts to remove aging dams on the Klamath River in Northern California, and could expand national marine sanctuaries and national monuments by executive order.

All of this could happen even if a Republican U.S. Senate blocks Democratic efforts to pass major environmental legislation.

"So much of what happens with the environment goes through the administration, not Congress," said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California. "The EPA can do things, the Department of Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can do things. The Department of Transportation can do things. It would be lovely to have the Senate, but we can accomplish a lot."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a Biden Administration — which California Air Resources Board chair Mary Nichols is rumored to be a contender to lead — would almost certainly crack down more on polluting industries than it has under the Trump administration. Trump's current and former EPA administrators have been coal industry lobbyists.

Technology regulation

Trump's tariffs on China aimed at shrinking trade imbalance posed challenges for Silicon Valley companies that rely on lower-priced Chinese manufacturing and access to its large consumer market. Big Tech generally backed Biden, whom industry analysts expect to take a softer stance toward China.

The Trump administration also sided with broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon over tech companies on net neutrality rules requiring they treat all internet users the same. Broadband providers want to sell faster service to some users and generate funding for network upgrades, but Biden is expected to side with critics who say it would stifle smaller companies and innovation.

Both Democrats and Republicans have targeted Big Tech with antitrust action, said Stanford University law professor Mark A. Lemley, an expert in antitrust and intellectual property law.

"Big companies probably have more to fear from the Democrats" on antitrust, he said, despite the Trump administration's recent antitrust suit against Google, which he said was "much narrower and more targeted than most people expected."

On social media liability, Lemley said that while both Trump and Biden have called for removing social media companies' "Section 230" immunity from liability for the content posted on their sites, they have opposite reasons — Democrats want social media to police posts deemed false or offensive, while Republicans want a hands-off approach. Don't expect change, he said, from a divided government.

Health Care

California went big on the Affordable Care Act — "Obamacare" — which Trump has sought to dismantle and replace. Some 3.5 million Californians could lose the program's coverage if Republican-led states suing to invalidate it succeed.

Gerald Kominski, a professor of health policy at the University of California-Los Angeles, said a President Biden would need congressional support — doubtful with a Republican Senate — to expand the ACA with bigger subsidies and a "public option" government plan to compete with private insurance, or replace it if courts strike it down. California wouldn't be able to cover the $30 billion cost to make up the federal subsidies, he said.

On the COVID-19 pandemic, Kominski said a Biden administration could take a larger role in mobilizing and coordinating resources, such as protective gear for doctors and health workers. Beyond that, he expects a shift in tone that is more deferential to the government's public health agencies and medical scientists.

"A lot of it is leadership and modeling," Kominski said, "a cease and desist on the constant assault on science."


(c)2020 The Mercury News (San Jose, Calif.)

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