Good morning, California.

“It’s 278 days until California’s presidential primary, but the Bay Area is about to become the center of the presidential election universe.”—Mercury News, reporting that 14 Democratic presidential hopefuls will be at the Moscone Center for the California Democratic Party Convention this weekend. Frontrunner Joe Biden will be in Ohio.

A minimum wage 'quirk'

Nonprofits that hire workers with developmental disabilities rely on state funding.

A quirk in state law threatens the financial stability of nonprofit agencies that help employ people with developmental disabilities—and pay a living wage.

  • Long story short: California’s Department of Developmental Services reimburses these nonprofits for costs associated with increases in the state minimum wage, now $12 an hour.
  • But it isn’t providing additional funding in high-cost areas, including San Francisco, where the minimum wage will rise to $15.59 on July 1, or Los Angeles, where it is set to rise to $14.25.

Scott Shepard, of the nonprofit provider Avenues Supported Living Services in Valencia: “This is immoral, unethical and illegal, since service providers like ourselves have no way to raise our rates.”

The Legislative Analyst’s Office urged that the Legislature take up the issue, noting that the “rate adjustment quirk” prevents service providers from seeking reimbursement to cover costs associated with higher minimum wages.

  • Several Democratic and Republican legislators have signed letters siding with the service providers.

In the 2019-20 budget set to take effect on July 1, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposes to spend $7.8 billion to provide service to 350,000 people with developmental disabilities, including autism. That’s an increase of 16,500 people and $435 million from the current year.

  • The Senate version of the budget proposes to add $263 million partly to offset higher minimum wages.
  • The Assembly offers an additional $149  million.
  • Both versions would provide the money starting in January—six months after higher minimum wages take effect in L.A. and San Francisco.

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Talking trash

Plastic often ends up in landfills.

In 2011, lawmakers established the lofty goal that Californians would be diverting 75% of our waste from garbage dumps through reduced packaging, recycling and composting by 2020. We’re not close.

Californians are diverting an estimated 46% of our waste—down from the 58% we purportedly recycled in 2011, though that number was generous.

  • We shipped much of our detritus to China, which may or may not have recycled it.
  • Regardless, China has been rejecting our waste because it’s contaminated with stuff that cannot be recycled.
  • Malaysia announced this week that it has loaded Western garbage on freighters and is sending it back to the United States, Canada and other wealthy countries.

Much of what Californians may think is being recycled, particularly plastic, ends up in landfills—or in the ocean, where it is consumed by unwitting whales and other sea life.

This week, the Senate and Assembly approved virtually identical bills seeking to establish a new lofty goal: diverting 75% of our waste from landfills by 2030.

Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste is pushing both bills: “What the passage means is we’re going to do something this year.”

An added twist: Both bills direct manufacturers of plastics to prove that 20% of their products are being recycled by 2024, or else those products could not be sold in California. If that provision survives in the final legislation, it could be an end of styrofoam products.


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Take a number: 1,367,500

California is generating more plastic packaging that isn't readily recyclable.

California generated 1,367,500 tons of plastic waste that is not readily recyclable in 2015, the most recent year for which numbers exist. That’s nearly double the 1990 tonnage of 742,500. Source: Californians Against Waste.


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FSB Core Strategies: Public Affairs. Ballot Campaigns. Legislative & Regulatory Fights


Tenants' rights vs. political reality

Several bills designed to protect renters have fizzled out.

Inspired by Gov. Gavin Newsom’s call for tenant protections, several Democratic legislators convened a news conference in March to announce an ambitious plan to help renters with far-reach legislation. Then reality hit.

The one significant measure from the March news conference that survives, albeit in a weakened form, is Assembly Bill 1482, by Democratic Assemblyman David Chiu of San Francisco.

  • Chiu initially sought to cap rent hikes at 5%, plus inflation. To quell opposition from the real estate lobby, he agreed to cap annual rent increases at 7%, plus inflation, CALmatters’ Matt Levin reports. Inflation exceeded 3% in California last year and is running at 3.4% in 2019.

With the changes, the measure eked out of the 80-seat Assembly with 43 votes.

  • Chiu said the bill would provide “some relief to millions of tenants one rent increase away from losing their homes,” assuming the Senate approves it.

Landlords won a significant victory Thursday when legislation to limit evictions stalled in the Assembly. Other bills announced in March are stuck in various committees.

Money matters:

  • The California Apartment Association spent $280,000 on lobbying in the first quarter of 2019, and donated $25,000 to the California Democratic Party last week.
  • The California Association of Realtors spent $417,000 on lobbying in the first quarter. The Realtors Association donated $610,000 to the California Democratic Party and $300,000 to the California Republican Party so far in 2019

 

These bills stalled

One stalled bill sought to open more marijuana dispensaries.

Legislation that would have required many cities and counties to grant licenses to pot stores stalled in the Assembly.

One that would have significantly expanded paid family leave sputtered in the Senate.

A basic rule of politics in Sacramento: With very few exceptions, bills never truly die.

Commentary at CALmatters

Tom Epstein, Democratic activist and former senior staffer: Democrats gathering for their weekend convention in San Francisco should cast a particularly critical eye on Sen. Bernie Sanders. Support for Sanders’ policies will decline under more intense scrutiny, especially his signature Medicare-for-All plan.

Steve Swatt and Susie Swatt, co-authors of “Paving the Way: Women’s Struggle for Political Equality in California”: With an expected Senate special election victory in June, the ranks of female political role models will inch higher at the Capitol and an even broader array of issues may gain attention. Still, when combined with the 2018 electoral successes, women will comprise fewer than one-third of the 120-member Legislature.

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See you Monday.