Guess who’s coming to dinner, California.
Gov. Gavin Newsom is heading to Washington, D.C., for the National Governor’s Association meeting this weekend. The itinerary includes an evening meal at the White House with President Trump. Can’t help but wonder who will be at the table and who will be on the menu.
Another teachers strike
Familiar issues have prompted Oakland teachers to follow the lead of L.A.
Oakland Unified School District’s 3,000 teachers are set to walk out today at 6:30 a.m., disrupting the education of 37,000 students a month after Los Angeles teachers settled their strike.
- As in L.A., the issues in Oakland have to do with money, smaller class size, the loss of enrollment and the rise of public charter schools. Oakland teachers are seeking a 12 percent pay hike. The district had offered 5 percent.
San Francisco Chronicle: “Substitutes will not be continuing lesson plans, and at many schools, administrators may gather students in the library or gym to supervise them in larger groups.”
The district made late-hour offers of 8 percent to 8.5 percent raises over four years, The Chronicle and Bay Area News Group reported. That’s insufficient, teachers union President Keith Brown was quoted as saying.
- Backdrop: The pending strike follows walkouts in other parts of the country as teachers have become increasingly energized. Here’s more from CALmatters’ Ricardo Cano.
Slipping public sector union membership
The percentage of public employee union members has dipped.
Although labor retains significant clout in California, the percentage of public employees who are union members dropped to 50.3 percent in 2018, the lowest percentage since 2000, according to data compiled by Unionstats.com.
- It could be a blip. Or perhaps it’s fallout from last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision, Janus vs. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which makes it easier for government workers to quit labor organizations.
The California Labor Federation’s Steve Smith said major public employee unions that are among the federation’s affiliates have not reported declines.
Smith: “It’s a bit of a mystery.”
California public employee union membership, now 1.24 million, hovered at 55 percent in past years before declining to 50.3 percent in 2018, said Colin Gordon, a University of Iowa history professor who researches such issues. Actual numbers fell by 125,634 members.
Gordon: “I don’t think that’s noise.”
Lobbying matters: In 2018, public employee unions’ spending on lobbying in Sacramento dipped, perhaps a reflection of the decrease in dues-paying members.
- The California State Council of Service Employees, for example, spent $8 million in 2017-18, down from the $11.8 million in 2015-16 and the $8.67 million it spent in 2011-12 when it was the No. 1 spender.
Meanwhile in the private sector: Unions representing workers at private employers in California ticked up by 41,338, though the percentage of unionized private employer workers is a mere 8.3 percent.
New twist to old soda fight
Soda tax advocates are talking about an initiative.
Can a statewide soda tax finally pass in California? There’s a fizz in the air, some lawmakers say.
- Legislators will vote again this year on a bill to raise taxes on soda and similar sugary drinks, an effort to combat diabetes and childhood obesity by limiting consumption.
- The tax size is to be determined, Democratic Assemblyman Richard Bloom of Santa Monica said at Capitol news conference. In 2016 he proposed a two-cent per ounce levy that would generate $2 billion. Bloom pulled that bill from consideration, knowing it lacked the votes. Similar bills had failed many times in past years.
What’s different now: Gov. Gavin Newsom might be more amenable to a soda tax than was Gov. Jerry Brown. The 80-seat Assembly has 61 Democrats, and the 40-seat Senate has 28 Democrats, far more the two-thirds needed to approve a tax hike. And the electorate in the 2020 primary and general elections will be among the most Democratic ever.
- Call it the Trump effect: Democrats likely will head to the polls in droves to show their displeasure with the president, who remains profoundly unpopular in California. Initiative promoters with liberal notions will seek to capitalize on the electorate’s make-up.
An initiative mirroring Bloom’s two-cent-per-ounce tax also has been proposed for the November 2020 ballot by the California Medical Association and California Dental Association.
Bloom: “All options are on the table.”
Can Becerra police the police?
Attorney General Xavier Becerra chats with the CHP.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has crafted an image as a progressive warrior, suing the Trump Administration dozens of times and delivering the Democrats’ Spanish-language rebuttal to the President’s State of the Union speech.
- But on one issue the Democrat departs from progressives, CALmatters’ Laurel Rosenhall writes: accountability for law enforcement. There, Becerra is at odds with the push by many in his own party to better police the police.
Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson: “Law enforcement has an incredibly strong political position and lobbying force in California. It’s nearly impossible to be a statewide official and not feel a close tie to law enforcement.”
The tension has been playing out as California police agencies resist a new law requiring them to treat cases of serious police misconduct—shootings, sexual assaults, lying on the job—as public records.
- For details on Becerra’s refusal share many of those records from the case files at his own Department of Justice, click here.
Water crises north and south
Farms and cities are dryer than Californians think.
With snowpack thick and rivers running fast, you might not guess California is in the midst of a water crisis. But as many as 750,000 acres of farmland may need to be fallowed in the coming years, or about 14 percent of the San Joaquin Valley cropland, the Public Policy Institute of California reports.
- The cost: $2 billion in lost crops.
- The reason: In 2014, the Legislature approved the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, a landmark law that for the first time regulated groundwater, which has been severely overdrafted in much of the valley.
- The report: “To protect their bottom line, farmers would try to adapt by first reducing acreage of less profitable crops, and avoiding cutbacks in nuts, fruits, and vegetables. But in areas with high shares of these crops and large water cutbacks, some would need to be fallowed, at significant cost.”
PPIC offers suggestions for dealing with the scarcity. But the overdraft, which has caused vast swaths of the valley to sink, cannot be ignored.
Meanwhile in LA: Eighteen trillion gallons of rain have fallen in February alone in Southern California, The Los Angeles Times reports. Too bad “most of it is going down the drain.”
The Times: “In what has become a source of much concern in a state prone to droughts and water shortages, the vast majority of rainwater in urban areas flows into storm drains and is eventually lost to the Pacific Ocean.”
Mark Gold, associate vice chancellor for environment and sustainability at UCLA: “[M]ore water is running down the river into the ocean than what Los Angeles would use in close to a year. What a waste of water supply.”
Commentary at CALmatters
Several issues impacting the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta need to be resolved.
Ellen Hanak and Jeffrey Mount, Public Policy Institute of California: By proposing to build one cross-Delta tunnel instead of two, Gov. Gavin Newsom has opened the door for a grand compromise on water in California. The Delta’s many interests should seize this opportunity.
Dan Walters, CALmatters: While Gov. Gavin Newsom downgraded the state’s troubled bullet train project, he couldn’t bring himself to do what’s necessary: pull the plug.
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See you tomorrow.