In summary

Study: Trade deficit hits California workers. Search continues for solutions to housing crisis after bill dies. CSU delays change to math requirement.

Good morning, California.

“This cannot be about erasing a difficult history or forgetting all of the years that the name Boalt was used and why it was changed.”—Erwin Chemerinsky, UC Berkeley’s School of Law dean, as reported by The Recorder.

  • Chemerinsky pushed to change the prestigious law school’s name, which honored John Henry Boalt, a 19th century judge who advocated for the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.
  • Chemerinsky established a committee to “honor the donation by Boalt’s widow, Elizabeth Josselyn Boalt, as well as address the racism that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act.”
  • On Thursday, workers removed Boalt’s name from the law school.

China’s toll on California workers

A loaded container ship docks in an intermodal shipping yard in the Port of Long Beach.

California workers have been especially hard hit by the U.S. trade policy with China, the labor think tank Economic Policy Institute reports.

California lost 654,100 jobs between 2001 when China entered the World Trade Organization and 2018, nearly twice the number of jobs lost by the next hardest-hit state, Texas.

Non-college educated workers have taken it on the chin, as they must compete with lower-wage workers in China for blue collar jobs.

Competition with low-wage countries has suppressed wages of all 100 million U.S. workers without a college degree.

Six of the 10 congressional districts hit hardest by job losses are in California. Districts represented by Silicon Valley Democrats Ro Khanna,  Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren were three hardest hit, losing a combined 172,500 jobs.

  • The study: “There are substantial questions about the long-run ability of firms in the high-tech sectors to continue to innovate while offshoring most or all of the production in their industries.”

Trump’s trade war: The L.A. Times quoted one of the study’s authors, Robert E. Scott, as praising President Donald Trump’s tariffs on steel and aluminum but saying other tariffs have not helped.

  • The study: “Trade deficits with China and resulting jobs losses continued to grow during the first two years of the Trump administration—despite the administration’s heated rhetoric and imposition of tariffs.”

Other economists questioned conclusions. But the study helps explain California’s economic divide and has implications for the future of work, a focus of Gov. Gavin Newsom, as CalMatters’ Judy Lin has written.

CSU delays math requirement

California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White in 2019

The California State University Board of Trustees backed off a proposal to require students to take a fourth high school math class, after a backlash from some school districts. 

Supporters of the additional math course, including outgoing Chancellor Timothy White, say it is part of the university system’s plan to raise graduation rates.

White’s office contends students who arrive with four years of math are more likely to graduate. 

Opponents argue many school districts do not offer enough courses for students to meet the new requirements. 

  • The L.A. Times: “Even after almost two years of discussion about the topic, trustees were split on the issue.”

Upshot: The Board of Trustees voted to study on whether requiring four years of high school math courses would adversely affect low-income students and students of color.

  • Trustees won’t vote on the new requirement until at least 2022. 

What’s next for housing legislation

Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, Thursday

Far-reaching legislation that would have forced cities to allow more apartments around public transit and next to some single-family homes died Thursday.

State leaders vowed to start work quickly on a different solution for California’s housing crisis, CalMatters’ Matt Levin reports.

Senate Bill 50, a high-profile measure by Democrat Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, fell three votes short of the 21-vote majority needed to pass out of the Senate. 

Southern California Democrats resisted the measure, reflecting opposition from cities that feared loss of control over their planning.

  • Even if the Senate approved it, it would have faced rough going in the Assembly.

Once the bill died, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins told senators:

  • “I want to personally commit to each and every one of you, to the people of California, that a housing-production bill to help alleviate our housing crisis will happen this year.”

Gov. Gavin Newsom, who had not endorsed SB 50, added:

  • “California’s housing-affordability crisis demands our state pass a historic housing-production bill.”

Newsom has called for 3.5 million more homes. How to get there is the question. Some options cited by Levin:

  • Put zoning reform in a broader housing package and bring back redevelopment, a program killed by Gov. Jerry Brown. 
  • Overhaul and weaken the California Environmental Quality Act.

To read Levin’s analysis, please click here.

Counting homeless people

Homeless survey volunteers gather survey information from homeless people living in the Lowell neighborhood of Fresno during the January annual point-in-time homeless count. Photo by Craig Kohlruss, Fresno Bee
Volunteers survey homeless people living in Fresno. (Photo by Craig Kohlruss, Fresno Bee)

More than 200 volunteers took on the task of counting homeless people in Fresno, which by 2019’s count had the highest percentage of unsheltered people of any city in the country. 

The Fresno Bee’s Manuela Tobias went along. She and CalMatters’ Matt Levin explained the point-in-time count, an effort to document homeless people across the state and nation.

California counted 150,000 people living on the streets or in emergency shelters in 2019, a 17% increase from the prior year.

Nearly everyone involved in one-night counts acknowledges that the process underestimates the number of people without a safe place to call home. 

  • Counters miss unsheltered people, especially when law enforcement clears camps just before counters arrive.
  • They don’t try to count people living doubled up, or renting cheap motel rooms.
  • Few cities and counties across California send volunteers to every corner of their jurisdictions. Most send counters only to homeless “hot spots.” 

Despite its flaws, the count matters. Federal funding is based on the census. And while the homeless population is undercounted, the point-in-time count does bear witness to a fundamental failure in this state and nation’s safety net.

To read Tobias and Levin’s account, please click here.

Health care deadline is today

doctor holds hand of patient
Image via iStock

Californians who depend on Covered California for their health coverage face a deadline of today to sign up. There is a carrot and stick.

Carrot: California lawmakers decided to use state tax money to expand subsidies to help lower-income people pay for coverage.

Stick: People who forego buying health insurance will face a state penalty, California’s version of what was the individual mandate envisioned by the Affordable Care Act.

Congress abandoned the federal individual mandate, as part of President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax overhaul.

The state penalty will start at about $700 for individuals and $2,000 for a family of four.

  • As of early January, 1.15 million people renewed their Covered California coverage.
  • As of Wednesday, 364,000 new enrollees who did not carry insurance last year had signed up, a 20% jump from the prior year.

Covered California Executive Director Peter Lee:

  • “That is exactly what we hoped by bringing the penalty back and having new subsidies.”

California’s primary explained

An election worker hands out an "I voted" sticker
Photo illustration. Photography by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo

How does California’s presidential primary work?  CalMatters has a video for that.

CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons and Ben Christopher break down who party delegates are, how they’re elected, and why it matters for the outcome of the 2020 primary. 

By the numbers: 

  • Of the 4,532 Democratic delegates who will convene in Milwaukee at the party’s convention in July, 495 come from California. 
  • That’s the biggest single haul of any other state but don’t expect a blowout. Delegates are divvied up proportionately. Almost.

To end your confusion and watch the video, please click here.

For our election guide, please click here.

Commentary at CalMatters

Marc Joffe, Reason Foundation: K-12 school districts and community college districts have placed bond measures on local ballots authorizing an additional $17 billion in borrowing. While not all the local bond measures are objectionable, voters should take a critical look at the bonds on their ballots. If the proposals lack specificity, result in overcapacity, or lead to excessive district debt, a “no” vote would be the judicious choice.


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Dan Morain joined CalMatters in March 2018. He is the former editorial page editor of The Sacramento Bee. Morain also spent 27 years at The Los Angeles Times, and has covered the Capitol since 1992.