In summary

California events canceled amid coronavirus pandemic. Prop. 13 campaign concedes defeat. State reaches settlement over T-Mobile and Sprint merger.

Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, March 12.

Coronavirus officially a pandemic

A week-long school closure was announced in Elk Grove after a student tested positive for COVID-19. (Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters)

The coronavirus outbreak was officially declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. And in California, a growing number of schools, conferences, events and gatherings were closed or postponed.

  • Most University of California campuses and a spate of other California colleges, including Stanford and San Francisco State, have moved to online-only classes. // EdSource
    • Sacramento State hasn’t canceled classes, but it has canceled all “in-person events.” // The Sacramento Bee
    • Here’s a list of all the K-12 schools that have been closed because of coronavirus. // EdSource
    • Meanwhile, school and daycare closures have had a big impact on parents and families. // CalMatters
  • After an NBA player tested positive for coronavirus, the NBA decided Wednesday to suspend all games until further notice. // CBS Sports
  • The gaming industry’s largest convention, held each year in Los Angeles, was canceled. // The Los Angeles Times

Meanwhile, in other developments:

  • Unions are rallying behind health care workers who face heightened risk from treating coronavirus. // CalMatters
  • And San Francisco began quarantining homeless people who have tested positive for coronavirus in temporary housing. // The San Francisco Chronicle

At the California State Capitol, though, it was business as usual. The Legislature doesn’t plan to change work schedules or suspend operations, the Los Angeles Times reported.

  • Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins: “We are monitoring COVID-19 closely and are following the California Department of Public Health’s recommendations on large gatherings. At this time, the Senate is not recommending any changes to the way it conducts its business but understands the fluidity of the situation and may issue further guidance if needed.”

The Bottom Line: As of 9 p.m. Wednesday night, there were 190 people in California who have tested positive, out of 1,312 across the United States. Four people have died in California out of 38 across the country, according to the San Francisco Chronicle’s live tracker.

Prop. 13 is dead

A new classroom at Burnt Ranch Elementary School in Trinity County. (Photo by Dave Woody for CalMatters)

Proposition 13 is officially dead — the 2020 version, that is.

The campaign for the $15 billion school construction bond conceded defeat Wednesday as the measure trailed with 46% of the vote, CalMatters education reporter Ricardo Cano writes.

Prop. 13 is the first state school bond to fail in over 20 years, during which time California voters passed five school bonds totaling $45 billion.

  • One possible reason: It shared the same name as the iconic 1978 measure that capped property taxes.
  • Also possible: Voters are simply tired of taxes and bonds.

Still unclear: Whether the Legislature will try again with a modified school bond on the Nov. 3 ballot. Lawmakers have until June 25 to decide.

Meanwhile: Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell, the Long Beach Democrat who authored the Prop. 13 legislation, introduced a bill this week to formally retire the number 13 as a designation and minimize voter confusion.

Other stories you need to know

1. What California got from its settlement with T-Mobile

Image via iStock

California reached a settlement with T-Mobile over its $26 billion merger with Sprint, Attorney General Xavier Becerra said Wednesday. Becerra sued T-Mobile in 2019, arguing the merger would drive up prices and stifle competition.

Here are a few key things Californians can expect from the merger:

  • Free internet service for five years for 10 million low-income families currently without internet.
  • Low-cost plans for five years, including a $15/month, 2-gigabyte data plan and a $25/month, 5-gigabyte data plan.
  • The creation of a customer service center in Kingsburg, Fresno County, that will employ around 1,000 people.

2. Official investigation ordered into LA County’s voting system

Mail-in votes await counting. (Photo by Patrick Tehan, Bay Area News Group)

We may finally know why some voters had to wait hours to use Los Angeles County’s $300-million upgraded voting system on Super Tuesday. The LA County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to open an investigation into what went wrong, giving the county’s chief election official 45 days to come up with a game plan to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again in November. That plan will then need to be validated by an independent consultant, The Los Angeles Times reported.

3. Newsom’s $15 million proposal for computer science teacher training deemed “excessive”

One piece of Newsom’s proposed budget took a beating Wednesday. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office found his proposal to allocate $15 million to 10,000 teachers so they could pursue further education to teach computer science “excessive” and unreflective of “likely demand.” It also recommended rejecting his proposal to create a new position that would oversee computer science across the state. Read the full report here.

CalMatters commentary

Vice President Kamala Harris? If Sen. Kamala Harris were to become Joe Biden’s vice president, it would launch a game of political musical chairs with Gov. Gavin Newsom as conductor, CalMatters columnist Dan Walters predicts.

It’s time to make ethnic studies a graduation requirement at the California State Universities because racial literacy is a skill needed to achieve a just and functioning society, argues Janelle Wong, a professor of American Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Other things worth your time

California’s state-run program for retirement savings will live to see another day after defeating a taxpayer group’s lawsuit. // The Sacramento Bee

This group just sued the California DMV for rejecting vanity license plates with “offensive” language. // The Associated Press

The PG&E saga continues. Here are the latest updates in the lawsuit involving PG&E, wildfire victims and a federal disaster-relief agency. // The Santa Rosa Press Democrat

The “Bacteria Bear” in the Capitol Building decided to self-quarantine. It’s an image at once funny, adorable and sad. // Twitter

See you tomorrow.

Tips, insight, or feedback? Email emily@calmatters.org or call 510-921-1306. Subscribe to CalMatters newsletters here.
Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven
Follow CalMatters on Facebook and Twitter.

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact Gary Reed with any commentary questions: gary@calmatters.org, (916) 234-3081.

Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business...