Good morning, California. It’s Friday, August 7.

Three weeks to pick a path

Tax the rich, or borrow big?

That’s the central quandary for California Democrats as they try to dig the state out of a $54 billion hole while also providing relief to the millions of people teetering on the edge of a financial cliff, CalMatters’ Lauren Hepler reports.

The party’s progressive wing is pushing a bill that would permanently raise taxes on millionaires and is also backing Prop. 15 on the November ballot, which would hike taxes on large commercial properties. Meanwhile, the party’s moderate wing is advancing a $100 billion “no tax” proposal that would borrow money from the feds and encourage Californians to pre-pay income taxes in exchange for future vouchers.

Lawmakers have until Aug. 31 to pick a path, though that timeline could be extended if Gov. Gavin Newsom calls for a special legislative session — which he hasn’t yet indicated if he will do.

Tensions escalated this week after a bipartisan group of 61 legislators called on Newsom to immediately start paying 1 million backlogged unemployment claims.

Though California’s initial unemployment claims decreased the past two weeks, more than 7.3 million residents have filed initial claims since mid-March.

Meanwhile, workers are increasingly pessimistic they will regain their jobs, according to a Thursday report from the state Employment Development Department and the California Policy Lab.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Thursday night, California had 529,980 confirmed coronavirus cases and 9,869 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.


Assemblymember Gonzalez on motherhood and quarantine

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez and her family. Photo courtesy of Assemblymember Gonzalez

Welcome to Insiders, a new series in which I provide a glimpse into the personal lives — and personalities — of key players in the California Capitol.

Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, one of the most influential and high-profile lawmakers in the California Legislature known for her Twitter confrontations and taking on Silicon Valley’s gig-economy titans, says she is actually “kind of shy.” 

“I get really nervous if I have to meet new people and I have to really work hard at it,” the San Diego Democrat told me recently from her City Heights home, where she and her husband, County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, self-quarantined after being exposed to someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.

“My comfort place is definitely with my family” — though quarantining with them was “a little challenging,” Gonzalez admitted, laughing. She and Fletcher have a blended family of five children, of whom three — ages 9, 12 and 17 — live with them part-time. 

Gonzalez, 48, chairs the Latino Legislative Caucus and is the first Latina to chair the Assembly’s powerful Appropriations Committee. But she said she considers herself “first and foremost a mom and a wife.”

“And I know that’s not always the most — I don’t want to sound — I don’t want to put women back 50 years,” she said. “But … creating a good home life for my family and being a good mom and being a good partner in my marriage is really important to me.”

To find out what Gonzalez has been cooking during quarantine, how she feels about online learning, and how she rediscovered the joys of a backyard Slip n’ Slide, check out my exclusive interview here.


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Other stories you should know

1. Massive parties imperil California’s coronavirus progress

Image via iStock

Young people — including but not limited to social media stars — are increasingly throwing massive parties in swanky Los Angeles neighborhoods, jeopardizing California’s ability to contain the spread of coronavirus, the Los Angeles Times reports. Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday drastically ramped up enforcement, authorizing water and electricity to be shut off at homes that held multiple large parties.

  • Garcetti: “While we have already closed all nightclubs and bars, these large house parties have essentially become nightclubs in the hills. These large parties are unsafe and can cost Angelenos their lives.”

But the parties aren’t just happening in LA. A coronavirus outbreak traced to a fraternity party at UC Berkeley contributed to the university’s decision to hold 100% online classes. Californians between the ages of 18 and 34 make up more than one-third of the state’s coronavirus cases — and are most likely to be super spreaders of the disease.

2. Some rural California schools prepare for in-person learning

A fifth-grade class works outside at Bishop Unified in Inyo County over the summer. Photo courtesy of Bishop Unified School District

About 164,000 of California’s 6.1 million K-12 students live in counties with the option to physically reopen schools in the fall — and the rural districts deciding to open their doors will serve as case studies for the rest of the state on when and how to safely bring children and adults back to campuses, CalMatters’ Ricardo Cano reports. Though rural and urban districts face different challenges, they can still share best practices — such as one elementary school teacher’s suggestion that students attach their masks to lanyards so they don’t lose them during socially distanced “mask breaks.” Nevertheless, uncertainty remains the name of the game.

  • Wanda Summers, principal’s secretary at Inyo County’s Bishop Union High School: “I think we’re on the road to being thoroughly prepared. But can you really be thoroughly prepared for this?”

CalMatters events

Thursday, Aug. 13 at 10 a.m.: When — and how — will California’s 6.1 million students be able to safely return to some form of in-person learning? Join CalMatters for a conversation with Don Austin, superintendent of Palo Alto Unified School District; Heather Hough, executive director of Policy Analysis for California Education; Lakisha Young, parent and founder of Oakland Reach; and Elijah Tsai, a senior at Lincoln High School in Stockton and president of the California Association of Student Councils. Register here and submit your questions here.


CalMatters commentary

Instructive lessons: To improve distance learning, policymakers should study how alternative schools reach disconnected students, writes Hailly Korman of Bellweather Education Partners.

Addressing health-care inequities: Having more health professionals of color produces better health outcomes, argues Dr. David Carlisle, president and CEO of Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

Pass Assembly Bill 890: It would remove restrictions on patient access to nurse practitioners and help fill California’s primary-care provider gap, writes Dr. Matthew Schechter, a board-certified OB/GYN.

Benefits of rangeland: Preserving private lands is just as important to our state’s environment as protecting public open spaces, argue Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, and Michael Delbar, CEO of California Rangeland Trust.

Electrify high-speed rail: California’s high-speed rail project became a “boondoggle” when politicians transformed it to low-speed, writes Quentin Kopp, a former state senator.


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Other things worth your time

California spent $12 million converting a Sacramento arena into a COVID field hospital. It saw 9 patients. // Los Angeles Times

Got COVID-19? In Alameda County, you might get paid to stay home. // San Francisco Chronicle

U.S. Supreme Court blocks mandate requiring better coronavirus protections for Orange County inmates. // Los Angeles Times

State prison officials say 70% more inmates than previously estimated may be released early. // Associated Press

California makes internet-enabled tablets available to nearly 1 million students. // EdSource

CalPERS chief investment officer abruptly resigns less than two years into the job. // Sacramento Bee

Bay Area cities reluctantly approve housing in face of state laws. // San Francisco Chronicle

Racist language in California property records could finally be erased. // CapRadio


See you Monday.

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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...