Good morning, California. It’s Monday, August 31.
Legislative session ends today
The fate of hundreds of thousands of California renters teetering on the brink of eviction — and of the landlords who depend on their rent payments — hangs in the balance of a cliffhanger vote lawmakers will take today.
Their vote on a controversial compromise Gov. Gavin Newsom struck with lawmakers Friday comes on the final day of the legislative session, and is likely to yield contentious debate lasting late into the night. No one seems thrilled with the deal, which doesn’t extend rent forgiveness to tenants or money to help landlords meet mortgage payments, CalMatters’ Matt Levin reports.
Without it, however, Newsom warned Friday about “the prospects of millions, literally millions of people being evicted or at least subject to eviction.”
With no time to propose an alternative solution, some lawmakers say this deal will act as a bridge until next year — by which time they hope the feds will have stepped in with financial assistance for renters.
- Assemblyman David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat: “What the governor has announced … is an imperfect but necessary solution to a colossal problem. … Let’s be clear this is a temporary fix.”
For the bill to take effect, two-thirds of lawmakers in both the state Senate and Assembly will have to vote for it — a high bar, but one legislators are cautiously optimistic it will clear. Here are some of its key provisions:
- Tenants financially impacted by COVID-19 cannot be evicted for missed rent between March and Aug. 31. But they must pay 25% of their rent between Sept. 1 and Jan. 31, 2021 to avoid being evicted in February.
- Evictions for lease violations other than non-payment of rent can proceed Sept. 2.
- Renters are legally liable for all missed rent, and landlords can pursue missed payments in small claims court starting March 1, 2021.
What about other bills?
The evictions deal is just one of hundreds of bills that lawmakers are churning through before leaving the Capitol until December.
Here’s a look at some major — or controversial — proposals and where they stand.
Already signed into law by Newsom:
- A bill banning the sale of all flavored tobacco products in California in an effort to reduce youth tobacco use. Opponents say the law unfairly targets smokers of color, who tend to prefer menthol cigarettes.
Passed by Legislature and headed to Newsom’s desk:
Check out CalMatters’ tracker of major bills headed to the governor. Here’s a sneak peek at a few of them:
- A bill that would require health insurance plans to dramatically expand mental health and addiction coverage. (More on this below.)
- A bill that would establish a reparations committee to recommend how the state might compensate African Americans for decades of inequality and discrimination.
- A bill that would mandate the racial makeup of corporate boards.
Likely to pass Legislature and head to Newsom’s desk:
- A bill that would require employers to notify the county health department if their workplace has at least three coronavirus cases.
Likely to die:
- A bill that would have have raised $3 billion for wildfire and climate change projects and trained new firefighters.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Sunday night, California had 699,909 confirmed coronavirus cases and 12,905 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.
Other stories you should know
1. California tries reopening — again
Newsom unveiled new reopening guidelines Friday in the face of a 40% statewide decline in coronavirus cases since last month and rapidly decreasing hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions. Gone is the county watch list — and in its place is a system that puts counties into one of four color-coded tiers based on daily new cases and positivity rates.
- Tier 1, purple: Most nonessential businesses are closed. Thirty-eight of 58 counties are in Tier 1.
- Tier 2, red: Some nonessential businesses are closed.
- Tier 3, orange: Some businesses are open with modifications.
- Tier 4, yellow: Most businesses can reopen with modifications.
For more information on what can reopen when, check out this detailed breakdown from the state Department of Public Health.
Counties must remain in their tier for at least 21 days before progressing to a less restrictive tier. If counties fail to meet the metrics for their current tier for two consecutive weeks, they will move back to a more restrictive tier.
Schools can reopen for in-person instruction if their county remains in the red tier for at least two weeks.
2. Will California expand mental health care coverage?
California will lead the country on mental health and addiction coverage if Newsom signs into law a bill lawmakers passed this weekend, CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener reports. Current state law requires health plans to cover medically necessary treatment of nine serious mental illnesses. The bill would significantly expand coverage of mental health issues, including substance use disorder and addiction. Numerous attempts to change the state’s parity laws have failed in recent years amid opposition from the insurance industry, which also fought against this bill. But the traumatic events of recent months — including a pandemic, recession, police killings of Black people and wildfires — have underscored the need for mental health and addiction treatment, which for many Californians remains out of reach.
- State Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat who authored the bill: “Imagine being diagnosed with Stage 1 cancer and being told your insurance will kick in when you get to Stage 4 cancer. That’s what we tolerate for mental health and addiction.”
- California Association of Health Plans, which opposed the bill: “This unnecessary bill is based on a false premise that somehow health plan enrollees are not receiving mental health care services at parity with medical care.”
3. California’s prison chief to retire
The head of California’s prison system will retire Oct. 1 after two years on the job, Newsom announced Friday. The news of Ralph Diaz’s departure from the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation comes weeks after other top officials announced they were leaving Newsom’s administration. It also comes amid heightened scrutiny on prison leadership following a May transfer of inmates from a facility hard-hit by coronavirus to San Quentin State Prison. That decision led to the ousting of California’s top prison medical officer, and San Quentin later became the site of the nation’s worst coronavirus outbreak. Diaz also oversaw the shrinking of state prisons amid the pandemic, bringing their combined population below 100,000 for the first time in 30 years. Kathleen Allison, one of Diaz’s top aides, will lead the system beginning Oct. 1.
- Newsom: “(Diaz) has overseen incredible transformation as well as unparalleled challenges at (the corrections department) during his time there and has truly met the moment with leadership and humility.”
- Diaz: “I am confident that our department’s transformative focus on rehabilitation will continue to result in safer prisons, healthier communities, and lower recidivism.”
4. California sues Trump — again
California sued the Trump administration Friday in what Attorney General Xavier Becerra said marked his 100th lawsuit against the federal government. (Due to different definitions of what constitutes a lawsuit, CalMatters’ tracker shows 90.) More than half deal with federal environmental laws, including Friday’s — in which Becerra challenges a July rule that gives the federal government more freedom to make decisions about energy and infrastructure projects and the management of federal public lands while taking less time to consider their impact on the environment and public health.
- Becerra: “Our goal is simple: preserve the public’s voice in government decision-making as federal projects threaten to harm the health of our families in our own backyards.”
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The blackouts that hit California this month are a warning that the state has a serious electrical power shortage.
Phil Burton’s influence: Newsom, Kamala Harris, Nancy Pelosi and Willie Brown can all trace their political lineage back to Burton, writes James Richardson, former Sacramento Bee senior writer.
Save the oceans: Lawmakers must stem the flow of plastic into California oceans by passing Assembly Bill 1080 and Senate Bill 54, argue Mike Sweeney of the Nature Conservancy and Margaret Spring of Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Bad policies won’t solve recycling woes: AB 1080 and SB 54 fail to address structural issues to ensure materials actually get recycled or composted, argues Lance Hastings of the California Manufacturers and Technology Association.
Environmental policy update: Despite some setbacks, California lawmakers approved some policies to address environmental injustice and climate change and protect natural resources, writes Pablo Garza of the Environmental Defense Fund.
‘Grand Bargain’ on Delta water needed: We need everyone’s ideas, not just those of the powerful water interests who created the current mess, argues Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, executive director of Restore the Delta.
Other things worth your time
Los Angeles files criminal charges against TikTok stars who threw big parties in violation of public health orders. // New York Times
Foster Farms processing plant in California ordered to shut down over coronavirus outbreak. // CalMatters/Fresno Bee
How a massive coronavirus outbreak at Fresno County Jail flew under the radar. // KQED
Before and after photos of the wildfire smoke across California. // NBC News
California fire evacuees begin to return home, assess the damage. // The Guardian
California to spend $35 million on mail voting campaign run by firm tied to ‘Team Biden.’ // Sacramento Bee
How Kimberly Guilfoyle went from First Lady of San Francisco to speaker at the Republican National Convention. // Los Angeles Times
Pinterest pays $89.5 million to cancel San Francisco office lease, citing shift to remote work. // San Francisco Chronicle
See you tomorrow.
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