Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, September 2.

Housing, police, economic bills

Gov. Gavin Newsom made his 2020 priorities for California very clear in his February State of the State speech: Address homelessness and pass a major housing production bill.

But the state’s highest-profile housing bill died minutes before the legislative session ended Monday amid political infighting. The Assembly didn’t clear the bill until three minutes before midnight — not enough time for a final vote in the Senate, where it would have easily passed.

The bill would have forced single-family-only neighborhoods across housing-starved California to allow duplexes. Had only 5% of eligible homes participated, it would have created nearly 600,000 new housing units, according to a UC Berkeley analysis.

  • Senate President Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat who sponsored the bill: “There were disappointments, and of course a big one for me was the absolute needless delay of housing production bills.”
  • Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Lakewood Democrat: “If Sen. Atkins wanted the bill, she could have asked for it. They didn’t ask for that bill. They didn’t prioritize it.”

Other ambitious legislation met a similar fate.

Following George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police, Newsom and lawmakers promised a slate of sweeping police reforms. But some of the biggest proposals — including one to decertify bad cops — didn’t even make it to a vote Monday, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports.

And as the pandemic wreaked economic havoc, top lawmakers unveiled a bold $100 billion stimulus plan. Yet key pillars — such as providing extra unemployment benefits and investing in wildfire prevention and broadband infrastructure — died or quietly disappeared in the final days of the legislative session, CalMatters’ Lauren Hepler reports.

  • Newsom: “Even in the midst of a global pandemic and subsequent economic recession, historic wildfires, and the pain of persistent and systemic racism, state government came together this year to advance critical priorities.”
  • CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: “Legislative leaders — and Newsom — opted for risk-avoidance and hope that Democrat Joe Biden will unseat Republican President Donald Trump in November and then provide California with many billions of dollars to buy its way out of difficulty.”

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, California had 707,797 confirmed coronavirus cases and 13,018 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.


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Other stories you should know

1. California coronavirus update

COVID-19 testing at the San Francisco Department of Public Health laboratory. Photo by Tyrone Jue, courtesy of San Francisco Department of Public Health

California has signed a $15.3 million contract with OptumInsight Inc. to develop a new coronavirus reporting system, the state’s top health official said Tuesday. The news comes about a month after glitches in the current system led to a backlog of nearly 300,000 lab reports and likely the resignation of the state’s public health director, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports. It also comes amid a brightening coronavirus picture for California. Although August was the state’s deadliest month so far with 3,745 deaths, the Golden State is heading into September with all indicators pointing in a positive direction. Cases are down 40% statewide since last month, while hospitalizations have dropped nearly 50% and intensive-care admissions 41% since their peak in July. Meanwhile, some counties began to reopen some indoor businesses under new guidelines Newsom released last week.

2. The blowout that blew up

Nancy Pelosi speaks at a Public Policy Institute of California event in downtown San Francisco in 2018. Photo by Ben Christopher for CalMatters

Speaking of reopening, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi went to a San Francisco salon Monday for a shampoo and blowout — though the city doesn’t yet allow salons to reopen indoors — and video footage showed her in the salon with a mask around her neck, Fox News reported in a story picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle and other outlets. The news was leveraged by another prominent California politician — House Minority Leader and Bakersfield Republican Kevin McCarthy — whose spokesman forwarded it to journalists in what is likely to be fodder for political battles in both California and Washington. Meanwhile, the salon owner said she was infuriated that Pelosi had visited a stylist who rents a chair at the salon.

  • Erica Kious, salon owner: “It was a slap in the face that she went in, you know, that she feels that she can just go and get her stuff done while no one else can go in, and I can’t work. … We’re supposed to look up to this woman, right? It is just disturbing.”
  • Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill: “The Speaker always wears a mask and complies with local COVID requirements. This business offered for the Speaker to come in on Monday and told her they were allowed by the city to have one customer at a time in the business. The Speaker complied with the rules as presented to her by this establishment.”

3. California transit agencies struggle to hold on

Yonas Paulos, left, sits on a Fresno Area Express bus in downtown Fresno, on Friday, Aug. 28. Paulos is visually impaired and relies on buses to get to his medical appointments. Photo by Craig Kohlruss, The Fresno Bee

Transit agencies across California are grappling with a three-headed foe amid the pandemic: unprecedented revenue shortfalls, steep declines in ridership and increased expenses from new health policies. Though the agencies received nearly $4 billion in federal funding, they say it won’t be enough to prevent additional cuts in service next year, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Castillo reports. The cuts are hitting low-income essential workers and Californians with disabilities hardest, many of whom are forced to adjust their schedules around limited bus and rail schedules. King Harris, a Sacramento bus rider who uses a cane, says he has had to wait for more than 30 minutes to catch a bus, his groceries spoiling in the triple-digit heat.

  • Mariah Thompson of California Rural Legal Assistance: “When the bus only comes once a day, you plan your entire day around that one time bus time, and life doesn’t work like that.”

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Newsom should hope that his third attempt to control the pandemic succeeds, because he’s been burning his storehouse of credibility.

Prison reform needed: The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the human toll and the fiscal burden of the nation’s prisons, highlighting the long-overdue need for reform, writes Kevin Klowden of the Milken Institute Center for Regional Economics.

UC has another option: Instead of laying off employees, the University of California should dip into a $10 billion pool of unrestricted assets, argues Liz Perlman of AFSCME Local 3299.

Caregiver job rights: Newsom must sign a bill that would extend unemployment insurance to parent and spouse caregivers in California’s In-Home Supportive Services program, writes Doug Moore of UDW/AFSCME Local 3930.

Water is a human right: Newsom and the Legislature must maintain the pandemic moratorium on water shutoffs and secure funding for struggling families, argues Tracy Quinn of the Natural Resources Defense Council.


Other things worth your time

Big Basin Redwoods, California’s oldest state park, to stay closed for at least a year amid fire damage. // San Francisco Chronicle

Lawmakers pass bill that would make it easier for former prisoners to become firefighters. // San Francisco Chronicle

School districts worry that legislators failed to protect them from coronavirus lawsuits. // EdSource

Andrew Yang takes lead role in California data privacy campaign. // Politico

Uber may face big fines for stonewalling on sexual assault data. // Los Angeles Times

Vandalism of California mayors’ homes takes protests to a new level. // Mercury News

San Francisco experienced staggering 70% increase in overdose deaths last year. // San Francisco Chronicle

Homeless deaths are spiking in Los Angeles and beyond. // Capital & Main


See you tomorrow.

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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...