Good morning, California. It’s Thursday, September 3.

‘We’re just getting started’

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday that California is making an “unprecedented” effort to address homelessness, two days after lawmakers failed to pass a bill to massively increase housing production — which Newsom said in his February State of the State speech was “the only sustainable way” to handle the crisis of more than 150,000 Californians living on the street.

The governor said the state has placed more than 22,000 homeless Californians in 16,400 hotel and motel rooms amid the pandemic, and is giving cities and counties $600 million to purchase the rooms and convert them into permanent housing — though that process is more complicated than meets the eye. Local governments also got another $628 million in emergency homelessness aid, Newsom said.

  • Newsom: “The state is now providing more in the ways of support than we ever have and we’re just getting started. I recognize that conditions all throughout the state of California are unacceptable, and we’re going to have to significantly do more. … It’s self-evident that this has to be our top priority and it is.”

A bill heading to Newsom’s desk would create a state Office to End Homelessness, led by a new “homelessness czar.” But the governor said Wednesday he already has a homelessness czar — a seemingly fluid title, given that he’s used it to refer to six people in the past two years, including himself.

Newsom on Wednesday also unveiled a new website to help tenants and landlords navigate the eviction protection deal he signed into law Monday — a day before President Donald Trump issued an eviction moratorium of his own.

  • Newsom: “Our (tenant) protections go a little farther than the federal government. … California, again, is leaning in more aggressively than, we believe, any other state in this country.”

Yet those protections didn’t go far enough for some prominent tenants’ rights groups, who want Newsom to ban evictions for all renters due to the public health emergency. Evictions for tenants not financially impacted by the pandemic were authorized to begin Wednesday.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Wednesday 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. Will 800,000 homeowners lose insurance?

The remains of a home in Paradise on Oct. 1, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

For homes in and around fire-prone regions of California, another crisis is looming: The state’s rule preventing insurance companies from canceling policies for about 800,000 at-risk homes is about to expire — and a replacement plan failed to come up for a vote before the legislative session ended Monday, the New York Times reports. Facing huge losses from past fires and historic blazes currently ripping through the state, insurers are likely to back away, leaving homeowners in the lurch — or forced to buy increasingly expensive coverage from the state’s high-risk insurance program. Further exacerbating the problem: a lack of affordable housing in cities, which is accelerating development in areas highly prone to fires — a term that now applies to larger swaths of the state than ever before.

2. Next up: twindemic?

A sign advertising free flu shots posted outside CVS in Piedmont on Sept. 2. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Is California headed for a “twindemic” as the coronavirus pandemic collides with flu season? With a Riverside County man dying last week from the flu, officials are working to prepare a health care system that only recently began to stabilize after summer peaks in hospitalizations and intensive-care admissions, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports. Further complicating matters, the symptoms for flu and coronavirus are similar — meaning hospital staff will need to assume sick patients have COVID and gear up, going through precious N95 masks and other protective equipment much quicker. But there are bright spots: Wearing masks helps protect against both coronavirus and the flu, and the state is working on doubling its testing capacity so sick Californians can get tested for both flu and coronavirus. Also: There is a flu vaccine.

3. Why a lawmaker brought her baby to the end of session

Assemblymember Buffy Wicks poses with her newborn baby on the assembly floor on Aug. 31. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

It was the image seen round the world (and tweeted to Hillary Clinton’s 28.5 million followers): A masked lawmaker holding her crying one-month-old baby as she delivered an impassioned speech on the floor of the California Assembly. Due to strict Assembly rules on voting remotely, Oakland Democrat Buffy Wicks was forced to choose between voting on critical legislation and bringing her baby into the Capitol, where there had been a coronavirus outbreak just the week before, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports. She showed up, in part because she wanted to vote on a bill that would allow more Californians to take time off from work to care for a new baby or sick family member.

  • Legislative Women’s Caucus: “We are deeply troubled that a member of our Caucus was required to travel to Sacramento with her newborn baby — in the midst of maternity leave during a global pandemic — so that she could vote on end-of-session measures.”
  • Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Lakewood Democrat: “Inclusivity and electing more women into politics are core elements of our Democratic values. Nevertheless, I failed to make sure our process took into account the unique needs of our members. … I commit to doing better.”

4. More voters — and more partisanship

Sen. Steven Glazer wears a ‘vote’ mask on the last day of the legislative session, Aug. 31, 2020. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

More Californians have registered to vote in the November election than in any other presidential election year for the last 20 years, with more than 83% of eligible voters registered as of July, according to recent findings from the Public Policy Institute of California and California Secretary of State. But with the increased numbers came a sharper partisan divide.

  • In 2000, 47% of Democrats identified as “liberal,” compared to 57% in 2020.
  • In 2000, 59% of Republicans identified as “conservative,” compared to 73% in 2020.

Here’s a look at California’s voter breakdown this year so far:

  • 46.3% Democrat (up from 45.1% in 2016)
  • 24% Republican (down from 27.1% in 2016)
  • 24% independent (up from 23.3% in 2016)

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CalMatters commentary

Students shouldn’t have to use Taco Bell Wi-Fi: If we can’t rely on the Legislature to provide the broadband access California students deserve, we’ll need a voter-approved initiative, argues Vernon Billy of the California School Boards Association.

Housing solution: Despite the recent failure of Senate Bill 1120, there is a growing consensus that duplexes, triplexes and fourplexes are an important part of solving California’s housing crisis, writes William Fulton of the California Planning and Development Report.


Other things worth your time

California unemployment agency investigating potential widespread fraud. // Los Angeles Times

Nancy Pelosi calls salon visit a ‘setup,’ refuses to apologize. // San Francisco Chronicle

CZU fire destroys more homes than 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake in Santa Cruz County. // Mercury News

An extraordinary summer of crises for California’s farmworkers. // National Geographic

Santa Ana provides new data that Orange County is transporting homeless people into their city. // Orange County Register

Former Gov. Jerry Brown donates $1 million to defeat police-backed ballot measure. // KQED


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...