Good morning, California. It’s Monday, January 11.
Long to-do list
Lawmakers return to Sacramento today to kick off a new legislative session — but time is already running out to respond to some of the pandemic’s most pressing issues.
Around 2 million Californians could lose their homes on Feb. 1 if lawmakers don’t extend the state’s eviction moratorium. A similar number of people currently can’t access their unemployment benefits due to a massive claim backlog and apparently ill-targeted anti-fraud measures. Meanwhile, the vast majority of California’s 6.1 million K-12 students haven’t been inside a classroom in 10 months.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who proposed a record-breaking $227 billion budget on Friday, wants lawmakers to immediately act on a few key proposals that can’t wait until June, when a final budget will be approved after months of negotiation. They include:
- Extending the eviction moratorium and distributing $2.6 billion in federal funds for low-income renters and small landlords.
- Approving $2.4 billion to send $600 stimulus checks to 4 million low-income workers, including undocumented immigrants who pay taxes.
- Approving a $2 billion plan that would incentivize schools to reopen campuses.
- Approving $575 million in small-business grants.
- Approving $250 million to help build permanently affordable housing.
- Approving $70 million in small-business fee relief.
Other issues likely to dominate the legislative session include increasing housing production and decertifying bad cops — bills on both topics failed last year — expanding broadband access, revamping the unemployment department and banning fracking.
But the ultimate test for both Newsom and lawmakers will be school reopenings, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports. Teachers unions have already opposed a Democratic bill that would force schools to reopen when infection rates drop, and when Newsom hinted Friday that the state might intervene if unions and school boards can’t agree on a reopening plan, the pushback was swift.
- Jeff Freitas, president of the California Federation of Teachers: “We are in the middle of a devastating COVID-19 surge, and any discussion of returning to in-person instruction is premature.”
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 2,670,962 confirmed cases (+1.9% from previous day) and 29,701 deaths (+1.6% from previous day), 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. Details of Newsom’s budget
Here’s a closer look at Newsom’s proposed 2021-22 budget, which at $227 billion is the largest in state history. This is primarily due to the gains posted by the state’s top earners amid the pandemic, which were so high that the state could issue taxpayer rebates of about $1.70 per person next year, CalMatters’ Ben Christopher reports. But it’s a one-time surplus, meaning it will be difficult for Newsom or the Legislature to introduce permanent new programs or expand existing ones without raising taxes on the wealthy — something Newsom said is “not part of the conversation.”
In addition to the early-action proposals above and Newsom’s $4.5 billion economic recovery plan, the budget includes:
- Around $90 billion for schools — the most in state history.
- $34 billion in budget reserves.
- $1.75 billion to expand Project Homekey, Newsom’s effort to permanently house homeless Californians in motels.
- $1 billion for wildfire and forest resilience.
- $786 million for the University of California and California State University, with plans to keep tuition and fees flat in 2021-22.
- $500 million for low-income housing tax credits.
- $372 million to accelerate vaccine distribution.
- $300 million to clean up toxic sites.
Notably absent from the budget: a proposal to expand Medi-Cal to undocumented seniors and increased investment in child care.
2. How many legislators are like you?
With the state Legislature returning to Sacramento today, it’s the perfect time to find out how many lawmakers share your demographics via CalMatters’ interactive tool. Spoiler alert: If you’re a woman, if you aren’t white, if you make less than six figures and if your name isn’t Bob, Jim, Kevin or Steve, odds are there aren’t very many. Although California is among the most diverse states in the nation, that diversity isn’t quite reflected in the state’s halls of power — though it’s getting closer.
Here are some quick facts about California’s 119 legislators:
- Their average age is 52.
- 41% are straight white men.
- 19 are Latina — a record high.
- 13 were born outside the United States.
- 8 identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or queer.
3. Tech glitches plague vaccine rollout
California’s sluggish vaccine rollout is partly due to technical problems with the software program the state is using to coordinate distribution — the latest tech glitch to impede the Golden State’s pandemic response. The system, PrepMod, has limited providers’ ability to access vaccine registry waitlists and monitor inventory, the Los Angeles Times reports — potentially complicating the state’s goal of vaccinating 1 million people within 10 days. (In the past month, California has administered around 734,000 doses of the 2.2 million doses it’s received.) The state Department of Public Health described PrepMod as an “interim solution” and said it is working on developing new systems.
The news comes at an especially critical moment in the pandemic. California reported a record 695 deaths from the virus on Saturday as hospitalizations skyrocketed to nearly 27,000, with nearly 5,000 patients requiring intensive care. California hospitals on Friday begged state officials to loosen staffing and patient discharge requirements that they say are hampering care — a move vehemently opposed by the state’s nurses union, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov reports.
- Carmela Coyle of the California Hospital Association: “We find we are standing on a beach and watching a tsunami approach. Yet we are still having to deal with regulations that … in times of crisis need to be set aside.”
4. Fallout from Capitol attack
Reverberations of last week’s attack on the U.S. Capitol are still rippling through California. In a video released Sunday, former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger — a Republican who was born in Austria two years after World War II — compared President Donald Trump’s supporters storming the Capitol to Kristallnacht, a deadly Nazi attack on German Jews.
- Schwarzenegger: “Growing up, I was surrounded by broken men drinking away their guilt over their participation in the most evil regime in history. … President Trump … sought a coup by misleading people with lies. My father and our neighbors were misled also by lies, and I know where such lies lead.”
But some California officials defended the mob’s actions and suggested that violence could continue.
- Assemblymember Randy Voepel, a Santee Republican: “This is Lexington and Concord. First shots fired against tyranny. Tyranny will follow in the aftermath of the Biden swear-in on January 20th.”
Meanwhile, at least two Southern California officials who attended Trump rallies in Washington, D.C. on the day of the attack — but who say they did not storm the Capitol — are facing calls to resign, as is a Santa Clara County Republican leader who wrote on Facebook, “The war has begun! Citizens take arms!” And the Oakland Police Department has opened an investigation into police officers who “liked” social media posts by a former officer who stormed the Capitol.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Is Newsom proposing immediate economic relief for businesses and low-income Californians because of genuine concern, or because he wants to stave off a growing recall movement?
Goodwin Liu for attorney general: No one is better suited to replace Xavier Becerra than Liu, a California Supreme Court justice and staunch advocate for workers, argues Eliseo Medina of the Service Employees International Union.
Preserve authenticity of ethnic studies: The education establishment is attempting to dilute and redefine ethnic studies in California, argues Roberto Cintli Rodriguez of the University of Arizona.
Prevent Big Tobacco from cashing in: We must protect kids by defeating Big Tobacco’s attempt to overturn California’s flavored-tobacco ban, writes Monica Caffey of the San Bernardino Behavioral Health Commission.
Other things worth your time
A day before Capitol attack, pro-Trump crowd stormed government building, threatened officials in rural California. // Los Angeles Times
Capitol attack gave California students a real-life history lesson. // CalMatters
San Diegan Ashli Babbitt’s journey from Capitol ‘guardian’ to invader. // Washington Post
As California is desperate for health care workers, Newsom’s volunteer corps dwindles. // Associated Press
State argues mentally ill patients must stay put at Patton State Hospital amid outbreak. // Orange County Register
Los Angeles County to stop using Curative coronavirus test after concerns from the FDA. // Los Angeles Times
Tech unions in Silicon Valley have been rare. Here’s why that’s changing. // San Francisco Chronicle
Several Orange County cities ask to lower housing goals. // Orange County Register
See you tomorrow.
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