KEEP TABS ON THE LATEST CALIFORNIA POLICY AND POLITICS NEWS
Howdy, California. It’s Wednesday, April 7.
This is CalMatters politics reporter Ben Christopher filling in for Emily Hoeven who really is still on vacation.
Await the ides of June
California’s collective year-long ordeal spent shuttered and sheltered-in-place finally has a tentative expiration date: June 15.
Assuming all goes as planned, that’s the day that California will finally retire its color-coded tier system and let businesses and other gathering places open back up at full capacity.
- Gov. Gavin Newsom: “We are seeing a bright light at the end of the tunnel and on June 15, all things being equal…we will be opening up this economy and business-as-usual.”
But — and you knew there was a “but” — conditions apply.
- The mask-mandate isn’t going anywhere anytime soon
- The new June deadline only applies if hospitalization rates stay low and there’s more than enough vaccine to go around
- Schools are still a maybe. More on that below.
Why the announcement now? Because there was more good news Tuesday.
California officially exceeded the 20 million dose mark — a symbolic benchmark, but a good reminder of just how far the state’s vaccination distribution program has come from its bumpy early rollout. State public health officials also say they’ve delivered 4 million of those doses to California’s most disadvantaged communities.
The upward momentum is national: The United States is now vaccinating at a clip of 3 million jabs per day.
President Biden, who initially called on states to make innoculations eligible to all Americans over the age of 16 by May 1 is moving up that deadline to April 19.
California is still due to open up eligibility on April 15.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,583,830 confirmed cases (+<0.1% from previous day) and 58,541 deaths (+<0.1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.
California has administered 20,267,689 vaccine doses and 7,526,403 people are fully vaccinated.
Plus: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. We’re also tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county and lawsuits against COVID-19 restrictions.
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1. Is Gavin Newsom feeling lucky?
Newsom’s new June 15 deadline isn’t just a major policy shift. As CalMatters political reporter Laurel Rosenhall notes, it’s also a massive roll of the political dice.
The upside: The all-but-certain recall election coming down the pike is fueled by frustration over the governor’s handling of the pandemic and his on-again-off-again shuttering of the economy. Setting a clear end date could defuse some of that anger.
- Loyola Marymount University’s Fernando Guerra, with the downside: “The risk is that the fourth wave may hit California, he’s going to have to backtrack, reinstitute some of the restrictions, and then it will reinforce the whole rationale for the recall.”
The two Republican candidates running to replace Newsom, the Republican Governors Association and the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board all accused Newsom of playing politics with the announcement.
But even if businesses can reopen by early summer, there’s still a giant, politically radioactive question yet to be answered: What about schools?
When I asked him about in-person instruction yesterday, the governor said that there will be “no barrier to having our kids back” in school by June 15. But he stopped short of proposing a state mandate.
That’s another risk for Newsom. If very many schools are still on Zoom come fall, it might be tough for him to convince ticked-off parents of school-aged children that the state is really back to “business as usual,” just as the likely recall campaign heats up.
2. Yet another battle brewing over local control
Tuesday, San Francisco Democratic Assemblymember David Chiu rolled out a proposal to crack the whip on cities that lag on approving new housing.
A little context:
- Every eight years, the state sets a housing production goal for each region.
- Those regional assignments are divvied up and assigned to each city.
- If a city fails to meet its quota…not much happens.
In extreme cases, the state can take a building-averse municipality to court. See: Huntington Beach.
Chiu’s law would require cities to check in with the state halfway through each eight-year cycle. Any that are 10% below their region’s production level would be required to adopt more “pro-housing” policy. Details are still TBD, but that might include zoning changes or the elimination of parking requirements.
Pandemic or not, this is still California, which means some of the fiercest legislative battles this year are sure to be about the state’s housing shortage. Earlier this year, the Senate’s Democratic leader Toni Atkins got behind a package of pro-production bills. The coming fight over Chiu’s latest is likely to be especially fierce.
California’s legislative graveyard is full of bills trying to force local governments to do what they don’t wanna. I asked Chiu about the bill’s prospects. He didn’t exactly answer, but said the need for change is self-evident.
- Chiu: “Everyone acknowledges that we’re still in the most intense housing and homelessness crisis in our state’s history…We want to make sure that every city is doing what they say they are going to do.”
3. Immediate jeopardy
Sexaul assault. Untreated bed sores. A severely mentally ill patient left to roam the streets. Such were the “immediate jeopardies” that took place inside one of Southern California’s fastest growing nursing-home chains, according to a haunting new investigation by LAist.
The chain, ReNew Health, houses roughly 2% of the state’s nursing home residents. But in 2019, its facilities were slapped with nearly 10% of the state’s “immediate jeopardies,” findings by federal regulators that a facility “caused, or is likely to cause, serious injury, harm, impairment, or death to a resident.”
Despite that, ReNew Health and its CEO, Crystal Solorzano, have been able to steadily grow their operation. Advocates for nursing home patients blame the state for lax and inconsistent enforcement.
- Tony Chicotel, attorney with California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform: “California has, in a sense, rolled out the red carpet for bad providers.”
LAist’s investigation is part of ‘Unprotected,’ a series examining California’s flawed nursing home oversight, done in collaboration with other nonprofit newsrooms, including CalMatters.
In case you missed it: An investigation by CalMatters reporter Jocelyn Wiener found that California’s licensing process for nursing homes is opaque and rife with indecision and inconsistencies, resulting in confusing information for the public about who is accountable for residents.
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: James Mills, a former state senator whose death was announced earlier this week, personified the “cordial mien” of an earlier era in California politics.
Time to prioritize environmental resilience: California communities have to be better prepared for inevitable climate disasters. State lawmakers should make those investments now, writes Amee Raval, research director at the Asian Pacific Environmental Network.
Shine some light on government algorithms: Lawmakers should pass a bill to set standards for the unfair, biased and discriminatory artificial intelligence systems used by the government, argue Assemblymember Ed Chau, a Democrat from Monterey Park, and Debra Gore-Mann, president of the Greenlining Institute.
Other things worth your time
A formerly homeless grandmother fights a real estate titan with the help of a new California law // KQED
On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a knock-off sushi restaurant // San Francisco Chronicle
Law enforcement agents across California surreptitiously use facial recognition software // Buzzfeed
PG&E again: Prosecutors file 33 criminal charges over 2019 fire // Associated Press
There’s a new anti-recall effort called (really) “Stop the Steal” // CBS Sacramento
Neighborhoods that suffered redlining in the 1930s face far higher risk of flooding today // Bloomberg
How safe are COVID-19 vaccines really? (Spoiler: They’re really safe) // Los Angeles Times
Move over, Arnold. Caitlyn Jenner considering run for governor // Axios
Sacramento-area school district in labor dispute with teachers of five-day week // Sacramento Bee
See you tomorrow.
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