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Good morning, California. It’s Friday, May 21.
Goodbye to all that
Thursday was a brutal day in the state Legislature.
Hundreds of bills met their demise or were watered down as lawmakers raced through an opaque process called the “suspense file,” a tool often used to euthanize proposals without having to cast a politically precarious vote or offer a public explanation. Intensifying an already high-stakes procedure was top Democrats’ Wednesday decision to limit each lawmaker to 12 bills this year, likely a boon for interest groups trying to kill proposals and a setback for those trying to push their ideas through.
- Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat and chair of the powerful Assembly Appropriations Committee: “Everybody but God himself has contacted me on a bill.”
CalMatters compiled a list of major bills that didn’t pass intact through Thursday’s bloodbath. They include:
- A proposal to decertify bad cops was watered down to limit when people can sue police officers and departments for civil rights violations.
- A proposal to require law enforcement agencies to process backlogged rape kits was killed for the second year in a row.
- A proposal to streamline affordable housing funding — in response to a state auditor report that found California wasted $2.7 billion — died amid opposition from the state treasurer.
- A proposal to require big companies to publicly report their greenhouse gas emissions was killed in a big loss for environmentalists.
In stark contrast to all those proposals left on the cutting-room floor, Gov. Gavin Newsom on Thursday signed into law a bill that would streamline housing developments by speeding up the environmental review process, which can often result in lawsuits that bog down projects for years. The law also requires the projects be built with union labor and reserve at least 15% of units for low-income families.
- Matt Regan of the Bay Area Council: “This could have been a game-changer but you have to figure in the math and economics. … You are only going to see this in the high-end coastal markets, not in the Inland Empire or Central Valley.”
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 3,668,842 confirmed cases (+0.04% from previous day) and 61,603 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.
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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Other stories you should know
1. Uber, Lyft face new state mandate
Uber and Lyft drivers must log 90% of their miles in California in electric vehicles by 2030, according to a mandate unanimously adopted Thursday by the powerful California Air Resources Board. Not only is the target ambitious — in 2018, electric vehicles accounted for less than 1% of miles traveled by Uber and Lyft drivers in California — but it also leaves a key question unanswered: Who will pay for the electric cars? Even as the air board emphasized that the ride-share giants should cover the cost of electrification, it noted the cost could ultimately fall on drivers because Uber and Lyft were exempted from state labor laws when voters passed Prop. 22 last year, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports. The air board also estimated that about 56% of ride-hailing drivers could be from low-income or disadvantaged communities who may not be able to afford the switch to an electric vehicle.
- Air board member Davina Hurt: “How does this impact our drivers? Are we disproportionately affecting people who are people of color here in California? We have no data, no demographics. We’re not requiring it. So how are we going to properly evaluate this standard that we’re creating?”
2. Workplace mask rules still in limbo
California’s workplace safety agency, which on Thursday was set to consider proposed rule changes that would allow fully vaccinated employees to forgo face masks and social distancing, pushed back their decision to June 3. The agency’s standards board said the delay would give them more time to review federal guidelines, as well as Newsom’s plan to ease the state’s mask mandate on June 15. But it also underscores the vast complexities of distinguishing between the vaccinated and unvaccinated in the workplace, a gap the state took a step toward narrowing Thursday by releasing a toolkit to help employers hold vaccine clinics.
But privacy concerns remain. Santa Clara County on Wednesday became the first in the state to require businesses to determine their employees’ vaccination status, catching many companies off guard. Employers are generally required to keep workers’ vaccination status confidential, but that status would become obvious based on whether a particular worker wears a mask.
- Dan McCranie, owner of Ladera Grill in Morgan Hill: “It’s kind of like a scarlet letter, a 21st-century scarlet letter.”
One thing is clear: There will be lots and lots of lawsuits — over what constitutes a safe workplace, whether employers or the state can require vaccinations, whether employers can mandate a return to the workplace, and what types of coronavirus-related accommodations they must provide for disabled workers.
3. Things still getting worse at EDD
Oh, EDD. Figures released Thursday show that things are trending in the wrong direction at California’s beleaguered unemployment department for the fourth straight week. As of May 15, nearly 199,000 unemployment claims had been on the Employment Development Department’s desk for more than 21 days, up from 196,000 the week before. Meanwhile, jobless Californians had to call EDD an average of 13.5 times to get through, up from 12.6 times the week before. The concerning numbers raise questions as to whether the $276 million in one-time funding Newsom is proposing for EDD — out of a $268 billion budget — will be enough to handle its persistent problems. And if the latest job numbers are any indication, EDD’s workload is only going to grow larger. Nearly 71,000 Californians filed new unemployment claims for the week ending May 15, according to federal data released Thursday. That’s an increase from the week before — and a sharp contrast from the rest of the nation, which saw initial claims drop to their lowest level since the onset of the pandemic in March 2020.
4. The future will be livestreamed
Want to get college credit for playing video games? You can at UC Irvine and Cal State Dominguez Hill. Want to join programs in esports, a form of competitive gaming? You can at nearly all of the UC campuses and at least six of 23 Cal State campuses, where students host and compete in live gaming tournaments that are sometimes funded by corporate sponsors and can lead to enviable jobs post-college, Marisa Martinez reports for CalMatters’ College Journalism Network. Students typically livestream tournaments on a platform called Twitch, a $15 billion company whose website gets 30 million visitors daily. Meanwhile, the number of jobs in esports more than doubled from 2018 to 2019 to top 6,000 — and the vast majority are located in California.
- Mark Candella, Twitch’s director of student and education programs: “All the skills that you’re learning and using while you participate in gaming and esports are highly transferable and valuable skills in emerging new and digital media.”
- Dina Ibrahim, SF State’s academic adviser for the esports athletic club: “Higher ed needs to evolve or die. We need to be teaching students relevant skills, that’s going to get them jobs in a rapidly changing landscape.”
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Don’t leave fishermen behind during drought: Do we really want to destroy nature and our salmon fishing industry to cushion the agriculture sector that already takes 80% of California’s water? asks John McManus, president of the Golden Gate Salmon Association.
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Other things worth your time
Newsom calls for more state spending at Mexico border to help migrants. // Sacramento Bee
California secession group brings Trump allies to Pismo. // San Luis Obispo Tribune
California prison guards ignored inmate’s decapitation, state report alleges. // Sacramento Bee
Support for death penalty declining in California, poll shows. // Los Angeles Times
Ordered online, assembled at home: the deadly toll of California’s ‘ghost guns.’ // The Guardian
Murder charge dropped against woman who suffered stillbirth. // Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Unified to launch nation’s largest district college savings account program. // EdSource
Flush with aid, most school districts aren’t spending on mental health resources. // Voice of San Diego
San Jose turns down sanctioned encampments for homeless residents. // Mercury News
State plans $30 million wall to stop saltwater intrusion into delta. // San Francisco Chronicle
Los Angeles City Council urges state agencies, Newsom to shut down Aliso Canyon gas facility. // Daily News
Where California regions rank on the fire danger ‘Burning Index’ right now. // San Francisco Chronicle
How the rural California city of Weed embraced weed. // New York Times
For the record: An earlier version incorrectly reported that a bill to increase transparency and accountability on nursing home ownership was killed in the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday.
See you Monday.
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