Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, June 23.

Deal or no deal?

Hurry up, and wait.

That’s all millions of Californians can do as Gov. Gavin Newsom and top Democratic lawmakers negotiate — largely behind closed doors — the terms of an extended eviction moratorium and the details of a whopping $267 billion budget. The impact of their decisions could reverberate for generations, affecting everything from who stays in their homes to who qualifies for health care to who receives college financial aid.

Tuesday came and went without Newsom and legislative leaders reaching an agreement on an eviction moratorium extension. That means lawmakers likely won’t vote on a deal until Monday — two days before current protections are set to expire on June 30, CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias reports. Tenant advocates want to keep the eviction ban in place for as long as possible. Landlord groups want the opposite — and they seem to be putting their money where their mouth is, dumping at least $125,000 into the campaign opposing Newsom’s recall, a CalMatters tracker of campaign contributions shows.

Meanwhile, Newsom’s office and key lawmakers are also haggling over a budget for the fiscal year starting July 1. The deal they’re expected to unveil later this week will have to reconcile at least four significant points of disagreement, including an expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for low-income residents. Newsom has proposed extending Medi-Cal to undocumented Californians 60 and older; lawmakers want eligibility to start at age 50.

The Legislature has also proposed eliminating a Medi-Cal requirement that says enrollees can’t have more than $2,000 in certain types of assets, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports. Newsom hasn’t publicly commented on the issue. But Kming Rosenthal, 72, who almost lost her Medi-Cal coverage after inheriting $5,000, says it’s time for the requirement to go.

  • Rosenthal: “This state, of all states, needn’t look very far to see how many people are living in the streets. One misstep with my benefits and that could be me — and with my health conditions, that truly would be a death sentence.”

One of California’s main challenges is figuring out how to spend oodles of money from a historic budget surplus and federal COVID relief funds. But that difficulty could be replaced by another one: A bipartisan group of U.S. senators wants to repurpose California’s unspent federal dollars to help fund a national infrastructure plan — a move vehemently opposed by State Treasurer Fiona Ma.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,704,640 confirmed cases (+0.02% from previous day) and 62,701 deaths (+0.01% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 40,622,774 vaccine doses, and 57.2% of eligible Californians 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. Schools face dearth of teachers

Kindergarten teacher Crystal Copes works with rising first graders during summer school at Laurel Elementary on June 11, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Money, however, won’t solve all of California’s problems as it emerges from the pandemic — especially when it comes to schools. Not only are districts facing a shortage of teachers for overflowing summer school programs, they’re also facing a lack of staff for the upcoming fall semester — exacerbated by a decline in teacher credentials earned amid the pandemic, EdSource reports.

  • Los Angeles Unified Superintendent Austin Beutner: “Yes, more money would allow schools to hire more reading teachers if there were more to be hired. … Fewer than 200 people are currently graduating each year from university programs with a reading specialist certificate in the entire state of California.”

The fallout from a year-plus of Zoom classes is going to be rough: State lawmakers on Monday sent a bill to Newsom’s desk that would temporarily allow students to repeat a grade if they aren’t passing at least half of their courses and permit high schools to use a “pass/no pass” system instead of letter grades. Examples of passing rates falling are everywhere: Eleven of 27 kids in a Madera South High School economics class got D’s or F’s this school year — twice as many as during a typical year.

2. California’s drought divide

A water fountain at Los Angeles County’s Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge on June 22, 2021. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters

It’s counterintuitive: Los Angeles, a city that receives an annual average of 14 inches of rain, likely won’t face any water restrictions this summer — or for the next few summers. But some residents of Mendocino County — which gets nearly three times as much rain and sits near the headwaters of the Russian River — are prohibited from using more than 55 gallons of water per day. That’s enough to fill a bathtub and flush a toilet five times — in other words, not very much. In the fourth story in CalMatters’ series “Lessons Learned? Drought Then and Now,” Rachel Becker explores why there’s such a sharp divide between the surplus of water in Southern California and the deficit in Northern California.

  • Glenn McCourty, a Mendocino County supervisor: “We’ve been lulled into the idea maybe that we have lots and lots of water. And we do have lots and lots of water. The problem is that we don’t store lots and lots of water.”
  • Deven Upadhyay, chief operating officer of Southern California’s Metropolitan Water District: “If we just continue to get dry year after dry year after dry year, there’s going to come a time where we’re going to be … asking for mandatory reductions. But that’s not where we are right now.”

Meanwhile, the state is wrapping up construction on a $10 million emergency rock barrier in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to prevent ocean salt water from contaminating the fresh water that ultimately reaches 27 million people and millions of acres of farmland, the Mercury News reports.

3. Diversifying California’s judges

Judges Juan Ulloa and William Quan stand in front of a wall of past judges at the Imperial County Superior Court in El Centro on April 29, 2021. Photo by Shae Hammond for CalMatters

Superior court judges, who handle everything from drunk driving to murder cases, represent the branch of California’s justice system that people tend to interact with most directly. But CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons found that in four of California’s majority-Latino counties, there isn’t a single Latino superior court judge — a glaring gap that experts say could exacerbate distrust and affect case outcomes. In the second installment of her series, Byrhonda looks at how some regions are working to diversify the bench. Here are some examples:

  • Imperial County, whose population is 85% Latino, has one of California’s most diverse superior courts — largely because lawyers are running for judicial office, rather than waiting to be appointed or recommended through what critics call the “good ol’ boy” network.
  • In Los Angeles and the Bay Area, volunteer legal professionals are guiding high school students of color into law school — a program the Legislature is considering expanding statewide. 
  • Some attorneys are helping people of color become lawyers without having to get a pricey degree: California is one of a few states that allow entry into the profession via a legal apprenticeship.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Trusting local school officials to do the right thing may sound good on paper, but in practice it’s fallen short of helping children at risk of educational failure.

Addressing extreme heat: California must fund solutions to alleviate the ever-growing threat of extreme heat waves, which disproportionately affect the vulnerable, writes Assemblymember Luz Rivas, a Los Angeles Democrat.

It’s time to decriminalize jaywalking: Black people are the most frequent targets of California laws that prioritize streets for cars rather than pedestrians, argues Anne Stuhldreher of The Financial Justice Project.

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Other things worth your time

Los Angeles County urges employers to verify workers’ vaccine status despite honor system. // Daily News

For California COVID nurses, past and present collide. // Associated Press

Credit the Golden State for college athletes’ new golden state after U.S. Supreme Court ruling. // San Francisco Chronicle

Court mulls challenge to California ban on high-capacity gun magazines. // Los Angeles Times

Los Angeles has a housing crisis. Can design help? // New York Times

Los Angeles Tech Week a reminder that Silicon Valley isn’t the only game in town. // New York Times

From murder to Aryan Brotherhood to documentary star, he now faces EDD fraud charges. // Sacramento Bee

A mass shooting prompted a California mayor to take action. He couldn’t stop another one. // The Guardian

Sonoma County supervisors OK whistleblower hotline for fraud, waste, abuse allegations. // Petaluma Argus-Courier

San Francisco to permanently cap food delivery fees for DoorDash, Grubhub and other apps. // San Francisco Chronicle

Garcetti aide mocked labor icon Dolores Huerta, city leaders. // Los Angeles Times

California deserts lost nearly 40% of plants to hotter, drier weather. // Desert Sun

See you tomorrow.

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Emily Hoeven wrote the daily WhatMatters newsletter for three years at CalMatters . Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco...