Less than a week away from California’s full reopening, key details remain unresolved.
On June 15, the state will eliminate the color-coded blueprint that’s governed our lives for much of the past year — another six counties moved into less restrictive tiers on Tuesday, by the way — and allow businesses to reopen at full capacity. California will also update its mask guidance, allowing fully vaccinated residents to forgo face coverings in most situations.
But here’s where the California reopening confusion sets in: As things stand, local governments and individual businesses alike can choose to implement tougher rules — possibly resulting in a patchwork of different policies.
Workplace guidelines are also up in the air, with the state’s workplace safety agency today set to reconsider rules it passed during a chaotic meeting last week that require many employees to continue wearing masks. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who took heat for suggesting he would allow the rules to remain in place, now appears to be encouraging Cal/OSHA to change its mind.
- A spokesperson for the governor’s office: We “are hopeful the Board will further revise its guidance to reflect the latest science while continuing to protect workers and balancing realistic and enforceable requirements for employers.”
A coalition of high-profile business groups sent Newsom a letter Tuesday urging him to issue an executive order overturning Cal/OSHA’s current rules. They argued that strict masking rules could disincentivize employees from returning to work — a consequence the state may not be able to afford, given many open positions are already going unfilled. The business groups also asked county public health officials to not impose tougher reopening rules that could confuse employees and customers.
Meanwhile, it appears the state will give businesses a fair amount of discretion when it comes to verifying customers’ vaccination status — and thus whether they need to wear masks. Dr. Tomás Aragón, the state’s public health officer, said in a Monday letter to Cal/OSHA that businesses could ask customers about their vaccination status, implement a vaccine verification system, or require all patrons to wear masks.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,691,660 confirmed cases (+0.02% from previous day) and 62,479 deaths (+0.01% 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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1. Battle for the big bucks
With less than a week before the June 15 deadline for Newsom and lawmakers to solidify a budget deal, arguments over how the state should spend its record surplus are coming in fast and furious. Here’s a look at some key demands:
- Community college financial officers and professors are divided over lawmakers’ plan to give the sprawling 116-campus system $170 million to hire 2,000 full-time faculty. CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn explores why.
- Advocates are pushing Newsom and lawmakers to expand health care, food assistance and financial aid to undocumented immigrants, CalMatters’ Jacqueline Garcia reports.
- Hundreds of child care providers, parents, and advocates, in addition to Democratic state Sen. Monique Limón of Santa Barbara, marched to the state Capitol on Tuesday to urge Newsom to raise wages for child care providers.
- A group of Democratic state lawmakers urged Newsom in a Tuesday letter to expand his universal basic income pilot program to farmworkers displaced by drought and give supplemental guaranteed income to those whose hours were reduced.
- Another group of Democratic state lawmakers called on Newsom to increase budget reserves.
- The California State Association of Counties and business groups urged lawmakers to adopt Newsom’s proposed broadband plan — rather than their own — in a Tuesday email with the subject line “Why is the (Assembly) Speaker Choosing Telecoms over Californians?”
- Meanwhile, California’s prison guards union — a big contributor to Newsom’s 2018 gubernatorial campaign — secured a new contract that contains nearly $5,000 in pandemic bonuses plus extra paid time off.
2. Repairing racial wrongs
California’s first-in-the-nation reparations task force met for the first time last week, raising controversial questions never before hashed out by state appointees in a public forum. Among them: How can a single state, which never formally sanctioned slavery, make amends for centuries of slavery practiced by Southern states and the federal government? How can California accurately quantify and repair centuries of racism on its own soil? Will the state seriously consider direct payments? CalMatters’ Jackie Botts takes a look at how the committee plans to tackle these complex dilemmas — and what types of policies could emerge from its two-year study. For more, listen to this podcast in which CalMatters and CapRadio journalists talk with Secretary of State Shirley Weber, who as an assemblymember authored the bill that created the task force.
Even as the state works to rectify past wrongs, others are cropping up. A report released Tuesday by the advocacy group Speak Up found that 43% of surveyed Black parents of Los Angeles Unified students kept their kids home amid the pandemic due to concerns over bullying, racism and low academic standards. Many of those parents are now questioning whether it’s in their kids’ best interests to return to campus in the fall, according to the report.
- Los Angeles Unified board member Tanya Ortiz Franklin: “This report reminds us that we are not just recovering from 15 months of a global health pandemic, but also from over 400 years of neglect, abuse and mistreatment.”
3. Will San Jose pass gun insurance, taxes?
Gun owners in San Jose would have to insure their weapons, pay a fee to cover taxpayer costs associated with gun violence and be video recorded while purchasing firearms under a plan Mayor Sam Liccardo released Tuesday. The 10-step agenda, introduced after last month’s mass shooting at a San Jose rail yard, would go further than state lawmakers were willing to last week, when they rejected a bill that would have taxed firearms and ammunition to fund gun violence prevention programs. Gun rights advocates are preparing to sue San Jose if the city council approves Liccardo’s plan — and they could very well have a good chance in court. A federal judge last week declared California’s three-decades-old ban on assault weapons unconstitutional, the third time he’s blocked the state’s strictest-in-the-nation gun control laws.
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s highly restrictive gun laws may be headed for the Supreme Court after a federal judge’s latest ruling against them.
Using data to avoid drinking water crisis: Drought reporting systems can predict where wells will go dry and help communities prepare to take action before they run out of water, write Rich Pauloo of the Water Data Lab and Alva Escriva-Bou of the Public Policy Institute of California Water Policy Center.
Extend eviction moratorium: It would be unconscionable for lawmakers to turn their backs on Californians and head straight into another health crisis caused by a wave of evictions and insurmountable rent debt, argue Tracey Delaney of the Public Health Alliance of Southern California and Zenei Triunfo-Cortez of the California Nurses Association.
Reader reaction: A recent column arguing that zoning changes could hurt Black homeownership was an overgeneralization, writes Allison Schallert.
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Other things worth your time
Mia Bonta’s money and Sacramento ties a dividing wedge in East Bay Assembly race. // San Francisco Chronicle
How the Salinas Valley went from COVID hot spot to a model for vaccination and safety. // Washington Post
California legislator takes charter school reform bill off the table. // San Diego Union-Tribune
Shriveled reservoirs show depths of California’s drought disaster. // Sacramento Bee
120 houseboats pulled off Lake Oroville as reservoir is expected to reach lowest level ever. // SFGATE
After bitter fight, Southern California’s biggest water agency has new leader. // Los Angeles Times
Rising water costs prompt two San Diego North County communities to look for alternatives. // KPBS
Can California avoid another toxic waste disaster? // Capital & Main
California not doing as well as it thinks in reducing carbon, study finds. // KQED
Tiny homes plan for homeless people divides affluent Arcadia. // Los Angeles Times
This California congressman has a history of late property tax payments. // Sacramento Bee
How the pandemic may have helped whales off California’s coast. // Mercury News
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