Good morning, California. It’s Tuesday, June 15.
State tries to boost travel
Today’s the day — at last.
A staggering 453 days after Gov. Gavin Newsom issued the nation’s first stay-at-home order, shutting the state down overnight, most businesses will be able to reopen at full capacity. Fully vaccinated Californians will be able to ditch their masks in most situations. And the term “physical distancing” may begin to disappear from our collective vocabulary.
Several crucial details still have to be worked out, as I discuss with CalMatters’ Nigel Duara and CapRadio’s Nicole Nixon on the latest California State of Mind podcast. But Newsom clarified a key point Monday, when he announced plans to issue an executive order that would allow fully vaccinated workers to go maskless following what’s expected to be an affirmative Thursday vote from workplace safety agency Cal/OSHA. Without executive action, the rules — which have already changed three times in two weeks — wouldn’t take effect until June 28.
The big question now: How long will it take for California to recover from more than a year of shutdowns?
The travel and tourism industry — which makes up a significant part of the Golden State’s economy — isn’t expected to fully bounce back until 2023, Miranda Green reports for CalMatters. And because California is keeping some restrictions in place for large indoor events, some travel experts are concerned conventions will decamp to Florida or Texas instead, taking much-needed revenue with them.
- Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California: “Today is a great step forward. We do have some work to do. California is perceived to be less destination-ready than the rest of the United States, particularly our friends in Florida.”
To encourage Californians to get vaccinated — and to boost travel within the Golden State — Newsom unveiled a slate of new incentives: six vacation packages that include seeing a Giants game in San Francisco, going to a Palm Springs spa, visiting Disneyland in Anaheim, seeing the Lakers play in Los Angeles and learning to surf in San Diego. Today, 10 Californians will win $1.5 million prizes for being vaccinated.
- Newsom: “It’s been a tough and challenging year and the fear and anxiety that all of you worked through is not lost on any of us. … But the best days are ahead of us.”
Meanwhile, the University of California announced Monday it will require all students, staff and faculty to be fully vaccinated this fall — even if the vaccines are still under emergency-use authorization, CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn reports.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 3,697,299 confirmed cases (+0.02% from previous day) and 62,505 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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Other stories you should know
1. Accelerated recall election could hit snags
From CalMatters political reporter Laurel Rosenhall: County elections officials are pushing back on Democratic lawmakers’ attempts to move up the date of the Newsom recall election. They say the logistics involved in a statewide election — such as printing ballots, securing in-person voting locations and recruiting election workers — could take more time than allowed under a plan lawmakers released last week that could result in an election as early as August or September.
- Donna Johnston, Sutter County’s registrar of voters and president of the statewide association of elections officials: “They are calendar issues, not money issues. They can’t be fixed with additional funds.”
Lawmakers last week put $250 million in the state budget to cover the cost of the recall election, saying it would help officials set an earlier election date. But they also wrote a bill that would revert voting procedures back to their pre-pandemic norm, requiring officials to open more neighborhood polling places and keep voting centers open longer. Local elections officials, caught off guard, sent a letter to state officials Monday detailing their concerns.
- Johnston: “We originally thought it might happen in November because that is an established election date, and a lot of us started planning for a November election. Taking away this much time creates problems.”
2. Lawmakers pass placeholder budget
Newsom and state lawmakers still haven’t reached an agreement on how to spend California’s massive surplus, but legislators passed a $267 billion placeholder budget on Monday to avoid losing their paychecks. The move was opposed by Republican lawmakers, with state Sen. Jim Nielsen of Red Bluff slamming the “fake budget and the Democrat-controlled budget process.” Still, both Newsom and lawmakers are in line to receive 4.2% pay hikes. Assemblymember Kevin Kiley, a Rocklin Republican who recently announced he’s exploring a run for governor, said he would reject his pay raise and called on Newsom to do the same.
One major point of contention between Newsom and lawmakers: how much money the state will have to spend in future years. Newsom is relying on more conservative estimates than the Legislature, as evidenced by the statement he released Monday.
- Newsom: “We must maintain a strong fiscal foundation that does not overcommit the state to long-term spending it cannot afford, which could lead to future cuts.”
- Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon: “The budget we’re sending to Governor Newsom reflects responsible budgeting as the Legislature’s top priority and makes vital investments in California’s future.”
3. Tulare County’s never-ending drought
California’s last major drought ended in 2016 — but it never really came to a close in Tulare County, a rural area in the upper San Joaquin Valley with more cows than people. Around 50% of the more than 2,600 dry wells California residents self-reported during the last drought were in Tulare County, where more than a quarter of the population lives in poverty and two-thirds of residents are Latino. In the second installment of CalMatters’ series “Lessons Learned? Drought Then and Now,” Julie Cart visits Tulare County to meet farmers whose fortunes depend on an ever-dwindling supply of water. She talks with people who are drilling hundreds of feet underground in a desperate attempt to keep crops alive and others who are forced to shower at relatives’ houses because their wells have run dry.
- John Warner, a farmer and lifelong Tulare County resident: “There’s going to be losers with this drought. … It’s gonna affect a lot of poor rural communities, places like Ivanhoe and Seville, towns no one has ever heard of.”
- Jim Myers, a former mechanic: “Everybody is suffering, it’s why I have all this gray hair.”
Farmworkers in the San Joaquin Valley are also suffering from the consequences of drought — which is why a Fresno-area politician wants to include them in the state’s universal basic income pilot program, CalMatters’ Melissa Montalvo reports.
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California has finally achieved the zero population growth some environmentalists urged decades ago — but that comes with its own set of challenges.
Protect freedom of speech: California must end social media censorship by adapting the principles of our nation’s founding to the realities of the digital age, write GOP Assemblymembers Kevin Kiley of Rocklin and James Gallagher of Yuba City.
Big Ag makes a bad thing worse: The real heart of California’s water woes is an outdated system that prioritizes the financial interests of a wealthy few over the health and well-being of many, argues Ross Middlemiss of the Center for Biological Diversity.
Reader reaction: Newsom does owe a huge apology to those impacted by the state’s unemployment department, but I’m not confident its problems will be fixed in my lifetime, writes Ron Weissmann of Elk Grove.
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Other things worth your time
California defies doom with No. 1 U.S. economy. // Bloomberg Opinion
At a Ferry Building job fair, employers looking to hire seemed to outnumber job seekers. // San Francisco Chronicle
California teachers report spring school reopenings were exhausting and unproductive. // EdSource
Marin mandates COVID-19 sick leave at small businesses. // East Bay Times
California bill would end minimum parking requirements in cities. // Sacramento Bee
Some California homeowners can get coverage again after wildfires. // Wall Street Journal
A look at harassment, discrimination inside San Diego County’s largest employers. // San Diego Union-Tribune
New California rule restricts urine drug tests for state workers. // Sacramento Bee
Redistricting could force some San Diego cannabis dispensaries to close. // San Diego Union-Tribune
World’s largest firefighting helicopters join Orange, Los Angeles and Ventura County fleets. // Daily News
Young climate activists head to the Golden Gate Bridge on 266-mile march from Paradise. // San Francisco Chronicle
See you tomorrow.
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