Good morning, California. It’s Monday, June 28.

Ongoing negotiations

As it turns out, deciding how to spend $262.6 billion is an extraordinarily complicated task.

So, although state lawmakers will vote today on the record-breaking budget they unveiled Friday after reaching new agreements with Gov. Gavin Newsom, many details still have to be worked out. It’s the latest iteration of lawmakers approving yet-to-be-finished plans in order to meet deadlines: They passed a placeholder budget on June 14 to avoid losing their paychecks amid prolonged negotiations with Newsom.

Though more specifics have now been settled for the fiscal year beginning July 1, uncertainty persists in key areas. For example, Newsom and lawmakers agreed to allocate $7.7 billion to addressing wildfires and drought and $6 billion to expanding broadband, but they still don’t know exactly how they’re going to spend that money, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall, Sameea Kamal and Manuela Tobias report.

Here’s a look at other main items in the budget agreement:

  • $8.1 billion in stimulus payments ranging from $600 to $1,100 for most Californians.
  • An expansion of Medi-Cal, the state’s health insurance program for the poor, to undocumented residents 50 and older.
  • $12 billion over the next two years to tackle homelessness.
  • $4 billion in grants for small businesses.
  • $300 million annually for public health and health equity infrastructure, starting in 2022.
  • 200,000 new child care slots over the next four years, as well as a 15% pay raise for providers starting in 2022.

Lawmakers will also vote today on another last-minute Friday deal with Newsom: extending California’s eviction moratorium through Sept. 30 and leveraging $5.2 billion to cover 100% of back rent and up to three months of advance rent for eligible tenants and landlords, Manuela reports. (For more, check out this episode of the Gimme Shelter housing podcast, which CalMatters and the Los Angeles Times relaunched Friday after a months-long hiatus.)

Also extended through Sept. 30: a moratorium on power shutoffs for customers who can’t pay their utility bills, thanks to a Thursday vote from the California Public Utilities Commission.

Newsom and lawmakers also agreed to funnel $2 billion into helping Californians cover unpaid utility and water bills. But that won’t address the needs of those entirely without running water — such as the 700 residents of Teviston, an unincorporated community in Tulare County, whose only functioning well broke in early June as temperatures soared into the triple digits, the Fresno Bee’s Melissa Montalvo reports for CalMatters’ California Divide project.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,712,795 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 62,990 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.

California has administered 41,316,816 vaccine doses, and 58.5% 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. Lawmakers to vote on changing recall process

Recall Newsom volunteer Pat Miller makes a sign during a petition signing event at a Save Mart in Sacramento on Jan. 5, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Yet another thing state lawmakers are set to vote on today: a bill that would allow them to push up the date of the Newsom recall election — ironically, by waiving some of the very rules they wrote just a few years ago in an unsuccessful attempt to defeat the recall of a Democratic state senator. Lawmakers are accelerating the process by including $250 million in the budget to cover election costs and writing a budget-related bill that allows them to skip a 30-day fiscal review period. And to assuage counties’ concerns about the logistical challenges of conducting an election earlier than expected, legislators are giving them more flexibility to operate under rules similar to those used during the pandemic, Laurel reports.

The last-minute maneuvers could increase distrust among voters who are already suspicious of the electoral process. The conservative Election Integrity Project, which alleges that California’s November 2020 election was rife with fraud, is planning to recruit 30,000 volunteers to monitor voting centers during the Newsom recall election, the Los Angeles Times reports.

2. Variant spreads as vaccination rates fall

Facilty employee Domingo Comin holds his vaccination card at Carefield Assisted Living in Castro Valley on Feb. 3, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
Facility employee Domingo Comin holds his vaccination card at Carefield Assisted Living in Castro Valley on Feb. 3, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

Less than two weeks after California reopened, there’s already some cause for concern: The statewide coronavirus positivity rate is increasing, although it’s still at a low 1.1%, up from 0.7% in early June. At the same time, the pace of vaccinations is declining and the highly contagious Delta variant — thought to be twice as transmissible as the typical coronavirus strain — is spreading quickly. It’s already the third-most common variant in California, comprising 14.5% of cases analyzed so far in June, up from 4.7% in May, according to recently released data from the California Department of Public Health. Although experts say fully vaccinated people are well protected against the Delta variant, it poses a special risk for the nearly 32% of eligible Californians who remain unvaccinated — and who live predominantly in Black and Latino neighborhoods and rural areas.

Contra Costa County, apparently the first in the state to publicly release data breaking down COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated and vaccinated residents, is hoping the results — which show daily infection rates are 10 times greater among unvaccinated residents — could convince people to get their shots.

But as state officials work to assuage the concerns of communities with deep-seated distrust of government, they will have to contend with inaccuracies in their own data that could amplify that distrust: California’s COVID-19 case count on Sunday included a backlog of 817 cases — many of which were from 2020.

3. Median home price breaks records — again

Image via iStocck

Just when you thought California’s home prices couldn’t get any higher, they did. The median price of a single-family home skyrocketed to a jaw-dropping $818,260 in May — up from the previous record of $813,980 set in April, according to figures released Friday by the state Department of Finance. It’s at least the eighth time California’s housing market has shattered its own record amid the pandemic, underscoring the state’s desperate need for more housing. However, California only issued permits for 128,000 housing units on a seasonally adjusted annualized rate in April, down from 136,000 in March, according to the Department of Finance. That’s a far cry from Newsom’s campaign goal of building 500,000 units annually.

Meanwhile, the state is cracking down on at least two cities — San Diego and Anaheim — for potentially violating a recently strengthened law that requires local governments to offer excess land they own to affordable housing developers before making it available to others. The state alleges both cities made deals to redevelop sports stadiums and surrounding land without allowing affordable housing developers to bid first; San Diego is starting the process over, while Anaheim is still negotiating with the state to address possible solutions.

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CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s new budget exemplifies the political tension between the present and the future.

Insurance providers shouldn’t play doctor: State lawmakers have the chance to limit insurers from prescribing medications based on their best interests, rather than patients’, writes Dr. Barbara Giesser, a Santa Monica neurologist.

State should help families electrify homes and cars: This would allow low-income Californians to escape debt and reduce energy costs while reducing fossil fuel emissions, argues Adenike Adeyeye of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

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Other things worth your time

California doctors’ lobby scores ‘major victory’ on bill to hold physicians accountable. // California Healthline

A rebel lawyer accused California cops of corruption. They accused him of murder. // Los Angeles Times

First new state office building in downtown Sacramento in nearly two decades opens. // Sacramento Bee

After 20-year saga, local teachers closer to a move-in date for affordable housing. // San Francisco Chronicle

Over budget and behind schedule: Why the Bay Area can’t get big transportation projects right. // Mercury News

70% of San Francisco residents say quality of life has declined, poll says. // KRON4

California wildfires: Fighting infernos with Silicon Valley tech. // Mercury News

These are the hotshot firefighters leading attacks against California wildfires. And they’re quitting. // CNN

Rattlesnakes everywhere: the odd consequences of California’s drought. // The Guardian

California sheep ranchers fear overtime rule could crush industry. // Capital Press

Michelin-starred restaurants touted this Sacramento County caviar as the best in local products. But it wasn’t what it seemed. // San Francisco Chronicle

This group says San Diego needs 4 million more trees to achieve ‘tree equity.’ // San Diego Union-Tribune

The unlikely survival of the 1,081-year-old tree that gave Palo Alto its name. // New York Times

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...