Good morning, California. It’s Monday, July 12.
This week is going to be a big one for California.
Today, a judge is expected to issue a decision in the lawsuit Gov. Gavin Newsom brought against his own elections chief to be listed as a Democrat on the ballot for the Sept. 14 recall election. Also involved in the lawsuit: GOP recall candidate and reality star Caitlyn Jenner, who held her first Sacramento press conference on Friday but only spoke about the case for a minute and 20 seconds, CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall reports.
Also today, the state Department of Public Health plans to release comprehensive fall reopening guidance for K-12 schools — though it made clear on Friday that it will continue to require masks indoors. That goes further than the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which on Friday issued updated school guidance that recommends masks indoors only for unvaccinated people and when physical distancing of at least 3 feet is impossible.
Meanwhile, the state Legislature is set to break for summer recess at the end of the week — slowing the pace of negotiations with Newsom over still-undecided details of California’s massive $263 billion budget. Newsom on Friday signed into law a key piece of the state’s education package, but he still hasn’t signed the full budget lawmakers passed two weeks ago.
- Assemblymember Vince Fong, a Bakersfield Republican: “We have so many outstanding, unresolved issues. We’re debating wildfire prevention in the middle of wildfire season, we’re debating drought mitigation and water storage in the middle of the drought.”
Here’s a look at other key bills still pending in the Legislature:
- A bill to create a public data system that would track California students’ progress from early education to K-12 to college to the workforce, CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn and Charlotte West report.
- A bill to help low-income workers take paid family leave, though it would increase the amount employees pay into the state fund from each paycheck, CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal reports.
- A bill to both limit and delay legally required seismic upgrades at California hospitals, pitting the hospital industry and Newsom’s office against labor unions, the Los Angeles Times reports.
As if that weren’t enough to keep track of, Friday is also the deadline for Newsom challengers to file paperwork to run in the recall election.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 3,724,833 confirmed cases (+0.1% from previous day) and 63,376 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.
Podcast: At least 750 more wildfires and 42,000 more acres have burned across California compared to this time last year. Hear how early season blazes are changing the wildfire conversation in the state Capitol.
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1. The cost of fighting COVID
How much taxpayer money has it cost to fight COVID-19 in California since the start of the pandemic? At least $12.3 billion, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov has found — a sum greater than the gross domestic product of 50 nations; more than the value of the Dodgers, Yankees and Giants combined; and enough to give $313 to every Californian. Some of the biggest price tags include $1.8 billion for COVID-19 testing, $1.6 billion to fight the virus in state prisons and $1.4 billion for a controversial mask contract. But the alternative — doing nothing — would have been much more costly, experts say.
- Adam Rose, a USC economist: “If you save 1,000 lives, that’s $10 billion that you save. If you did nothing at all, the situation would be much worse. You’re going to pay one way or another.”
Much of the money spent in California has come — or is forthcoming — from the federal government. But the $12.3 billion figure doesn’t include key federal programs that will benefit Californians — including a child tax credit that, starting July 15, will send qualifying households $300 per month per child, the Fresno Bee’s Melissa Montalvo reports. Nor does it include the $5.2 billion in rental relief that California is struggling to disburse to low-income tenants, as CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias and the Los Angeles Times’ Liam Dillion discuss in the latest episode of the “Gimme Shelter” podcast.
2. Newsom tries to put positive spin on environment
Newsom on Friday took two steps to burnish his environmental credentials. First, his administration denied 21 permits for new oil fracking wells. Then, Newsom asked state regulators to evaluate pathways to speed up California’s climate goals, including pushing the target date for carbon neutrality from 2045 to 2035 and setting a faster timeline for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The announcements, which came a day after Newsom urged all Californians to voluntarily cut their water use by 15%, suggest that the governor is trying to neutralize politically unpopular policies ahead of a quickly approaching recall election. (Newsom on Thursday also added $500 million to the state’s wildfire prevention budget, after nixing the funding earlier this year.)
But his actions may not appease the environmental justice community, which will likely remember how he refused to publicly support a proposed fracking ban that died in the Legislature in April — though that same month he directed state agencies to stop issuing new fracking permits by 2024 and to analyze pathways to phase out oil extraction by 2045. Nor may his accelerated timelines seem feasible to voters who point out that California is already moving too slowly to reach its original climate goals.
Meanwhile, the environmental challenges keep piling up. California on Friday was one step away from rolling blackouts as temperatures skyrocketed and an Oregon wildfire threatened power delivery to the Golden State, prompting Newsom to issue both an emergency proclamation and an executive order to increase energy capacity. The state’s Flex Alert was extended through Saturday as many parts of the state boiled under triple-digit temperatures, including a whopping 130 degrees in Death Valley. And the massive Beckwourth Complex Fire raging in Northern California swelled to nearly 84,000 acres and remained just 8% contained, forcing thousands of evacuations even as it generated its own lightning.
3. Garcetti tapped for ambassador post
President Joe Biden on Friday nominated Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as the U.S. ambassador to India, the latest Californian to be snapped up by the federal government. If confirmed by the U.S. Senate, Garcetti would vacate Los Angeles’ top post at a pivotal time for California’s most populous city — leaving the city council to either appoint an interim mayor or declare a special election to fill out the rest of Garcetti’s term, which ends in June 2022.
Los Angeles is currently appealing a recent federal court ruling that ordered the city to offer shelter and support services to the entire homeless population of Skid Row by Oct. 18, even as it tries to work out how to spend the $1 billion Garcetti pledged to address homelessness. The city is also at a crossroads over public safety and transportation. Faced with a disturbing uptick in violence — including 16 killings over Fourth of July weekend alone — Los Angeles is proposing to reverse some of the cuts made to its police budget last year, even as activists argue that will only exacerbate the problem. And although the city is pouring billions of dollars into new rail construction, transit ridership continues to decline.
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TOMORROW: How can California support its small businesses as they recover from a recession and global pandemic? Join a CalMatters and Milken Institute virtual conversation with leading policymakers, including Small Business Administration Administrator Isabel Casillas Guzman. Register here.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California communities remain highly segregated — and the redrawing of congressional and legislative districts will only reinforce that phenomenon.
Independent science slipping away: California’s legal battle over employee classification has harmed the independence of the scientific body charged with protecting Delta water, argue Phil Isenberg of the Delta Stewardship Council and David Guy of the Northern California Water Association.
The importance of investing in Latinas: Comprehensive social policies are essential for the women and children most affected by inequity but least represented in government recovery efforts, writes Kassandra Hernandez of the UCLA Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.
State shouldn’t insure homes in fire-prone areas: California should invest in affordable housing near existing communities, not back unsustainable development already denied by the private insurance market, argues Elizabeth Reid-Wainscoat of the Center for Biological Diversity.
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Other things worth your time
Opinion: California wakes up from its dream. // New York Times
As California wineries lose insurance, some fear this fire season will be their last. // San Francisco Chronicle
Surfside tower collapse reverberates through Southern California’s HOAs. // Daily News
Supreme Court decision could mean increase in labor trafficking of farmworkers. // CalMatters
Illegal pot farms have invaded the California desert. // Los Angeles Times
Victims of 2019 San Diego synagogue shooting allowed to sue gunmaker. // San Francisco Chronicle
Five dead children led to California’s assault weapons ban. Survivors are fighting to keep it. // Sacramento Bee
Debate over Oakland violence prevention intensifies with dueling rallies. // San Francisco Chronicle
A Los Angeles janitor died while protecting a tenant from her attacker. He’s celebrated for his labor activism. // CalMatters
Santa Clara County public defender launches bid to replace three-term DA. // Mercury News
How one California campus, the statewide leader in COVID aid, starts spending its millions. // EdSource
California environmental group sues to block Capitol Annex project. // Sacramento Bee
California confirms first West Nile virus-related death of 2021. // Los Angeles Times
How hunters can aid the California condor’s comeback. // CBS News
See you tomorrow.
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