It’s jet-setting season, baby!
More California lawmakers are scheduled to travel to Glasgow today for the United Nations climate change conference. Though Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, the leader of California’s delegation, is set to head home today, some state legislators and high-ranking members of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration will stay in Scotland through next week.
Some of the Democratic assemblymembers heading to Scotland are fresh off a three-day stay at a seaside golf resort in Pebble Beach, where lobbyists — whose clients made $50,000 or $75,000 contributions to the California Democratic Party — could hobnob with them while enjoying spa treatments, cocktail parties and a swanky dinner. Normally an annual event, it was the first Speakers Cup since the pandemic hit. (A few weeks ago, Senate Democrats held their own fundraiser at another golf resort.)
But then an attendee tested positive for COVID-19, prompting organizers to cancel the dinner party and ask guests to pick up a takeout meal instead — leaving lobbyists with little opportunity for elbow-rubbing. “Out of an abundance of caution, we wanted to protect our guests and the hotel workers,” said Bill Wong, the Assembly Democrats’ political director.
However, 10 Assembly Democrats still plan to travel to Scotland, said Katie Talbot, a spokesperson for Speaker Anthony Rendon. She said the delegation plans to meet with representatives from Germany, Scotland, Paris and Australia to discuss, respectively, green transportation, climate adaption and hydrogen development; offshore wind resources; extreme heat and climate adaptation; and wildfires.
COVID has also made an appearance at the climate conference: Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti — who’s still awaiting confirmation as the next U.S. ambassador to India — announced Wednesday that he tested positive for COVID-19 and is isolating in his Glasgow hotel room.
The whirlwind of travel and hobnobbing comes at a key time for lawmakers: They wrapped up the legislative session on Sept. 10 and won’t return to Sacramento until January, giving them a few months to raise money and make connections ahead of the 2022 elections.
Indeed, a bipartisan group of 10 state lawmakers traveled to Portugal from Oct. 16 to 27 on a trip sponsored by the California Foundation on the Environment and the Economy. On the agenda: meeting with elected officials and community leaders, studying offshore wind energy, exploring opportunities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and learning about Portugal’s drug decriminalization program.
And later this month, several state lawmakers will likely converge in Maui for an annual four-day policy conference sponsored by the Independent Voter Project. Some also went last year, despite state restrictions on nonessential travel.
The Portugal and Maui events aren’t paid for by taxpayers, but rather by special interests that lobby the Legislature — typically a combination of labor unions, corporations and trade associations. And the Speaker’s Cup is sponsored by AT&T.
The Climate Action Reserve and the Climate Registry — groups that manage a system for measuring greenhouse gas emissions — will cover some costs for lawmakers to attend the climate conference in Scotland, while Rendon will personally pay for other expenses, Talbot said. The Assembly — i.e., taxpayers — will pay for a few security staff to attend. Niesha Fritz, a spokeswoman for Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins, said five state senators are personally paying for their Scotland trips and security is not part of the Senate delegation.
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Other stories you should know
1. Kids start getting COVID vaccine
Families across California took their 5- to 11-year-olds to get the COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, the result of public health experts from California, Washington, Oregon and Nevada signing off on federal authorization of the low-dose Pfizer shots. But questions remain for many parents: When and where will doses be available, and how can I make an appointment for my child? How effective are the shots, and will there be side effects? If the risk of severe COVID is lower in children, do they need the vaccine? Could they get myocarditis? Do they need the vaccine in order to go to school? Luckily, CalMatters health reporter Ana Ibarra answers all of these questions in a comprehensive FAQ.
Meanwhile, some cities are forging ahead: San Francisco health officials said children ages 5 to 11 will soon be required to show proof of vaccination to enter certain public spaces, including restaurants, gyms and sports arenas. And starting today, Los Angeles County residents must show their vaccine cards to enter indoor bars, nightclubs, breweries and wineries — a move some cities are trying to challenge. San Francisco, which had a Monday deadline for city employees to get vaccinated, has placed at least 70 noncompliant police department employees on leave and was forced to scale back bus service due to a shortage of fully vaccinated public transit workers. And Monterey County on Friday will reinstate its indoor mask mandate due to rising COVID rates.
2. State to local govts: Build housing!
From CalMatters housing reporter Manuela Tobias: In the latest sign that California is getting serious about cracking down on local governments that don’t produce enough housing, Attorney General Rob Bonta on Wednesday launched a Housing Strike Force to enforce tenant protection and housing production laws. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the California Housing and Community Development Agency last week formed its own team to crack down on jurisdictions that break the state’s housing laws. HCD has already identified its first target: The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which it says may have acted improperly by rejecting a proposal to build a 495-unit apartment complex in a parking lot. Bonta said the two state teams will work together closely.
- Bonta: “They’re not suggestions, recommendations or invitations for voluntary action — they are requirements, and we will enforce them as such.”
- Carolyn Coleman, CEO and executive director of the League of California Cities: “Cities do not build homes, and for years have endured whiplash from the state’s scattershot approach to passing housing laws that are often in direct conflict with each other and counterproductive to our shared goals to increase housing supply.”
Bonta also announced a new Housing Portal with resources for homeowners and tenants and encouraged Californians to send complaints and tips about housing production or tenant-landlord issues to firstname.lastname@example.org.
3. Redistricting 101
Next week, Californians are set to get a glimpse of the first preliminary maps outlining what their congressional and legislative districts may look like for the next 10 years. These lines could determine who represents you in the state Legislature and in the U.S. House of Representatives — and how effectively you’re able to band together with your community and advocate for your needs. Yes, I’m talking about redistricting — and if, like me, you find this process confusing, you need to read this incredibly helpful explainer from CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal. It equips you with everything you need to know to participate, make your voice heard, and advocate for your community.
- Julia Marks, head of the voting rights program at Asian Americans Advancing Justice: “At the end of the day, it’s about the fundamental question of who gets to vote with whom.”
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Next year, California voters could see as many as four competing ballot measures to legalize sports gambling.
California needs more clean power: If Newsom wants to achieve anything on his list of climate priorities, he must find a way to put clean energy back at the top, argues Danielle Osborn Mills of American Clean Power — California.
Will Los Angeles’ climate goals increase evictions? The city’s existing laws allow landlords to pass the bulk of decarbonization costs onto vulnerable, rent-burdened tenants, writes Chelsea Kirk of Strategic Actions for a Just Economy.
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See you tomorrow.
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