In summary

California State University and its faculty union announce a tentative contract that includes raises and a COVID-19 bonus.

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The week before Christmas brought another hard-fought deal to prevent a strike hitting California’s public universities. 

CalMatters higher education writer Mikhail Zinshteyn reported Monday that California State University and its faculty association have tentatively agreed on a new contract, thwarting a possible work stoppage after 20 months of negotiations. The deal includes a general 4% raise retroactive to July 1, 2021, another 4% bump on July 1, 2022, plus a $3,500 COVID bonus in recognition of the colossal upheaval to instruction as classes moved online in the 2020-21 school year.

The raises and bonus match what was being sought by the California Faculty Association, which represents 29,000 professors, lecturers, counselors and others, including some athletic coaches. The CSU administration had previously offered only 2%, and the two sides had been so far apart that they went to a more severe stage of state mediation, Mikhail says. 

2022 Election

Your guide to the 2022 general election in California

Things were looking so dire that union leaders were telling members to start warning students of a possible walkout and class cancellations in the spring term at CSU, the nation’s largest public university system with nearly 500,000 students. CFA leaders credited the deal to activism by faculty, including petitions presented to campus presidents in early November and a Nov. 9 rally at the CSU trustees meeting.

  • Charles Toombs, CFA president: “Our new contract was made possible because faculty members were united in demanding our rights, respect, and justice.”   

The agreement is subject to a ratification vote by CFA members and approval from the CSU board of trustees. 

It follows a series of other labor agreements:

The settlements show that the ivory tower isn’t immune from the increase in worker activism during the COVID-19 pandemic — think “Striketober” and the “Great Resignation” — and the historic power of organized labor in California.  

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Sunday, California had 4,935,461 confirmed cases (+ 0.5% from previous day) and 75,167 deaths (+ 0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 62,762,797 vaccine doses, and 70.2% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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1. Redistricting reality sets in

An election and redistricting illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock
Illustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock

It has been a long and contentious slog. But Monday night, California’s citizens redistricting commission unanimously adopted its final maps for 52 U.S. House seats, 40 state Senate and 80 state Assembly districts and four Board of Equalization seats. 

The new districts are already under fire — and it’s possible, even likely, that some will be challenged in court, reports CalMatters’ Sameea Kamal, who has been staying up late with the commission so you could rest easy.

  • Former redistricting consultant Tony Quinn: “It didn’t seem to me that the map needed to be torn up the way it is. They way overdid it, especially in L.A. County.” 

While the commission thought better of a Central Coast congressional district derided as the “ribbon of shame,” it drew a state Senate district that runs the entire length of the California-Mexico border.

  • Commission chairperson Alicia Fernández: “There was robust discussion in terms of how these maps should be drawn. We know that not everyone will be happy, but I feel that they are fair maps for Californians.” 

A reminder: California voters will use these new districts for the next decade, starting with the June primary next year. 

Because the commission put a sizable number of incumbents in the same districts, the new maps will influence decisions of whether to seek re-election and in which districts, with the candidate filing deadline looming March 31. In fact, they already have.  

Some early analysis and reaction from experts and observers: A projected 16 of the 52 House districts have a Latino voting-age population of at least 50%, and the new congressional map benefits Democrats. Three state Senate districts become more friendly to Republicans; the GOP needs to flip at least five Senate seats in 2022 to end the Democratic supermajority in the Legislature and have more say on taxes and policy. But in the Assembly, where Democrats now hold 60 of the 80 seats, the new maps create 63 solid Democratic seats, according to an analysis by California Target Book.         

By the way, one thing Sameea has noticed during all those late nights: The impact of technology (anyone can use a tool to create their own maps) and of social media (redistricting Twitter can be surprisingly mean for such a wonky subject).

2. ‘Danger in Droughtsville’

The Los Angeles Aqueduct, which brings water from the eastern Sierra Nevada, is a major source of water for Los Angeles. Photo by Lucy Nicholson, Reuters

Living in California, we’re all well aware of the drought and the need to conserve water. But the threats to our water supply go well beyond the obvious.

As CalMatters data reporter Erica Yee details in this fascinating explainer, municipal drinking water supplies also face dangers from sea level rise, groundwater contamination, earthquakes, wildfires, extreme weather and more. 

For instance, huge volumes of water are transported hundreds of miles to Los Angeles via three aqueducts — parts of which traverse the San Andreas Fault and would be put out of commission in a major quake. Other municipal water is stored underground and is potentially susceptible to toxic chemicals, as well as seawater invasion. And treatment plants and pipelines could be vulnerable to contamination and cyberattacks. 

But it’s not all dark clouds: Erica also looks at possible solutions. They include short-term fixes, such as mutual aid from surrounding areas and emergency proclamations, and longer-term ideas such as building desalination plants, plus recycling, storing and capturing more water.

New CA environmental laws

Sameea Kamal gives a quick rundown of changes in recycling and composting in a “New law in a minute” video produced by Byrhonda Lyons.

YouTube video

2021 environment stories you should know

A USDA field manager walks along the parched ground in a pomegranate orchard at Wolfskill Experimental Farm outside of Davis on Aug. 25, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters
A USDA field manager walks along the parched ground in a pomegranate orchard at Wolfskill Experimental Farm outside of Davis on Aug. 25, 2021. Photo by Anne Wernikoff, CalMatters

A lot happened this year on environmental policy in California. Here’s a look back at the biggest developments, as reported by CalMatters’ Rachel Becker.

Mother Nature didn’t do California any favors. 

The slow creep of drought burgeoned into a full-blown crisis in 2021, with more than 80% of the state now in the clutches of extreme drought or worse, despite record rainfall in October. The crisis comes as the state’s second driest water year collides with the warmest summer on record.

In response, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared drought emergencies in all 58 counties, but has not mandated water conservation so far, though state officials warn that could soon be necessary and are considering stricter rules and even fines that could be voted on as soon as Jan. 4. On Dec. 1, officials also warned that cities and farms should expect virtually no allocation from the State Water Project next year. The Legislature and the Newsom administration set aside $5.2 billion over three years to address the drought and bolster water resilience. 

  • Karla Nemeth, director of the California Department of Water Resources: “Californians always have hope, and that’s healthy. But we need to be prudent. We’re doing more conservative planning than we’ve ever done.”

At the same time, the one-two punch of hot and dry conditions parched vegetation and forests. As of Dec. 17, nearly 8,800 fires had burned nearly 2.6 million acres. The Dixie fire killed one person and incinerated more than 963,000 acres, making it California’s second largest wildfire on record. Newsom drew criticism for overstating the state’s fire prevention efforts. 

In October, a major oil spill that began in federal waters off Huntington Beach slicked a painstakingly restored wetland and drew attention to the state’s rules for the oil and gas industry. Newsom has been criticized by environmental advocates for not doing more to reduce fossil fuel production and pollution, in part to reduce the impacts of climate change.

California has been on the leading edge of climate policy, and the Legislature and Newsom approved a $15 billion funding package. In December, state regulators passed landmark anti-smog rules for big truck and lawn equipment to cut emissions. But a controversial bill that would have required the state to reach net-zero carbon emissions no later than 2045 didn’t make it. And California’s role at the United Nations climate summit in Scotland in November became a controversy when Newsom backed out of going at the last minute.   

Check out the full CalMatters Primer, with everything you need to know and might have missed about California policy and politics in 2021. 

Here’s your primer: What California state government has been up to in 2021

History will remember 2021 as the year when a windfall of governmentspending sought to address years of inequality, poverty and a growingpopulation left behind. Trillions of dollars were spent by the federal government, but California’s state government, facing the nation’s highest poverty rate, also saw an unprecedented budget surplus that the state’s supermajority Democrats used…

And here’s a look at some environment stories to watch for in 2022:

Other things worth your time

‘Scary’ 6.2 earthquake strikes area near Eureka in Northern California // San Francisco Chronicle

California accuses Walmart of illegal toxic waste disposal // The Sacramento Bee 

California mortgage relief program for homeowners approved // The Sacramento Bee

Judge rules against San Diego Unified’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate// The San Diego Union-Tribune

A wave of Bay Area restaurants are shutting down temporarily again as omicron spreads // San Francisco Chronicle

California has moved few transgender women out of men’s prisons, despite new law // San Francisco Chronicle

D.A. Chesa Boudin joins critics of Breed’s Tenderloin crackdown // San Francisco Chronicle

How a case of grand theft nearly brought the renowned S.F. Orchid Society to its knees // San Francisco Chronicle

L.A. accuses LAPD academy gun store of negligence as scandal widens // Los Angeles Times

Looming sale of California ranch summons violent past // Los Angeles Times

One Bay Area city, 73 police dog bites, and the law that made them public // San Jose Mercury News

Bank of Montreal to double its U.S. presence by buying Bank of the West // CBC News

Business leaders threaten boycott if California doesn’t lower marijuana taxes // Courthouse News Service

See you tomorrow.

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Foon Rhee is deputy editor for CalMatters who works with reporters covering the state Capitol and housing. After graduating from Duke University, he covered local and state government for The Charlotte...