In summary

As California transitions from fossil fuels, what happens to oil and gas workers? It’s a challenge for Gov. Newsom and Democratic lawmakers.

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The clash that can emerge between two key Democratic constituencies — organized labor and environmental groups — was on clear display Tuesday.

That’s when a legislative committee investigating October’s oil spill near Huntington Beach held a hearing about decommissioning offshore oil production in California. One key issue: As the state transitions away from fossil fuels, what happens to oil and gas workers?

  • Erin Lehane, legislative director for the State Building and Construction Trades Council: “This talk about job retraining, it’s almost a classist sense that these … men and women will take whatever job is handed to them. Well, that’s just not true. They want to do the job they were trained to do, and they want to do the job that they’re proud to do. … This is their chosen profession. This is who they are and this is how they identify themselves. … That’s why we’re not interested collectively in the sense, of, you know, the quote-unquote ‘just transition.'”

That could pose challenges for Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic lawmakers, who are not only confronting a disappearing workforce but also pouring billions of dollars into programs to “create sustainable jobs in emerging and green and just transition kinds of sectors,” in the words of Dee Dee Myers, Newsom’s senior advisor and director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development.

  • Assemblymember Mike Gipson, a Carson Democrat: “Do we save the tree or the person under the tree? … It’s just something I have to come to grips with based on where I represent. I represent people, and those people need to have jobs.”
  • Assemblymember Richard Bloom of Santa Monica: “We have to save the tree and the person under the tree. … You’re not saving a human if you don’t save the trees.”

Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story

Mike Gipson

Mike Gipson

State Assembly, District 65 (Gardena)

Mike Gipson

State Assembly, District 65 (Gardena)

How he voted 2021-2022
Liberal Conservative
District 65 Demographics

Voter Registration

Dem 60%
GOP 11%
No party 22%
Campaign Contributions

Asm. Mike Gipson has taken at least $1.9 million from the Labor sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 28% of his total campaign contributions.

Richard Bloom

Richard Bloom

Former State Assembly, District 50 (San Bernardino)

It’s not that organized labor is opposed to green jobs: Lehane implored lawmakers to cut “red tape” and streamline projects relating to carbon capture, hydrogen fuels and offshore wind, noting that California is far from meeting its ambitious climate goals.

  • Lehane: “We need to get going yesterday. … We need to get these new facilities online and we need to get our members working on these new facilities.”

A similar issue to watch: The powerful Building and Trades Council last week expressed strong opposition to a Democratic-led bill that would codify Newsom’s goal of banning in-state sales of new gas-powered cars by 2035.

In other environmental news: CalMatters has launched a water and drought tracker with daily updates on key data points, including reservoir and snowpack levels and the number of households reporting water shortages. Come back often to see how conditions change over time.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 7,482,469 confirmed cases (+0.8% from previous day) and 78,118 deaths (+0.02% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 68,720,989 vaccine doses, and 72.7% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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1. California’s COVID Catch-22

Katelyn Woolcott, a server at Wexler's Deli inside the Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, prepares the take-out orders, which is the only option for customer's at the moment, due to the coronavirus surge, on Jan. 19, 2022. "There has been moments when I didn't want to come to work because of how packed it gets here," Woolcott said. "Especially when there is a surge." Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters
Katelyn Woolcott, a server at Wexler’s Deli in Los Angeles, prepares take-out orders on Jan. 19, 2022. Photo by Pablo Unzueta for CalMatters

California seems to be caught between treating COVID with a pandemic strategy versus an endemic one.

But the landscape is still rapidly shifting: State officials said Tuesday that California has identified 11 cases of omicron sub-variant BA.2, which may be even more infectious. And although omicron appears to have peaked in California, it’s still rippling through the workforce. As Elizabeth Aguilera reports in the latest installment of CalMatters’ series, “Sick and Tired: Omicron Overwhelms California Workers,” many child care providers are struggling to stay open — stranding parents whose own jobs depend on their ability to find care.

  • Expect more budget battles: The California Chamber of Commerce sent a Monday letter to lawmakers endorsing additional spending on child care, and providers serving state-subsidized children want the Legislature to extend a program set to expire in June that offers reimbursement for up to 16 days of closure due to COVID.

2. 2022 ballot measure updates

Image via iStock
Image via iStock

Just as some proposed 2022 ballot measures bite the dust, others enter the fray. Billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper revealed Tuesday that he’s ending his campaign to qualify an initiative that would outlaw public-sector unions in California: “We are going to wait and see whether the unions improve education and government service without it,” he told journalist Theodore Schleifer.

Also scrapped Tuesday: A proposal to increase taxes on corporate income over $20 million to fund programs combatting climate change — but a measure that would raise income taxes on people earning more than $2 million for the same purpose is still in play.

Other proposed ballot measures that recently came to a halt: One that would enshrine in the California Constitution the right to a quality education, and another that would create education savings accounts so parents could bypass public schools in favor of private campuses or other programs (though a second, similar proposal remains alive).

Newly introduced: A coalition of business, labor and environmental groups — including gig-economy giant Lyft, a state firefighters’ union and California Environmental Voters — announced plans Monday to qualify a ballot measure that would raise the state income tax by 1.75% on those earning more than $2 million annually to fund wildfire prevention, expand electric vehicle infrastructure and make zero-emission cars more affordable. (Incidentally, state law requires Lyft and Uber drivers to log 90% of California miles in electric vehicles by 2030.)

What’s the status of other ballot measures? Check out this running list from the California Secretary of State.

3. $5 billion for affordable student housing?

Newly-built student housing at UC Merced on Aug. 2, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

How dire is California’s shortage of student housing? Here’s an indication: State lawmakers last year approved a $2 billion grant for the community college, California State University and University of California systems to build more beds — and the three systems have already proposed more than $3 billion worth of projects. Now Democratic Assemblymember Kevin McCarty of Sacramento wants to create a $5 billion fund that would lend money, interest-free, to public colleges and universities seeking to expand their supply of affordable housing — but, as CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn reports, the proposal faces a long road through the Legislature. It also doesn’t define what affordable units are.

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Don’t miss this event

TODAY at 10 a.m.: What does the future of abortion access look like if states decide individually? Join me and nonprofit news organization The 19th to discuss legislation in California. Register here.

CalMatters commentary

CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: The economic distress California’s low-income households face is being worsened by another phenomenon: inflation.

It’s time to shred paper water: California doesn’t have a water crisis. It has a water management crisis, and we must revamp our policies to reflect a drier future, argues Carolee Krieger of the California Water Impact Network.

California’s electric grid isn’t ready to meet climate goals: Gas-fired generation continues to run in urban areas while the amount of renewable power curtailed or sold out of state at a loss is growing, writes Marty Walicki of Three Rivers Energy Development.

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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...