California Democrats welcome people in Florida and Texas opposed to their states’ stances on abortion, LGBTQ rights and gun control.
CalMatters is dedicated to explaining how state government impacts our lives. Your support helps us produce journalism that makes a difference. Donate now.
California’s Democratic leaders have a message for Texans and Floridians opposed to their states’ stances on abortion, LGBTQ rights and gun control: You’re more than welcome in the Golden State.
The latest offering came from Democratic state Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, who on Thursday announced forthcoming legislation that would “protect and provide refuge for transgender kids and their parents if they flee to California” from states such as Texas or Idaho, which have advanced measures to investigate or criminalize parents seeking gender-affirming care for their trans kids.
Wiener’s bill would:
- Prevent California courts from enforcing any out-of-state court rulings that deny parents custody for allowing their trans kids to get gender-affirming care.
- Block California agencies from complying with any out-of-state subpoenas seeking information about people who come to the Golden State for gender-affirming care.
- Declare as the lowest priority for California law enforcement any out-of-state criminal arrest warrant linked to someone receiving gender-affirming care.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, meanwhile, name-checked Disney, whose staff members are staging walkouts over the corporation’s refusal to publicly condemn Florida’s “don’t say gay” bill that would ban teaching kids in kindergarten through third grade about sexual orientation or gender identity “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
- Newsom tweeted: “Disney, the door is open to bring those jobs back to California — the state that actually represents the values of your workers.”
The governor has maintained a relentless focus on Texas and Florida, slamming both in this month’s State of the State speech and a flurry of recent tweets. He’s also sponsoring a gun control bill modeled on Texas’ controversial abortion ban and has called on California to be a “sanctuary” for out-of-state patients seeking abortions.
Democratic lawmakers have answered with a package of reproductive health care legislation, including a bill that would create a fund — filled with both state and philanthropic money — to help low-income Californians and out-of-state women access abortions.
- The bill language, released Wednesday night, says the fund would help cover abortion patients’ airfare, lodging, ground transportation, gas money, meals, child care, doula support and translation services.
- State Sen. Nancy Skinner, a Berkeley Democrat and bill co-author: This proposal “sends a clear message to the rest of the nation: We are fully committed to ensuring that California women and those who may seek refuge here have access to all reproductive services, including abortion.”
- On Thursday, the Assembly passed a bill that would eliminate out-of-pocket costs for abortions and abortion-related services. It now faces a procedural vote in the Senate before heading to Newsom’s desk.
By framing California as a “refuge” and “sanctuary” for people who want to “flee” Texas and Florida, elected officials may be attempting to counter the narrative that Californians are fleeing to red states in search of lower taxes and more affordable homes.
- Intensifying the rivalry: Population growth trends that saw California lose a congressional seat for the first time in history, while Texas gained two and Florida added one.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 8,445,468 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 87,045 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Other stories you should know
1. Community clinics owed millions
For more than a year, California’s community clinics — which serve the state’s poorest and most vulnerable residents — have been waiting for the state to reimburse them for the 6.1 million COVID-19 vaccinations they’ve administered, about 80% of which went to people of color. The total price tag could reach as much as $408 million — but state health department officials told CalMatters’ Kristen Hwang that they have no idea how much money they owe the clinics. The state also hasn’t released guidance for submitting claims, and clinics don’t know how long it will take to get paid after sending the state their bills.
- Jim Mangia, CEO of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center in South Los Angeles, which is awaiting $7 million in state reimbursements: “It’s frustrating because the state says they’re committed to vaccine equity, but they’re not paying the vaccine equity providers.”
For some clinics, the money could mean the difference between staying open and reducing essential services. Mangia said St. John’s will have to shut down vaccination efforts by April 1 if it doesn’t receive funds from the state. Staffing is also a challenge: “We can’t pay what the market demands,” Mangia told the Los Angeles Times. Last year, community clinics had an average employee turnover rate of 20%, according to a survey from the California Primary care Association.
- One possible solution: A bill from state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, a Van Nuys Democrat, would invest $400 million in community health centers for wages, workforce training and improved care, Kristen reports.
2. Auditor: State underestimated housing need
From CalMatters housing reporter Manuela Tobias: Every eight years, California cities have to develop plans to build the number of homes the state’s Housing and Community Development Department projects they’ll need — a process that usually amounts to a drawn-out paper exercise and results in inadequate construction.
- In the latest cycle now underway, HCD asked cities to plan for a lot more housing than usual to accommodate new population growth and pent-up demand — prompting cities to say the agency was asking for too much.
- But in a Thursday report, the California State Auditor found the state was actually underestimating housing needs in three regions. The report identified statistical errors that resulted in an undercount of nearly 4,000 housing units in Sacramento and Santa Barbara counties alone. It also found that HCD’s accounting for homes lost to wildfires was inconsistent across counties and that the agency relied on shaky or outdated data on a few key factors: population growth, housing vacancy rates and the balance between jobs and housing.
- The auditor directed HCD to clean up some of its methodology, which the agency has agreed to do. HCD said this won’t impact the current assignment facing California cities.
- Megan Kirkeby, HCD’s deputy director for housing policy development: “We acknowledge the audit uncovered that some process improvements are needed, and we are already addressing those by adding staff to the (appropriate) team and implementing the suggested changes.”
In related news: State Sen. Josh Becker, a Menlo Park Democrat, unveiled a bill Thursday that would, among other things, allow affordable housing developers to access certain state funds even when building in cities and counties that haven’t developed adequate housing plans under state law.
- Becker: Penalizing developers “makes absolutely no sense when we are short millions of affordable homes in California. Cities and counties should be on the hook for compliance, but affordable homes should not be used as a bargaining chip.”
3. California’s drought likely to worsen
Although scattered showers are expected to fall in parts of California on Saturday, a significant heat wave is set to sweep the state next week. That’s not the best news for a state struggling to meet water conservation targets while in the midst of a persistent drought — which federal meteorologists predicted Thursday is likely to intensify in the spring. Indeed, with 93% of California now gripped by severe drought — up from 87% last week — state water officials today slashed allocations from 15% to 5% of requests to the systems that receive supplies from the State Water Project, a move that would affect 27 million Californians and 750,000 acres of farmland. “This year is on track to be the most difficult for Central Valley agriculture since the water projects were built. We must be able to capture and store water when it’s wet for use when it’s dry. Our communities, food supply, and environment cannot be sustained without these investments and actions,” Jennifer Pierre, general manager of the State Water Contractors, said in a statement.
In related news:
- The federal government signaled its intention Thursday to loan $2.2 billion to help build the long-delayed giant Sites reservoir in Northern California.
- A new study examining the economic impacts of the powerful Westlands Water District — the largest agricultural water agency in the nation — found that “inadequate and unreliable” water sources could put 35,000 jobs in the central San Joaquin Valley at risk.
Rising taxes and bad policy harm small businesses: Difficult financial decisions have forced many in Southern California’s Asian business community to close shop or move to business-friendly states such as Texas, writes Marc Ang, the founder of Asian Industry B2B.
Solving supply chain problems: Here are five fundamental changes California needs to consider when working to improve supply chain backlogs, argues John McLaurin, president of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association.
Other things worth your time
Editorial: Vote for Tina McKinnor in the 62nd Assembly District special election. // Los Angeles Times
Socialist James Coleman thinks California is ready for a leftward shift. // Jacobin Magazine
Los Angeles school board election field is set, including pivotal race to replace Monica Garcia. // Los Angeles Times
Poll: 58% of L.A. Unified teachers want to keep masking. // Los Angeles Times
Cal State faculty petition demands Legislature investigate sexual harassment across system. // EdSource
Amid housing crisis, UCLA becomes first UC to guarantee beds. // Los Angeles Times
Overdue tuition and fees can derail community college education. // Los Angeles Times
Contra Costa County to intervene in West Contra Costa Unified’s finances. // EdSource
A new name for California’s oldest law school? // New York Times
California fined employers for COVID failures. Why haven’t more paid? // Sacramento Bee
California Supreme Court will decide if job-screening companies can ask applicants intimate medical questions. // San Francisco Chronicle
Conviction for Kings County woman charged with ‘manslaughter of a fetus’ is overturned. // CalMatters
S.F. issues dire warning after spike in fentanyl overdoses among people using cocaine. // San Francisco Chronicle
S.F. adds police in the Tenderloin — just as Mayor Breed’s drug overdose emergency ends. // San Francisco Chronicle
Why is the airport paying for Breed’s trip to Europe? // San Francisco Standard
For many, California’s homelessness crisis should be treated like a natural disaster. // LAist
California man died screaming ‘I can’t breathe’ as police restrained him, video shows. // The Guardian
San Jose logs 21st roadway fatality as leaders call for traffic division positions to be filled. // Mercury News
Controversial San Jose gun insurance law faces another legal challenge. // Mercury News
Westminster officials hear grim financial forecast if sales tax isn’t extended. // Orange County Register
California DMV now offers online driver’s knowledge tests. // Sacramento Bee
Is California doing enough on climate? We asked the CPUC chief. // Los Angeles Times
Russian ban stirs hope, frustration in California oil patch. // Los Angeles Times
Californians will have to wait longer to access Hollister Ranch beach. // Courthouse News
A plane was ‘cloud seeding’ in the Sierra this week to make it rain. Does that actually work? // San Francisco Chronicle
See you Monday.
Tips, insight or feedback? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven
Subscribe to CalMatters newsletters here.