In summary

California Democrats welcome people in Florida and Texas opposed to their states’ stances on abortion, LGBTQ rights and gun control.

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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.

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.

California has administered 72,336,977 vaccine doses, and 74.2% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

1. Community clinics owed millions

Jayden Elizondo, 5, left, waits with his mother, Jennifer Paices, as Maritza Thomas, screener with St. John’s, helps them fill out Covid-19 vaccination forms at one of St. John’s Well Child and Family Center mobile health clinics set up outside Helen Keller Elementary School in Los Angeles on Wednesday afternoon, March 16, 2022. The clinic offers vaccines to students as well as community members in the neighborhood. St. John’s Well Child and Family Center clinics have administered around 450,000 Covid-19 vaccines in Los Angeles since the pandemic began. Photo by Alisha Jucevic for CalMatters
Jayden Elizondo, 5, left, waits as his mother fills out COVID vaccination forms at a St. John’s Well Child and Family Center mobile health clinic in Los Angeles on March 16, 2022. Photo by Alisha Jucevic for CalMatters

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.

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

New housing construction in the Crocker Village neighborhood in Sacramento on Feb. 10, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
New housing construction in the Crocker Village neighborhood in Sacramento on Feb. 10, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

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

An aerial view shows the California Aqueduct, which is part of the State Water Project, outside of Bakersfield on December 15, 2021. Photo by Aude Guerrucci, REUTERS
An aerial view of the California Aqueduct, which is part of the State Water Project, outside of Bakersfield on Dec. 15, 2021. Photo by Aude Guerrucci, Reuters

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:

CalMatters commentary

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.

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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...