Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis signed an eviction protection measure, becoming the first woman in California history to sign a bill into law.
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A whopping 172 years after California joined the Union, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis on Thursday became the first woman in state history to sign a bill into law.
Kounalakis, who is serving as acting governor while Gov. Gavin Newsom is abroad on a family vacation, signed a bill to protect hundreds of thousands of renters from eviction hours after state lawmakers sent it to her desk and hours before the protections — which had already been extended twice — were set to expire.
- Kounalakis wrote on Twitter: “I remain more determined than ever to ensure that while I may be the first (woman) to (sign a bill into law), I will certainly not be the last. … Today’s action will provide additional time to thousands more (renters) who are in the process of acquiring emergency relief.”
- Under the new law, Californians who applied to the state’s backlogged pandemic rent relief program before 11:59 p.m. Thursday will be shielded from eviction through June 30, CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias reports. As of Tuesday, California had paid just 223,000 of the nearly 507,000 households seeking relief, according to a state dashboard.
The stopgap measure left many unsatisfied.
- Some lawmakers and tenant advocates said the state should have extended the rent relief application deadline past Thursday, arguing that many needy Californians weren’t aware of the program or faced language barriers. Renters who didn’t apply by the Thursday deadline can face eviction proceedings starting today.
- Other officials denounced a provision of the bill that blocks some cities from implementing local eviction protections until July 1. “It’s completely outrageous,” San Francisco Supervisor Dean Preston told the Associated Press. “The state should be helping us here and not tying our hands.”
- Meanwhile, some landlord groups said the bill wasn’t fair to them. “Landlords are dying under this financial pressure,” said Daniel Yukelson, executive director of the Apartment Association of Greater Los Angeles. “There have been no resources really provided to rental property owners throughout this process.”
- Finally, Attorney General Rob Bonta put eviction lawyers on notice, saying his office had received reports that some landlords or their attorneys were seeking to push through evictions by “falsely declaring” tenants hadn’t notified them of pending rent relief applications.
Against this intense political backdrop, Kounalakis is set to continue serving as acting governor until April 12, when Newsom returns from vacation. It isn’t the first time she’s filled in for Newsom at a high-stakes moment: Last year, she represented California at the United Nations climate change conference in Scotland after Newsom abruptly cancelled his trip there to spend Halloween with his family.
- These high-profile experiences — plus her tweet — suggest that Kounalakis may be gearing up for a future gubernatorial run. And, if the certified list of June 7 primary candidates Secretary of State Shirley Weber released Thursday is anything to go by, Kounalakis looks to be headed for an easy reelection as lieutenant governor.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 8,489,979 confirmed cases (+0.03% from previous day) and 88,115 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
Other stories you should know
1. Schools’ struggle — and promise
Even as California schools reel from the aftereffects of the pandemic, they’ll prove essential to helping kids recover from two years of trauma, learning loss and isolation, according to a bevy of data released this week.
- On Thursday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the results of a nationwide youth mental health survey conducted during the first six months of 2021. The results were grim — more than 4 in 10 teens reported feeling “persistently sad or hopeless” and 1 in 5 said they’ve contemplated suicide — but there were also glimmers of hope, with teens who felt connected at school reporting much lower rates of poor health.
- But getting kids into the classroom is a whole other challenge. Nearly half of the more than 600,000 students in Los Angeles Unified — the largest school district in California and second-largest in the nation — have been chronically absent this school year, meaning they’ve missed at least 9% of the academic year, according to data obtained by the Los Angeles Times. That’s more than twice the pre-pandemic rate.
- And less than 1 in 10 of Los Angeles Unified students receive tutoring, which has been touted as a key way to recover from pandemic learning loss, the Times found.
- Parents are also struggling. Los Angeles Unified is preparing to roll out a “parent academy” to help caregivers learn how to better respond to their kids’ anger and anxiety, and other schools are offering parents personal coaches to help them navigate their own stresses.
- These issues are colliding in Sacramento City Unified School District, where campuses serving 40,000 students have been closed since last Wednesday due to an ongoing employee strike. Three mothers slept outside district headquarters on Wednesday night in an effort to pressure school officials to meet with union leadership and strike a deal on a new contract.
2. State funds programs to stop anti-Asian hate
For its youth mental health survey, the CDC also asked teens if they felt they had been treated badly or unfairly at school because of their race or ethnicity — and 64% of Asian American students said yes, the highest percentage of any racial group. The news came the same day the Newsom administration announced $14 million in grants to 80 organizations working to combat a pandemic surge in anti-Asian hate; millions more dollars will be made available in future rounds of funding. The administration said the money will help fund legal services, case management and mental health support for survivors and their families; violence prevention programs such as art and cultural work; senior safety and escort programs; and other initiatives.
And on Monday, more than 100 members of IGNITE — a national organization devoted to young women’s political leadership — are set to gather at the state Capitol to advocate for two bills that aim to stop hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
3. Farmworkers make their voices heard
Watsonville, a largely Latino farming community of about 140,000 people, could lose its only hospital due to a real estate deal gone bad if the state doesn’t step in, the Wall Street Journal reports. Advocates estimate they need at least $70 million to buy the hospital and save it from closure, and are seeking a state appropriation of at least $15 million. “I’m determined to make this happen,” said state Sen. John Laird, a Monterey Democrat. “This is the most urgent thing that’s facing our region right now.”
Farmworkers also gathered in 13 cities across the state on Thursday, César Chávez Day, to ask Newsom to sign a bill that would allow them to vote by mail in union elections, the Fresno Bee’s Melissa Montalvo reports for CalMatters’ California Divide project. Though Newsom vetoed a similar measure last year, the bill’s author, Democratic Assemblymember Mark Stone of Santa Cruz, thinks things could be different this time around: “I’m very hopeful that what we put on the governor’s desk this year, he’ll sign,” he told Melissa.
Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story
State Senate, District 17 (Monterey)
State Senate, District 17 (Monterey)
Time in office
Natural Resources Secretary
Sen. John Laird has taken at least $976,000 from the Labor sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 31% of his total campaign contributions.
State Assembly, District 29 (Santa Cruz)
State Assembly, District 29 (Santa Cruz)
Time in office
Asm. Mark Stone has taken at least $695,000 from the Labor sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 37% of his total campaign contributions.
Health care essential to ending homelessness: Health care — including substance use treatment and mental health services — cannot be an afterthought if we expect our housing programs to succeed, argues Elizabeth Benson Forer, CEO of Venice Family Clinic.
More money for science and innovation: California’s congressional delegation must advocate for increased funding that will help drive the state’s science and innovation ecosystem, writes Robert Conn of UC San Diego’s School for Global Policy and Strategy.
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The fight for L.A.’s food vendors. // Civil Eats
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