In summary

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.

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.

California has administered 72,725,111 vaccine doses, and 74.5% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

1. Schools’ struggle — and promise

Joy Harrison instructs her second graders at Carl B. Munck Elementary School in Oakland on Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2021.
Joy Harrison instructs her second graders at Carl B. Munck Elementary School in Oakland on Aug. 11, 2021. Photo by Santiago Mejia, San Francisco Chronicle/Pool

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

Community members attend a rally against anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander hate crimes at City Hall in San Jose on March 13, 2021. Photo by Anda Chu, Bay Area News Group
Community members attend a rally against anti-Asian hate crimes at City Hall in San Jose on March 13, 2021. Photo by Anda Chu, Bay Area News Group

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

Farmworker Inocencio Cortez rallies in downtown Fresno on César Chávez Day, March 31, 2022. Photo by John Walker, The Fresno Bee

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

John Laird

John Laird

State Senate, District 17 (Santa Cruz)

John Laird

State Senate, District 17 (Santa Cruz)

How he voted 2021-2022
Liberal Conservative
District 17 Demographics

Voter Registration

Dem 51%
GOP 22%
No party 20%
Campaign Contributions

Sen. John Laird has taken at least $1.1 million from the Labor sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 27% of his total campaign contributions.

Mark Stone

Mark Stone

Former State Assembly, District 29 (Salinas)

CalMatters commentary

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.

Other things worth your time

Lull in COVID cases could deflate California’s legislative vaccination agenda. // Politico

Newsom jabs red states for banning book pulled in California. // East Bay Times

Fight over Garcetti’s ambassador nomination intensifies. // Los Angeles Times

Can tech help turn the tide on California’s housing problem? // Governing

City of Malibu seeks to shelter its homeless population outside of Malibu. // Santa Monica Daily Press

Men can afford nearly four times as many homes in San Francisco as women, according to a new study. // San Francisco Chronicle

Rents in some Bay Area cities still cheaper than pre-COVID levels. // Mercury News

California offers mortgage relief program for struggling homeowners. // Sacramento Bee

Two Midwest transplants get a ‘price shock’ in Southern California. // New York Times

How to apply for L.A. County’s $1,000 guaranteed income program. // Los Angeles Times

Low-income California college students stuck with unfair debt. // Los Angeles Times

Palo Alto could put business tax measure on November ballot. // Mercury News

The fight for L.A.’s food vendors. // Civil Eats

A new front opens in Southern California’s grocery store labor dispute: TikTok. // Los Angeles Times

Flawed contract offers clues to rough rollout of school district’s new payroll system. // San Francisco Standard

California county officials frustrated with pace of efforts to investigate Turpin case as probe continues. // ABC News

‘Slow violence that drives death’: a California port city’s struggle with pollution and shootings. // The Guardian

Violence prevention official fired from Oakland says she was bullied by department head. // San Francisco Chronicle

How this S.F. retailer went out of business after a robbery and $30,000 in monthly security costs. // San Francisco Chronicle

Why so little progress in closing L.A. County’s aging jail? // Los Angeles Times

California jumps into Epic-Apple antitrust battle. // MarketWatch

California braces for another cataclysmic wildfire season. // Scientific American

California lawmakers want to build more clean energy, faster. // Los Angeles Times

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...