Truckers demand action from Newsom amid port blockade
As Gov. Gavin Newsom takes action on a slew of gun control bills, truckers are accusing him of failing to respond to a controversial state labor law they’ve been protesting for weeks, halting almost all operations at the Port of Oakland’s shipping terminals and snarling an already severely backlogged supply chain.
First up: the gun bills. Newsom on Thursday signed into law a package of legislation tightening California’s strictest-in-the-nation gun regulations — and on Friday approved the pièce de résistance, a bill modeled on Texas’ abortion law that would allow private Californians to sue anyone who manufactures, distributes or sells certain illegal firearms.
- A bill banning people convicted of child and elder abuse from owning a firearm for 10 years.
- A bill banning firearm sales on state property, including gun shows at county fairgrounds.
- A bill requiring anyone who produces more than four firearms per year — either by milling together unfinished components or using 3D printers — to first get a gun manufacturing license from the state.
- A bill mandating school districts to provide annual information to parents about California’s safe gun storage laws and report any “perceived threat” of a mass shooting event to law enforcement. It would also require law enforcement or school police to conduct an investigation and threat assessment, including a search of school and student property under certain conditions.
“None of us can afford to be complacent in tackling the gun violence crisis ravaging our country. … California will continue to lead on lifesaving policies that provide a model for action by other states and the nation,” Newsom said in a press release announcing the bill signings.
Meanwhile, another crisis is building at the Port of Oakland, where truckers have since Monday been protesting AB 5, a state labor law that requires companies to reclassify many of their independent contractors as employees. The law has thrown into jeopardy the legal status of California’s approximately 70,000 independent truck owner-operators, even as labor groups say it will protect them from wage theft and other abuses.
The demonstrations — which follow protests last week at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach — have shut down trucking operations at three of the Port of Oakland’s four marine cargo terminals since Monday afternoon, Robert Bernardo, the port’s director of communications, told me Thursday. The protests have also blocked hundreds of unionized dockworkers from entering, according to labor leaders. That’s forced the port’s largest marine terminal operator to halt work on board ships and docks due to a shortage of labor, Bernardo said.
Truckers say they plan to continue blocking the West Coast’s third-busiest container port until Newsom agrees to meet with them and listen to their concerns about the law’s impact on their business model, according to the Wall Street Journal.
- Protester Bill Aboudi, owner of AB Trucking, told CNBC: “So far there has been no contact with the governor’s office. It seems the governor is not concerned about taking American workers’ rights away.”
- A spokesperson for Newsom’s office told me in a statement: “California is committed to … ensuring our state’s truck drivers receive the protections and compensation they are entitled to. This administration has employment tax incentives, small business financing, and technical assistance resources to support this essential industry. The state will continue to partner with truckers and the ports to ensure the continued movement of goods to California’s residents and businesses, which is critical to all of us.”
Bernardo said it’s not clear when trucking operations will resume at the Port of Oakland: “We have no idea because we don’t know what the truckers are gonna do. … We want a resolution. Any extended disruption of the Oakland seaport is going to be costly in terms of local jobs and businesses that rely on goods movement. … In this business, time is money.”
If the disruptions continue, he added, shipping companies are going to start taking their business elsewhere, such as ports in Georgia and Virginia.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 9,752,509 confirmed cases (+0.8% from previous day) and 92,292 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data now updated just twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
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1 Where do foster kids’ federal benefits go?
Some California children in foster care qualify for federal benefits totaling hundreds of dollars a month because they’re from low-income families and have disabilities or one or both of their parents died. But county child welfare agencies regularly reimburse themselves for caring for these foster youth by applying for and taking their Social Security benefits — money that advocates say should instead be going to the children, CalMatters’ Jeanne Kuang reports.
- Kristina Tanner, 21, who this year aged out of California’s extended foster care system, which she was placed in at age 7, and now works three part-time jobs while attending college: “Those benefits, it would have been a game changer. I would, if I had those funds, be able to support myself. … It could be sitting in (an account) that’s just growing for you. It could be retirement.”
Although a growing number of states are considering putting a stop to this practice, California isn’t among them — despite its recent focus on building financial safety nets for foster youth. State and county child welfare officials say that intercepting children’s Social Security payments is legal and emphasize they’re using the money as intended: to provide for foster children as if they were their parents. The situation poses a challenge for child advocates, who want foster youth to receive the full amount of their benefits but say the reimbursements are a financial incentive to counties to screen children for eligibility so they can receive the money as adults.
- Sabrina Forte, director of policy and impact litigation at the Alliance for Children’s Rights: “Counties understand this as a way to get kids connected to federal benefits but also maximize federal funding streams. … We just want the counties to be talking about this with the kids.”
2 Some COVID orphans to receive state trust funds
Meanwhile, some long-term foster youth are poised to receive state money via trust funds California is setting up for low-income children who lost a parent or primary caregiver to COVID-19. The first-in-the-nation program for so-called COVID orphans — of which California has an estimated 32,000, 66% of whom are Latino — will seed the accounts with money that will grow until the children turn 18, at which point they can use the funds for school, housing or other needs, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reports. California has allocated $100 million for the program, though details of eligibility and deposit size still have to be worked out.
- Martin, Angel and Miranda Basulto lost both of their parents to COVID within weeks of each other in January 2021. Martin, now 27, became the de-facto head of household, moving back home to take over responsibilities like paying the mortgage and making sure his sister Miranda got to high school on time, Elizabeth writes.
- Martin: “The smallest amount can go a long way. I want her to be prepared for when she goes to college and I’ll help in any way I can, so any other help available is greatly appreciated.”
Advocates say the program is a stepping stone to a larger goal of providing trust funds for all low-income children who qualify for Medi-Cal — the state’s health care program for the poor — regardless of COVID’s impact on their families.
- Shamika Gaskins, president and CEO of Grace and Child Poverty California: “This is really a part of our longer-term vision to end child poverty in California by closing the racial wealth gap and providing opportunities for our most vulnerable children.”
3 Trifecta of California housing news
Here’s three pieces of California housing news, three ways:
- California’s housing department is asking about 5,400 tenants and landlords to return money received through the state’s COVID rent relief program, for reasons including overpayment, renters allegedly withholding funds from landlords and fraudulent activity, the Sacramento Bee reports. It’s the latest development suggesting the state has struggled to effectively administer the program: A superior court judge last week ordered the California Housing and Community Development to stop denying people’s applications for pandemic rent relief and suspend any rejections issued in the last 30 days until further notice.
- Meanwhile, landlords across the state will be able to raise rents by as much as 10% starting Aug. 1 due to skyrocketing inflation rates, the Los Angeles Times reports. Although only apartment complexes built before 2007 and not otherwise subject to local rent control measures are eligible for the 10% uptick, it marks the first time landlords will be able to charge the maximum allowable increase under a 2019 state law capping annual rent hikes.
- With home prices soaring between 2020 and 2022, approximately 1.2 million Californians now have at least $1 million in equity in their homes, according to a Public Policy Institute of California analysis released Thursday. About half have lived in their current home for more than 20 years, and almost all are white or Asian/Pacific Islander.
Voters will decide whether California breathes easier: Proposition 30 would raise billions of dollars to curb air pollution by taxing the 0.1% of Californians most able to afford it, restoring clean air to the low- and middle-income families who most need it, argue Nick Josefowitz, chief policy officer for SPUR, and Shane Ysais, a Chino Hills and Moreno Valley resident.
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San Diego will steer contracts to women and people of color — but it’s legally risky. // San Diego Union-Tribune
S.F. Mayor Breed vetoes law to end single-family zoning, arguing it will actually hurt housing production. // San Francisco Chronicle
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Crews gain on Washburn fire; Yosemite to reopen an entrance. // Los Angeles Times