Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven August 1, 2022
Presented by Health Net, California Water Service, Natural Resources Defense Council-Action Fund, and Agriculture Energy Consumers Association

Buckle up for a busy month in Sacramento

KEEP TABS ON THE LATEST CALIFORNIA POLICY AND POLITICS NEWS

Welcome to the final countdown.

Today, state lawmakers will reconvene in Sacramento after a month-long summer recess — during which some traveled abroad on trips funded by special interest groups that lobby them on various issues — for the final, frenzied month of the legislative session.

Legislators face an Aug. 31 deadline to determine the fate of hundreds of bills. Hanging over the high-intensity process is the Nov. 8 general election, which could affect how some lawmakers — especially those vying for contested seats in the state Assembly and Senate — vote on hot-button proposals.

In a preview of the difficult decisions facing lawmakers, hundreds of fast food workers were set to rally at the state Capitol Sunday night in support of a bill that would permit the state to negotiate wages, hours and work conditions for an industry that employs an estimated 700,000 people. A similar measure failed to pass last year.

The proposal, backed by labor unions and opposed by business and restaurant groups, has divided Democrats, some of whom are wary of broadly extending liability for labor violations from fast food franchise owners to the corporate chains they work with, CalMatters reporter Jeanne Kuang notes.

But that’s just one of the many controversial bills before lawmakers, some of which face votes as soon as today. Here’s a look at some of the key bills CalMatters is watching, broken down by subject area:

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Thursday, California had 9,922,718 confirmed cases (+0.5% from previous day) and 92,763 deaths (+0.2% 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.

California has administered 78,762,612 vaccine doses, and 71.7% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.

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1 McKinney Fire erupts near Oregon border

A fire truck drives along California Highway 96 as the McKinney Fire burns in Klamath National Forest on July 30, 2022. Photo by Noah Berger, AP Photo

California has a new biggest wildfire of the year in town: the McKinney Fire in Siskiyou County, near the California-Oregon border. Since igniting Friday amid record-high triple-digit temperatures and thunderstorm-fueled winds, the blaze has burned through more than 51,000 acres of bone-dry fuel in the Klamath National Forest and remained 0% contained as of Sunday afternoon. The McKinney Fire has already exploded in size past the Oak Fire, which ignited the prior Friday near Yosemite and was at the time California’s largest wildfire of the season. As of Sunday, the Oak Fire had burned more than 19,000 acres and was 64% contained.

Newsom on Saturday declared a state of emergency for Siskiyou County to help accelerate the state and local response to the McKinney Fire, which is threatening hundreds of structures and has prompted evacuation orders for some 3,000 residents. Dozens of hikers were also evacuated from a stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail impacted by the fire.

Weather forecasts show thunderstorms, dry lightning, high temperatures and gusty winds could continue pummeling Siskiyou County through today, potentially fueling the flames. “The whole fire triangle is in effect — heat, fuels and wind,” Caroline Quintanilla, a public information officer for the Klamath National Forest, told the Los Angeles Times. Meanwhile, some light rain sprinkled the Bay Area on Sunday ahead of isolated thunderstorms forecast for today, which could spark fires if accompanied by lightning.

2 A mixed water conservation picture

Sprinklers water the lawn of a home in central Fresno on June 3, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

From CalMatters water reporter Rachel Becker: Newsom met with top officials from water suppliers around California on Friday, two months after admonishing them for paltry conservation amid the state’s ongoing drought.  

This time, the tone was decidedly different: The Newsom administration’s recap of the meeting says nothing about mandatory restrictions. Instead, it celebrates a 7.5% drop in water use in June compared to two years ago, based on preliminary reports from water systems serving 95% of the population. That reduction, however, still falls far short of the 15% cuts Newsom asked of Californians last July.

  • Newsom: “We are heading in the right direction but we need local water providers to do more to not only save water, but to help the state manage and increase supply as rain and snowfall become less reliable.”
  • Adel Hagekhalil, general manager of the massive Metropolitan Water District that serves 19 million people in Southern California: “I think we’re on the right direction. … I’ll leave it up to (Newsom) to decide how he sees it. But I think what he saw was a lot of hard work.” 
  • Hagekhalil said his agency has seen a 35% reduction in water use compared to projections in regions where its board approved unprecedented restrictions for 6 million people. 

But other California water watchers — including 68% of adults, according to a recent Public Policy Institute of California poll — say tougher measures at both the state and local levels are needed. 

  • Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute, a global water think tank: “The target of a 15% reduction just isn’t being met. More aggressive local actions are needed, as are new statewide actions to deal with the ongoing drought.”

3 State releases monkeypox data for first time

People line up at a monkeypox vaccination site in Encino on July 28, 2022. Photo by Marcio Jose Sanchez, AP Photo

Amid mounting concern over the spread of monkeypox and calls for California to declare a state of emergency, state health officials on Friday released the first public breakdown of the 786 reported probable and confirmed cases so far. Among the key takeaways from the cases for which demographic information is available:

  • Men make up more than 98% of cases.
  • Gay and lesbian people account for nearly 92% of cases, followed by bisexual people at 5.6% and heterosexual people at 2%.
  • White people comprise 44.8% of cases, followed by Hispanic and Latino residents at 35.8%, Black Californians at 8.7% and Asian people at 6.1%.
  • Nearly 75% of cases have occurred in Californians between the ages of 25 and 44.
  • 11 people have been hospitalized due to monkeypox, and no one has died.

State Public Health Officer Tomás Aragón said in a statement that his team is “committed to fighting stigma against the LGBTQ community. … No single individual or community is to blame for the spread of any virus. Monkeypox can affect anyone and it spreads by skin-to-skin contact, as well as from sharing items like clothing, bedding and towels.”

  • The department also said Friday that while it works to obtain more vaccines, more than 30 facilities and providers can now administer an antiviral prescription drug for those who have already contracted monkeypox. The state also now has the capacity to process more than 1,000 monkeypox tests a week, the agency said.

In other virus news: COVID reinfections — when someone who recovered from a previous COVID infection tests positive again — accounted for 1 in 7 of California’s new cases reported through the first three weeks of July, with more than 50,000 documented reinfections, according to California Department of Public Health data shared for the first time with the Mercury News. “It begs for a new research agenda to understand the risk factors” for people who are repeatedly reinfected, said Dr. Robert Wachter, chair of UCSF’s Department of Medicine.

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CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California is pressuring cities to adopt pro-housing policies, including quotas on zoning residential land. But some cities are seeking escape routes.

California should amp up goals for offshore wind: The future of the Golden State’s energy supply and our ability to wean ourselves off fossil-fuel-generated power could hinge on the California Energy Commission’s goal for offshore wind energy production, writes Terry Tamminen, CEO of AltaSea.

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Other things worth your time


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L.A. Unified estimates tens of thousands of students are missing from back-to-school rosters. // Los Angeles Times

Judge strikes down San Francisco law allowing noncitizen parents to vote in school board elections. // San Francisco Standard

Alameda County sued by anti-affirmative action group over public contracts policy. // Mercury News

UC Berkeley can move forward with $312 million housing plan at People’s Park, judge rules. // San Francisco Chronicle

California cities have millions for affordable housing. The difficulty is spending it. // Courthouse News

You need at least 3 minimum-wage jobs to rent in the Bay Area. // Mercury News

Silicon Valley lurches between deep cuts and bold spending. // Wall Street Journal

California exodus continues: L.A., San Francisco lead the way. // Los Angeles Times

Starbucks scales back in Los Angeles. // New Yorker

Inside Amazon’s plan to combat the Teamsters in California. // Vox

5 patients cost $4 million in ambulance rides: City’s struggling behavioral health system exposed in hearing. // San Francisco Chronicle

Transgender people in California are far more likely to be stopped by police because of ‘reasonable suspicion,’ state report finds. // San Francisco Chronicle

S.F. supes president allegedly used racial slur while berating cadet at City Hall security check. // San Francisco Chronicle

California House Republicans, usually in step, split on same-sex marriage as November nears. // Sacramento Bee

National Republicans aim to help Lanhee Chen break California GOP losing streak. // Washington Examiner

Californians donate big to Republican Trump foe Liz Cheney. // Los Angeles Times

DOJ accuses Russian operative of conspiring with U.S. groups, including in California, to push propaganda. // Politico

White House to give California as much as $631 million to bolster infrastructure against climate change. // Sacramento Bee

Why two California wildfires in the Sierra Nevada had very different outcomes. // Los Angeles Times

California not counting methane leaks from idle wells. // Associated Press

When there’s arsenic in the California water, but ‘we have nowhere to go.’ // New York Times

California banned the sale of kangaroo leather years ago. Lawsuits contest its continued presence. // Los Angeles Times

See you tomorrow

Tips, insight or feedback? Email emily@calmatters.org.

Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

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