Your guide to California policy and politics
BY Emily Hoeven August 3, 2022
Presented by Agricultural Energy Consumers Association, Natural Resources Defense Council-Action Fund, and California Water Service

Farmworkers to march, mental health workers to strike

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Workers across California are taking to the streets.

Today, the United Farm Workers union is set to embark on a 24-day, 335-mile march from Delano to Sacramento to urge Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign a bill that would permit farmworkers to vote from home in union elections. Farmworkers and their supporters are set to arrive at the state Capitol on Aug. 26, a few days before the legislative session draws to a close.

The “March for the Governor’s Signature” comes about a year after Newsom vetoed a similar bill, prompting infuriated farmworkers to march to the French Laundry, the luxurious Napa County restaurant where Newsom was caught in the early days of the pandemic dining maskless with lobbyists.

The governor’s relationship with farmworkers has since endured further strains: In March, Newsom angered union members by embarking on a family trip to Central and South America right before César Chávez Day, when farmworker leaders had requested to meet with him to discuss this year’s version of the vote-by-mail bill. Frustrated farmworkers ended up holding rallies in 13 cities across the state.

Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher, who as an Assemblymember authored the bill Newsom vetoed, said she plans to join the march near Stockton. Gonzalez Fletcher last week assumed leadership of the California Labor Federation, bringing the United Farm Workers with her. The farmworker vote-by-mail bill is a priority piece of legislation for the powerful alliance of unions.

  • Assemblymember Mark Stone, the Santa Cruz Democrat carrying this year’s bill, told the Fresno Bee that supporters “don’t yet have an agreement with the governor’s office,” but he’s “very hopeful” it will pass.

Meanwhile, a union representing 2,000 Kaiser Northern California mental health workers announced plans Tuesday for an open-ended strike beginning Aug. 15, citing unsustainable workloads and patients waiting weeks or even months to access care, CalMatters’ Jocelyn Wiener reports.

The union also alleges that Kaiser is at risk of running afoul of a state law that went into effect July 1 requiring patients to receive follow-up mental health care within 10 business days unless a provider determines a longer wait won’t be detrimental.

Separately, California health authorities in May launched an investigation into whether Kaiser is providing adequate and timely mental health coverage to its more than 9 million enrollees.

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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 9,983,370 confirmed cases (+0.6% from previous day) and 92,889 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.

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

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1 Water savings improve, but not enough

A sign posted outside the state Capitol in Sacramento highlights an initiative to conserve water on July 1, 2022. Photo by Jonathan Wong, California Department of Water Resources

Californians living in urban areas slashed their water use by 7.6% in June compared to the same period two years ago, according to figures released Tuesday by the State Water Resources Control Board — a slight improvement from the 7.5% drop Newsom administration officials reported last week based on preliminary reports from water systems serving 95% of the population. The final report shows that every region of the state saw a decline in water use compared to 2020, ranging from a 4.2% decline in the Colorado River region in the southeast part of the state to a 12.6% decrease in the San Francisco Bay Area.

  • The water board said in a statement: “During the hot and dry summer, water use typically increases substantially because plants are thirstier. So, the fact that we saw more water savings in June suggests that aggressive actions taken by the state and by local suppliers are taking hold.” But, the board added, “We need to make up for lost ground from past months to meet the 15% statewide conservation goal” set by Newsom last July.
  • Indeed, from July 2021 to June 2022, Californians slashed their water use by just 2.7% relative to 2020 levels, water board data shows.
  • Meanwhile, California water prices are at an all-time high, Bloomberg reports.

Other environmental news you should know:

2 Whither California crime statistics?

Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks at a protest demanding meaningful investments in crime prevention and healing at the Capitol on Feb. 23, 2022. Photo by Fred Greaves for CalMatters

We know that homicides in California jumped 31% in 2020, but what about in 2021? Those statistics haven’t yet been released, breaking the state attorney general’s pattern from 2015 to 2021 of publishing reports in early July on the prior year’s crime data, according to a Monday letter Republican Assemblymember Tom Lackey of Palmdale sent Attorney General Bonta. “Legislators, researchers, local agencies and our constituents rely on this data to make informed policy decisions about crime and public safety in California,” Lackey wrote. “With only one month left in the legislative session, it is imperative that we are able to account for the latest trends in crime and public safety as we consider significant reforms to the criminal justice system.”

  • Asked when Bonta’s office plans to release the 2021 crime report, a spokesperson told me in an email “we’re working to get the reports out as quickly as possible.” The spokesperson added that the office is helping law enforcement agencies secure approval for upgraded record management systems so they can submit crime data into a new federal database, and “this ongoing transition has impacted the collection of data and release of the annual crime reports this year.” The spokesperson said the state’s own system was certified by the FBI earlier this year.
  • Meanwhile, the Department of Justice’s public online data portal is still offline more than a month after it briefly published the personal identifying information of more than 240,000 concealed carry weapon license applicants. “We are working to bring the site back online as soon as possible,” the spokesperson wrote. “At this moment, we do not have an update on timing as to when (the portal) will be back online.” Bonta’s office is conducting an internal investigation into the data release, and Republican lawmakers have also called for an independent state audit.

3 A busy day in LA

An aerial view of Los Angeles. Photo via iStock/Getty Images

Tuesday was quite a big day for the residents of Los Angeles County, home to about 25% of California’s population:

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CalMatters Commentary


CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s lawyer lobby is trying to prevent the State Bar from exploring alternative services to help residents access legal advice.

Why prior authorization is good for patients and pocketbooks: The process exists not to deny needed health care, but to ensure evidence-based care and avoid costly out-of-pocket medical bills, medical complications and subsequent procedures, argues Dr. Adam Solomon, chief medical officer for the MemorialCare Medical Foundation.

Other things worth your time


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Vin Scully, forever the voice of the Dodgers, dead at 94. / Los Angeles Times

Pelosi’s Taiwan trip spurs new military activity in the Pacific. // The Hill

Anthony Rendon intends to stay on as California Assembly Speaker. // KCRA

S.F. school member Ann Hsu joins unanimous vote for her own admonishment. // San Francisco Standard

California’s local governments could soon be more able to remove disruptive meeting attendees. // Sacramento Bee

San Clemente City Council to consider banning abortions within city limits. // Voice of OC

Family of California shooting victims sue gun distributor. // KPBS

New batch of CSU records shows professors disciplined for sexual harassment. // EdSource

SDSU opens own inquiry into alleged gang rape by football players, 9 months later. // San Diego Union-Tribune

Judge bars Sacramento from clearing homeless tent encampments until Aug. 25 at earliest. // Sacramento Bee

Biden, Harris back Karen Bass in Los Angeles mayoral race. // Los Angeles Times

Gavin Newsom’s fundraising edge is due to wealthy Bay Area donors. // San Francisco Chronicle

A California union president sent $25 gift cards to members. An uproar and reprimand followed. // Sacramento Bee

Failure to disclose evidence in murder case led to full review of D.A. Brooke Jenkins’ work under Chesa Boudin. // San Francisco Standard

Kingston got big fines alleging improper transfers, then left behind needles, meds. // Bakersfield Californian

California regulators sue Mercury Insurance, alleging it overcharged drivers, homeowners. // Sacramento Bee

Rent-A-Center settles alleged California overpricing dispute. // Associated Press

Californians with criminal records still face housing barriers. // Los Angeles Times

Sellers beginning to make concessions as Bay Area home prices drop. // Mercury News

Court blocks huge Lake Tahoe ski development at Olympic Valley. // San Francisco Chronicle

Demand for workers fell in June to lowest level in 9 months. // Wall Street Journal

A man rode BART for 7 hours. He was declared dead at the end of the line. // San Francisco Chronicle

Burglars ransack 7 businesses in Oakland’s Little Saigon during 90-minute raid. // San Francisco Chronicle

6th Street bridge: A civic wonder that reflects L.A.’s promise and its simmering problems. // Los Angeles Times

State can seek environmental safeguards for Oroville Dam beyond federal regulations, California Supreme Court rules. // San Francisco Chronicle

Toxic algae in Northern California’s Clear Lake corrupting drinking water and causing ‘horrendous’ smells. // San Francisco Chronicle

See you tomorrow

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

Follow me on Twitter: @emily_hoeven

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