Inside lawmakers’ climate trips to Egypt, Japan
Get ready for another raft of ambitious climate bills when California lawmakers return to Sacramento next month.
A few days after the Nov. 8 election, bipartisan groups of more than a dozen state legislators — including some who have hit term limits and won’t be returning to the Legislature — embarked on international trips with a heavy climate focus. One delegation headed to Egypt for the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, and another went to Japan to study its climate and affordable housing policies.
The trips come less than a month before newly elected lawmakers are set to convene Dec. 5 in Sacramento for a swearing-in ceremony — and to begin a special session called by Gov. Gavin Newsom to consider levying a tax on oil industry profits. And they come amid an intensifying fight with the oil industry, which is seeking to qualify a 2024 referendum to overturn a new state law banning new or extensively retrofitted oil and gas wells near homes, schools and hospitals.
But lawmakers attending the U.N. conference said during a Wednesday press conference from Egypt that even more aggressive action is needed, and that California’s goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2045 doesn’t go fast enough.
- State Sen. Bob Wieckowski, a termed-out Fremont Democrat: “We spend too much time worrying about 2045 and not worrying about 2024 and 2023. We need to do things right now to reduce our carbon emissions.”
- State Sen. Dave Min, a Costa Mesa Democrat: “Ultimately, if we don’t innovate rapidly right now, we’re gonna be in big trouble. … We can solve this problem. But we really have to take it with the seriousness that it deserves. To date, I think we’ve not quite done that, although of course our state is leading.”
Among the proposals lawmakers said they’re considering introducing in the next legislative session:
- Auditing “global corporations” that pledge to achieve net-zero emissions. “One thing I’ve been exploring is whether we can … find a path for California to be that stamp of approval and sort of be the integrity cop,” said state Sen. Henry Stern, a Calabasas Democrat.
- Incentivizing Californians to return excess energy stored in electric car batteries to the state’s power grid during peak hours to avoid blackouts. Instead of California sending residents an emergency alert asking them to reduce consumption, “Imagine an alert saying, ‘Hey, you can make like 100 bucks right now if you hook up your car to the grid,'” Min said.
- Considering targeted investments in foreign countries. Wieckowski, who won’t be returning to the Legislature, floated the idea of using non-taxpayer funds — such as money reaped from California’s pollution credit program — to address certain issues beyond state borders. One example he cited: cleaning up Mexico’s Tijuana River, which perpetually pollutes San Diego beaches.
Other legislators who attended the Egypt conference: Democratic state Sens. John Laird and Bill Dodd and Democratic Assemblymembers Eloise Gomez Reyes, Reggie Jones-Sawyer and Mike Fong. A Senate spokesperson said no state funds were used. The Assembly paid for a security staffer to attend, but didn’t cover costs for legislators, who received a $5,000 travel stipend from The Climate Registry, said Katie Talbot, a spokesperson for Speaker Anthony Rendon.
Meanwhile, a separate delegation is in Japan from Nov. 11 to 22 for a “study tour” sponsored by the California Foundation for the Environment and the Economy, which recently took lawmakers on trips to Maine, Canada, Iceland and Portugal.
Joining representatives from the foundation’s board of directors — which includes business, labor, environmental, utility and local government leaders — were State Treasurer Fiona Ma; Democratic state Sens. Bob Archuleta, Susan Talamantes Eggman, Lena Gonzalez and Josh Newman; Republican state Sen. Scott Wilk; Democratic Assemblymembers Steve Bennett, Tasha Boerner Horvath, Laura Friedman, Alex Lee, Al Muratsuchi and Chris Ward; and Republican Assemblymember Devon Mathis. Senior Newsom administration officials were also set to attend.
According to a trip itinerary, the group is slated to tour hydrogen production facilities, port infrastructure and a Toyota hydrogen fuel cell vehicle manufacturing plant; meet with elected officials and business, labor, environmental and community leaders; and learn more about Japan’s famous bullet train, affordable housing programs, clean energy investments and nuclear power plant operations.
- Jay Hansen, president and CEO of the foundation, said in a statement: “Japan is leading the way on hydrogen fuel and nuclear power as promising climate-smart technologies. It’s critical that California keeps an open mind as we look for the best ways to reduce carbon emissions while keeping the lights on, managing costs and building on our state’s history of environmental protection.”
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1 McCarthy eyes House speakership
A week after polls closed in California’s Nov. 8 election, here’s the latest look at where things stand:
- House Speaker Kevin McCarthy? Although the Associated Press had yet to declare control of the U.S. House of Representatives as of Tuesday night, Republicans were virtually guaranteed to come out on top: They had 217 of the 218 seats required for a majority, compared to Democrats’ 209. But other media organizations called a California congressional race in favor of Republican Kevin Kiley, putting the House in GOP hands. Meanwhile, House Republicans nominated Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield to take the speaker’s gavel, though the final vote won’t happen until January. Possibly complicating McCarthy’s path to the speakership: Former President Donald Trump’s 2024 bid for the White House, which he announced Tuesday night.
- California is no country for Republicans: Lanhee Chen, seen by many as the GOP’s best bet of winning statewide office in California for the first time in nearly two decades, conceded the state controller’s race Tuesday evening to Democrat Malia Cohen. “While more votes remain to be counted in the race for California State Controller, it has become clear that I will not be able to win this election,” Chen said in a statement. “We are fortunate to live in California, a place of hopefulness and aspiration for so many. … Unfortunately, in too many ways, California continues to fall short of its enormous potential. The hard work of creating a better state goes on.”
- Checking in on the City of Angels: U.S. Rep. Karen Bass continues to widen her lead over billionaire businessman Rick Caruso in the Los Angeles mayor’s race, while controversial Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva conceded Tuesday that he’d lost his reelection bid to Robert Luna, a little-known retired police chief from Long Beach. Meanwhile, voters in the city of Inglewood were poised to approve — and those in Duarte seemed ready to reject — ballot measures to set a minimum wage requirement of $25 per hour for some of the lowest-paid workers at private hospitals, integrated health systems and kidney dialysis clinics. The initiatives are the brainchild of California’s largest health care workers union, which was also behind the failed statewide measure to increase regulation of dialysis clinics.
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2 Will new nursing rules expand health care access?
California took a long-awaited step aimed at expanding health care access on Monday, when the state’s nursing agency approved rules to allow nurse practitioners to treat patients without physician supervision, CalMatters’ Ana B. Ibarra reports. About 20,000 nurse practitioners could be eligible to apply for expanded authority in 2023, a major milestone in their years-long battle to break free of physician oversight. The expansion was opposed by the state’s powerful doctors lobby, which warned it could lessen the quality of care and even put patients at risk. But nurse practitioners — who can perform physical exams, order lab tests, diagnose ailments and prescribe medication — say the law will simply help them provide much-needed care in underserved areas.
- Cynthia Jovanov, president of the California Association of Nurse Practitioners: “This means that if I want to do a mobile clinic in Skid Row, I don’t have to be held hostage by paperwork to get a partnering physician who may not have the same desire.”
- Loretta Melby, executive officer of the state’s Board of Registered Nursing: “What was updated was the supervision requirement. And so it’s not like the nurse practitioner is now going to have the freedom to go out and perform surgery; that has never been a nurse practitioner scope of practice.”
3 California strike updates
Let’s dive into the latest news on the widespread work stoppages across California:
- Today and Thursday, unionized resident physicians and fellows at UCLA and UC San Francisco hospitals are set to hold “unity break” events to call for improved pay and benefits. (A UC Davis hospital held a similar event Tuesday.)
- They join about 48,000 University of California academic workers, who are heading into their third straight day of systemwide strikes that have disrupted classes, grading and lab research not long before final exams. UC has called for an impartial third-party mediator to aid with negotiations, which aren’t set to resume until today, union organizers told the Associated Press. They said no end date has been set for the work stoppage. (The UC Regents, meanwhile, may vote Thursday on whether to block UCLA’s attempt to leave the Pac-12 and join the Big Ten Conference, according to the Los Angeles Times.)
- Meanwhile, fast food workers used their Tuesday strike as an opportunity to deliver to the California Department of Industrial Relations nearly double the 10,000 signatures required to establish a new state council to regulate industry wages and working conditions. The move intensifies their campaign against fast-food companies’ attempt to qualify a 2024 referendum to overturn the first-in-the-nation law establishing the council. “Corporations had their chance to argue. They hired every lobbyist in town. They went into every office. And they lost,” Democratic Assemblymember Miguel Santiago said at a Los Angeles rally. “The bill went to the governor’s office. He signed it. (The companies) need to come to the table” and engage with fast food workers.
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