What will Gavin Newsom roll out on his California tour?
From CalMatters politics reporter Alexei Koseff:
At long last, a resolution to the fall standoff between Gov. Gavin Newsom and local officials over their plans to decrease street homelessness.
That’s the first takeaway from Newsom’s four-day statewide tour to launch his 2023 policy agenda, which kicks off this afternoon in Sacramento, before heading to the Bay Area and Southern California through the weekend.
In November, Newsom announced that he would withhold $1 billion in state homeless funding from cities and counties until they came up with more ambitious targets for reducing the number of people living on the streets. After two tense weeks, including an hours-long private meeting in Sacramento with more than 100 local officials where he took them to task, the governor relented, agreeing to release the money as long as the jurisdictions committed to more aggressive benchmarks.
So what have they come up with? That’s what Newsom will unveil at this first tour stop at Cal Expo, the state fairgrounds that opened during brutal storms two months ago as an emergency homeless shelter for the first time in at least a decade.
You can bet the goal will be more than a 2% reduction in visible street homelessness between 2020 and 2024, a decrease of about 2,000 people, the initial marker that the governor declared was simply not good enough. And indeed, Newsom announced that local governments are on track for a 15% reduction by 2025, and are in line to receive another $1 billion in state funding.
The news will come alongside another announcement that the Newsom administration plans to purchase 1,200 tiny homes and use the California National Guard to distribute them to communities across the state to help meet their homelessness reduction targets. Installation is set to begin this fall.
The governor’s office is keeping tight-lipped about what to expect for the rest of the tour, which Newsom is undertaking instead of delivering a traditional State of the State speech.
But his press team has revealed that the governor will travel next to the Bay Area on Friday for an event about “improving public safety,” then to the Los Angeles area on Saturday for an announcement on “reducing health care costs” and San Diego on Sunday to discuss “mental health care reform.”
Alexei also reports that late Wednesday, Newsom’s office announced it won’t go through the Legislature for his proposed penalty on windfall oil profits but will instead put forward a new bill that would create a watchdog division within the California Energy Commission.
The division would investigate alleged price gouging by the oil industry and authorize the commission to set through its rule-making process a threshold above which profits would be penalized.
Lastly, during a tour of flooded regions on Wednesday, the governor stopped by the town of Pajaro, which flooded last week when its nearby levee broke, report CalMatters’ Lauren Hepler, Nicole Foy and Wendy Fry.
Newsom said officials will assess damage and update the state of emergency designations, which is important for getting more federal government money for recovery efforts.
He also announced $600 checks are headed to flood-affected farmworkers, whatever their immigration status — money coming from the United Way. Thus far the governor hasn’t committed state funds to either undocumented workers or cannabis businesses, both of which aren’t eligible for federal emergency aid.
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Other Stories You Should Know
1 A question of eligibility
Who is eligible for what state benefits can be a hairy question for a variety of Californians, including convicted criminals and college students.
Through a program called One California, the state’s Department of Social Services allocates about $45 million in grants to nonprofits that provide legal aid for low-income immigrants. Immigrants convicted of serious or violent felonies cannot access these funds for legal representation, however.
Democratic Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer from Los Angeles wants to lift that restriction, reports CalMatters’ Wendy Fry, so he introduced a bill that would expand the program.
- Jones-Sawyer: The expansion “ensures racial justice and true equitable access to crucial immigration services for all — not some.”
One California has paid for the defense and legal services of more than 1,000 Californians facing detention, deportation or family separation. This assistance is one of the ways the state Legislature has attempted to push back on former President Trump’s anti-immigration policies.
With a $22.5 billion budget deficit on the horizon, however, critics believe the state’s priorities should lie elsewhere.
- Assemblymember Bill Essayli, a Republican from Riverside: “The people we’re talking about in this bill have already been convicted of a serious felony, after being afforded their government-paid defense. I see no legal or rational basis for why the California taxpayer should then be financially responsible for defending the deportation proceeding of a convicted felon.”
Meanwhile on May 11, President Biden plans to end the country’s COVID emergency declarations. This will impact federal funding for CalFresh, a state program that provides food for low-income residents, including students.
With this deadline looming, school officials are scrambling to inform their students that some of them will no longer be automatically eligible come June 10, report CalMatters’ Jeanne Kuang and Mikhail Zinshteyn.
To make the notoriously complicated process of renewing or applying to CalFresh a little bit easier, counties are adopting a new site, BenefitsCal.com. The site will intake public benefits applications, which include food aid. Applicants can schedule appointments with and message their case managers online, upload documents and update their case info.
The most important advice: Don’t wait. Because of eligibility restrictions (inherited by 1970s-era assumptions that college students are more affluent), student applications for food aid are denied more frequently. But when successful, a qualifying student could get up to $281 in food benefits.
2 Imperfect solutions for student housing
Besides studying for their classes, balancing a social life and working to afford tuition, college students care about housing — a lot.
But California’s anticipated multi-billion deficit has put plans for student housing in jeopardy. In his budget proposal, Gov. Newsom wants to delay $1.2 billion in loans and grants set aside for building affordable student housing by a year, reports CalMatters higher education reporter Mikhail Zinshteyn.
More specifically, he wants to decrease the $750 million in grant money for 2023-24 to $500 million. The remaining $250 million would be allocated for the year after. And rather than spend a combined $1.8 billion on campus no-interest loans in 2023-24 and 2024-25, he proposes to spend no money in 2023-24 and spread the funds across the two years after that instead.
Protecting funding for student housing is a goal for legislators of both parties. But as Mikhail explains, there are different ideas on how or when to do it:
- Fund the no-interest housing loan program for the upcoming year instead, and none of the housing grants.
- Break previous promises to spend grants on housing for community college and prioritize state colleges and universities instead.
- Incentivize private developers to build more off-campus housing, as advocated in this student-backed bill.
- Most severely: Drop the remaining $2.5 billion investment designated for student housing in past state budgets altogether. It’s a surprising suggestion handed down from the Legislative Analyst’s Office, the body’s own policy advisor.
As thousands of students continue in their struggle to find affordable housing near campuses, the schools themselves have gone ahead and submitted housing plans that total up to $2.1 billion — far exceeding the $750 million proposed in grants.
3 CA leaders vie for DC jobs
Two California officials carving out careers in D.C. met varying degrees of success on Wednesday.
The U.S. Senate finally confirmed former Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti as the U.S. ambassador for India, after putting him in purgatory for nearly two years, reports the Los Angeles Times.
President Biden first tapped Garcetti in 2021, but his nomination was contested amid concerns from both Republicans and Democrats that he knew about sexual misconduct allegations against his top aide and didn’t intervene. With six absences, senators confirmed Garcetti on a 52 to 42 vote, including crucial support from six Republicans.
But as CalMatters’ Lauren Hepler reports, a potential promotion for former California labor chief Julie Su got even more contentious, as labor advocates squared off with conservative critics.
Republicans and business advocates gathered in front of the state Capitol to blast Su’s nomination as U.S. secretary of labor over a laundry list of concerns. Those include support of a fast food labor regulation law that the industry is trying to kill in the 2024 election, a contract worker reclassification law that Uber, Lyft and others have so far blocked at the ballot box and in the courts, and a pandemic unemployment meltdown that delayed worker benefits while the state lost as much as $30 billion to fraud.
- Kevin Kiley, a new member of Congress and former Assemblymember from Rocklin: “I am urging President Biden in the strongest terms to immediately withdraw Julie Su’s nomination. To say that Su failed in her previous role… is an extreme understatement.”
- Tom Manzo, founder of the California Business and Industrial Alliance: California is “over-regulating small, medium, large-sized businesses who cannot survive in this climate. And the last thing we need to do is export her policies to the United States.”
Backing Su are major labor unions, including SEIU and the California Labor Federation. They released a joint statement calling on the U.S Senate to move ahead with her confirmation hearing after Biden nominated her last month.
Supporters tout Su’s record as a civil rights attorney and policy efforts like ramping up California wage theft investigations.
- The union statement: “Su is universally respected for her competence and dedication. She has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to upholding workers’ rights and has worked collaboratively with high-road employers to support efforts to improve job quality.”
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: Tulare Lake disappeared as water was diverted to irrigate crops. But this year, it will re-emerge.
A nationwide recall of more than 362,000 Tesla vehicles equipped with full self-driving software didn’t go far enough, so California regulators must take additional measures to guarantee safety, argues Dan O’Dowd, founder of The Dawn Project and president and CEO of Green Hills Software.
Seeking youth with opinions: We have youth webinars on opinion writing coming up, the second on Friday, to help students prepare submissions for our Earth Day Op-Ed Contest. Share it with a young person who wants to write about community environmental issues.
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Sacramento and Solano counties square off with state over mental health duties // California Healthline
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S.F. Mayor Breed, Supervisor Preston clash over public safety plans // San Francisco Chronicle
County will fund app to connect homeless people with housing // The San Diego-Union Tribune
Expansion of college financial aid in California may be at risk // EdSource
Silicon Valley Bank CEO leaves powerful board // San Jose Spotlight