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PRIMARY ELECTION DAY: 13 days
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The Nooner for Wednesday, February 19, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
BALLOT UPDATE (COURTESY PDI):
¡Feliz miercoles! By the time you're reading this, I'll likely be in the air between Mexico City and Dallas and Governor Newsom will have given his State of the State address. The speech should be posted here after he concludes.
I'll have a write-up on my trip in the next couple of days after I transfer a bunch of photos that don't want to transfer via AirDrop on this wifi network and what good would the write up be without pics? I started writing it last night but then got bogged down in the PPIC poll crosstabs because that's what geeks do in a cafe de jugo on their last night in CDMX. A governor once said "I'll be back" and as it pertains to me and Mexico City, that is certainly true.
I'll catch up on yesterday's independent expenditures in tomorrow's Nooner.
On the above ballot update, some Democrats are freaking out because of the disproportionate share of Republican returns. Ignore it for four reasons. 1) Because of the Voters Choice Act counties, more irregular voters are were automatically mailed ballots and they skew Democrat and NPP and thus younger and less white. 2) Republicans often vote earlier than Democrats. 3) This year, Republicans have no reason to wait to vote, even if they are never-Trumpers as they can't vote in the Dem primary without re-registering. Many Democrats are waiting until after Saturday's Nevada caucus or even next Saturday's South Carolina primary to vote. 4) Remember the Democratic dominance in California, which affects percentages of return. Let's look at the absolute numbers of returns, which will make the percentages seem less striking:
If you haven't played with PDI's tracker, you can drive down by districts and geography.
Let's get to it after the jump...
POLL POSITION: Late yesterday, the Public Policy Institute released portions of its February Statewide Survey, the remainder of which will be released on Thursday. Please note that the poll was in the field February 7-17, so it was after the February 3 Iowa but caucuses but the February 11 New Hampshire primary was mid-poll. You can interpret that however. If you like Klobuchar, you can talk about Klomentum out of NH. If you like Bloomberg, you can point to his ads and bump in the national polls since. If you like others, you can point to events in California over the last week. If you like Steyer, lo siento.
While there was appropriate criticism of the January poll as PPIC included only candidates that had made the January debate stage and Steyer qualified mid-poll, now that the field has winnowed, the survey included all active generally accepted national candidates.
Anyway, what is important is trends. Here are the national ones from Real Clear Politics and let's look at what California looks like.
If we take the two February polls using very different methodologies, the top five are within the margin of error--Sanders, Warren, Biden, Buttigieg, and Bloomberg. These also appear to be the only ones likely to capture statewide delegates on March 3. There are no public polls on the 53 congressional districts and I don't think campaigns are doing them either as it's way too expensive to get sufficient sample sizes. That said, I think we can infer that those five are likely to collectively capture nearly all of the district-level delegates.
I'll be looking at the crosstabs more and thinking about their implications over the next few days.
NEWSOM APPROVAL RATING: PPIC also released Gavin Newsom's approval rating last night, which is 53% approve, 33% disapprove--an increase of 2% since the January survey. The last two months are in the margin of error and both are the highest approval ratings of his governorship, an number that has been at the lowest 44% but at the "worst" a net approval of +12 last September.
more after the jump...
FIREFIGHTERS: Two Porterville firefighters lost their lives last night battling a massive blaze a the city's library, reports Anthony Galaviz in the Bee.
Smoke could be seen miles away coming out of the library, which was built in 1953 and for years has been a popular place for youths to visit.
Captain Joanne Bear confirmed there were no sprinklers inside the library.
Neither the cause of the fire nor how the firefighters died were immediately known, and the fire remains under investigation.
Just last month, Porterville’s City Council held a special joint meeting to discuss the possibility of opening a new library facility or renovating the current building.
HEALTH CARE: In the Times, Melody Gutierrez reports that Covered California has again extended the deadline for Californians to obtain health insurance without a state tax penalty in 2021. The new deadline is March 31 and open enrollment has been extended to April 30.
“The penalty is on the books, but no one wants that money,” said Peter Lee, Covered California’s executive director. “We want that to be the economic nudge to get people covered.”
However, the health insurance exchange saw an 8% drop compared to last year in the number of residents renewing their health insurance. Lee blamed that drop on the federal government’s decision to remove its own individual mandate effective last January. The Trump administration’s action prompted Gov. Gavin Newsom to announce his own plan to create an uninsured penalty and expand health insurance subsidies.
Covered California said Tuesday that, on average, lower-income individuals received a subsidy of $608 per month when combining state subsidies and federal tax credits, which took monthly premiums down to $272. State subsidies for middle-income residents who did not previously qualify for any state or federal subsidies helped drive down premiums by an average of $504 per month for nearly 32,000 consumers.
Lee said even more striking was that more than 1 in 10 middle-income earners had their premiums reduced by more than $1,000 a month.
AB 5 (Gonzalez): Because this issue came up again on Twitter yesterday, I'll write about it again. Admittedly, I didn't read the whole thread as I was touring Cayoacán, eating churros, drinking atol de elote, biking with a group through the alleys of the oldest part of the modern hispanic Mexico City and looking at churches and Cortes's house, and finally visiting Casa Azul, the Museo de Frida Kahlo. Oh, I got sidetracked. The point is that I was taking a lot of photos and also turning my phone off to conserve my battery so that I could Uber back.
Anyway, folks wondered why I defend AB 5 as better than nothing. I've written extensively on this before so I won't repeat all of it. I'll refer you to my Seven Bills in Seven Days on August 10, which admittedly was during summer recess when many people were vacationing and I know not all of you read The Nooner (let alone write it) while away. There are two links in that also of previous times I wrote about it.
In short, in April 2018 the Supreme Court of California (SCOCAL) unanimously held in Dynamex that the twelve-factor Borello test and subsequent wage orders by the defunct Industrial Welfare Commission were not consistent with the prevailing California Labor Code. Instead, they applied a stricter A-B-C test for when companies must consider those performing work as employees and not independent contractors.
Critics of the decision point out that the case was a class action certification case out of Los Angeles Superior Court and SCOCAL acted in an overly broad manner. Labor cheered the decision after facing years of private sector decline, threats of public sector decline after the United States Supreme Court's decision in Janus, and the growth of the "gig economy," where technology is connecting services with customers through independent contractors that traditionally would have been employees.
There's a saying in the legal world that "bad facts make bad law," and that was certainly the case in Dynamex. Dynamex, now owned by Montreal-based TFI International, was a document delivery service that affirmatively recategorized existing employees to independent contractors, thus removing benefits and paying payroll taxes and unemployment insurance. They screwed the legal pooch on that one.
The SCOCAL decision in Dynamex only applied to the plaintiff class in that case. However, the decision meant that the strict A-B-C test was the law of the state for every area of the economy and was an opening of the floodgates for litigation for some "you've got to be kidding me" professions such as barber Kevin who works at Jason's great Iverson Barber Shop on 10th Street. Like many salons and barber shops, Kevin rents a station, can set his prices, schedule, and the like. But, a strict A-B-C test could have required Jason to treat Kevin as an employee and taking away the flexibility Kevin likes.
I used a simple example, but the same thing could have played out in the legal, medical, accounting and many other areas of California's economy.
While they didn't say it explicitly, my read of Dynamex was a loud yell from the San Francisco-based court to the Legislature "Hey you, you haven't updated your Labor Code and need to do so."
Now, I've been a critic of the approach taken with AB 5 as a codification of Dynamex with industry-specific exemptions. I would have preferred the Legislature actually take time to figure out a test between Borello's twelve-point test and Dynamex's A-B-C. But, I'm just a writer and talker. I don't lobby anymore and don't testify my opinion in hearings.
I still would prefer a smart discussion, but that's simply not going to happen this year. We have the app-based transportation companies (Uber, Lyft, DoorDash, and Postmates) pursuing an initiative to exempt themselves. We have Republicans calling for both more exemptions and a a complete repeal of AB 5 to be replaced by a codified Borello. That ain't gonna happen.
Senator Cathleen Galgiani (D-Stockton) is calling for the smart discussion in SB 1039, but she's on the outs with labor and the Democratic Party as she is supporting Modesto council member Mani Grewal (D) as her successor, while labor and the party is supporting Assembly member Susan Talamentes Eggman (D) for the seat and things are pretty nasty.
AB 5 author Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego), a powerful legislator as chair of Assembly Appropriations and chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus, acknowledges more exemptions are needed and has introduced a spot bill that will be amended soon. But, she is sticking with a codified Dynamex A-B-C test with exemptions. I don't see her losing that fight this year.
As I wrote above, I don't like the approach, but it is far better than Dynamex as written. It limits the rush to the courthouse in many areas of the economy, which is a good thing, with apologies to my friends in the plaintiffs' bar. It also avoids good players, such as Jason at Iverson's from having to change a barber shop station-rental structure that has existed forever to an employer-employee approach.
There are clear exemptions that were missed last year, largely because they don't have lobbyists, such as community arts groups and gig musicians, like Senator Steve Bradford (D-Gardena). They'll get exemptions in 2020.
There are lots of other players that are not following AB 5 that lost the exemption fight last year and unlikely to win an exemption this year. This includes the app-based transportation and delivery companies who are hoping for the November initiative. Instacart is already in trouble in San Diego Superior Court after the San Diego City Attorney filed a complaint against them, and the initiative doesn't really apply to their shop-and-deliver model. I don't know what will happen with the popular company.
In short, more exemptions will be approved this year, but these big "gig economy" companies are not likely to win. However, I think the November initiative will pass and I don't know that labor will put up a huge fight pitting unions against popular consumer-oriented companies, many of which their members likely use.
All the above said, the 2019 exemptions and the 2020 exemptions are far better than Dynamex as written. As a sage once said "You can't always get what you want, but you get what you need."
The question is how they will get what they need. Some companies like Instacart may simply not survive, which would suck for users and investors. But after all, it's the art of the possible in politics and it is what it is.
INSURANCE COMMISH: In the SDUT, Jeff McDonald reports that Consumer Watchdog has sued Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara and his office, alleging that they have not complied with Public Records Act requests.
The nonprofit group, which was responsible for the 1988 ballot initiative that created the elected commissioner position, says in a lawsuit Tuesday that Lara withheld records related to meetings with insurers that have business before the state agency.
The 22-page legal complaint also claims the state agency omitted records sought under the California Public Records Act — and generated alternative documents instead.
The nonprofit had requested Lara’s calendars and his communications with insurance companies since he took office.
“Consumer Watchdog has been informed by whistleblowers that the Department of Insurance created a new version of the original calendar entries to avoid disclosing certain meetings and meeting ‘notes’ containing details of Lara’s interactions with insurance company officials,” the nonprofit said.
The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles Superior Court. It included more than 550 pages of exhibits — emails, meeting summaries and other records previously released by the Department of Insurance that the plaintiff contends are incomplete.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) is taking a first step at addressing the issue. He introduced legislation Friday that would require employers in both the public and private sectors to accommodate workers and job applicants who use marijuana for medical purposes, which was legalized in California in 1996.
“To be discriminated against by your employer because of the type of medicine you use is both inhumane and wrong,” Bonta said. “Medical cannabis, as recommended by a doctor, should be given a similar reasonable accommodation as all prescription drugs.”
Bonta’s bill would not apply to “safety-sensitive” workers required by federal law to be drug free, including airline pilots, police officers and truck drivers, nor would it cover employers with federal contractors who are required to maintain drug-free workplaces.
He noted that 16 other states, including Arizona, New York and Illinois, have already adopted worker protections similar to the ones he is proposing.
But opponents of Proposition 64 say the law shouldn’t be eased, given that an increase in positive drug tests in the workplace was predicted after legalization.
Uber after the jump...
UBER: In the Times, Joahana Bhuiyan reports that Uber has closed a downtown Los Angeles customer-support office and offshored the jobs.
Without advance notice, staffers were informed Thursday their jobs would be shifted to a large customer support office the company maintains in Manila, according to sources who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing severance.
In a recording The Times obtained, Uber manager Ruffin Chevaleau acknowledged that the meeting was called on short notice before delivering the news.
“We have decided to close the downtown L.A. office and we will be moving the outreach and innovation work to our Manila C.O.E., where we can continue to support the business as it grows,” she said, using an abbreviation that means Center of Excellence, the in-house term for customer support hubs. “I know that this is a shock. This meeting is to inform you all that today is the last day in this office.”
The employees were mostly customer support staffers who were paid hourly and focused on driver outreach, with tasks such as processing documents, resolving account issues and explaining incentives and promotions. (Uber considers both drivers and riders its “customers” and supports them out of the same department.) Chevaleau told the workers they would receive severance packages and could apply for jobs within Uber and meet with a recruiter. She said the company would also cover relocation for those who found jobs in other Uber offices.
“This is not easy news to deliver,” Chevaleau, who is a lead at the company’s Phoenix customer support office, said. “It was important for me to be here in person.”
Speaking of Uber, it is even more popular in Mexico City than US. Locals hate the taxis because of the non-transparency of fares unless you're buying a fixed fare at the airport or very limited sitios. When you book an Airbnb or a tour, they generally say "Uber to" an address. When you talk to locals, they say "Uber to..." Of course, the city has one of the cheapest public transportation network in the world (subway=USD$0.27, bus=USD$0.16 for most places you are going, including transfers).
That said, during rush hours (like six hours a day), they can be packed and you don't want to be carrying anything more than a backpack and want to be vigilant. Although I've heard lots of warnings of pickpockets, if you're smart, it's not a problem. I keep my money in my front pockets and divide it between two. If I have my backpack and am not sitting, I back up against a wall. If you're smart, no problemo. Also, there are reserved sections of the subways for women and children, although I've heard buses (which get packed beyond belief) can be particularly difficult for women.
In the Centro where I'm staying, you can't hail a cab and if you call one it's an hour wait. However, there are a dozen Ubers within a few blocks from me right now.
They have also heard of AB 5 down here. More than one person (driver and tourists) has asked me some variation of "Why is California outlawing Uber?" I say "Well, that's not what's happening, but I can't really explain Dynamex particularly with my horrible Spanish.
Anyway, more tomorrow. Sadly, I need to head to el aeropuerto.
Cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Bob Schoonover and Jason Teramoto!