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- KQED's Political Breakdown (Scott Shafer and Marisa Lagos): Lenny Mendonca, Chief Economic and Business Advisor to Governor Gavin Newsom, on the economic impact of the COVID-19 (2020-03-12)
- Then There's California (Senate Democratic Caucus): Senators Jim Beall (D-San José) and Tom Umberg (D-Anaheim) on the Census (2020-03-12)
- Look West (Assembly Democratic Caucus): Assembly member Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) and Secretary of State Alex Padilla on the Census (2020-03-12)
- KQED's Political Breakdown (Scott Shafer and Marisa Lagos): Politico's Carla Marinucci on primary results and Warren's departure (2020-03-05)
- Capitol Weekly Podcast (John Howard and Tim Foster): Paul Mitchell on the departure of Elizabeth Warren and what's next in the presidential (2020-03-05)
The Nooner for Sunday, March 15, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
- The Capitol
- Ballot update
- Cakeday and classifieds
Well, hello there. It's Sunday but a strange one for most of us. From church to sports to events, you probably have had something canceled today. I know that some folks were looking for what seemed to be the one safe spot to get away from crowds with the storms coming through but then yesterday afternoon a cascade of ski resort closures hit Utah, Colorado, and California.
For me today, it means no Sakura Matsuri food and craft fair at the Sacramento Buddhist Church. The annual event is one to look forward to where the (largely) sangha elders prepare food an for days and crafts for month to sell to raise money for activities. It's sad to see it canceled, but I was happy to hear that, as it's a highly vulnerable population. The church is closed for at least three weeks. Reverend Matt, however, provides a much-needed Dharma message for today addressing these times that even non-Buddhists will probably not find comforting. (For those not familiar, the Jodo Shinshu sect among Japanese-American is relatively secular.
Of course, I'll be at farmers market this morning and I expect that being six feet apart will be easy if it's like last weekend where the usual crowd was sparse even given a perfectly beautiful March morning. I'll be there when it opens, have my hand sanitizer on hand, but happy to get ready for the secluded week ahead with local produce and protein. I'll probably end today's Nooner with what I see when I get back from market.
It will get worse before it gets better. Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute stated again thsi morning on CNN's Inside Politics that if we want to avoid the Italy situation, we need to close all restaurants and bars as Italy has done and France, and Spain are exploring. We're on the same trajectory in case "growth," although there is a fair debate that the growth looks bigger because of the testing inadequacies in the U.S. France and Spain are approaching taking the same step as Italy in moving toward a total lockdown.
Elected leaders in Western democracies are testing the length to which their populations will go amidst a health crisis to an extent often tolerated only in wartime. Actually, in Italy, it is beyond those steps taken during wartime, as even the plentiful (and beautiful) churches are closed for even private prayer. No wine bars and no churches in Italy. So, many have taken to singing with their neighbors from balconies. Italians seem to be taking it well. Che bello!
Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease since 1984, on Meet the Press strongly suggested a national lockdown akin to what is happening in Europe, including public schools. He's on the White House Task Force on the COVID-19 and I assume you have seen that he's one not to mince words and has been pulling other members of the task force (and the President) along.
We don't have to "close" all restaurants, but we can close them for in-person dining. This is what Simi Valley is doing through its chamber of commerce. We now have the ability to allow almost any restaurant to deliver on multiple platforms. (No AB 5 debates today please.) Yes, restaurants will be impacted, but they already are. Many are closing or significantly cutting back hours of employees because they simply don't have the business. Yesterday, my "man on the ground" (T at Southside Market) was telling me about downtown kitchen employees that are his regulars that told him that they were going back to Mexico for awhile because there simply aren't the hours.
Italy has kept open supermarkets and pharmacies only. We could have a middle ground of allowing restaurants to serve take-out and delivery. There are still risks but it recognizes that there are plenty of Americans that don't cook at all and will get sick of canned food quickly.
The Capitol: I was intentionally strong yesterday after hearing from many members of the Capitol community. I received plentiful "thank you" emails from current and former staff members, legislators, and other members of the Capitol community. Let me be clear, I was not calling for a closure of the Capitol. If I could say it with far fewer words, it would be "Focus only on the crisis at hand or go home. Clarify which legislative employees and how they can work from home."
If I didn't respond to your email or gave you a simple "thanks," lo siento. I read everything that comes in but frankly there is so much right now that I don't necessarily have time for a long response. It's a firehose of information.
My recommendations for the Capitol after the jump.
If I were king, I would take the following steps:
- Special session. Governor Gavin Newsom should call a special session and fast-track a few bills and make it clear that the Legislature is primarily focused on the crisis. Yes, I have bills I'd personally love to see that have nothing to do with the crisis, all the general public cares about right now is federal, state, and local government response to the public health emergency we have on our hands.
Article IV, Section 3(b) provides that in a special session, the Legislature may only legislate only on subjects specified in the proclamation. That doesn't mean all other work must stop. Special sessions typically run parallel to regular sesions. Some years we have had multiple.
- The first bill. Whether in special-session as reintroduced or the existing bill in the regular session AB 1995 (Luz Rivas) to, at least during a public health emergency, eliminate the "co-pay" for students receiving reduced price student lunches. Parents are picking these up at sites for their kids in closed school districts. To expedite the administration of this important effort, cash shouldn't have to be changing hands or owed money tallied.
That unnecessarily slows the process down when parents are already balancing new child care needs and likely the need to show up for work. I don't have data in front of me, but I'm guessing many if not most parents of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals work hourly wage jobs that can't be performed at home. We don't need to see lines of cars like those waiting for COVID-19 tests in some states in order to pick up lunches for eligible kids. We want it to be faster than fast food, because the goal is a more nutritional meal for the kids.
Governors (and legislative leaders) don't like to call special sessions unless outcomes are largely known in advance, and that's my take as well. I'm sure beyond AB 1995 that the Administration has identified some statutory or budget changes needed that could also be fast-tracked. Keep the special session open as the primary focus of the Legislature.
Now, a special session doesn't necessarily change the effective date of a bill like AB 1995. Under Article IV, Section 8(c)(1), the main difference in a special session is that legislation takes effect 90 days after the adjournment of the special session, which (hopefully) will be too late. However, the same provisions regarding urgency bills apply. Whether done as an urgency bill in the regular session or special session, the governor can request the bill in writing to waiver the 72-hour rule (Section 8(b)(2)).
We can get this done this week while our school districts are handing out these meals to families with eligible children in shuttered schools.
Democrats likely have two-thirds vote to push the current version of AB 1995 through without Republican votes to take effect immediately. That said, I think an amended version specific to the current state of emergency only would get through on a bipartisan, near-unanimous vote. We're talking about expedited meals for eligible kids whose schools are closed. To be honest, I don't know how this is being handled by districts. I doubt cash is being collected at the pick-up sites but (like too often happens), bills are being accrued and could dissuade already demonstrably poor parents from picking up meals in an already tenuous economic environment. That's just silly in this crisis.
Then, another permanent bill can go through the regular process with full fiscal analysis and discussion.
- Focus, focus, focus. As I have written for the last several days, the 2019-20 approved and 2020-21 proposed budgets are no longer worth the proverbial paper they are written on. That doesn't mean we should panic, as we've been squirreling away acorns for a recession. We just didn't know it would happen so fast let alone for this reason.
- Work from home. Clarify work from home critera for legislative staff. Technically, legislative employees are employed by the Rules Committee in the two legislative houses. It's an awkward arrangement, since their day-to-day work is for a state legislator. There are complicated employment law issues relating to picking-and-choosing who can and who can't work from home and the functions of different legislative staff members are complicated. Obviously, those who primarily write analyses or correspondence can work remotely easier with measurable work outcomes than those who usually spend most of their time interacting with members of the public, including the professional members of the Capitol community.
- Make it clear that the new federal Public Health Emergency Leave Act applies to legislative employees. For complicated statutory reasons that I need not get into, it is unclear if the law passed in DC overnight Friday-Saturday applies to legislative employees as it pertains to the new paid leave provisions for public health emergencies. Both houses should amend their employee handbooks to include this provision to ensure that parents that want/need to stay home with their kids with canceled school can.
The federal law allows employers to require employees taking such leave to exhaust up to two weeks of other leave time (i.e. sick and vacation) before the emergency leave kicks in. Unlike hourly employees in restaurants or retail, there is no real additional cost to the State as an absence for emergency leave is not backfilled by another employee. So, adopt the federal law but scrap the two-week waiting period.
- Create an emergency assistance fund for legislative employees. I wrote yesterday about the anger of some legislative employees about tax-free per diem most legislators take that works out to $5,628 per month on top of salary. I also wrote about why that's necessary to allow non-wealthy folks to serve in the Legislature. Many legislative employees are paycheck-to-paycheck, some are single parents, and some who are not have spouses or partners who are being laid off, furloughed, or facing fewer hours. I think lots of legislators would be willing to give 20% of their per diem for a month to an assistance fund. If 25% of legislators donated 20% of their per diem to an assistance fund for one month only, that would be over $30,000. That could provide over 60 grants of $500 (or more of less) to employees with a hardship claim. That's food for a single parent and kid for a month.
As I wrote, there is a lot of hostility among staff about per diem. This simple step could go a long way to bridging that gulf.
- Shut the Capitol to non-essential folks and allow for virtual legislative and written testimony. Many local governments have moved to remote testimony for meetings. Most of our colleges and universities are moving entirely to online/alternative instruction. The Capitol should be closed to those other than members, staff, and media. Create a system of registering to give live interactive video testimony (like many cities are doing). If it is a bill hearing during the special session recommended above, committee staff can arrange two witnesses on both side that is the standard in busy committees.
"Me too" testimony can be written and posted on the committee web site. If we truly narrow the focus for at least the next month, we can do things that are normally dismissed as impractical. You know what's impractical? Shutting down school districts for a majority of the state's school kids and expecting parents to sort life out amidst great economic uncertainty while also worrying about the health of their own parents.
I'm sure I have more as my crazy brain has been all over the place often thinking of things in the middle of the night and I no longer keep neither note pad bedside (I should) nor my strobe-light broken screen laptop in bed (I should not). Anyway, tomorrow "is just a day away" as someone once sang.
Clarification: Yesterday, I stated that Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove) was the only member of the California delegation to not vote in favor of H.R. 6201, the "Families First Coronavirus Response Act." My friend Jon Fleischman caught an error on my part. In my haste yesterday, I didn't look at the abstentions. Three California congressional Democrats did not vote--Julia Brownley (D-Ventura), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), and Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo). ¡Los siento, mis amigos!
much more including the numbers after the jump...
- Ballots counted: 8,962,471 (+4.8% of 2016's 8,548,301)
- Unprocessed ballots:
- Vote-by-mail: 780,268
- Provisional: 295,886
- Conditional (late) voter registration: 150,580
- Other (i.e. damaged ballots): 59.217
- Total unprocessed: 1,285,951
Take the unprocessed ballots with a grain of salt. Twenty-six counties that continue to submit ballot count updates haven't updated their unprocessed ballots since election night. For example, Los Angeles's reported unprocessed is double the current number of unprocessed ballots. Why I display this after the first report is a damn good question.
- California confirmed cases: 421 (+102 from yesterday), with 5 deaths (-1 from yesterday -- dupe). Confirmed cases in 27 counties. [h/t SFChron]
- Travel restrictions: While President Trump suggested yesterday that domestic travel restrictions are being considered "for targeted areas" that would likely include Santa Clara (San José International Airport and possibly even SFO in California), Dr. Anthony Fauci said on "This Week" this morning that the task force has not seriously discussed it at this point. Obviously, domestic and international traffic at these airports is already down significantly because of the travel ban and cancelation of major conventions, conferences, and business travel.
- San Mateo: Looking to its adjacent neighbor Santa Clara County to the south, one of the three biggest hot spots nationally, San Mateo County yesterday announced the strongest limitations of gatherings in the state. Through April 6, the county has prohibited all gatherings of more than 50 persons and gatherings between 10 and 50 persons without the host implementing specified COVID-19 mitigation procedures, such as allowing 6 feet between each person. The public health officer urges even the smaller gatherings to be altogether canceled. [text of order]
The only exemptions to the order are (i) airports or spaces where persons are in transit; (ii) commercial office space or hotels (iii) places of worship for purposes of conducting religious services or ceremonies; (iv) grocery stores, shopping malls and other retail establishments; and (v) hospitals and medical facilities.
Most large churches have closed and the big high-tech San Mateo employers have already moved to work-from-home arrangements. However, this essentially closes all large restaurants, movie theaters, and the like. These restrictions, and likely more, are coming to you. Government officials are testing the willingness of their residents to accept the restrictions imposed on residents of Italy, France, and Spain, but are preparing for a full lockdown before it's too late. Italy waited too long and its hospitals are over-run. Beyond insufficient beds and ventilators, I have heard estimates as high as 20% of the medical personnel being sick. And, while China has sent ventilators to Italy, it takes personnel to operate them.
- Mutual aid. The situation in Italy is important to think about as California prepares for the worst. This is unlike a natural disaster. California has its natural disasters--floods, fires, and earthquakes. That's part of our living here and each state has its own disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes. This is different.
As noted above, 27 counties currently have confirmed cases of the virus. The fact is that it is likely far more of the state's 58 counties have cases that haven't been tested yet because of the hiccups in rolling out testing even for symptomatic people currently in hospitals or nursing homes.
The point is that, unlike our localized natural disasters with which we flood the affected areas with resources from other areas of the state (or other states), the crisis is so geographically broad that the usual approach simply can not apply. It's going to be each county on its own and, if we go to lockdown like the countries in Europe, each person on their own. It is what it is.
Everybody is vulnerable even if not high risk or even is asymptomatic. Perhaps the highest profile Californian announced that he tested positive for the virus yesterday. Steve Padilla, chair of the California Coastal Commission and Chula Vista City councilmember, posted this video on Twitter yesterday to inform his friends, colleagues, and the public who he has been in contact with over the last week that he tested positive for COVID-19. This is an important step that anyone to take. The fact is that the volume of new cases are such that public health officials can't do the "contact tracing" they did with the early cases. They are overwhelmed and those who are able can take steps like Padilla to alert folks that have been in direct contact to be vigilant for symptoms and, when possible, get tested.
farmers market, cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
Farmers market this morning indeed had fewer vendors than usual but many of the regulars were there (we've also had sporadic and at times heavy rain this morning). Those selling proteins were bustling as visitors did a bit of hoarding of their own. Instead of toilet paper, it was local pastured meats and organic eggs, but people were filling their freezers and fridges. Vendors were using gloves and there were observable changes among visitors in human behavior such as being more spaced apart, using hand sanitizer (or even gloves) before handling produce.
A couple of vendors I talked to said that, while they were happy for the business as they arrived early this morning uncertain what the patronage would be, they were concerned with the hoarding of the day's stock during the first hour 8-9 when I was there as they were fearing there wouldn't be enough to satisfy later-arriving customers. "Grocery stores are going to be open. Even if farmers market is closed, we'll continue our CSA and provide home delivery...Eggs will continue to be produced during a shutdown...the vegetables in the field and the animals in the pasture don't shut down..."
There was a petition being circulated to request that the state and local governments treat farmers market like grocery stores in the event of a wide-scale "lockdown." As I've written, the lockdowns in Europe have exempted grocery stores. Farmers markets argue that they should be treated the same, because there is no difference from Safeway or Whole Foods. Walking around this morning I was thinking about that and remembering that loose produce is at "kids level" at those stores while it generally is not at grocery stores that maximize square footage by using as much vertical space as possible.
Anyway, any state and local actions should treat farmers markets as they do supermarkets. Most, including Sacramento's main one under the freeway, take SNAP/EBT, and is a far healthier destination than the corner stores (which may or may not be open). That's not a dis at corner stores, as I write frequently that I get lots of my real world knowledge while talking sports, politics, and the news of the day with T across the street. We also talk about health and on which products some of those important benefits are spent. He was also who I talk to about legislation on sugary sodas, tobacco, and other issues that come up in the Legislature.
Thank you to farmers for showing up, the people who work every day to feed us, and the patrons who turn out to support them.
CAKEDAY: No birthdays that I know about today!
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