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The Nooner for Monday, March 16, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
Well, hello there. I made the right decision today. It's 8:15 right now, the governor just finished a press conference and both houses of the Legislature are still in. We'll see how late they go and if I can manage some coherent thoughts after 15 hours at my desk already, except for about a half hour to throw together some dinner (first asparagus of the year!). I was very happy that the Bay Area lockdown exempted farmers markets and I would expect if we have a similar action, Sacramento County will follow.
I failed to link to Reverend Matt's Dharma message at the Sacramento Buddhist Church yesterday, but we probably all can use it all the more today, regardless of dedication to, or absence thereof, a specific faith. I consider myself an agnostic Buddhist as do many people that attend the church, which has grown from being nearly exclusively Japanese-American before internment to a diverse congregation these days.
For those that don't know, Matt succeeded Reverend Bob at the church that goes back to 1899, who was Assembly Chaplain last session and who's wife Patti is Chaplain this session. Here is the link to the message. Matt's message is like with the messages Bob and Patti offer before each Assembly Floor session, during which I like to mute the teevee news and listen to calm, guiding voices. Namu Amida Butsu.
How quickly we went from what people were calling media hype to take down the President to the "ish" getting real. This was the first mention of COVID-19 in The Nooner on January 24:
CORONAVIRUS: A passenger arrived at LAX late Wednesday with symptoms of the coronavirus originating from Wuhan, China, report Jonathan Lloyd and Toni Guinyard for NBC LA. Tests of the passenger were sent to the CDC in Atlanta.
The first confirmed case in the United States was on January 20, although it had taken its devastating toll on Asia and was starting to spread in Europe. The White House Task Force was announced on January 29.
When I started including this in The Nooner when folks were expecting my daily missive to be primarily discussion about bills being introduced and how the state would spend billions in new revenues, I did not think (and now wished had not) in any manner that it would take over our lives. The pivot was right after the election when it became clear that it had taken hold in California and spread beyond just the repatriation flights bringing Californians home from Wuhan, China. On March 5, there were 53 confirmed cases. Eleven days later, there are 490 cases in California and if it continues in the same pattern as other countries, it doubles every three days.
I wish I was spending these long hours writing about something entirely different, I could be talking about how the governor lowballed revenue estimates in January, and reading the crystal ball for November. Yes, they're still counting ballots, although you'll see below that we're under a million left. It is far less than that as many counties haven't recently updated their numbers. Los Angeles County's, the largest, report of 219,500 does accurately reflect the number from last Thursday, and the next update is scheduled for tomorrow.
GOV'S PRESSER: STATE'S ADDITIONAL STEPS: Yesterday, Governor Gavin Newsom held a press conference [video] to announce additional steps the state was taking to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Rumors were abound about what he might do going in to the "presser" as we refer to them around here, and most were wrong.
He did not announce an executive order. He did not close schools. He didn't tell all non-essential employees to stay home. He did not shut all restaurants.
The "big government liberal" from the "Left Coast" took a far more cautious approach while exhibiting a deeply serious tone. He seemed to draw a contrast with some of the his Democratic and Republican peer governors and warned against acting in an hasty manner and stated that they were making decisions based on science, data, and the experience of countries that are deeper in the crisis than California is now.
He also is showing deference to local government officials to customize guidance based on the public health situation on the ground in their counties. In some counties, there are no cases. Counties like San Francsico, San Mateo, and Santa Clara have large outbreaks, while north of Sacramento, there are only single cases in Humboldt and Shasta counties among the 18. As of this morning, there are confirmed cases in 27 of the state's 58 counties.
But, he made it clear that he expects the guidelines to be followed and, if they are not "it only takes a signature" to make them legal edicts. We'll get to the specific actions below just to try to organize them.
Citing the President's response Saturday that he did not take responsibility for failures of the federal government on the early roll-out of the testing supplies, Newsom responded to a reporter "Yes. I take my responsibility seriously," continuing on to talk about his role as a governor, father, and community member.
When pressed about the enforceability of the guidelines I discuss below since they are not executive orders, he cited the March 11 recommendation that events of larger than 250 people should not be held and the fact that many local governments have issued enforceable public health orders that met that standard, or more strict.
As usual, Governor Newsom used no notes and showed a mastery of topics that even critics are awed by. Of course, as he's said, he has to memorize facts and names because he is dyslexic and notes trip him up.
I wrote most of the above paragraphs this morning but decided to leave them in but obviously it has been a day full of developments. I'll cover some below and more tomorrow.
...the Capitol, the numbers, and the governor's guidelines after the jump...
BALLOT STATUS: We're getting closer...
Take the unprocessed ballots with a grain of salt as it relies on counties to update. Why I display this after the first report is a damn good question.
THE CAPITOL: In light of the dramatic changes being asked of Californians, the Legislature has recessed until April 13 under Assembly Concurrent Resolution 189, although the leader of each house may call the Legislature back prior to that date. The Legislature was already scheduled to be out for Spring Recess from April 2-April 12, so the action largely conforms with school district, many college, and business closings. The resolution also allows the Senate Pro Tem and Assembly Speaker to extend the recess if necessary, or it will happen automatically if the governor extends the guidelines for home isolation statewide. The resolution was adopted unanimously in both houses; the resolution was coauthored by the Assembly Speaker and the Assembly Republican Leader.
The Senate also approved a resolution to adopt new rules on a rare voice vote to allow for remote participation in committee meetings. The Assembly may already have such provisions and I'll look for that to share with you. The governor's May 12 executive order provided for remote participation in local government meetings.
Before leaving, the Legislature today acted on two bills to address the state's response to COVID-19 and, in demonstrating the seriousness with which they are considering the situation, the votes were unanimous on both bills in both houses. Additionally after both bills were amended with new content to respond to the emergency today, the governor requested that the relatively new transparency rule that bills be in print for 72 hours before a final vote. (Article IV, Section 8(b)(2))
The bills are:
One of the last things the State Senate did was speaking on the motion to adjourn of in the memory of former Assembly member Katcho Achadjian (R-San Luis Obispo), who passed away on March 5 at 68. Representing the moderate Central Coast, Katcho developed relationships on both sides and was quick to pull out a cigar and talk about his life. He was born in Lebanon and arrived in the United States not speaking English. He worked at a service station, went to community college and then Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and eventually bought a service station.
More than one member was near tears while speaking about Katcho tonight. While many of shed tears upon the news of his passing (he was on Assembly Higher Education, so I interacted with him in my previous life), I couldn't help but notice the weight the current public health emergency is placing on legislators. They honestly didn't know what to do as a body in this situation. A few asked me over the weekend if it's better to stay in session to show government functioning or to be in their communities.
I think the tipping point was this afternoon's six-county Bay Area order to shelter in place and then Los Angeles County's closure of bars, gyms, theaters, and restaurants for dine-in service. The buzz was also around that Governor Newsom was going to extend those orders statewide, something that was encouraged of him and other governors by President Trump on a conference call this morning. If everything was going to be shutdown, should they still be in Sacramento and keep staff there as well.
Further, legislators are human. Most have families at home that they want to hug nightly in this scary time for kids and adults alike. Many have parents and grandparents that they are concerned about, as do I. They care about their staffs who are going through the same angst. Many are going home to shelter in place, although as I noted above, committees may meet under certain conditions remotely.
Most likely, this will be a scaled-back legislative year. Many of the ambitions legislators had for 2020 when they returned on January 6 will take a back seat for however long this takes. But today, in unanimous votes that are rare when it comes to spending money, they found a higher calling and a common purpose.
Folks have asked me about legislative deadlines. Nearly all deadlines can be waived with a simple majority vote, with the only constitutional deadlines being June 15 for budget passage, August 31 for the end of the regular session (special sessions can continue), and November 30 at midnight, which is the sine die end of the 2019-20 legislative session.
I'll still be here and many still reading, but let me offer to the entire Capitol community my wishes for health and safety to all, and to family, and other loved ones.
cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to State Senator Scott Wilk!