Around The Capitol

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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 Thursday, March 19, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners

  • Why health experts and electeds who listen to them are so scared
  • Coronavirus/COVID-19
    • Today's numbers
    • Shelter in place counties
    • State actions
    • State employees
    • Cannabis
    • Sacramento
  • Ballot update
  • Cakeday and classifieds

Important note: In these 16+ hour days, I'm consuming news from lots of sources. I'm trying to link to non-paywall and nonprofit stories as much as possible and am not doing the author crediting the way I normally do. I try to link as much as possible to original sources, but often times my trail to the original source came by way of something I read in a traditional publication.

I urge you to subscribe to your local newspaper (digital or dead trees) as journalists are busting their asses and working under unthinkable circumstances to cover this story. It's easy to joke about "work from home" being 80% (if that) productivity, but journalists (like other essential folks) are working 150%+ time if my experience mirrors theirs at a time of a huge drop in revenue.

Whether it's the smaller local papers or our statewide/national papers including the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee, San Diego Union-Tribune or San Francisco Chronicle, they need individual support to keep telling the story of this crisis.

We've already lost the many of the "alt" weeklies including the Sacramento News and Review and the others in the group. They rely almost exclusively on retail advertisements and, with the establishments mostly closed, their revenue stream has alredy dried up. On the SN&R site, the banner at the top says "We are suspending publication (at least temporarily)." Those "rags" that you are used to grabbing for something to read before a quick lunch may not be there when you return to work. At the end of last year, the OCWeekly that I grew up grabbing for a read shut down.

Advertising won't do it, including for The Nooner. I am grateful for my advertisers and I know they are grateful for your eyeballs. A few years ago, I changed what was then Nooner Premium (now ATCpro) to include the ads because paid subscribers wanted to see them, since they are policy-oriented. Pros around town want to see who is advertising and what their message is. So, the trade was including the ads but going to a seven-day publishing week of The Nooner.

I'll keep going as long as I can, but my fixed costs (server and newspapers) are over $550 per month. And, while I live quite cheaply, I still have to pay rent, health insurance, and other bills to keep doing this each day. This is my only income. Even if offered side gigs, I couldn't fit it in my schedule. And, there's no such thing as unemployment insurance in this world. If each daily reader gave $5 once a year, I wouldn't worried. It is what it is and I love what I'm doing.

Many of you are still being paid and are working from home. Now is the time to support the publications you are relying on for news. Stop complaining about paywalls. The words behind them are coming from people who are working a 150% workload right now with no overtime and the same stresses that you have about family members and many with the same child care challenges. Even for publications that don't have paywalls, like The Nooner, CalMatters, Capitol Weekly, and our public broadcasting friends (particularly KQED and CapRadio), now is the time to step up and support them if you can.

If you can't because of financial struggles, I totally understand. For that reason, The Nooner will continue to be free and on many days will be twice a day should the news justify. You can support this effort when things return to a semblance of normal.

Moving on...

SF City Hall Loves Italy

At 3,405 deaths, Italy has now exceeded deaths in China.
Last night, San Francisco City Hall was lit with the colors of the Italian flag in support during the crisis.

Many of you are "working from home" or sadly out of work. Even in "shelter in place" counties or cities, the orders generally allow you to take a stroll for exercise as long as you provide social distance. At least here in Sacramento, the dreary recent days have given way to a beautiful blue sky. On this first day of spring, it is a great day to take a break and go on a scavenger hunt to find those blooming bulbs. In SacTown, the azaleas and camellias are particularly glorious right now. It's a great way to get away from the teevee and internet, which we all need for our mental health.

Sorry for the nag above on behalf of journalists and myself. Of course, if your inbox is anything like mine, you are getting such requests from everyone. The only saving grace is that the Democratic presidential primary has winnowed. It was insufferable there for awhile. I'm still getting 3-5 each from Biden and Bernie these days, and my name is somehow "Alex" on Trump's campaign list. I was on all of them for awhile, either from purchases of lists or scoundrels adding me. It comes with the job.

Many readers have asked how I'm holding up, particularly those who have been around for a long time through the roller coaster that has been my life. I appreciate your concerns and I am concerned about each and every one of you whether or not we know each other personally.

I'm doing great. Because of my history of crappy lungs, I'm taking precautions mostly as if I'm high risk, as are friends I met at National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine in Denver during those long stays in 1987 and 1989. We still talk to this day in a Facebook group and share what each other is doing to protect themselves.

After a bad bout of insomnia a few weeks ago, I have been sleeping better than in a long time even if it is amidst fewer hours lying in bed. I think I remember about 5 minutes of the podcast I was listening to at 10:30 before sleeping soundly for six hours.

I've been talking to my family (like TALKING, with voices) more than in years. The only significant thing in my extended family was the cancelation of my grandmother's 100th birthday party March 29 in Portland. When the idea was first brought up, it seemed like a terrible overreaction to such a milestone event. Now it seems silly that the issue was even debated.

The only downside is that my eating habits of paid a price. I'm still cooking mostly paleo dinners with farmers market ingredients each night and having good breakfasts, I've eaten more chips and ice cream over the last ten days than in the last ten years as I spend so many hours at my desk. Fortunately, this too shall pass and is going to require a second Whole30 of the year only months after the first!

Also, while disasters from fires to floods to viruses bring literal tears to my eyes, so do the changes in Californians' behavior and society that too often are only seen in disasters. Monday night's legislative session with unanimous votes on the two major bills and the tribute to former Assembly member Katcho Achadjian who passed away earlier this month was one such occasion. I'll try to do a better job looking for those bright spots but, to borrow a phrase from the late President George H.W. Bush, I am confident I could find far more than "a thousand points of light" around California during this crisis -- daily.

BROADER THAN WE THOUGHT: If you've been following the news, you likely heard about the increasing concerns coming out of France, where reportedly 50% of the ICU admissions are under the age of 60. The original thought was that only those 65+ or with underlying health conditions, but that was the experience in China and South Korea. Europe is looking different, although experts do not know if it's because of different responses to the outbreak or evolution of the strains, which I last saw at 500+. Experts include the members of the President Trump's task force, so it's not a political take. It is what it is. Viruses change rapidly and countries/states/cities have different approaches and nowhere has it been a greater catastrophe than northern Italy.

The Centers for Disease Control provided its first detailed report of U.S. cases yesterday. While not as dramatic as the French numbers, it does suggest morbidity and mortality among younger age groups.

It can be a little confusing to understand the ranges.

From the best I can tell from reading the report (and others that use the same reporting methodology, taking my age group for 45-54, 21.2% who have confirmed cases of COVID-19 require hospitalization, 5.4% require the intensive care unit (usually for ventilator support), and 0.5% die from the disease.

The high end of the range for the 45-54 age group would be from the subset of confirmed cases requiring hospitalization or died prior to hospitalization. These are particularly high of cases as a part of the population because of the Kirkland, Washington Life Care situation. WaPo reports:

As of Monday, 29 covid-19 deaths had been associated with the home, according to the county. Life Care said Monday that 30 of the 43 remaining residents, and 46 of the home’s 180 employees, had tested positive.

Area hospitals did not want to take many of these cases early in the outbreak as the prognosis for these patients was so dire and they were rationing isolation beds for those with a better prognosis. This rationing was on a minor scale but is on a major scale in Italy, where the mortality rate currently exceeds 8% of confirmed cases (Johns Hopkins-reported confirmed cases: 35,713 deaths: 2,978 at 9:38am). That's why the drastic steps are being taken in the US and particularly in hard-hit states like our Golden State.

The percentages among confirmed cases are likely significantly overstated because of the rationing of testing. The percentages among those hospitalized are also likely somewhat overstated because, as I've previously written about, there are many patients across the country hospitalized and some in ICU who have influence-like illness but have tested negative for common flu strains but unable to get a test for COVID-19. Physicians believe many of these could be seriously ill with COVID-19.

That said, they are a low priority for testing as they are in fact being isolated in the hospital rather than exposed to the public. They are generally isolated from even family visitors. From a public health perspective during a period of test rationing, it makes no sense to use one (actually multiple are required per person as Governor Newsom again talked about last night) on a ventilator-supported patient in isolation in the ICU since there are no pharmaceutical treatments specific to COVID-19 yet.

From what I can tell, hospital support for COVID-19 is broad-based antibiotics to prevent bacterial pneumonia, things like fever-reduction therapeutics, ventilator support if needed, and nutritional support. Anything specific to COVID-19 either therapeutically or on the vaccine front outside of trials is 12-18 months out. That point was reiterated in during the White House briefing led by President Trump this morning.

Here are the CDC data released yesterday:

TABLE. Hospitalization, intensive care unit (ICU) admission, and case–fatality percentages for reported COVID–19 cases, by age group —United States, February 12–March 16, 2020

Age group (yrs) (no. of cases)%*
HospitalizationICU admissionCase-fatality
0–19 (123) 1.6–2.5 0 0
20–44 (705) 14.3–20.8 2.0–4.2 0.1–0.2
45–54 (429) 21.2–28.3 5.4–10.4 0.5–0.8
55–64 (429) 20.5–30.1 4.7–11.2 1.4–2.6
65–74 (409) 28.6–43.5 8.1–18.8 2.7–4.9
75–84 (210) 30.5–58.7 10.5–31.0 4.3–10.5
≥85 (144) 31.3–70.3 6.3–29.0 10.4–27.3
Total (2,449) 20.7–31.4 4.9–11.5 1.8–3.4

* Lower bound of range = number of persons hospitalized, admitted to ICU, or who died among total in age group; upper bound of range = number of persons hospitalized, admitted to ICU, or who died among total in age group with known hospitalization status, ICU admission status, or death.

From raw numbers, 1,686  of 2,449 or 68.8% of the confirmed cases in the United States are among residents under the age of 55. Set aside the issue of testing as it is irrelevant if you are taking just the demographics of the confirmed cases. The data above further show that, while the morbidity and mortality rates are lower, significant shares require hospitalization and ICU stays. That's the problem with health care capacity. While less likely to die, an isolation bed is the same nonetheless. And, we don't have enough.

In last night's video update, Governor Newsom announced that he is working with the feds to get the USS Mercy to California to move non-COVID patients aboard to make room for COVID-19 patients in spaces with infectious disease isolation. He further said that two MASH-style temporary hospitals were likely to be erected, and that the state is under discussions to secure two shuttered hospitals, either through lease or purchase using the funds appropriated by the Legislature on Monday night. Hotels and motels also might be used for non-isolation patients needing hospitalization for illnesses and injuries other than COVID-19. The same steps are being taken in New York.

It's all about capacity at this point.

Newer Noonerites may be wondering about my familiarity with some of these topics. Before I met Paul Mitchell and got on the political and policy world, I was all health care. I was an EMT and worked for three years at Childrens' Hospital of Orange County, mostly as a unit secretary of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. Paul used to see me in scrubs if I didn't have time to change in traffic on the 55 between Orange and Costa Mesa (kids, don't do that).

Anyway, I've dealt with ICU capacity before and the decisions of how the intensive beds are prioritized. I've helped take kids to the morgue. I loved the job, but also remember some of the hardest decisions made by physicians as to where priority should be placed. I don't recall any direct decision where it was clearly a "who lives and who dies" moment like in Italy today, but there were likely ones that happened more indirectly.

That's what public health officials and elected officials who listen to them around the world are trying to avoid with dramatic, and socially and economically changing decisions. It's too late for much of northern Italy where the system has been overwhelmed, but that's what everyone is trying to avoid happening in the United States.

...we're just getting started...

CORONAVIRUS/COVID-19: I'm leaving in the items I included in last night's update and adding additional items.

  • California confirmed cases: 926 (+34 from last night), with 17 deaths (+6 from yesterday). Confirmed cases in 33/58 counties (+3 from yesterday). [h/t SFChron]
  • Shelter in place (Santa Clara model order): Public health officers in several additional counties issues shelter in place orders today, and the ones in bold are the additions. Alameda, Contra Costa, Lake, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa (midnight Friday), Sacramento (full order at midnight tonight) San Benito, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, SF, San Mateo, Sonoma, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sutter, Yolo, Yuba counties have adopted the full shelter-in-place order unless for essential work or essential activities such as procuring food and some supplies like hardware or auto parts.

    Solano County has issued a "shelter at home" order that does not shut not-essential businesses. I haven't fully analyzed it, but it appears to limit customer-facing businesses similar to the model order counties (bars closed, restaurants take out and delivery only) without requiring residents to stay at home. It strongly recommends at-risk populations, including those 65+ to stay home while others may go to work if they take social isolation steps at the office. 

    The cities of Fresno and Palm Springs have also adopted the Santa Clara model order. I discussed the Orange and Sacramento counties orders today and Los Angeles on Monday.
  • Congress: two members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19, both of whom were present for votes last Friday and developed symptoms over the weekend -- Rep. Marco Diaz-Balart (R-FL) and Rep. Ben McAdams (D-UT). I wouldn't include this in The Nooner, but...
    • Diaz-Balart's Capitol office is 404 Cannon HOB. Californians on that floor include:
      • Eric Swalwell (407 CHOB)
      • Mark Takano (420 CHOB)
    • McAdams's Capitol office is 130 Cannon HOB. Californians on that floor include:
      • Alan Lowenthal (108 CHOB)
      • Pete Aguilar (109 CHOB)
    • Assuming the CDC cautions of those most at risk, Lowenthal is 79 years old. 
    • The House has now delayed their return next week until at least Tuesday, but will delay it further until there's an agreement between Pelosi and McConnell on the fiscal stimulus bill, which currently stands at $1 trillion in the Senate with $500 billion with individual assistance, $300 billion for small business, $50 billion for airlines, and $150 billion for other impacted industries.
  • State gov't employees: Last Friday, there was buzz around town that Governor Newsom was going to announce a state shutdown of "non-essential" state employees. It appears that the Administration has decided to take a quieter, less-centralized approach. During the online update last night, Newsom talked about the large number of state employees "teleworking." Today, I know of at least one agency with two locations that is shut because of positive COVID-19 tests.

    Newsom also talked about rotating shifts including evenings and weekends for essential employees. I heard about this yesterday at the corner store where I get much of my "on the ground" news. When people think about "essential," we often think about law enforcement, health care, and emergency services. However, janitorial services from Department of General Services are not just essential but rather critical in the agencies that are still open. Additionally, the state's inforrmation technology professionals often must be as on-site to support ongoing functions of services. While employees processing loans, unemployment benefits, and the like may be using a secure virtual private network (VPN) at home, they may be working with a server that is on-site (rather than the "cloud") in an agency. For this reason, in many cases, IT employees need to be on-site around the clock.

    There are political reasons from not using the phrase "work from home" and differentiating between essential and non-essential employees. Admit it, many of you have friends who are hard-working state employees but still jokingly put "working" from home in quotation marks with your fingers when talking about it--both in the public and private sector. Hey, I've both been a boss considering work from home requests and done my share of working from home. At times, I've written huge policy reports and worked 12-hours a day, and others I knew how to make four hours of work look like a full day at the desk. Frankly, as a boss, I didn't care about the hours, and had employees who could get more work done in four hours away from the office than sitting in the office for eight.

    Because the phrase "work from home" creates giggles among the public, the word "telework" is much better to use in both public and private sectors. Of course, politically, the public only cares about public workers at the state and local levels.

    On "essential/non-essential," there is a huge hazard of using that in the public sector. Nobody cares about what Facebook or Google HQ is doing, but they care about taxpayer dollars. If you deem employees as "non-essential" in a broad sense rather than the decentralized approach Newsom is taking by letting agency heads to determine it for themselves, you reduce the chance that there is a political argument for slashing the workforce position-by-position when the time for cutting comes, and most believe it's just around the corner. However, those technically non-essential today may be essential in a year when we emerge from this. 

    Newsom also talked last night how some state employees are volunteering their skill levels within the civil service system for other positions of demand temporarily, such as Unemployment Insurance benefits. The state has waived the one-week waiting period to apply, so there is a deluge as restaurant, hotel, and other workers find themselves out of work (hopefully temporarily). Kudos to the employees stepping up to find work in state agencies with demands rather than stretching out work to fill the hours or otherwise occupying themselves at their computers.
  • Cannabis: Late yesterday, the San Francisco Department of Public Health tweeted that, despite confusion and uneven application, that cannabis dispensaries could stay open if they took certain steps to ensure social distancing. A spot check (virtually only) of Sacramento-area dispensaries suggest that most are taking similar steps by encouraging customers to place online orders for quick pick up, cleaning more frequently, and limiting the quantity of people in the shop to allow for social distancing. 

    Regardless of how you feel about medical or adult-use cannabis, you can probably appreciate that it would have been silly to allow grocery stores to sell liters of alcohol and cases of beer to college kids treating the suspension of daily activities as party time but not let someone with AIDS who has had legal access to cannabis in California for 24 years to be cut off. 
  • Sacramento: 
    • Sacramento Kings: I was told yesterday by a concessions employee at Golden 1 Center that 600+ such employees that work the food stands are not covered by the Kings commitment to pay employees for canceled events at the city's beautiful new arena. That's because concessions are a contract with Legends Hospitality, one of many such companies that serve California's airports, arenas and stadiums, convention centers, and casinos.  

      I have reached out to both the Kings and Legends Hospitality for comment on how those contract employees are being treated. Legends is a joint venture between the Yankee Global Enterprises (as in New York Yankees) and billionaire Jerry Jones, the owner of the Dallas Cowboys, with minority ownership by companies such as Goldman Sachs.
    • Hyatt Regency Sacramento: The city's largest hotel announced on L Street yesterday that it would no longer take new reservations through May 10 as occupancy rates dropped to single digits after suspension of business travel, unexpected recess of the Legislature, and year-long closure of the adjacent Convention Center for a massive remodel and expansion. Other large hotels (Sheraton on J, Citizen on J, and Kimpton Sawyer at Downtown Commons) are expected to follow, as they are all reliant on business travel, conferences, and arena events for much of their business.
    • Empress Tavern, a popular spot on Kay Street for Capitol receptions and events at the Crest Theater that announced curbside take out a couple of days ago has not announced that they are closing their doors completely while the public health order is in place. 

...ballot update after the jump...

BALLOT STATUS: We're getting closer...

  • Ballots counted: 9,380,782 (+9.7% from 2016's 8,548,301)
  • Ballots left: The number is just too unclear as counties have not been updating this with the Secretary of State. After Tuesday's counting, Los Angeles has 64,000 left but the SOS page still lists 219,500. LA's next update is expected late afternoon tomorrow.

Now, number of ballots counted can be deceptive. In the 15-day voter registration report ahead of the March 3 election, there were 20,660,465 registered voters and more likely were added after that up through Election Day under state law. That means that it's a current (not final) turnout of 45.4%. In 2016, there were 17,915,053 registered voters at the equivalent 15-day report, meaning a final turnout of 47.7%. We'll likely fall short, but that's because we're registering more low-propensity voters. It'll take awhile after all is final with March 3 to understand how many of the "new" voters turned out and how that compares with 2016, but it is likely to be higher.

cakeday and classifieds after the jump...

Probolsky Research

I have a feeling this won't be the last time you hear from me today. As I'll continually say during this crisis, if I have inartfully written (or incomplete) sentences, lo siento. The Nooner hamsters who edit are "teleworking."

CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to LA councilmember Mike Bonin, Andrew Campbell Anthony Farrington, Assembly member Adrin Nazarian, four waters!



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