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The Nooner for Monday, May 4, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
WELCOME BACK! Happy Monday and happy Legislative Staff Week to current and former staff members! It's going to be a hot one around the state with the mercury forecast hitting 96 in Sacramento on Friday and 92 in Los Angeles on Thursday. With most people at home cranking up their A/C, we may be watching this page again.
Now we have to worry about the "murder hornet." They decapitate honeybees. I guess at least we can see them. From Tiger King to COVID-19 to murder hornets. What a year.
I think I'm going to binge The West Wing again and turn off the news.
I apologize for the length today. Consider it making up for Friday-Saturday. It seems there is a bevy of news as things in media start returning to the new normal.
As I wrote yesterday, the State Assembly is back today after leaving on March 16, three days before Governor Newsom's stay at home order. As a reminder, the Daily File has this announcement about Capitol operations:
We encourage the public to provide written testimony before the hearing by visiting the committee website at https://atrn.assembly.ca.gov and following the web portal submission instructions. Please note that any written testimony submitted to the committee is considered public comment and may be read into the record or reprinted.
Due to the statewide stay-at-home order and guidance on physical distancing, seating for this hearing will be very limited for press and for the public. All are encouraged to watch the hearing from its live stream on the Assembly’s website at https://www.assembly.ca.gov/todaysevents.
The Capitol will be open for attendance of this hearing, but the public is strongly encouraged to participate via the web portal or telephonically. Information regarding a call-in option for testimony will be made available on the committee website closer to the hearing date. We encourage the public to monitor the committee’s website for updates.
The Assembly Floor is a check-in session only today and there is no word when the full body will meet. Most legislative staff will continue to work from home with a reported limit of one staff member per office.
Legislators return to the state Capitol on Monday for the first time in nearly two months, confronting an urgent need to deal with coronavirus legislation and a formidable budget deficit.
They must handle bills ranging from compensation for sick essential workers to planning for a November election that’s likely to be done mostly by mail. They also must work with Gov. Gavin Newsom to address a shortfall that could total $35 billion.
And they don’t have much time to get it all done. They must pass a balanced budget by June 15 or go without pay, and will have only a couple of months after that to consider other bills before the legislative session is scheduled to end.
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said he is resisting calls to focus only on coronavirus response. The Assembly returns Monday, while the Senate has extended its recess one more week.
There will be fewer bills, as members triage their legislative platforms and committee chairs pare hearing agendas. But California still faces problems that existed before the pandemic, Rendon said, including the lack of affordable housing, widespread homelessness, climate change and lack of access to clean water in some parts of the state.
Tuesday's Capitol hearings include:
Also coming back today is the Supreme Court of the United States, although by "back" it means something completely different. Participation will be telephonic with justices and attorneys each in separate rooms and an audio stream will be available to members of the public live, whereas for most oral arguments there is a two-day delay before audio is posting. Justices will ask questions in order of seniority.
Today's case is a trademark challenge to United States Patent and Trademark Office v. Booking.com B.V. Generally speaking a generic term is not protectable, but travel site Booking.com argues that by affixing ".com," it is no longer a generic term. The company lost at both the district and 4th Circuit.
Tomorrow is United States Agency for International Development v. Alliance for Open Society International, Inc. , which challenges a congressional directive that U.S.-based organizations that receive federal funds to fight HIV/AIDS to have a policy "explicitly opposing prostitution and sex trafficking." The organizations challenging the requirement previously won the First Amendment case before the Supreme Court, but the government has continued to impose it.
Wednesday is the high profile religious liberty case Little Sisters of the Poor Saints Peter and Paul Home v. Pennsylvania, which challenges the federal requirement that health plans under the Affordable Care Act provide contraceptive coverage.
Basically SCOTUS is jumping full in with some heavy issues and doing so telephonically.
GOOD NEWS RE: DESAULNIER: I figured we start with good news today since it is few and far between. Daniel Borenstein for the MercNews reports that Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) has been released from the hospital after a two-month bout with pneumonia unrelated to COVID-19.
SAC PRESS CLUB: The Sacramento Press Club has a Facebook Live event on Thursday:
Covering the 2020 Presidential Campaign During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Thursday, May 7 at 4:00 p.m.
Sacramento Press Club members, members of the press corps and communications community can view the conversation at Facebook.com/SacPressClub. While you’re there, please like us and, if you are so inclined, help us support the next generation of journalists by donating to the Sacramento Press Club.
BUDGET: Dan Walters writes for CalMatters on the state budget hit coming from COVID-19.
The $222.2 billion 2020-21 budget that Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed in January, containing substantial increases in spending on education, health care and social services, has now been set aside. Newsom’s staff is working on a revised version to be unveiled in mid-May.
The Legislature’s budget analyst, Gabriel Petek, has told lawmakers, “The state now faces a budget problem, potentially a significant one” and estimated a near-term deficit as high as $35 billion, eventually reaching $85 billion.
A $35 billion drop would be 23% of the revenue previously estimated for the 2020-21 general fund and it might be a conservative figure, given the budget’s estimate of a $25 billion impact from a moderate recession. Even so, $35 billion is twice what the state has squirreled away in its emergency reserve accounts
San Jose State University professor emeritus Larry Gerston writes for the Bee that, without federal assistance, California rainy day fund will run dry.
While state and local coffers dwindle, Congress remains at loggerheads over any meaningful response. In the latest round of relief packages, Senate Republicans have pushed an additional $250 billion for more small business assistance. Nancy Pelosi-led Democrats have vowed to oppose the new aid without additional funds, including $150 billion to replenish state and local government treasuries. If and when the parties will come to terms remains to be seen.
Yet, an incredibly clear fact remains: The only hope for California, and other states for that matter, lies with the federal government committing funds to state and local revenue losses. Without that assistance, economic calamity will prevail in the states long after physical health returns. Even California’s rainy day fund will run dry with the state’s citizens paying the price with badly depleted essential programs, and that’s a loss we can ill afford.
CALIFORNIA WEEKLY UNEMPLOYMENT CLAIMS: On Thursday, the Department of Labor reported 3.839 million in new unemployment claims for the week ending April 25. Here are the numbers since the stay at home orders began the week ending March 20.
Initial unemployment claims for week ending:
Insured unemployment payments for week ending:
For context nonfarm payroll employment in California was 18,756,700 in February and dropped to 18,244,100 in March.
TAX WITHHOLDING: The LAO reports that income tax withholding last week was down 30% from the same week last year.
THE RENT IS TOO DAMN DUE: In the Chron, J.K. Dineen looks at the crunch many renters are facing as the second month of the shutdown continues.
Before the coronavirus shutdown, 24-year-old Alexa Lewis resided happily with four roommates in a spacious Richmond District flat for which she and her housemates paid $4,900 a month.
Then April came, and all hell broke loose. The master tenant moved out. Two other roommates moved back in with their parents, one in the East Bay and one in Sacramento. Suddenly Lewis, who works in public relations, was faced with finding three roommates at a time when a shelter-in-place order and soaring unemployment had paralyzed the housing and job markets.
“Me and my one remaining roommate were in a scramble to find new housemates who would sign a lease,” she said. “There was almost nobody looking for places, and those who were had pets, which our building doesn’t allow.”
Now May rent is due, and thousands of Bay Area renters like Lewis are facing rapid changes and growing uncertainties, as are their landlords. Many tenants are abruptly leaving town as jobs dry up, leaving roommates on the hook for large sums of rent. Students who expected to be in school are attempting to break leases because they are learning remotely from home. Tens of thousands of furloughed workers are unable to pay rent because they no longer have income.
Lewis got lucky: Her landlord agreed to accept partial rent for May and June and is not requiring the full security deposit. But she is the exception. Many of her friends are leaving San Francisco, the nation’s most expensive housing market.
The pandemic-fueled downturn has inspired rent strikes and “cancel rent” rallies across the country. Emergency laws in California have given tenants new power. On April 6, state judicial leaders barred courts from enforcing eviction orders against renters, arguing that eviction orders “threaten to remove people from the very homes they have been instructed to remain in.” The action halts legal procedures used by property owners to initiate and enforce evictions. Since then, Bay Area counties have strengthened tenant protections. Rent increases during the crisis are now banned in San Francisco. Legislation by Supervisor Dean Preston would make it illegal for landlords to charge fees or penalties for missed rent.
DONOR STATE NO MORE: In the Chron, John Wildermuth writes up a new report that California no longer sends more money to Washington than it receives back.
[A] new study found that California has moved off the list of donor states and now takes in almost exactly as much in federal payments as its businesses and residents pay in taxes.
While that’s great news for California, it’s not nearly so upbeat a statistic for the country as a whole, said Alan Auerbach, director of the Burch Center for Tax Policy and Public Finance at UC Berkeley.
“The federal deficit has been going up every year, with the government spending more than it is taking in,” he said. “As they say at the carnival, ‘Everyone is a winner.’”
The new study by the Rockefeller Institute of Government in New York found that in the 2017-18 fiscal year, there were only eight so-called donor states, which paid the government more than they received. That was down from a dozen states in 2015, including California, and 17 states in a 2007 study by the independent Tax Foundation.
Wait until the 2019-20 fiscal year is analyzed...
The expert is Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, medical epidemiologist and infectious-disease expert at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. He’s also a former senior official for the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization. From 2004 to 2018, he was Los Angeles County’s director of the Division of Communicable Disease Control and Prevention.
Stage One expert forecast (current order): By the end of May or into mid-June...
Stage Two expert forecast (retail, offices, and schools w/ adaptations): Kim-Farley said he suspected California would be headed to Stage 2 in mid-June through the month of July...
Stage Three expert forecast (hair salons, gyms, movie theaters, with adaptations): In general, Kim-Farley suspects Stage 3 may occur around August or September
Stage Four expert forcast (full reopening): This may not be implemented until the middle or latter part of 2021, Kim-Farley said...
Also for the LAT, Alex Wigglesworth reports on businesses reopening in defiance of state orders, while Rong-Gong Lin II and Alex Wigglesworth write that this is shaping up to be a critical week for Governor Newsom.
California has not yet seen a steady two-week decline in cases. The weekly number of new infections appeared to flatten for several weeks in early April, with between 8,000 to 8,500 cases every week. But between April 19 and April 25, the state recorded 11,777 new cases, and in the last seven days ending Saturday, 11,041 new cases were recorded.
California has started to see a week-over-week decline in deaths. Whether that trend will continue, however, is uncertain. Between April 19 and April 25, 547 coronavirus deaths were reported in California, and last week, 497 fatalities were reported, a 9% decrease.
George Skelton writes that rural California has a message for the governor -- we're not the same as the hard-hit urban areas.
Rebellion is infectious. Rural people are in revolt against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s statewide virus-fighting rules, which make little sense in burgs such as Bieber.
Bieber has hardly anything in common with the likes of Burbank or Balboa.
“There’s a bar, a restaurant, a hardware store, market, post office, school and a gas station with one pump,” says Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle of Bieber in Lassen County. “No stop light.”
Dahle grows cereal grains and represents 11 mostly mountain counties in the Senate. His wife, Megan Dahle, is a Republican assemblywoman.
In four of the senator’s counties — Modoc, Lassen, Sierra and Alpine — there hasn’t been one case of coronavirus, he says. Zero.
“There is no curve. It’s flat.”
“People are getting fed up” with the governor’s stay-at-home, business-shut-down orders, Dahle says. “They want to open up, get back to normal."
In the photo in this Bee article, several of the people in Friday's "Reopen California" protest are familiar to Capitol regulars -- they are anti-vaxx protestors.
Meanwhile, Brady Macdonald reports in the Register on the reopening plans for San Diego County amusement parks.
All theme parks are still closed until further notice (Magic Mountain says mid-May, but Los Angeles County likely is stay at home well beyond that). As I have written before, the Disneyland Resort is the hardest hit because of the number of out-of-town and international visitors. It will likely reopen with special deals for Southern California visitors, as it often does during the off-season.
Joel Fox writes that leaders shouldn't dismiss the protests calling for a reopening.
The rebellious politics on display from the beaches of Orange County to the wildernesses of the state’s far north are significant and should be seen by public officials as an alarm going off.
Despite the good intentions behind the lockdown, it comes with unforeseen consequences that have crippling effects on the body politic that could resonate at the polls.
NEWSOM: For CalMatters, Dan Walters reviews past promises by Governor Newsom and how it affects his credibility with voters.
SKILLED NURSING FACILITIES: In the Chron, Megan Cassidy writes on how a Hayward skilled nursing facility hid the outbreak from staff and families.
Senait Kifle first learned about a coronavirus infection at Gateway Care & Rehabilitation Center on April 4, when her father’s doctor called with a troubling report. Kifle’s 81-year-old father, a temporary resident recovering from hip surgery, had tested positive about a week earlier.
Kifle had little reason to worry, the doctor said. While her father would need to be quarantined for two weeks, he was asymptomatic and in good shape.
But the doctor hadn’t told her everything. Two weeks earlier a resident at the Hayward nursing home and rehabilitation center had tested positive for the virus, and at least four patients had since died of COVID-19. And the virus was spreading quickly.
The news broke on April 8, in a statement from Alameda County health officials: six Gateway residents were dead and 53 others were infected. At the time, it was the biggest coronavirus outbreak in a nursing home in California — and it remains perhaps the deadliest. Kifle and her family were stunned. “All of the sudden, we see the facility on TV,” she said.
The death toll climbed over the next several days. An inconsistent and sparse flow of information dried up completely. Family members said their calls to Gateway management and Alameda County officials went unanswered.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT: Joe Mathews writes that it is time to reduce the number of local governments in the state.
I love local government. In most places, it’s the most democratic, participatory, and effective level of government, and it deserves to be the most powerful and best-funded.
But in California, local governments are too weak and small to be effective. Why? There are simply too many of them. And so, for the past decade, I have pined publicly for an “extinction event” that would kill off thousands of California local governments. Now COVID-19 may fulfill my awful wish.
Heartless as it may seem, the only way to save local government in California is to eliminate local governments.
OIL: In the LA Times, Molly Hennessy-Fiske reports on the pandemic's effect on the oil industry, which was already facing a troubling time because of a production war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, which will have a significant economic effect in California, particularly in Kern and LA counties.
America’s oil patch has been hit in recent weeks by a double economic whammy: a global pandemic amid an already weakening market, resulting in the worst oil bust in a lifetime. The impact is widespread, felt by California workers from Kern County oilfields to the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, where dozens of oil tankers have languished, unable to offload an oversupply of crude. But in Texas, the layoffs have been particularly intense.
Thousands of energy sector workers have been laid off in Texas in recent weeks. More than half of oil and gas workers worry they could lose their jobs because of the pandemic, and nearly 40% are concerned they won’t be able to pay the mortgage and other bills during the coming year, according to a University of Houston survey of primarily Texas workers.
THE OC: In the Register, Erika I. Ritchie reports on the OC beach situation yesterday.
Thousands of people in Newport Beach and hundreds in San Clemente took to the shore on Sunday afternoon, as lifeguards and police repeatedly sent beachgoers packing, pointing out they were in violation of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s order that closed all Orange County beaches.
“We’re seeing some crowds build,” said John Pope, spokesman for Newport Beach. “It’s enough where we want police enforcement to help get everyone off. It’s individuals who didn’t get the word or those who are being defiant.”
Lifeguards in Newport Beach asked about 2,700 people to vacate the beaches during a sweep that went from Newport Pier to the Santa Ana river bed, he said. In all, an estimated 4,500 people were at seven miles of beach from the Santa Ana River to Corona del Mar, said Newport Beach Fire Chief Jeff Boyles.
In San Clemente, hundreds of people were out at the beach and in the ocean, said San Clemente Councilman Gene James. He added that Bob Dunek, interim city manager, called the beaches “packed.”
“As I understood it, on Friday night from the City Attorney, the city has no legal duty beyond notification,” James said. “If we are going beyond notification, I will have concerns.”
Laguna Beach and San Clemente were given permission this morning by the Newsom administration to reopen tomorrow.
lots more, Cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
BAY AREA: In the Chron, Kellie Hwang reports that because of inadequate testing and vague definitions, we may never know how many people in the six-county region had COVID-19 and recovered.
While the majority of California counties are reporting data on recovered cases to the public, only three are doing so in the Bay Area: Marin (185 recovered, as of Saturday), Napa (32 recovered, as of Sunday) and Sonoma (128 recovered, as of Saturday night). Sacramento County displays recoveries as “likely recovered,” and was reporting 803 on Sunday.
Molly Rattigan, deputy county CEO for Napa, said her county is defining recovered cases as individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 who meet the following criteria: At least seven days have passed since the onset of symptoms, or at least 14 days have passed since the diagnosis, and they no longer have symptoms. Individuals who were hospitalized must be discharged and no longer in isolation, she said.
LOS ANGELES: On Saturday, LA County announced 38 new deaths and 691 new cases. Yesterday's report included 21 new deaths and 781 new cases. "To date, Public Health has identified 25,662 positive cases of COVID-19 across all areas of LA County, and a total of 1,229 deaths. Ninety-two percent of people who died had underlying health conditions."
LA County accounts for 26% of the state's population but 48% of confirmed cases and 55% of the state's deaths likely because of population density. The county appears to be awhile from CDC guidelines of 2 new admissions per 100,000.
In LA, a team from the Times reports on homeless activists pushing hotels to be commandeered.
The protest — the latest of several increasingly defiant demonstrations over housing and rent during the pandemic — comes as homeless activists have stepped up their calls for Mayor Eric Garcetti and the Board of Supervisors to use their emergency powers to seize hotels and motels that are all but empty because of fears over the novel coronavirus.
“If you can tell the entire city of Los Angeles that we can shelter in place, then you can tell the hotels they are commandeered and they need to open their doors to the residents of skid row,” said Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles attorney Shayla Myers, during a recent federal court hearing in a lawsuit on homelessness.
With about 60,000 homeless residents, Los Angeles County is falling behind on its previously stated goal of moving them into 15,000 hotel rooms. With only about 2,200 rooms leased as of late last week, it could take until October to secure that goal.
SF: The Golden Gate Restaurant Association says that half of the City by the Bay's restaurants could close due to the pandemic, reports Kate Galbraith in the Chron.
Laurie Thomas, the association’s executive director, emphasized that the figure was highly uncertain. “Let’s hope that I’m wrong,” she said, adding that the association is conducting further research to get a clearer picture.
But her estimate is based on alarming pieces of evidence. In late March, just over a week after Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered people across the state to shelter in place, the California Restaurant Association sent a letter to Newsom saying that 20% to 30% of restaurants across California could close permanently “unless there are bold measures taken by the state.”
Since that time, it’s become clearer that there’s no near-term endpoint — and “the longer the lockdown continues … the higher (the) probability of business failures,” Thomas said.
SANTEE: In the SDUT, David Hernandez reports that a man was wearing a KKK hood at a grocery store in the city of Santee in eastern San Diego County.
A man was spotted wearing a Ku Klux Klan hood in a Vons in Santee on Saturday, igniting outrage from the mayor, the head of the Anti-Defamation League in San Diego and others.
A supervisor found the man once he was in a checkout line and asked him again to take off the hood or leave, said Melissa Hill, a spokeswoman for Vons, Albertsons and Pavilions stores in Southern California.
The man removed the hood, purchased his items and left.
SANDY EGGO: In San Diego yesterday, beaches were crowded yesterday but visitors were generally well behaved, reports Lyndsay Winkley in the SDUT.
“Attention on the beach,” a voice squawked Sunday from a Pacific Beach lifeguard tower. “The stay-at-home order continues to be in effect. Please do not sit or congregate.”
It wasn’t a lifeguard making the announcement, but San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who decided to lend a hand during beach patrols on Sunday. Over the last week, city officials have stressed the importance of following the rules, lest residents lose their newly reinstated beach access.
According to the mayor and others, San Diego was listening.
“Thank you for your cooperation,” Faulconer announced over the intercom to a well-spaced crowd. “You are doing a great job. Stay classy, San Diego.”
SACTOWN: Undoubtedly if you are in Sacramento, you heard yesterday's announcement that the legendary 33-year-old Biba Ristorante Italiano is closing for good. Vincent Moleski reports for the Bee. Biba Caggiano died last August at 82 and her kids have been running it. Noting that the kitchen needs a remodel and the impact of COVID-19, they decided it couldn't be continued.
In the Bee, Alexandra Yoon-Hendricks looks at the impact on local city budgets of COVID-19.
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Assembly member Jim Frazier, Matthew Hargrove, and Shari Wallace McHugh!