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The Nooner for Monday, May 18, 2020, presented by SYASL Partners
Happy Monday! The final stretch of putting together the awful 2020-21 state budget begins at 1:30pm with the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee hearing an overview ahead of subcommittee hearings scheduled all week and into the weekend. The hearing is in the Senate Chamber and will be live-streamed (as are all hearings now). Also meeting today are Assembly Sub 1 (human services issues -- 1pm in Room 4202) and Assembly Sub 2 (K-12 and early childhood education issues -- 1:30pm in Room 437).
The same strong discourgament of in-person attendance is offered with every committee hearing along with several other guidances.
I listed the schedule of this week's budget hearings yesterday. A couple of folks asked when Senate Sub 1, which is charged with crafting the education budget is meeting since it wasn't listed. It is scheduled for Monday, May 25 at 10am in Room 4203. Yup, the Senate has subcommittee hearings each day of Memorial Day weekend, including the holiday itself.
There goes that Memorial Day BBQ rager in the park...oh, yeah...
By "final stretch," of course I'm referring to Stage 1. We're fully expecting to have a Stage 2 for a "baby budget" bill in August or in a special session in September, depending on the July 15 personal income tax revenues and federal action on state and local financial assistance.
WEEKENDS AT THE NOONER:
COVID-19: If the numbers hold, yesterday was a "good" day with only 32 reported deaths in California, 29 of which were in Los Angeles County. I offer caution as sometimes weekend numbers are understated, but fingers crossed. New confirmed cases came in at 1,374, although we're still in the incubation period for the Mother's Day services held at several churches against county orders. (Butte, Mendocino)
For CalMatters, Emily Hoeven asks if California's lockdown is working.
As California begins to reopen, it’s unclear if it’s met its own benchmarks for doing so.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has repeatedly said California will need to see steady declines in coronavirus cases and deaths in order to reopen in earnest. But two months into the state’s shelter-in-place order, coronavirus cases are still rising and deaths remain at a stubborn plateau. In fact, Friday was the state’s second-deadliest day amid the pandemic.
Yet even as the state remains in limbo, it’s trying to move forward. It authorized 23 counties to reopen dine-in restaurants and shopping centers, though many didn’t meet testing-capacity requirements until the state itself provided new testing sites. But even with the sites, testing levels remain low — in part due to low demand — which experts say could conceal the prevalence of the virus.
For the Bee, Sophia Bollag and Jason Pohl report that Blue Shield of California has emerged to lead Governor Newsom's COVID-19 testing efforts.
Nearly half of the leadership positions on Newsom’s high-priority task force on coronavirus testing are filled with Blue Shield executives. Its CEO, Paul Markovich, is the co-lead, alongside the assistant director of the state Department of Public Health.
All told, employees of the insurance company make up 22 percent of the 68-position team. The company, based in Oakland, has more members on the task force than all of the other private-sector representatives combined.
Blue Shield’s role on the task force is to help the state with the time-intensive work needed to ramp up testing, not to craft policy, said Dr. Charity Dean, assistant director at the California Department of Public Health. Its work is “based on science,” she said.
“The Blue Shield staff do a lot of the phone calls and heavy lifting,” said Dean, who leads the task force with Markovich. “The state of California is always the one to make decisions, but we’re informed by really smart people on the task force.”
None of the six casinos that ring the Sacramento area have announced reopening dates. But as retailers and other segments of the broader economy begin to awaken from the COVID-19 shutdown, the Indian tribes that operate the region’s casinos are reconfiguring their venues to accommodate public health guidelines.
“We’ve been kind of looking at the end of the month, first of June,” said JC Rieger, general manager and senior vice president at Harrah’s Northern California in Amador County.
Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sacramento, which opened last fall in Wheatland, is “optimistic that we will reopen in May,” said casino president Mark Birtha. He said Hard Rock officials have been meeting with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s staff and expect to announce a reopening date soon.
Cache Creek Casino Resort plans to open “as early as June, if all goes well,” general manager Kari Stout-Smith said in a video posted on the casino’s website. She said Cache Creek’s golf course has already reopened.
Top Washington Republicans determined not to send federal money to states say their biggest fear is Democrats will use it to help reeling public employee pensions funds.
more after the jump...
"JOB KILLERS": Dan Walters writes for CalMatters that the California Chamber of Commerce's annual "job killers" list is dominated by bills introduced by Democrats to respond to the pandemic.
There are just 10 measures on its 2020 list, most of them related to the pandemic and/or benefits for workers whose employment is affected by the crisis.
Three of the bills would expand coverage for workers’ compensation benefits, which are financed by employers — roughly paralleling Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decree that ill workers deemed to be essential will be eligible for benefits without having to prove they were infected on the job.
With potential annual costs running into many billions of dollars, employers have opposed the blanket loosening of workers’ compensation eligibility, saying it will make economic recovery more difficult.
The same argument is advanced against one of the 10 bills that would hike unemployment insurance benefits, which are also financed by employers through payroll taxes, and two others that extend employees’ rights to leaves of absence.
SMALL BUSINESS: San Francisco is allowing small businesses open curbside pick-up today. However, Shwanika Narayan and Rusty Simmons write that small businesses are worried whether it will be worth it.
Small-business owners are grappling with a scarcity of protective equipment like masks and gloves, as well as with strict new safety guidelines. Some worry whether they’ll get enough customers placing orders and coming to their doors to make complying with the new rules worth the expense.
Mayor London Breed announced the changes last week, as officials eased some of the stay-at-home restrictions that took effect in mid-March. She was taking advantage of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s four-stage process for reopening the state’s economy; limited retail operations, like curbside pickup, are part of the second stage of Newsom’s road map.
HAIR AND NAIL SALONS: For CapRadio, Sarah Mizes-Tan looks at the impact on hair and nail salons that are deemed "high-risk" businesses, an impact that particularly hits communities of color.
[A]ccording to the Sacramento Black Chamber of Commerce, only 3% of African American-owned businesses received a PPP loan. Jay King of the California Black Chamber of Commerce said this is in part because the majority of African American business owners are sole proprietors - meaning they wouldn’t qualify for the program. He said the reasons for this go back generations, and getting smaller loans has meant that minority business owners have had to look to industries like personal care - where startup costs are typically lower.
“Most of them don’t have the systems and protocols in place to even build out into a full-fledged business, so of course, something like this, it’s almost like having the air choked out of your body,” King said. “People forget about the history of inequitable banking practices, when it comes to loans, even when we get a loan, our loans are so much smaller than everybody else’s.”
And hair salons and barbershops aren’t the only minority-owned businesses feeling squeezed right now. Just last week, Governor Gavin Newsom commented that the state’s first coronavirus case originated from a nail salon - an industry dominated by Vietnamese Americans. Tam Nguyen, President of Advanced Beauty College cosmetology school in Southern California, said coronavirus closures have crippled the state’s largest Vietnamese community in the region, and that the governor’s comments didn’t help.
“I’ve been in the Vietnamese community here, in Orange County for most of my life, I’m 46. And I’ve never seen the Vietnamese community more hurt than now,” Nguyen said.
UBER: In the Chron, Carolyn Said reports that Uber is cutting another 3,000 jobs, for a total of 6,700 over the last few weeks. That's 25% of it's employee workforce.
Uber also is closing some 40 offices — including its Pier 70 office in San Francisco, which worked on self-driving technology. That will be consolidated with its forthcoming Mission Bay headquarters next to Chase Center, Uber said. It also will move its Asian headquarters out of Singapore to an unspecified new location.
HIGHER ED: In the Chron, Ron Kroichick writes that, with much of higher education in the state expected to be conducted online next academic year, colleges and universities are going to have to prove their worth.
California State University, the nation’s largest four-year system, magnified the moment with Tuesday’s decision to keep nearly all classes online for the fall semester. CSU’s announcement resonated loudly, in part because of the university’s sheer size: The system educates approximately 481,000 students scattered across 23 campuses.
The University of California is exploring a mix of in-person and online classes, according to UC President Janet Napolitano, who said recently, “It’s fair to say none of our campuses will fully reopen” this fall. Stanford Provost Persis Drell struck a similar tone in a post to students Tuesday, saying the school expects “some degree of remote instruction” and might stay fully online given health concerns about residential programs.
These concerns illustrate the fundamental dilemma for colleges and universities whose business model — and economic structure — often hinges on large numbers of students living in campus housing. This immersive college experience has helped send tuition soaring the past few decades, creating an awkward pivot for schools when the virus struck.
As academic leaders abruptly moved classes online in mid-March, without reducing tuition, they needed to claim that the value of in-person and online instruction were essentially equal, to paraphrase Stevens. That runs counter to colleges’ customary position and leaves them in an awkward predicament for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, Bernie Wilson reports for AP that at least three CSU campuses are looking to maintain their football schedules in 2021-22, even if their campuses are largely closed to in-person instruction.
While a majority of CSU football programs are in Division II primarily with in-state competitions, Fresno State, San Diego State, and San Jose State are in Division I with contracts for games across the country and hopes for lucrative bowl game berths.
more after the jump...
AP EXAMS: In the NYT, Jenny Gross reports on insult to already injured high school students.
Technical glitches during the online exams were the latest problem students have confronted as they navigate testing, college applications and college visits remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.
Testing problems have heightened stress for students and families figuring out a process that’s anxiety-inducing even under the best of circumstances.
The College Board, a nonprofit organization that administers the A.P. exams, said that submission issues had affected fewer than 1 percent of the roughly 2.2 million tests taken this week and that students would have the opportunity to retake tests next month.
Meanwhile, the California State Bar is reportedly considering an online bar exam in September...
SD HOMELESS: For Voice of San Diego, Lisa Halverstadt and Kayla Jiminez look at the plight of San Diego County's homeless during the COVID-19.
Weeks ago, San Diego city officials scrambled to convert the Convention Center into a temporary shelter to protect homeless San Diegans vulnerable to coronavirus. About 1,200 people have since moved in, including hundreds who until recently lived on the street.
But thousands of homeless people throughout the county remain outside, leaving many confused and scared amid mostly sluggish efforts to provide new shelter options in other cities.
[H]omeless people outside of the city of San Diego who are eager to move off the streets are grappling with what to do. They’re facing increasing challenges amid dwindling access to basic needs such as food, restrooms and showers during the pandemic due to countywide closures.
TESLA: On CNN's State of the Union yesterday, Governor Newsom was asked about the standoff between Alameda County and electric vehicle maker Tesla over when the company can reopen its Fremont manufacturing factory. Newsom answered that the county and carmaker had reached agreement to reopen this week and that it was in line with the state's order.
IT HERTZ SO BAD: I was listening to a tech podcast in bed last night and a auto industry journalist said that rental car company Hertz is expected to file for bankruptcy in the next 3-4 weeks. The context was that host Leo Laporte's daughter needs a car and when was the best time to buy. The auto insider said that Hertz would likely sell off at least half its fleet as part of a reorganization. That's how bad the travel and hospitality industry is right now.
cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Charles Lawlor, Alan LoFaso, Lisa Maldonado, Melanie Mason, and Frank Mecca!