Around The Capitol

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  • Capitol Weekly Podcast (John Howard and Tim Foster): GOP political consultant Rob Stutzman (2021-02-22)
  • Political Breakdown (Scott Shafer and Marisa Lagos @ KQED): Rep. Mark Takano (D-Riverside) on His Family's Internment History and His Agenda for Military Veterans (2021-02-18)
  • Capitol Weekly Podcast (John Howard and Tim Foster): Daniel Zingale on his career in California politics. (2021-02-14)
  • Inside Golden State Politics (Bill Boyarsky and Sherry Jeffe): We  examine the media's continuing obsession with Donald Trump. And we dig into the current buzz around California politics. (2021-02-18)
  • Inside Golden State Politics (Bill Boyarsky and Sherry Jeffe):  We examine the impact of the Trump impeachment trial on the country.   We wonder if die-hard Republican senators will turn against the president.  And we look at how Trump's behavior is impacting two California Republican members of Congress. (2021-02-12)
  • Then There's California (Senate Democratic Caucus): Senator Dr. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) on the details of the COVID 19 vaccine and equitable distribution of the vaccine and fighting the disinformation from vaccine deniers (2021-02-08)

MONEY MATTERS - intriguing...

  • AD79 (East San Diego): Labor organizer Leticia Mungio (D) yesterday reported receiving Maria Elena Durazo for State Senate 2022. On Friday, Mungio reported receiving the max $4,900 from Lorena Gonzalez for State Assembly 2020. Of course, Mungio is running against Dr. Akilah Weber, the daughter of former Assembly member Dr. Shirley Weber, recently appointed as Secretary of State. Lorena was running for Secretary of State. Five Assembly members have already contributed to Dr. Akilah Weber, but Gonzalez certainly felt sleighted by the appointment of her mother to the position she has been seeking for two years.

The Nooner for Tuesday, February 23, 2021, presented by SYASL Partners

  • COVID-19
    -the numbers
    -tiers for fears
    -school daze
  • Stimulating
  • Student aid
  • AD64 (Carson)
  • AGstakes
  • Nerd science
  • Cakeday and classifieds  

Capitol walk

Happy Taco Tuesday! I cooked a Riverdog Farm (Guinda, Capay Valley) pork shoulder covered in sazon spice blend from Allspicery in my trusty Instant Pot last night. I plated it up with steamed broccoli from Ge Moua Farm (Sacramento County) and Brussels sprouts from Contreras Farm (Moss Beach). Of course, there's some truth in the rumor that the Brussels sprouts were sauteed with bacon and spring red onions from Riverdog. Anyway, I have lots of pork shoulder left for salads this week, but it will also be great to crisp up tonight for carnitas tacos.

Clearly, I've reached the acceptance point in the stages of grief of the move of my beloved neighborhood farmers market, or is it the bargaining stage? I vaguely remember psychology class at Orange Coast College, which I would arrive at after working 10pm-7:30am at Children's Hospital of Orange County.

Dinner capped off a very good day. My shoulder continued to feel better and I was able to get my more ergonomic desk setup back up-and-running. As the photos above show, I took a walk through Capitol Park on a picture-perfect late winter day. Lots of folks were out-and-about and, aside from masks adorning faces and fencing encircling the Capitol, it seemed provided a semblance of normal.

For those in Sacramento who want to eat (or do anything) outside, today is the day to do it. The National Weather Service has issued a high wind warning for tomorrow from 10am to 10pm with sustained winds of 20-30 mph with gusts of up to 45 mph.

Meanwhile, on Thursday from 12pm-1pm, Capitol Weekly is hosting the second day of its The Future of Work virtual conference series. Here is Thursday's program:

Impact of Proposition 22

Leo Feler,
 UCLA Anderson Forecast; Tom Hiltachk, Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk; Nicole Moore, Rideshare Drivers United; one more TBA

Moderated by Sam Harnett, KQED

After a hard-fought battle at the ballot box, Proposition 22 is law. But, questions remain, the first of which is: does it stand up to the current court challenge? How will 22 impact unions? What other industries may turn to gig work? And, what does a new, pro-labor administration in the White House mean for California?

The Zoom conference is free, but advance registration is mandatory.

on to the news after the jump...

COVID-19: California added 196 deaths yesterday for a total of 49,536 since the pandemic began. The 14-day rolling average of daily deaths on 2/21 was 370.6, down from a peak of 533 on 2/3. The 14--day testing postivity rate is down to 3.3% from a peak of 14.0% on 1/8 (during the period of more than 2,000 tests). [state dashboard]

-tiers for fears: Here are the statuses of California's 58 counties. You can see what the restrictions mean here, although local health orders may be stricter than the state's orders.

  • purple (widespread): 52 counties
  • red (substantial): 3 counties (Del Norte, Mariposa and Plumas)
  • orange (moderate): 3 counties (Alpine, Sierra, Trinity)

-variants: In the Chron, Erin Allday reports that UCSF researchers have found that a California-bred variant of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19 is widespread in the state.

The two studies, out of UCSF and the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, are the first to demonstrate that the so-called California variant spreads more easily than others and has other worrisome traits. Scientists had suspected the variant was more infectious based on how quickly it exploded in parts of the state, and because it had been tied to several large outbreaks, but they lacked firm evidence until now.

Scientists at the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and UCSF looked at positive test results in the Mission District and found that about 35% of household members became infected when one case of the California variant was brought into the home; the attack rate for other variants was about 26%.

Separately, a study by Dr. Charles Chiu at UCSF also found evidence that the variant is more infectious. In addition, his team found that people infected with the variant were more likely to end up in intensive care or die. And lab tests showed the variant was less responsive to antibodies produced by people who had previously been infected. It’s not clear from the results whether the variant is less responsive to vaccines.


“We don’t want to be alarmist. It’s not as aggressive as the U.K. variant,” said Joe DeRisi, co-president of the Biohub, of the results of the Mission District study. The variant from the United Kingdom, known as B.1.117, is thought to be roughly 50% more infectious than the original virus out of China. “But it highlights the need to examine this strain more carefully and do more studies on it. We need to be aware that it’s in the community and spreading fast.”

Chiu, though, said further study may in fact show that the California variant is about as infectious as the one from the United Kingdom.

“This variant should be treated with the same level of concern as other variants,” Chiu said in an interview Monday. “I’m actually quite worried about this particular variant. It’s essentially the majority of cases now throughout California.”


  • unpredictable: California's rollout of vaccines has been beset by lack of information and forecasting of availability being provided to local officials, report Laura J. Nelson and Maya Lau for the Times, who write:

    Officials running local vaccination programs in multiple counties say they are not being told how many doses they will receive over the next three weeks, which is key data they need to keep vaccine sites open and running smoothly.

    President Biden promised last month that his administration would provide a “reliable three-week supply look-ahead” in an effort to improve the transparency and efficiency of the country’s rocky vaccine rollout.

    Last month, President Biden didn't know that FedEx's primary hub in Nashville would be literally frozen over for the first time it has been based there. Clearly, Texas energy companies didn't know that cold happens either.

    Gov. Gavin Newsom said he learns every Tuesday morning how many doses the Golden State will receive over the next three weeks. But state officials have yet to share those numbers with many local, city and county leaders, making it difficult to create appointments and plan for the administration of second doses.

    “Every vaccine planner right now, we all have nerves in our stomach. We’re nervous about it,” said Joe Prado, community health division manager for the Fresno County Department of Public Health. “We would all like to have a three-week window, but until then we will just continue to do it week to week.”

    A California Department of Public Health spokesman did not answer questions about why the state has not shared three-week previews with local health officials. Instead, he said the question is “no longer relevant” because the state is transitioning to a new vaccine distribution model led by Blue Shield of California, under a contract that started Feb. 15.

  • farmworkers: The AP's Kathleen Ronayne writes that Governor Newsom yesterday pledged more vaccinations to Central Valley farmworkers.

    The multi-county region, which includes the cities of Fresno and Bakersfield, will get significantly more vaccines this week dedicated to farmworkers. The shifting allocation comes as California moves to inoculate others beyond health care employees in other essential jobs, including food and farm workers and teachers.

    California had been distributing doses based on the estimated number of health care workers and seniors in each county, but is revising its formula as it moves through its planned vaccination tiers.

    The state also will take 34,000 doses from a pharmacy that wasn’t using them quickly enough and distributing them to food and agricultural workers through 11 new mobile clinics in the Central Valley, Newsom said.

    The clinics will be set up to ensure vaccines get to people who don’t have transportation to a mass vaccination site or can’t navigate the sign-up portal, including in the small city of Arvin, southeast of Bakersfield, where Newsom spoke. 

Here is the governor's press release from the Central Valley stop in Arvin, which is in Kern County.

  • Sac region: In The Bee, Michael McGough and Tony Bizjak report that Sacramento County did not receive any vaccinations last week because of the storms that hit the south.

    Sacramento County health officials on Monday revealed the county did not get any of its expected vaccine doses last week due to storms that interrupted the nation’s vaccine supply chain, forcing clinics to cancel thousands of appointments over the weekend.

    Placer County officials also report they are running out of doses and have not yet scheduled clinics this week past Tuesday.

    And several local health care systems that get direct shipments separate from counties’ allocations said they also had to cut back on vaccinations as their supplies ran thin. That includes Sutter Health, which reports it is not currently accepting appointments for first-dose shots and is postponing some second-dose appointments. UC Davis Health, operator of the UC Medical Center in Sacramento, which reports it may have to temporarily stop giving shots as well this week.
  • LA-LA land: The LAT's Julia Wick writes that outsiders are using codes meant to reserve appointments in underserved primarily Black and Latino communities.

    A California program intended to improve COVID-19 vaccine availability to people in hard-hit communities of color is being misused by outsiders who are grabbing appointments reserved for residents of underserved Black and Latino areas.

    The program to address inequities in vaccine distribution relies on special access codes that enable people to make appointments on the My Turn vaccine scheduling website. The codes are provided to community organizations to distribute to people in largely Black and Latino communities.

    But those codes have also been circulating, in group texts and messages, among the wealthier, work-from-home set in Los Angeles, The Times has learned. Many of those people are not yet eligible for the vaccine under state rules.

    Some people able to make appointments have been driving to Cal State Los Angeles to get the shots.

    It’s unclear how the codes got into the hands of outsiders, but the situation has forced the state to scramble to protect the integrity of an equity program that Gov. Gavin Newsom and other officials have been hailing. The state canceled appointments made with at least one of the access codes after The Times inquired about it last week.

-school daze:

  • Monday's hearing: For EdSource, John Fensterwald looks at yesterday's, at times contentious, and seemingly incomplete hearing over the return to in-person instruction in California's public schools:

    Assembly Budget Committee Chairman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, ended a hearing Monday as he started it, lashing out at school districts for criticizing a bill he and other legislative leaders are proposing that would condition $2 billion in incentive funding on reopening schools, starting April 15.

    That bill, Senate Bill 86, remains in limbo, with no vote on it scheduled and behind-the-scenes talks continuing. But tensions, if Ting’s comments are an indication, are rising.

    Districts, Ting said, are “tone-deaf” about the desire of parents, teachers and children to return soon to classes, he said. And their criticisms are ironic, he said, since the Legislature gave districts $5 billion last July to spend reopening schools to in-person instruction, yet most squandered the opportunity and the funding, and remain closed nearly a year after the pandemic first shut them down. He singled out San Francisco Unified, where his two daughters continue in distance learning, with no effort to reopen last fall, when infection rates were among the lowest in the state.

    “We are not going to make that same mistake. We are not going to be giving money to districts to allow them the choice of whether or not the money is for reopening,” he said.
    The $2 billion in incentives was central to a return-to-school plan that Newsom introduced in late December, when the Covid surge was near its peak. But he wanted elementary schools to start returning in mid-February, and the deadline passed without the Legislature’s approval. Now legislative leaders have reclaimed the basics of Newsom’s plan, with a new return-to-school date, and introduced it as a bill when they couldn’t cut a deal with the governor over specifics.

    School district officials, lobbyists and others, who waited 2½ hours on the phone or off to the side at Monday’s hearing while legislators questioned legislative and Department of Education staff, didn’t have a chance to respond to Ting. The hearing ended abruptly, with Ting in mid-sentence, without public comment.

    But based on a letter they sent to legislators on Sunday, school officials would have said the problem is not that they’re looking for free money and then not returning. Districts are already making plans to go back before April 15, and the bill could impede that progress, they wrote. “The language could have unintended consequences and slow down current plans to expand reopening.” That is why they concluded “the fastest route to reopening more schools to in-person instruction” is under the current state guidelines without “additional complications of more changing rules and regulations.”

    The best approach is “do no harm,” which Ting, clearly miffed, interpreted as do nothing. “They want money without accountability,” he said.


    [SB 86] was written as an attempt to help reopen the state’s largest districts, which also have some of the state’s most powerful local teachers unions. Consistent with the position of the California Teachers Association, the unions have taken the position that their teachers must be vaccinated as a precondition for returning to school, and schools should not reopen until Covid infection rates have fallen below 7 positive cases per 100,000 residents in counties where districts are located. That’s the “red tier” under the state’s 4-level system for defining conditions for reopening school campuses.
  • recall impact? The Bee's Lara Korte looks at the slow and contentious process of returning to in-person instruction and whether it might increase the chance of a successful recall of Governor Newsom. 
    In late December, Newsom proposed spending $2 billion to get schools reopened by February.

    But districts and labor organizations balked at the quick turnaround, and negotiations stalled over discussions about vaccines for teachers. Organizations like the powerful California Teachers Association say the shots should be available for any employee returning to campus, but Newsom has insisted that the state doesn’t have the supply to inoculate all teachers before summer.

    On Thursday, Democrats in the State Senate and Assembly introduced a plan that would allow vulnerable students across all grades to return to classes by April, while requiring county public health officers to offer vaccines to teachers who are returning. In counties where the spread of the coronavirus puts them in the state’s red tier or better, the state would required to offer in-person instruction for all students grades k-6 by April 15.

    Lawmakers had hinted that they could pass the plan as soon as this week, but on Monday, members of the Assembly Budget Committee debated the bill for more than two hours without taking a vote. School district leaders want more local control over reopening dollars, but some lawmakers, like Assembly Budget Chair Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, are insistent upon keeping accountability in the bill.

    “They want us to give them money, with no accountability, no guarantees of in-person learning this year,” Ting said of school leaders. “I am normally a huge proponent of local control, but this year, local control has been a complete failure.”

    It could still pass the Legislature, but whether it will get a signature from the governor is another question.


    Ron Nehring, a former chair of the California Republican Party, said the continued stalemate over schools has contributed to the perception that the COVID-19 pandemic has exceeded Newsom’s ability to govern. The frustrations from parents, teachers and students could “absolutely” help the recall effort, Nehring said.

    “Emotion drives behavior. And people have gotten emotional about this,” Nehring said “They feel that their quality of life is threatened... and that government is not treating them fairly.”

    Matt Rexroad, a California Republican political consultant, said Newsom doesn’t have to worry about angering staunch Republicans, who were already likely to vote against him in a recall. But although local districts, lawmakers and labor unions have a large role to play in the discussion, Democrats with school-aged children could still hold the governor responsible.

    “Is it appropriate to blame the governor? Probably not directly,” Rexroad said. “But is he getting blamed for it? Absolutely."

  • Sac City: For CapRadio, Kris Hooks writes up the latest plans for return to in-persion instruction in the Sacramento City Unified School District.

    Students in grades K-3 would return April 8 and those in grades 4-6 would return on April 15. Meanwhile, middle and high school students would return May 6, but only if Sacramento County is in the state’s less-restrictive red tier — which indicates substantial community spread, but allows some businesses to reopen at lower capacity.

    The county is still in the most restrictive purple tier.

    Under the plan, students would return to school in groups, and campuses would have no more than 50% of students at a time. Students would attend in-person class two days a week, and do virtual learning for the other three days.

    Parents could opt out of having their kids return to classrooms and continue with virtual learning for the rest of the school year.

    Students on campus would be physically distant, and plexiglass barriers would be installed in the library and school cafeterias. The district has also already begun installing new ventilation systems to prepare for reopening.

    David Fisher, president of the Sacramento City Teachers Association, the local union that represents about 2,500 educators, said the district’s plan looks promising. But the union has yet to discuss the details with the district, including those involving ventilation systems.

Video conferences:

-Governor Newsom visits Long Beach vaccination site to highlight the city's leadership on 2/22.

-Governor Newsom visits mobile clinic location providing vaccinations to teachers and school site employees on 02/19.

-Governor Newsom visits vaccination center in the Coachella Valley on 02/18:

-Governor Newsom attends opening of vaccination center in Los Angeles on 02/16:

-Governor Newsom update/announcement of A's vaccine partnership on 02/03:

-HHS Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly update on 02/02:

-HHS Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly update on 01/26:

-Governor Newsom update on 01/25:

more stories after the jump...

STIMULATING: CapRadio's Nicole Nixon reports on the passage yesterday by the Legislature of part of the economic relief package:

Millions of low-income and undocumented Californians will get $600 relief payments after state lawmakers approved a sweeping stimulus package to aid those hit hardest by the pandemic, including small businesses.  

Gov. Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the $7.6 billion package on Tuesday.

When he does, an estimated 5.7 million Californians who qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit and other aid programs like CalWORKs will get a $600 rebate when they file their 2020 taxes.

Those eligible include: 

  • Households that earn less than $30,000 annually and qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit
  • Undocumented tax filers who earn up to $75,000
  • CalWORKS recipients
  • Individuals enrolled in Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI) 

“This is such an important bill, because it gets millions of hardworking Californians instant money that they so desperately need during this tough time,” said Assembly Budget Chairman Phil Ting (D–San Francisco).

Low-income taxpayers who are also undocumented will receive a total of $1,200.

In addition to the stimulus payments, the aid package includes more than $2 billion in grants and fee waivers for small businesses, $35 million for food and diaper banks and $400 million in subsidies for childcare providers.

It also reverses cuts made last summer to public universities and state courts when the state experienced a record-breaking budget deficit.  

One piece of the package, a $2 billion proposal to allow businesses to deduct purchases made with federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans, was held back for changes and lawmakers hinted it may include more relief than originally planned. 

The bills approved yesterday were:

  • SB 87: Small business grants.
  • SB 88: Economic stimulus payments.
  • SB 94: Waiver of ABC and barbering and cosmetology license fees.

Governor Newsom signed the bills this morning.

STUDENT AID: For the Times, Teresa Watanabe looks at a proposed expansion of Cal Grants unveiled yesterday.

Nearly 200,000 more California college students could receive state assistance for tuition and living expenses under one of the largest expansions of the Cal Grant financial aid program ever proposed, according to details released Tuesday.

The plan, unveiled by the California Student Aid Commission and two legislators, would eliminate some current requirements for the main Cal Grant award that favor younger students within a year out of high school who have a minimum GPA of 3.0. Instead, it would broaden access to older students and others not currently eligible.

It would also simplify the program and tie eligibility to the federal Pell Grant, which better accounts for a student’s total cost of attendance, which includes housing, transportation and other expenses. Although the Cal Grant focuses on tuition and fees, it is one of the nation’s most generous college financial aid programs, providing annual support to more than 500,000 California students.


California policymakers are aiming to change that. The proposed Cal Grant plan, laid out in new legislation by Assemblymen Jose Medina (D-Riverside) and Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento), would significantly expand access to Cal Grants by eliminating key restrictions. Currently, applicants for the main Cal Grant must be low- or middle-income, eligible for in-state college tuition, apply by March 2 within a year of high school graduation and achieve a minimum high school GPA of 3.0.

AD64 (Carson): With a personal contribution of $10,000 yesterday, public school teacher Fatima Iqbal-Zubair (D) shows that she plans to challenge Assembly member Mike Gipson (D) again in 2022. In 2020, Gipson was reelected over Iqbal-Zubair's challenge on a 59.5-40.5% vote.

AGstakes: For Capitol Weekly, Chuck McFadden weighs in on the speculation of who might be appointed succeed Xavier Becerra as Attorney General, should he be confirmed as Biden's Secretary of HHS. Here is who McFadden lists, in order in which they are mentioned:

Top list:

  • Rob Bonta, Member of the State Assembly
  • Rick Zbur, Equality California executive director
  • Diana Becton, Contra Costa District Attorney
  • Darrell Steinberg, Mayor of Sacramento

"Additional possibilities:"

  • Lorena Gonzalez, Member of the State Assembly
  • Goodwin Liu, Associate Justice, California Supreme Court
  • Ro Khanna, Member of Congress
  • Adam Schiff, Member of Congress
  • Ted Lieu, Member of Congress
  • Dennis Herrera, San Francisco District Attorney
  • Thomas Saenz, president, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund

NERD SCIENCE: Shortly after introducing AG Xavier Becerra at today's Senate HELP Committee hearing, Senator Alex Padilla posted to Facebook this very cool video of a billion years of global plate tectonic movement in 40 seconds.

cakeday and classifieds after the jump...


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CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Alan Crane, Katie Lucas, and Roger Salazar!


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