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- Capitol Weekly Podcast (John Howard and Tim Foster): Esther Aquilera of the Latino Corporate Directors Association (2021-03-15)
- Then There's California (Senate Democratic Caucus): Senator Bill Dodd (D-Napa) on two statewide water/equity advocates, talking about 'water debt' (2021-03-15)
- Inside Golden State Politics (Bill Boyarsky and Sherry Jeffe): Gavin's State of the State, the recall effort, and more (2021-03-12)
- Capitol Weekly Podcast: The Future of Work (continuation of the four-part online conference series) (2021-03-12)
- SacTown Talks (Jarhett Blonien): Assemblymember James Ramos (D-Highland) (2021-03-12)
- California State of Mind (CapRadio) - Putting a Positive Spin on California’s Pandemic Response; Some Cities Explore Higher Density Solutions to Housing Crisis (2021-03-12)
- Capitol Seminars Zoom workshop - April 1
- McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific - MPA/MPP
- Executive Director of Government Relations: California State University, Fresno
- California School Boards Association - Public Affairs & Community Engagement Representative (San Diego)
- McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific - Masters of Science in Law
- AD79 (East San Diego): San Diegans for Economic Recovery & Job Creation to support Leticia Munguia for Assembly 2021 sponsored by Laborers' International Union of Northern America Local 89 reports receiving:
- $30,000 from American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, Council 36 PAC
- $50,000 from Southern California District Council of Laborers PAC - SCC
The Nooner for Thursday, March 18, 2021, presented by SYASL Partners
It's Thursday. You're almost there! Wherever "there" is... Lots going on today and I think the year will be like that through the likely recall election. The question will be how much focus the Legislature that is already practically challenged by requirements of COVID-19 will have with the very likely recall campaign. There are obviously several other big issues as well as the great unknown that we always have to be ready for.
The morning listen: the murderous rampage in Atlanta (NYT The Daily)
Meanwhile, we already have lots on our plate today, and we'll get to it below the nag.
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Hopefully this customary ad slot will be filled again soon!
DO YOU RECALL?
- Signatures: If you weren't following our Twitter chatter last night, Politico's Carla Marinucci reports on the petitions submitted by the yesterday's deadline:
Supporters of the recall targeting California Gov. Gavin Newsom said Wednesday they submitted 2,117,730 signatures by the day's deadline, a number that appears to comfortably exceed the required threshold even if some are invalid.
The final submissions will keep 58 county elections officials busy verifying the signatures. Already, proponents have registered a validity rate approaching 84 percent, higher than normal for voter-driven campaigns. County registrars have until April 29 to verify that proponents have obtained nearly 1.5 million required signatures across the state.
Republican recall strategist Dave Gilliard said in a tweet Wednesday that the petition signatories were “64.10% GOP; 25.30% NPP (No Party Preference); 9.00% Dem; 1.60% Other and 49.48% Female." He added that recall backers did not focus on Democratic voters, suggesting that those who signed sought petitions on their own.
- GOP $$$: For Politico, Alex Isenstadt reports on the dash for cash by national Republicans to raise money to support the recall.
The Republican Governors Association has launched Recall Newsom! RGA Action, an entity that is allowed to raise and spend unlimited amounts of cash. Party officials say they envision it as a central hub into which major donors across the country will funnel their checks.
The new organization underscores how national party leaders are increasingly zeroing in on the recall, a cause around which they say the GOP can rally after a devastating 2020 election. While the Republican National Committee has spent $250,000 encouraging Californians to sign petitions to put the recall on the ballot, the American Conservative Union turned Newsom into a piñata at its recent annual conference. Conservative talk show host Sean Hannity and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), staunch allies of former President Donald Trump, have made a public show of trying to lure Trump’s former director of national intelligence, Ric Grenell, into the recall election.
Top Republicans have already begun reaching out to big givers. Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, the RGA chair, and Dave Rexrode, the organization's executive director, held a call Wednesday evening with major donors to discuss the recall. Nearly a dozen of the party's top California-based bundlers were present on the call.
- Gavin's dough: Governor Newsom reported $20,229,945 net cash on hand on December 31 and has raised $1,237,200 since. Now, this can't be transferred to a "no on recall" committee, as that would make that committee a de facto candidate committee. However, Governor Newsom can spend the portion of the funds marked for primary 2022 (up to $32,400 per donor) for his campaign during the recall election. After all, there's no prohibition from starting the campaign for the primary early. Yes, it's complicated.
So, take the $64,800 Newsom for Governor 2022 reported yesterday from writer/producer Chuck Lorre. Newsom can spend $32,400 of that this year as he demonstrates Grace Under Fire, but the second half can't be spent until after the June 2022 primary. That's no Big Bang Theory, but rather the law, Young Sheldon.
- "no" dough: The Chron's Alexei Koseff tweets "Newsom's anti-recall campaign, which launched Monday, says it raised $538,000 from online donors in its first 48 hours. Contributions came from all 50 states, according to the campaign, though 95% were from California."
- Backfire on GOP? In the Times, George Skelton writes that it's more likely that Governor Newsom beats the recall effort. And, if he does, he'll emerge a stronger governor.
And a stronger Newsom could mean an even weaker California Republican Party, which will have tried to topple the Democratic governor and failed, squandering energy, money and what’s left of its influence.
“The danger for Republicans is that they should be careful what they wish for. They might get it,” veteran GOP political strategist Marty Wilson told me recently before the recall effort looked like a cinch to qualify for a special election ballot.
“It’s a very fraught situation for the California Republican Party.”
Wilson, executive vice president for public affairs of the California Chamber of Commerce — he oversees the powerful organization’s political activities — believes in what he calls the “Woody Hayes doctrine.” Hayes was a legendary Ohio State University football coach.
“Hayes was once asked, ‘Why don’t you throw more forward passes?’” Wilson says. “His teams mostly ran the ball. Hayes answered, ‘Because three things can happen and two of them are bad.’”
A pass can be caught. But it also can fall incomplete, wasting a down, or be intercepted.
- Dems: In the LAT, Faith E. Pinho looks at how the Dems are trying to keep a united front fighting the recall.
Newsom’s campaign is trying to keep the party focused on fighting the recall and preventing prominent Democrats from getting into the race to replace him if it qualifies for the ballot as expected. He has racked up high-profile endorsements from Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), among others, and hopes to tie the recall campaign to former President Trump and extremist groups.
The governor went on a national media tour this week, speaking out against the recall and generating both cheers from supporters and some controversy.
Nathan Click, Newsom’s campaign spokesman, said he expected heavy support to fight the recall at the Democratic Party State Convention, scheduled for the end of April. Volunteers will spread out across the state to do text banking and other digital stumping in the upcoming weeks, he said.
“It’s been a steady drumbeat over the last few weeks of Democrats saying that [they support Newsom],” Click said.
But it’s still unclear whether any Democrats will enter the race to replace Newsom as an insurance policy against the growing field of Republican candidates, something that happened during the 2003 recall that ended with voters ousting Democrat Gray Davis and replacing him with Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The problem is that in a top-two primary, Democrats would cheer for more Republicans. However, a majority is not needed for a successor candidate to be elected. If on the question of whether Newsom should be recalled reaches a majority, the candidate with the plurality of votes on the second question wins the office. That's the argument backers of Cruz Bustamante made in 2003 and some who would like to see a single prominent Democrat file are making today. They argue that the more flavors of Republicans jump in on question #2, the more votes on recalling Governor Newsom on question #1 come along.
RECALL OR SCIENCE? For Politico, Mackenzie Mays writes that many people are wondering whether the sudden rapid reopening of activities in many counties is based on public health or on the politics of a likely recall election later this year.
Facing a recall threat, Newsom this month announced the return of outdoor concerts and Major League Baseball games, allowed Disneyland to open its gates soon and signed legislation that attempts to reopen schools.
The Democratic governor has two things going for him: a decline in the infection rate and an increase in vaccinations. But the shift in his Covid-19 strategy has prompted cynicism from Republicans and some local leaders as a recall election becomes reality. Would this be happening if not for the movement to oust him?
"Now the recall pressure is on him and suddenly he's changed his tune," said Jon Fleischman, a conservative pundit and former executive director of the California Republican Party. "He's changing the very framework he set up, and it's right about the time that it became obvious that this recall is going to qualify."
The same governor who was lauded for taking the virus seriously last spring and who imposed a curfew and stay-at-home orders during the holiday season is now moving quickly to reopen all parts of society. It's not anywhere near the degree of what Republican governors in Texas and Mississippi have done — Newsom's rules still require masks, social distancing and capacity limitations. But the message is clear: California is open again.
Newsom this month changed rules in such a way that dozens of counties are able to reopen businesses and schools sooner, thrilling restaurateurs and pandemic-weary residents but infuriating teachers unions and some local officials who said the acceleration was arbitrary.
Even with the state's improving coronavirus conditions, Newsom can't escape that recall lens.
“So he is changing the blueprint rules without any logical reason,” said Santa Clara County Executive Jeff Smith, who is also a physician. “Our futures are in the hands of a governor trying to stop a recall. He has already killed tens of thousands by opening too soon in May. Now he wants to do it again.”
Smith oversees the largest county in the liberal San Francisco Bay Area, and he has regularly imposed stricter rules than Newsom. But the governor's changes have even drawn criticism from conservatives like Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Nicolaus) who have long demanded that he loosen California restrictions. While they support more reopening, they believe the governor has been inconsistent and should have done more sooner.
"Could have been done months ago. Why now? 2 million reasons why,” Gallagher said in a tweet, referring to the number of signatures the recall campaign said it has collected.
AGSTAKES: This morning, the United States Senate voted to confirm Xavier Becerra as Biden's Secretary of Health and Human Services on a vote of 50-49, with Susan Collins the only Republican joining united Democrats. Now for the fun part -- an AG vacancy. A nomination could be made at any time and could come off the short list or be unexpected, like Dr. Shirley Weber was for Secretary of State. That list includes in alpha order:
- Contra Costa County DA Diana Becton
- Assemblymember Rob Bonta (D-Alameda)
- Santa Clara County DA Jeff Rosen
- Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Burbank)
- Sacramento mayor Darrell Steinberg
- Equality California executive director Rick Zbur
DiFi: With Dianne Feinstein's husband, investment banker, and UC Regent Richard Blum reportedly seeking an ambassadorship appointment by President Biden, California's senior United States Senator confirmed that he is interested but said that doesn't mean she plans to leave her post in the Senate, reports Tal Kopan for the Chron.
COVID-19, cakeday and classifieds after the jump...
COVID-19: California reported an additional 267 deaths yesterday for a total of 56,363 since the pandemic began.
-data dive: California's 7-day positivity rate is now 2.0%, far below the 7.1% peak amidst mass testing on December 30.
-vaccines: Remember that in many cases, vaccines are being reserved for second doses (of Moderna and Pfizer). The following data may be delayed by reporting.
- vaccine doses administered in California: 13,037,557 (7-day change: +2,049,256)
- vaccine doses delivered to administering entities in California: 16,813,070 (7-day change: +1,746,690)
- In the Chron, Catherine Ho writes up a new report that finds that California lags other states in vaccine equity.
California ranks among the five worst states in getting its poorest and most vulnerable residents vaccinated against the coronavirus, according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
California is one of 31 states falling short on equitable vaccine coverage, according to the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which analyzed vaccines administered during the first two-and-a-half months of the U.S. vaccination campaign, from Dec. 14 to March 1. It is the first report using national vaccination surveillance data focused on social vulnerability to look at equity, said the report’s lead author, CDC epidemiologist Michelle Hughes.
“While this is just a first look at how the vaccine is being administered nationwide, it tells us we need to continue to ramp up our efforts to ensure fair and equitable access to COVID-19 vaccine,” Hughes said Wednesday.
- Facebook is adding a tool to help connect users to vaccines, which has of course drawn out the anti-vaxx crowd. Hayley Smith reports for the Times:
Mark Zuckerberg, the company’s founder and chief executive, said the feature will “help bring 50 million people a step closer to getting COVID-19 vaccines” by showing them when and where they can get vaccinated, and providing links to make appointments. The tool will be housed in a “COVID Information Center” in the news feed on Facebook, and will be featured prominently on Instagram as well.
“We’ve already seen people use Facebook to find vaccination appointments, so this should enable millions more people to do the same,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post about the new feature.
Yet tens of thousands of comments below the post showed that securing coveted vaccination appointments is not the only challenge.
Multiple users referred to the vaccines as “poison,” and several described the post as “propaganda.” At least one touted the use of hydroxychloroquine, which has not been proved to reduce mortality from COVID-19.
Only a minority of commenters appeared to actually be in favor of the COVID-19 vaccine — despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other health agencies confirming that it is a safe and essential tool in the fight against the pandemic, which so far has killed more than 500,000 Americans.
- Bay Area: In the MercNews, Lisa Krieger reports that the dominant variant in the Bay Area has been found to be more transmissible and resistant to drugs used to treat the virus:
California’s more infectious strain of the COVID-19 virus is now the dominant variant in the state and has been proven to thwart protective antibodies used in vaccines and therapeutics, according to a new UC San Francisco study.
In response, the Centers for Disease Control has labeled the California strain a “variant of concern,” joining a designation shared by strains first identified in Great Britain, South Africa and Brazil.
Within just the past six months, it has exploded in prevalence. By the end of January, when the study was completed, the variant represented more than 50% of genomes sequenced from infected people tested at UCSF’s hospitals and clinics, Alameda County’s community sites and Santa Clara County’s congregate facility, community and acute care sites.
With a reproductive rate that doubles more than once a month, its prevalence is now likely higher.
Vaccines will likely remain effective against the variant, according to lead investigator Dr. Charles Chiu of UC San Francisco, whose lab is collaborating with the state’s Department of Public Health to seek cases of the new variant.
But its behavior is worrisome. Scientists found a two-fold decrease in neutralizing antibody activity against the California variant. The South African variant, which is proven to elude vaccines, causes a six-fold reduction. Antibody levels are a marker of protection.
- State sampling: The state's page on variants tracks the variants "of concern" and "of interest," as defined by CDC. Those of concern are believed to cause more morbidity and mortality, while those of interest have shown to be more transmissible.
As of March 11, 2021, 23,954 samples have been sequenced in California. This is the number of sequences submitted to the data repository GISAID and is not a complete list of sequences completed to date.
Known Variants of Concern in California
As of March 11, 2021
||Number of Cases Caused by Variant
CDPH is also monitoring the variants of interest shown in the table below due to recent evidence that they might be more transmissible. Though they are known by two different lineage names, the B.1.427 and B.1.429 strains are closely related. Together, these two variants have been called the West Coast Strain. Because their clinical and epidemiologic significance is not yet known, CDC and CDPH do not consider them variants of concern at this time.
Known Variants of Interest in California
As of March 11, 2021
||Number of Cases Caused by Variant
Note: The cases identified above that have been sequenced are based on a sampling of all SARS-CoV-2-positive specimens and do not represent the total number or estimated proportion of cases that may be circulating in California. The number of California samples sequenced is the number of sequences submitted to GISAID and is not a complete list of all sequences completed to date. Numbers are updated on Thursdays by 12 noon but reflect data posted on GISAID the day prior.
-tiers for fears: As a reminder, any county must remain at a tier for three weeks before progressing to a less-restrictive tier, even if the metrics continue to improve. After the changes yesterday, here's where the counties stand.
- 11 counties in the Purple (widespread) Tier (10.3% of population): Fresno, Glenn, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Nevada, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, and Yuba
- 42 counties in the Red (substantial) Tier (87.7% of population): Alameda, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Humboldt, Imperial, Lake, Lassen, Los Angeles, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Monterey, Napa, Orange, Placer, Riverside, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Shasta, Siskiyou, Solano, Sonoma, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura, and Yolo
- 4 counties in Orange (moderate) Tier (2.0% of population): Mariposa, Plumas, San Mateo, Sierra
- 1 county in Yellow (minimal) Tier (0.0% of population): Alpine
- upcoming: Orange and San Francisco are headed toward the orange tier on March 24, although SF Mayor London Breed says that the city will probably stick with stricter restrictions, reports Roland Li in the Chron. Several Bay Area counties have taken a stricter approach, including a stay-at-home order that preceded the state.
- Oakland: In the Chron, Meghan Bobrowsky and Jill Tucker report that, while there is a tentative agreement between Oakland Unified and its teachers union, not all teachers are on board and rallied yesterday against ratification.
A group of Oakland teachers protested a plan to bring students back to classrooms starting at the end of the month, calling an agreement between the district and their union “reckless and foolish” unless staff, students and families are vaccinated.
The organizers of the Wednesday protest, which included the union reps from individual schools, rather than Oakland Education Association leadership, urged district teachers to vote against the deal, which would have the first students — in preschool through second grade — back in classrooms on March 30, with older elementary students and high-needs students across all grades phased in over the following two weeks.
In a narrow vote Tuesday, a majority of the 150 members of the representative council who voted recommended that all union members reject the tentative deal on reopening.
- child care for teachers? In the Daily News, Linh Tat writes that teachers being requested to return to the classroom are scrambling to find child care for their own children who aren't in school five days a week.
As teachers for the Los Angeles Unified School District prepare to return to campus in several weeks as in-person instruction likely resumes, many are scrambling to figure out child care arrangements for their own children.
A petition that’s been circulating in recent days calls on the district to grant educators with young children waivers to continue teaching remotely from home for at least the rest of this school year — similar to accommodations being made for certain employees with health issues. The petition was launched Sunday and had been signed by more than 1,200 people by Wednesday afternoon, March 17.
In addition to allowing teachers with child care issues to continue working from home for the rest of this term, educators say they want the district to expand its Beyond the Bell program so more employees can benefit from it.
Currently, the program provides on-campus supervision to students in elementary and middle school from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but some teachers must be in their classrooms before 8 a.m., they said. Additionally, only students enrolled in an LAUSD school can be in the program, leaving out children in private schools and those too young to be in transitional kindergarten.
-a year ago today in The Nooner:
- California confirmed cases: 779 (+162 from yesterday), with 14 deaths (+3 from yesterday). Confirmed cases in 32/58 counties (+2 from yesterday).
- Capitol: Given the Sacramento County public health order, the Joint Legislative Rules Committee has closed the State Capitol and the Legislative Office Building to the public until the Legislature returns April 13. In the memo, staff are told that they will need their badges if they "have essential business to conduct." While to my knowledge staff have not been told across the board to stay home, I think the memo suggests that it is the case in practice.
WHOUSING: For CalMatters, Kate Cimini looks at the plight of small landlords when tenants can't make rent.
Unlike the 2008 housing crisis when subprime lending triggered a wave of foreclosures, experts say property owners have fared surprisingly well during the pandemic. Homeowners, especially, have been assisted by low-interest rates and federally mandated mortgage forbearance. Edward S. Gordon Professor of Real Estate in the Finance Division at Columbia Business School Tomasz Piskorski estimated that some 60 million borrowers absorbed about $70 billion in debt during the pandemic.
However, not all small property owners have been able to take advantage of government relief even as they absorb the costs for renters.
“There are some landlords that will struggle to pay their bills because they aren’t receiving rent from tenants, or have units sitting vacant,” said Zillow economist Jeff Tucker. “It’s not like a larger property management company that can manage units and mostly muddle through. For a smaller-scale landlord with only a handful of rental units, they could easily be forced to sell their rental units or be foreclosed on if they have a mortgage on it.”
WHO'S GOT GAS? For KQED, Kevin Stark reports that while cities are moving to ban natural gas hookups to new homes, the state is moving more slowly.
Altogether, 21 municipalities in the state have passed measures to require all-electric construction, according to a state tally, while an additional 19 discourage gas hookups.
Bay Area cities like San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose have closed the spigot on natural gas by passing electric-only building mandates.
Environmentalists have sought to harness the momentum of decarbonization efforts, the declining cost of electric appliances, and the clamoring of Californians for the state to move more rapidly to reduce carbon emissions, which fuel climate change.
All last year, the groups blitzed officials at the California Energy Commission in hopes of securing an electrification requirement in this year’s building code update, which goes into effect in January 2023.
Stakeholders began debating the update this month in a series of commission meetings, but a statewide natural gas ban sought by environmental groups appears increasingly unlikely after the commission circulated a proposal indicating a preference for incentivizing electric heat pumps rather than a gas ban.
ETHNIC STUDIES: In the Chron, Dustin Gardiner reports on the continued controversy over the state's first ethnic studies curriculum as a vote by the State Board of Education nears.
On the surface, much of the division is due to the deletion of references to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that appeared in the first draft, which the state posted for public comment in summer 2019. At at deeper level, the split reflects disagreements about the purpose and focus of ethnic studies.
The curriculum, which comes before the Board of Education on Thursday, is designed to teach teenagers about the contributions, struggles and culture of “historically marginalized peoples which have often been untold in U.S. history courses,” with an emphasis on four groups: African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.
California set out to draft the curriculum in 2018. Opposition erupted the next year, as some Jewish groups and state legislators said the first draft evoked anti-Semitic stereotypes, excluded the experiences of Jews in the U.S. and supported a boycott of Israel for its treatment of Palestinians.
The Department of Education, over the course of several drafts, removed all content about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and added lessons about Jewish people. Lessons were also added on other groups that said they were left out of the first draft, including Sikhs and Armenians.
Jorge Pacheco Jr., an ethnic studies teacher in the Bay Area and president of the Oak Grove School District board in San Jose, was part of that [the advisory group]. He said the revisions water down the emphasis on people of color and allow for the “complete erasure of Palestinians.”
“There is a group of people that don’t want students to learn about systems of power and oppression because they themselves feel threatened by the loss of their own power in this society,” Pacheco said.
Yeah, I think we saw this coming.
CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Senator Shannon Grove, Assemblymembers Ken Cooley and Adrin Nazarian, and Joe Mathews!
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