Weideman Group Update
August 14, 2020

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California cases begin to stabilize and the state sees a leveling off of deaths and hospitalizations. State officials continue to urge residents to abide by the physical distancing and mask order to minimize the spread. These are the most recent facts released by the Department of Public Health.

Department of Public Health Director Resigns. Following a COVID-19 data collection breakdown, DPH Director Dr. Sonia Angell resigned earlier this week without an explanation. The data glitch affected thousands of COVID-19 test records, which led to inaccurate reported numbers at the state and local level. The state and counties have relied on this real-time data to make decisions on how to properly respond to the pandemic. The Governor and the Health and Human Services Secretary declined to elaborate on Dr. Angell’s departure, but reports indicate the Governor was left in the dark about the technical difficulties in the system for days after it was discovered. According to Secretary Ghaly, reinventing the state’s data collection system is HHS’s top priority. Sandra Shewry, who led DHCS under former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, will serve as Acting DPH Director and state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan has been named as Acting Health Officer — an interesting bifurcation of the Director’s principal duties.

Newsom Administration

Governor Newsom provides updates and takes additional steps that will assist with the State’s COVID-19 response. Here is a recap of recent actions and announcements:

  • Digital Divide Executive Order – Governor Newsom signed an Executive Order that prioritizes state action to bridge the digital divide, including a goal of 100 Mbps and a request for new state broadband action from the Broadband Council. The text of the executive order can be found here. 
  • School District Funding - Governor Newsom announced a new tool that will allow Californians to look up how much each school district has received in funding for digital devices and access. Schools are receiving $5.3 billion in funding to support digital distance learning.
  • Economic Investment - Governor Newsom provided a glimpse into what his Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery will be prioritizing in order to jumpstart the economy. Newsom stated that California will be accelerating its investment in bond spending and shovel ready projects, which will get people immediately back to work, and provide additional help to small businesses. The Governor’s Task Force has yet to release details on an economic recovery plan.
  • $81.8 Million COVID-19 Commitment - Governor Newsom announced a coalition of private and philanthropic entities committed $81.8 million to support isolation and quarantine efforts in communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19. The entities who are part of this coalition include the Blue Shield of California Foundation, Kaiser Permanente, The California Endowment, California Health Care Foundation, and others.
  • Forest Management Agreement - Governor Newsom announced an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service aimed at reducing wildfire risks, restoring watersheds, protecting habitat and biological diversity, and helping the state meet its climate objectives. The agreement can be found here.
  • Earthquake Early Warning - Governor Newsom announced a partnership with Google to bring a first in the nation early detection earthquake warning system to all android phones.
  • Legislative Secretary Departs  – Governor Newsom’s Legislative Affairs Secretary Anthony Williams announced he will be leaving the administration at the end of the month.

 California Legislature 

Important Dates:

  • August 31 – Last Day of Session
  • September 30 – Last Day for the Governor to Sign or Veto Bills
  • November 3 – General Election
  • December 7 – 2021-22 Legislative Session Begins

Budget committees to hold trailer bill informational hearings over the weekend. The Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee will be holding two informational hearings on pending trailer bills this Saturday. First, the Senate Budget Committee will hear about the COVID-19 response spending and the Division of Juvenile Justice realignment. Second, the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Banking and Finance Committee will be holding a joint hearing on the expansion of the Department of Business Oversight. The Assembly Budget Committee held informational hearings on these two topics last week and are scheduled to hold another trailer bill hearing on August 24.

Senate Business, Professions & Economic Development Committee passes bill to expand nurse practitioner scope of practice. On a strong bipartisan 7 to 1 vote, a Senate policy committee passed a bill that would give full practice authority to nurse practitioners, helping to close a growing and serious provider gap in California.

Assemblymembers introduce first in the nation wealth tax. A group of Assemblymembers, led by Assemblymember Rob Bonta, have introduced AB 2088 in an effort to raise additional revenues and close the $54 billion state budget gap. As written, the bill will tax .4% of a resident’s net worth if it exceeds $30 million for single and joint tax form filers, and $15 million for married couples filing separately. Real estate is exempt, as it’s already taxed at a higher rate than the wealth tax. If passed, the state predicts the bill would raise about $7.5 billion for the general fund from over 30,000 residents. The author has been quoted saying the bill will probably not be taken up for a vote in these last couple of weeks of session but he will pursue it next year.

Legislature works hard to process bills in advance of the Appropriations Suspense hearing. We are coming off a wild week of policy committee hearings with the Legislature working overtime to move bills in advance of the Assembly and Senate Appropriations Suspense hearings, where bills are subject to scrutiny over their fiscal impact to the state. Both the Assembly and Senate Appropriations Committees will meet to dispense with their Suspense File on August 20, which will kick off a flurry of activity on the Floor as the Legislature races to wrap up their work prior to the August 31 deadline.

 COVID-19 Spending

In early March, the Legislature authorized $1 billion in general funds for the Governor to fight COVID-19. To date, the Administration has spent $826.8 million of the monies on pandemic response and $1.4 billion from the Disaster Response-Emergency Operations Account (DREOA), mostly on procuring masks and respirators for industries across the state. The Budget includes $750 million to provide support for counties experiencing revenue losses for realigned programs as a result of COVID-19.  The Governor also declared a budget emergency in June, which allows the state to draw down additional monies from the Rainy Day Fund to round out the budget as well as assist in the state’s COVID-19 response efforts. The budget sets aside $716 million for the Governor to allocate to COVID response in the same manner as the $1 billion the legislature authorized in March.  A full breakdown of the state’s COVID-19 spending can be found here

Regulatory Agencies and Department Actions

Numerous departments provide updates on their efforts to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. Here are some highlights:

  • DCA Waivers Extended - The Department of Consumer Affairs announced they have extended the supervision requirement waivers for physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and nurse-midwives until October 11, 2020.
  • Eviction Protections - The Judicial Council of California voted to end the temporary emergency rules protecting people from evictions and foreclosures on September 1. 
  • Department of Education Priorities - Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond announced priorities for the California Department of Education, including finalizing guidance on distance learning and addressing the digital divide. 
  • Sectoral Mask Distribution - The Governor’s Office of Emergency Services have released the latest numbers on the distribution of surgical masks across sectors of California. 
  • Citizens Redistricting Commission - The California Citizens Redistricting Commission announced the appointment of their final members and the full membership of the commission has been established. Following the final results of the 2020 census, the Commission will be charged with drawing the state and federal legislative districts in California.

Federal Government

Negotiations halted on new stimulus package. Negotiations with Congressional leadership broke down last Friday and no plan for a new stimulus bill has emerged. Leaders have taken to making appearances on news networks, and pointing fingers at each other about the delay. Without an agreement, the Senate has adjourned until September. Over the weekend, President Trump signed executive orders  to extend the federal eviction ban, suspend payroll taxes, and extended the $400 a week for unemployment insurance. The orders have been criticized by Democrats and Governor Newsom. The Governor stated that the unemployment insurance extension requires the state to pay 25%, and California is unable to provide the extra $700 million a week the measure requires. Democrats have criticized the suspension of payroll tax as an attempt to gut Social Security and Medicare. Below is a recap of additional federal actions: 

  • Postal Service Funding - President Trump stated he is blocking funding to the U.S. Postal Service because of efforts to expand mail-in voting for the November General Election. He has repeatedly expressed his skepticism that rampant voter fraud occurs due to mail-in ballots, claims that have not been substantiated. 
  • Supreme Court Allows Rhode Island to Vote-By-Mail - The Supreme Court has denied a request by Republicans to not allow Rhode Island to use pandemic relief funding to expand vote-by-mail for the November General Election. 
  • Southern Border May Close to Citizens - The Trump Administration is considering closing the border to prevent crossings by U.S. citizens and permanent residents. 

Local Action

Local governments continue to take actions they deem appropriate given their unique circumstances. Here are some highlights:

  • L.A. Remote Learning Deal - The Los Angeles Board of Education approved a plan for a shorter online school day than traditional in-person school days. 
  • Ocean Beach Fencing - San Diego officials have fenced off part of Ocean Beach to prevent mass gatherings. 
  • Sacramento Speeds Up Testing - Sacramento County is partnering with a local biotech company to speed up its test result turnaround and open up more community testing centers. 
  • Oakland Unified Opens Virtually - Oakland Unified School District raised $12.5 million to support distance learning with computers and Wi-Fi hotspots. 
  • Casino Restricts Masks - Sycuan Casino will not allow certain face coverings because they do not adequately protect against spread. The now restricted coverings include bandanas, gaiters, and coverings with valves.

Resources

  • California Coronavirus Response website can be found here
  • California Department of Public Health guidance documents can be found here
  • California COVID-19 risk screening and testing can be found here
  • California Local Public Health Authority information can be found here
  • Center for Disease Control and Prevention COVID-19 updates can be found here
  • Looking for ways to help your community? Visit this site here