Your guide to California policy and politics by
Presented by California Health Care Foundation and Mattress Recycling Council
Good morning, California. It’s Monday, October 5.
Yet another record set
California surpassed a staggering milestone Sunday: More than 4 million acres have now burned in a record-defying fire season still far from over. That’s four Rhode Islands, three-and-a-half Grand Canyon National Parks, and a little more than one Connecticut.
It’s also more than double the 1.98 million acres burned in 2018, California’s previous modern-day record.
But rain brings problems, too — namely, the ability to poison California’s water supply with dangerous chemicals from burned buildings, trees and land, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports. About two-thirds of the state’s water supply flows from forests susceptible to burning.
Today, California’s beleaguered unemployment department is slated to resume accepting new claims after a two-week pause intended to give it time to implement a new automatic identity-verification tool and reduce a backlog of nearly 1.6 million claims. I asked the Employment Development Department on Sunday whether it was ready to launch the tool today, but didn’t hear back. EDD appears to have cleared 146,513claims from Sept. 24-30, the last week for which data is available. Whether the new tool can handle what is sure to be a sizable influx of pent-up claims from the past two weeks remains to be seen. We’ll likely hear more at an Assembly hearing on Wednesday.
The California state auditor was also slated to begin an emergency audit of the department by the end of September. I asked the state auditor’s office on Sunday whether the audit had begun, but didn’t hear back. I’ll let you know when I do.
Jessica Millan Patterson, chair of the California GOP, in a statement to me: “As Gov. Gavin Newsom dreams of 2035, there are millions of unemployed Californians, thousands of closed businesses, an unemployment system with 1.6 million unprocessed claims, and people are fed up. That frustration is beginning to show up in our voter registration numbers.”
Paul Mitchell, vice president of Political Data Inc., to me: “Historically, voters register more increasingly partisan in presidential election cycles, and then more independent in off-years or gubernatorial cycles.”
Still, experts say it’s too early to ascribe a single reason to the uptick, and warn against reading too much into short-term trends — especially given the fact that California’s crime rate has dropped steadily in recent years, and fell to an all-time low in 2019.
4. Ethnic studies controversy continues
Newsom may have recently vetoed a bill that would have required California high school students to take an ethnic studies class in order to graduate, but the fight over the controversial curriculum is far from over. In a pointed critique of the governor’s decision, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond unveiled a new series of ethnic-studies broadcasts Friday.
Thurmond: “Our students deserve better than to put their experiences on hold until there is the political appetite to embrace them.”
Oct. 6-14: CalMatters is hosting five “Props to You” events — virtual Q&As for you to ask all of your questions about the 12 propositions on California’s November ballot. Register here.Each event runs from 6-7pm.