Your guide to California policy and politics by
Presented by Mattress Recycling Council and ACEC California
Good morning, California. It’s Wednesday, February 24.
Two reports cast doubt
California is unlikely to meet its ambitious climate goals, two reports released Tuesday show.
The first, from California State Auditor Elaine Howle, doesn’t mince words: “The state will fall short of meeting the 2030 goal” of a 40% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels “unless emissions reductions occur at a faster pace.” The audit, which found that transportation emissions have actually increased since 2013, rebuked the California Air Resources Board for overstating the impact of its emissions-reduction programs — including rebates that encourage Californians to buy clean vehicles, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports.
Howle: The air board “generally does not know how often many of its incentive payments influence consumers to purchase a cleaner (lower-emission) vehicle than they otherwise would have purchased.”
Gov. Gavin Newsom, who in September ordered the air board to ban the sale of new gas-powered cars by 2035, wants to direct $1.5 billion toward constructing electric charging and hydrogen fueling stations and subsidizing purchases of zero-emissions cars. The rebates would be paid with money from the state’s carbon trading program, which Howle characterized as “unpredictable.” Officials are currently reevaluating whether the program should form the cornerstone of California’s climate policy.
The report: “This massive gap … creates incentives that … discourage electricity consumption, even though greater electrification will reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.”
The news comes as Newsom is scheduled to deliver today the keynote speech at a policy summit called Driving California Forward, dedicated to discussing “forward-thinking solutions to achieving California’s ambitious climate goals and zero-emission vehicle targets.”
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Tuesday, California had 3,450,058 confirmed cases(+0.1% from previous day) and 49,563 deaths(+0.5% from previous day), according to a CalMatters tracker.
74% of students in public elementary schools are in distance learning only, compared to 31% of those in private schools.
84% of students in public middle schools are in distance learning only, compared to 49% of those in private schools.
86% of students in public high schools are in distance learning only, compared to 60% of those in private schools.
Newsom on Tuesday declined to discuss ongoing negotiations with lawmakers over campus reopenings or to take a stance on whether all students would be able to return for in-person instruction before the end of the school year.
Newsom: “I’m not saying we’re at the 1- or 2-yard line, but we’re certainly in the red zone in terms of working with the Legislature.”
2.Newsom pushes desalination project
The lobbyist with whom Newsom dined at the French Laundry represents Poseidon Water, the company proposing a controversial $1.4 billion plant to desalinate seawater along the Orange County coast. Despite concerns that the plant would quintuple water rates and harm the environment, it’s close to obtaining final approval — which critics say is due in part to Newsom’s unusual decision to replace one of the project’s most outspoken critics on a regional water board with a councilmember backed by pro-Poseidon labor groups. The move came just ahead of a key vote, which project opponents say Poseidon delayed until Newsom could make the replacement, the Los Angeles Times reports. In another red flag, members of Newsom’s administration — including Jared Blumenfeld, who heads the California Environmental Protection Agency — called water board members during deliberations in an apparent violation of state rules.
Newsom’s office: The governor “carefully reviews all appointments and has made many changes across his administration over the past two years to bring in new members to provide fresh perspective.”
3.State’s lackluster affordable housing plan
For proof that California’s affordable housing plan isn’t working too well, look no further than Riverside County. The state in 2011 determined the county needed to build 30,000 units across all income levels, and Riverside complied by zoning thousands of acres of land for high-density housing. Years later, not one single unit has been built.
That didn’t stop California from instructing Riverside County this year to build 40,000 units by 2029, with 17,000 units set aside for low- and very low-income residents, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports. Meanwhile, rich municipalities have managed to reduce their allocations via an intensive appeals process — which is partly how Beverly Hills and Newport Beach ended up with tiny affordable housing allocations.
4. Black students’ graduation rates improve
More Black Californians are graduating from college in the wake of key legislative and educational reforms, even as significant disparities in Black and white graduation rates persist, according to a Tuesday report from the nonpartisan research center Campaign for College Opportunity. For example, Black CSU students’ four-year graduation rate doubled over the past decade to reach 20%, even as the gap in Black and white CSU students’ graduation rates grew to 25%, the report found. One reform that helped put Black students on a faster graduation path was a 2017 law that largely allowed community college students to take transfer-level classes without first taking remedial courses — even though tens of thousands of students are still taking unnecessary remedial classes, CalMatters’ Mikhail Zinshteyn found.