Your guide to California policy and politics by
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Good morning, California. It’s Friday, August 20.
Note: Political reporter Ben Christopher will guest host the newsletter on Monday. I’ll see you Tuesday!
Key hearing delayed — again
Californians who want to know how much progress the state unemployment department has made on crucial reforms will likely have to wait until after the Sept. 14 recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
That’s because state lawmakers have twice postponed a key hearing on the Employment Development Department — and likely won’t take up the issue again until Sept. 21, I’ve exclusively learned. The hearing, originally scheduled for Aug. 17, was pushed to Aug. 24. Then a notice was published online: “HEARING POSTPONED.” Staffers told me the delay was due to scheduling conflicts inherent in bringing together four committees during the frenzied last month of the legislative session.
But the twice-moved date, when considered in light of other developments, also raises questions.
Californians can track online the status of the state auditor’s recommendations to both EDD and the state Legislature — see here and here. But legislative hearings often offer more details and deeper accountability: EDD leadership, for example, is expected to testify at the joint hearing.
Assemblymember Wendy Carrillo, a Los Angeles Democrat and chair of one of the committees holding the EDD hearing, told me in a Thursday statement, “We cannot ensure a successful joint hearing … without including an evaluation of the impacts of federal unemployment benefits ending in early September.” She added:
Carrillo: “There have been five EDD oversight hearings in just over a year. Hundreds of millions of dollars in the state budget are focused on making Californians who need access to benefits whole. … We will continue to take action until the job is done.”
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 4,070,083 confirmed cases(+0.3% from previous day) and 64,383 deaths(+0.1% from previous day), according to state data.
California got a step closer to eliminating single-family zoning on Thursday, when an influential Assembly committee approved a controversial bill that would allow as many as two duplexes, two houses with attached units, or a combination — capped at four units — on single-family lots statewide, without local approval. The proposal has sparked a political firestorm in Sacramento, with homeowners groups and local lawmakers opposing it and advocacy groups including California Yes In My Backyard supporting it. But ultimately, the bill might not move the needle too far either way, CalMatters’ Manuela Tobias reports: It likely won’t make too much of a dent in California’s housing crisis, and it probably won’t translate into the nightmare scenario described by opponents.
Another bill causing hubbub in the Capitol: one that would require garment manufacturers to pay most workers by the hour, not by the piece — and extend the liability for wage theft from the factories to the brands and retailers that sell the clothes, as well as any subcontractors in between, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports. Supporters say it will help end wage exploitation; opponents say it could harm the U.S. garment industry, which unexpectedly thrived amid the pandemic.
3.Record-high COVID hospitalizations
COVID hospitalizations have hit record levels in six rural Northern California counties — the result of sharp spikes in infections and low vaccination rates. Paired with a Monday order from the California Department of Public Health requiring hospitals to accept transfer patients from facilities with limited ICU capacity, it’s the latest indication that the pandemic is far from over, Kristen Hwang reports for CalMatters. Another indication: Two of the counties have zero ICU beds available. Others are cancelling elective procedures and limiting visitors. To see which counties have record hospitalizations and how your county is faring, check out Kristen’s report.