From California Business Roundtable <[email protected]>
Subject California Business Roundtable eNews February 19, 2021
Date February 19, 2021 10:00 PM
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Web Version [link removed] | Update Preferences [link removed] CBRT in the News California Teachers Union Launches Ads On School Reopening Risk

The California Teachers Association launched television ads this week warning that Covid-19 is "still a threat" and that schools should not open without a focus on teacher vaccinations and other safety protocols as Gov. Gavin Newsom and school employee unions remain at odds over returning to campuses.

The emergence of campaign-style ads added a new dimension during ongoing talks that Newsom described Monday as "stubborn." The Democratic governor is pushing to open schools across California, where the vast majority of 6 million public schoolchildren have remained in distance learning for almost a year.

"We know what happens when we don’t put safety first," the CTA advertisement states while flashing headlines about coronavirus outbreaks in schools in Roseville and San Diego. "Ignore proper ventilation or rates of community spread, and the virus worsens. Fail to provide masks or class sizes that allow for social distancing, and classrooms close back down. A successful reopening requires real safety and accountability measures, including prioritizing vaccines for educators."


Rob Lapsley, president of the California Business Roundtable, which asked last week for schools to open immediately, called on Tuesday for CTA to "immediately close out" negotiations with the governor and for unions to "drop their political tactics of fear and misinformation" regarding Covid-19.

“The images used in these new inflammatory ads do not reflect the reality of what is happening in classrooms across the state and nation where mitigation has worked to keep kids and teachers safe," Lapsley said in a statement.

Read More [[link removed]] Business Climate and Job Creation Global Services Economy Moving At Two Speeds As Factories Thrive

U.S. services companies reported increased activity during February, aided by demand for new business, while service-sector firms in Europe and Japan saw deepening declines.

High Covid-19 infection rates at the start of the year prompted governments in the U.S., Europe and Japan to impose fresh restrictions on individuals and businesses. But the restrictions have varied and contributed to a divergence in global economic activity as the pandemic continues, particularly at businesses offering services that traditionally require close physical proximity.

Manufacturers, meanwhile, have recovered more evenly in different parts of the world.

February surveys of purchasing managers by data firm IHS Markit indicated the divergence between services and manufacturing became more pronounced for some economies, such as Japan and Germany, that have long been big exporters of manufactured goods.

Read More [[link removed]] Fed's Brainard: Climate Change Already Affecting Economy, Financial System

Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard said Thursday the economy and financial system are already being affected by climate change, and said the central bank is ramping up work to ensure the financial system can deal with the risks that lay ahead of it.

“Climate change is already imposing substantial economic costs and is projected to have a profound effect on the economy at home and abroad,” Ms. Brainard said in a speech. “There is growing evidence that extreme weather events related to climate change are on the rise—droughts, wildfires, hurricanes, and heat waves are all becoming more common,” she said.

“Future financial and economic impacts will depend on the frequency and severity of climate-related events and on the nature and the speed at which countries around the world transition to a greener economy,” she said.

The official said financial firms should now begin a process of adapting to this reality, and while the change needed by firms will vary by institution, putting off the transition will come with increasing costs later. Firms will also need to take steps to ensure their activities don’t have a negative impact on the environment, she said.

Read More [[link removed]] Universal Basic Income Could Be Coming for Kids

Entrepreneurs, intellectuals and presidential candidates have in recent years touted “universal basic income,” a cash stipend to everyone with no strings attached, as the answer to poverty, automation and the drudgery of work. It has never gotten off the ground in the U.S.

Instead, something similar in spirit but cheaper and more practical may be in sight. Both President Biden and Sen. Mitt Romney (R., Utah) have proposed significantly expanding the child tax credit and dropping many of its restrictions, in effect turning it into a near-universal basic income for children.

The main aim of their proposals is to reduce child poverty, which is higher in the U.S. than in most advanced countries. Both would slash the number of children in poverty by around 3 million, or a third, according to the Niskanen Center, a center-right think tank.

Read More [[link removed]] Tech Industry Challenges Maryland Online Ad Tax

Groups representing major tech companies filed a lawsuit Thursday challenging Maryland’s new online advertising tax, contending it is an improper levy on the internet.

The suit in U.S. District Court in Maryland challenges the state’s recently enacted gross receipts tax on digital advertising revenue as unconstitutional and illegal under a federal internet tax moratorium.

The plaintiffs include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Internet Association, NetChoice and the Computer and Communications Industry Association. Big tech companies including Facebook Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit and Inc. are represented by the groups.

The suit will be closely watched, as other cash-strapped states look to the burgeoning online economy as a new source of tax revenue.

Representatives of the tech companies contend that the tax will unfairly hit small businesses that depend on the internet during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“In light of the current pandemic and economic uncertainty, increasing taxes on services used by small businesses to keep themselves running is a particularly poor and ill-timed policy,” said Caroline Harris, vice president for tax policy at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

Read More [[link removed]] What Walmart Raises Mean For President Biden’s $15 Minimum-Wage Plan

Walmart Inc.’s pledge to lift its average hourly pay above $15 comes in the middle of a Washington debate on whether to more than double the federal minimum wage.

The big-box retailer’s goal is politically significant because it aligns with President Biden’s proposal to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from the $7.25 an hour that has been in place for 11 years. It also comes from the nation’s largest private employer, with stores located in different labor markets across the country.

But Walmart’s announcement Thursday isn’t an endorsement of Mr. Biden’s plan, which is part of a $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief proposal by Democrats in Congress expected to pass the House later this month. The company supports a higher federal minimum wage, but not $15 an hour. While it plans to raise pay for 425,000 hourly workers from an average above $14 in January 2020, its minimum starting wage would remain at $11 an hour.

Read More [[link removed]] Lower-Income Covid-19 Aid Recipients Seen Boosting Consumer Spending

Early signs point to an uptick in consumer spending at the start of the year, particularly by lower- and middle-income households receiving payments through the most recent Covid-19 relief package.

Spending by consumers who make less than $60,000 a year jumped by more than 20% in the week ended Jan. 10—the week after the U.S. Treasury Department began electronically sending stimulus payments of $600 per adult and $600 per child for individuals with adjusted gross incomes under $75,000—according to the research group Opportunity Insights’ tracker of figures from Affinity Solutions, which collects consumer credit- and debit-card spending data.

Spending by households making above $100,000 by contrast, was broadly flat compared with January 2020 that week.

Among households receiving stimulus payments, 88% spent their $600 check “like it burned a hole through their pocket,” said Jonathan Silver, chief executive of Affinity Solutions. That jump in spending shows there is “significant pent-up demand for necessities” while higher-income groups “pulled back the reins” on spending, he said.

Read More [[link removed]] Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Is Highly Effective After One Dose And Can Be Stored In Normal Freezers, Data Shows

The Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE generates robust immunity after one dose and can be stored in ordinary freezers instead of at ultracold temperatures, according to new research and data released by the companies.

The findings provide strong arguments in favor of delaying the second dose of the two-shot vaccine, as the U.K. has done. They could also have substantial implications on vaccine policy and distribution around the world, simplifying the logistics of distributing the vaccine.

A single shot of the vaccine is 85% effective in preventing symptomatic disease 15 to 28 days after being administered, according to a peer-reviewed study conducted by the Israeli government-owned Sheba Medical Center and published in the Lancet medical journal. Pfizer and BioNTech recommend that a second dose is administered 21 days after the first.

The finding is a vindication of the approach taken by the U.K. government to delay a second dose by up to 12 weeks so it could use limited supplies to deliver a single dose to more people, and could encourage others to follow suit. Almost one-third of the U.K.’s adult population has now received at least one vaccine shot. Other authorities in parts of Canada and Europe have prioritized an initial shot, hoping they will have enough doses for a booster when needed.

Read More [[link removed]] Uber Drivers Are Entitled to Worker Benefits, A British Court Rules

Uber suffered an important labor defeat in its largest European market on Friday when Britain’s Supreme Court ruled that the ride-hailing firm’s drivers must be classified as workers entitled to a minimum wage and vacation time.

The case had been closely watched because of its ramifications for the gig economy, in which companies like Uber rely on a sprawling labor force of independent contractors to provide car rides, deliver food and clean homes.

Uber and other gig economy companies say their business model gives people flexibility to choose when they work, while critics say it has eroded job protections and the traditional company-employee relationship.

In a unanimous decision, the court ruled that although Uber said it was only a technology platform that connected drivers with passengers, it behaved more like an employer by setting rates, assigning rides, requiring drivers to follow certain routes and using a rating system to discipline drivers.

Read More [[link removed]] The Gig Economy Is Coming For Millions Of American Jobs

The tower of aging Manila envelopes, stacked in a corner of Rome Aloise’s cluttered Bay Area home office, is a monument to five years of failure. Aloise, who heads the Northern California chapter of the Teamsters union, has spent a lot of time sitting across a table from officials at Uber and Lyft, trying to work out a deal to organize their drivers. The companies wanted to forge peace with labor while ensuring the workers would still be considered independent contractors without the legal rights employees are guaranteed, including the hourly minimum wage. The union wanted to increase its ranks and boost drivers’ pay without setting a precedent that would endanger its other members’ rights. The envelopes contain a small forest’s worth of rejected proposals, handwritten notes, and other detritus from a great many meetings that couldn’t bridge the gap. “Everybody would love to see some resolution,” Aloise says. “It’s just what that looks like is the problem.”

Back and forth the companies and the Teamsters have gone over the years, as the firmament has shifted around them. During Aloise’s first round of monthslong talks at Uber Technologies Inc.’s headquarters in San Francisco, in 2016, the company’s clout was on the rise—its top officials included then-President Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, and Obama himself joked about becoming an Uber driver after leaving the White House. A couple of years into the Trump era, the union appeared to have the upper hand, after California judges and legislators made it much tougher to call workers contractors if they were central to a company’s operations. Now, however, union leverage is at a nadir, and the scenario that labor officials—including some who don’t represent drivers—spent years trying to head off is beginning to unfold.

Read More [[link removed]] Texas Storms, California Heat Waves And ‘Vulnerable’ Utilities

In California, wildfires and heat waves in recent years forced utilities to shut off power to millions of homes and businesses. Now, Texas is learning that deadly winter storms and intense cold can do the same.

The country’s two largest states have taken very different approaches to managing their energy needs — Texas deregulated aggressively, letting the free market flourish, while California embraced environmental regulations. Yet the two states are confronting the same ominous reality: They may be woefully unprepared for the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters caused by climate change.

Blackouts in Texas and California have revealed that power plants can be strained and knocked offline by the kind of extreme cold and hot weather that climate scientists have said will become more common as greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere.

Read More [[link removed]] How To Build A Better Manufacturing Ecosystem In California

The COVID-19 pandemic and wildfires have made ongoing threats to California’s large, high-paying manufacturing sector even more challenging and the state needs to create a more unified and comprehensive strategy — the crux of new recommendations sent to the Newsom administration by a CA FWD manufacturing work group.

California has a rich history as a manufacturing hub, from aerospace companies that made their home in the Greater Los Angeles region to the genesis of the U.S. biotechnology industry in the Bay Area. Manufacturers leveraged the state’s network of research universities and its skilled workforce as part of a booming innovation economy, with biotech firm Genentech founded the same year as Apple was incorporated.

Approximately 11 percent of California’s total economic output in 2020 was generated by manufacturing, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. The industry is also known for punching above its weight when it comes to employment, providing well paid jobs to workers with a range of education levels and also serving as a driver of indirect job growth.

Read More [[link removed]] California Unemployment Claims Rocket Higher, Pointing To A Weak Job Market

Unemployment claims in California have skyrocketed to their highest level in more than a month, officials reported Thursday, a grim sign that coronavirus-linked business shutdowns continue to weaken the state’s frail job market.

California workers filed 158,600 initial claims for unemployment last week, up 20,660 from the prior week, the U.S. Labor Department reported.

The weekly claims totals were the highest since Jan. 9, when 182,600 California workers filed initial claims for unemployment.

Nationwide, workers filed 861,000 initial jobless claims during the week that ended on Feb. 13, up 13,000 from the jobless claims filed the week of Feb. 6.

California is now accounting for a brutally high percentage of the jobless claims filed in the United States.

Despite having only 11.8% of the nation’s labor force, California last week accounted for a jaw-dropping 18.4% of all the unemployment claims filed in the United States, this news organization’s analysis of the weekly jobless filings shows.

Read More [[link removed]] Utah Smokes California In Latest Ranking Of Top Performing U.S. Cities

When it comes to the top performing economies in the country, Utah cities are watching California’s Bay Area heavyweights fade in the mirror as the Provo-Orem metropolitan area earned a No. 1 ranking in a new study that saw two other Utah metros earn top-10 slots.

The annual Milken Institute Best-Performing Cities Index has Provo-Orem regaining its nation-leading status after dropping to the No. 2 position last year following top-place rankings in 2018 and 2019.

The Santa Monica, California-based economic think tank is offering a “first look” at how cities across the country have weathered the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, assessing data sets that cover jobs, wages, high-tech growth, housing affordability and household broadband access.

In its 2021 assessment, Milken researchers noted that Utah — which netted three top tier rankings with Salt Lake City in the No. 4 spot and Ogden-Clearfield at No. 9 — was benefitting from those employees and businesses fleeing high-priced Northern California zip codes for the more affordable, and economically vibrant, climes of the Mountain West.

Read More [[link removed]] Californians With Low Income To Receive $600 Checks Under $9.6-Billion COVID-19 Economic Package

Gov. Gavin Newsom and legislative leaders announced Wednesday that they have agreed to provide low-income Californians a $600 state stimulus payment to help them weather financial hardships during the COVID-19 pandemic, part of a $9.6-billion economic recovery package that also includes $2.1 billion in grants for small businesses.

The “Golden State stimulus” payments provided under the state proposal, which will be expedited for legislative approval next week, are in addition to the $600-per-person stimulus checks already approved by Congress and would be on top of direct payments of up to $1,400 per person that have been proposed by House Democrats.

The package put forward for immediate action also provides more than $400 million in new federal funds for stipends of $525 per enrolled child for all state-subsidized child-care and preschool providers, which serve some 400,000 children in subsidized care statewide.

“As we continue to fight the pandemic and recover, I’m grateful for the Legislature’s partnership to provide urgent relief and support for California families and small businesses where it’s needed most,” Newsom said in a statement announcing the expedited relief package with Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood).

Read More [[link removed]] Energy and Climate Change New Bill Would Ban Fracking In California By 2027

Despite California’s progress in other areas and claims that it’s a climate leader, the Golden State has a major fracking problem. A bill introduced in the state’s senate this week would change that, though.

The legislation, introduced by Sens. Scott Wiener and Monique Limón on Wednesday, would completely outlawing fracking statewide by 2027. The two sponsors are also aiming to amend the bill to include a shorter-term policy, which would halt all fracking within 2,500 feet (762 meters) of any homes, schools, healthcare facilities, “long-term care institutions,” including university dormitories and prisons, by Jan. 1, 2022.

According to the California Geologic Energy Management Division, the state has over 2,000 active fracking wells open right now, and Gov. Gavin Newsom just approved 11 new ones this month.

In addition, it would also ban three other fossil fuel extraction methods: acid well stimulation treatments, cyclic steaming, and water and steam flooding. State data shows that of the nearly 33,000 active oil and gas wells in California, 24 use acid treatment, over 14,000 use cyclic steaming, over 4,000 use water steaming, and still another 4,000 use steam flooding. The bill would in essence be a major step to wind down the state’s longstanding relationship with fossil fuel extraction.

Read More [[link removed]] The Inherent Risks In President Biden’s Energy Plan

You may count me among those who want to see society move beyond fossil fuels. We all know there are negative consequences associated with fossil fuel usage, such as the emission of carbon dioxide and various other pollutants.

However, fossil fuel replacements come with their own risks and trade-offs, and it is important to understand and weigh these trade-offs as we transition from fossil fuels.

Two key issues are scale and reliability. Most people drastically underestimate our ongoing dependence on fossil fuels. According to the latest BP Statistical Review — which is the "bible" of energy statistics — in 2019 fossil fuels supplied 83.3% of our energy in the U.S.; nuclear power supplied another 8.0%. Renewables, including hydropower, just 8.7%.

Even though renewables are expanding rapidly, the percentage of energy we get from fossil fuels hasn’t changed that much over the years. After declining a bit a decade ago due to high prices, oil consumption in the U.S. has once again been on the rise (excepting last year’s pandemic-related collapse).

Read More [[link removed]] Our Grid Isn't Ready For Climate Change

Last summer, when 750,000 Californians experienced rolling blackouts as heatwaves overtook the west, some politicians in Texas took the opportunity to blame liberal policies to explain the outages.

This week, as ice storms overtook Texas and plunged more than 4.4 million people into freezing darkness, some Californians on Twitter were gleefully dunking on those same Texas politicians for not keeping electricity flowing during their extreme weather events.

I get it. I understand the tribalism of politics. But at this moment, millions of Americans are freezing without power — with no end in sight. It is horrifying and beyond politics. Energy resilience, like climate change, is not partisan. It will affect every community and statehouse, regardless of who is in charge.

The battle is not between liberal and conservative states. It is between those working towards a clean, affordable resilient energy future and the politicians and incumbent energy providers that politicize it.

Read More [[link removed]] California Wastes Its Extra Solar, Wind Energy. Could Hydrogen Be The Storage Key?

No amount of solar panels and wind turbines alone will be enough for California to reach its goal of a clean electrical grid unless the state can solve its energy-storage problem.

The state already generates an abundance of energy from wind and solar farms, particularly during the sunny and blustery spring and early summer months. But it loses much of that energy because it has nowhere to store it, and unlike fossil fuels, the sun and wind don’t generate power 24 hours a day. Utilities must kick on gas-fired power plants to keep up with California’s energy demands during peak demand periods.

Some experts and legislators say the missing puzzle piece could be hydrogen, the most abundant element in the universe, which can be used as a zero-emission fuel for power plants, vehicles and machinery. Extra solar and wind energy can be used to create hydrogen fuel, which can then be stored and used to generate electricity to fill the gaps when the sun doesn’t shine and wind doesn’t blow.

Read More [[link removed]] What California Needs To Do To Avoid A Texas-Style Electricity Crisis

California and Texas, the country’s two most populous states, have each faced major energy crises within the past six months that share a primary cause: extreme weather.

This week, millions of Texans lost power amid a historic winter storm that blanketed the state in snow and ice and sent temperatures plunging to uncommonly frigid depths. People have died or been sickened by carbon monoxide poisoning as they struggled to stay warm, and officials in one county requested a refrigerated truck to store the bodies of people who died during the cold snap.

The Lone Star State’s plight is many orders of magnitude worse than the rolling blackouts Californians endured over two blistering days in August. Yet both situations have exposed the extent to which the United States’ vital energy infrastructure is threatened by erratic and extreme weather conditions that are becoming increasingly common as climate change advances.

Read More [[link removed]] California Says It Will Review Cap-and-Trade Amid Growing Criticism

Newsom administration officials said this week that they will evaluate the role of California’s landmark cap-and-trade program as the state examines its strategies for tackling climate change over the next decade.

At an oversight hearing Tuesday, Jared Blumenfeld, secretary for environmental protection, and Air Resources Board Chair Liane Randolph said the carbon trading program will be a key part of the conversation as California updates its climate road map, called a scoping plan, over the next two years.

Neither Blumenfeld nor Randolph, however, would say specifically what will be examined or how the program might change. “Any changes would need to be carefully thought through and accompanied by economic and environmental processes,” Blumenfeld said.

Launched in 2013, California’s cap-and-trade program is the nation’s first economy-wide carbon market. The program sets a declining cap on greenhouse gas emissions that polluters — including oil refineries, power plants and manufacturers — can meet by buying and trading carbon credits or updating their facilities.

Independent experts have raised concerns that the program might be too weak to achieve California’s ambitious climate goals.

Read More [[link removed]] 7-Eleven Collaborates With PG&E To Install Electric Vehicle Chargers At California C-store

7-Eleven Inc. introduced electric vehicle (EV) fast chargers to a West Sacramento, Calif., convenience store in collaboration with Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E).

Available at the 7-Eleven located at 4010 Lake Road, four new advanced 125kW-capable EV fast chargers were installed through PG&E's EV Fast Charge program. The convenience retailer and PG&E are working to install fast chargers at additional locations.

"7-Eleven has been around for over 90 years, providing customers with convenient and innovative products and services. We are always trying to think about new ways to add better service to our customers. With more electric vehicles on the road, installing the fast charging stations was an obvious way to offer convenient charging to customers who need it while also taking strides to reduce our impact on the environment," said Ann Scott, senior director of Energy Engineering & Store Planning at 7-Eleven.

"7-Eleven prides itself in collaborating with other companies who have the same vision to find mutually beneficial solutions for our customers, our business, and the environment. We look forward to adding more EV charging stations to more 7-Eleven stores over the next few years," she added.

Read More [[link removed]] Workforce Development Veteran Teachers Surveyed Worry About Covid's Long-Term Harm On California Students

In the first comprehensive survey of California teachers’ experiences during distance learning, a majority confirm the biggest worries of many policymakers and education leaders: They say they believe their students risk long-term academic and mental health damage from the Covid pandemic.

And three-quarters of the 121 teachers surveyed say “less advantaged students” — low-income students, students with disabilities, foster, homeless and low-income children — will bear the brunt of the harm, worsening disparities in learning that existed before the Covid pandemic.

“When you have a school where 90% of the students live in poverty, it makes any learning hard,” said an elementary-middle school teacher in a north coast region school. “Some kids are thriving right now without the social pressures of being at school, but many are completely checked out. Many kids also don’t have access to the internet, which is a huge barrier even if they have a school-issued computer.”

The survey project, called the California Teacher Consultant Response Network, was created by the California nonprofit The Inverness Institute and education consultant Daniel Humphrey. EdSource is partnering to present the findings.

Read More [[link removed]] California Legislators Issue Their Conditions For Reopening Schools--Without Governor's Backing

In a sign that they remain at odds with Gov. Gavin Newsom, legislative leaders on Thursday released legislation laying out their version of what districts must do to reopen schools. What’s missing, however, is the governor’s support after weeks of negotiations.

Senate Bill 86 and an identical version, Assembly Bill 86, which will be presented at a legislative hearing Monday, contains key elements that Newsom himself had proposed in his Safe Schools for All reopening plan in late December. These include $2 billion in incentives to encourage districts to sign on, and requirements that school districts negotiate safety agreements and institute rigorous testing of students and staff to qualify for the money.

But the deadline for filing for the funding has been moved to April 1 — two months later than Newsom initially proposed — and sets April 15 as the deadline for reopening elementary schools, or as soon after that the level of Covid infections in counties where districts are located declines to the “red tier,” the second most restrictive of the state’s four tiers.

Read More [[link removed]] Long Beach Unified Is Largest School District In California To Announce Reopening Plans

With over 70,000 students, Long Beach Unified is the largest school district in California to announce school reopening plans, although it will be nearly six weeks before any students will return for regular in-person instruction, and even then on a part-time basis.

A key aspect of the plan is that teachers will likely be fully vaccinated by the time schools open for elementary students who will return on March 29, based on a plan announced at the district’s school board meeting Wednesday night. Presented as an information item at the meeting, the plan does not need formal board approval. Despite the seemingly slow roll out, because the school year ends on June 16, elementary students would still have a substantial amount of time of some form of in-person instruction to look forward to — about 2 1/2 months.

Compared to most other school districts in the state, Long Beach Unified has a definite advantage: Long Beach is one of only four California communities to have its own public health department, rather than being part of a countywide one, and is therefore freer to set priorities for vaccinations. Addressing a central concern of many teachers and their unions, over 2,000 school employees have already received their first vaccinations, and an additional 1,600 are being vaccinated this week. The district anticipates that all its elementary teachers and school staff will have received both doses of the vaccine by March 15.

Read More [[link removed]] California Accountability Data Makes English Learner Progress, Report Says

California school data doesn’t paint a full picture of English learners. It’s more like a sketch.

That’s according to a new report by Californians Together, a nonprofit organization that researches and advocates for students who speak a language other than English at home. These students make up about 2.4 million students in the state — 2 out of 5 students.

The report, which is supported by several other partner organizations, says the state’s school accountability tool, the California School Dashboard, makes it too easy for districts to receive high scores for English learners’ progress, because it sets too low a percentage for how many students should be progressing in proficiency each year, and because it lumps students still learning English together with those who have achieved fluency.

“Right now very few districts have the urgency to focus on their English learners based on the dashboard,” said Martha Hernandez, executive director of Californians Together.

Read More [[link removed]] Infrastructure and Housing Senator Wiener Introduces Four Bills To Spur Housing Production And Address California Housing Crisis

As California’s Housing Crisis continues, Senator Scott Wiener of San Francisco has introduced four bills as part of the Senator’s 2021 housing package.

The Senator has yet to be successful with several attempts at his seminal plan, the Housing Opportunity Act, which “ensures that local zoned density and state housing laws are not undermined by hyper-restrictive lot requirements that make it practically impossible to build multifamily apartment buildings in areas zoned to allow them.

“It is so deeply important that we act decisively and quickly to pass commonsense housing policies that allow us to actually address our severe housing shortage and develop the housing that we need to get back to the old-fashioned… but important notion that we should have housing for everyone who needs it,” Senator Wiener said during a press briefing on Thursday.

“That seems simple and basic but we have gotten away from that in California over the last fifty years,” he said.

Read More [[link removed]] How An Ex-Tech Worker Got $43,804 Into Rental Debt

Just a year ago, CJ Paillant lived in a brand new apartment complex in Oakland’s Jack London Square with a rooftop terrace, a game lounge and a pool with a hot tub that he and a friend rented for nearly $5,400 a month.

But Paillant, a product manager for a Silicon Valley software company, lost his job early on in the pandemic. So did his roommate. Together, they now owe $43,804.72 in rent.

“I got stuck in my luxury apartment,” said Paillant, who stayed to avoid a fee for breaking his lease but has since moved to West Oakland. He hopes to negotiate a repayment plan with his former landlords, but Paillant knows he isn’t getting his former life back anytime soon. “Now I’ve got to raise this money. My life feels like a movie.”

More than one in seven California renters were behind on their rent payments at the end of last month, according to Census Bureau surveys. And even with a statewide eviction moratorium and federal and state rental relief, some formerly well-paid renters like Paillant have accumulated a level of debt they’re not sure how they’ll ever get out of. Experts say California’s relief law — SB 91 — does little to overcome renters’ uncertainty, leaving them unsure exactly how much they will owe when protections, which are set to expire July 1, end.

Read More [[link removed]] To Create More Affordable Housing, Make Zoning Hyperlocal

When Sacramento proposed changing its zoning rules to allow four homes on land that had permitted just one, something remarkable happened: The reform passed city council, unanimously, with little of the outrage over new housing that’s long haunted California politics. The public comments were overwhelmingly supportive. Politicians lined up to praise the measure, which passed this January — even San Francisco Mayor London Breed, who presides over a city where such “fourplexes” are mostly illegal. Sacramento now joins other U.S. cities, including Portland and Minneapolis, that have legalized the construction of more homes in more places.

If ever there were a moment for pro-housing, “Yes In My Backyard” reforms that allow for the development of denser housing, it should be now. In many U.S. cities, housing costs have ballooned beyond the reach of millions of Americans, and evidence suggests that restrictions on where you can build are largely to blame. Local reforms like Sacramento’s are a growing trend, although so far, they remain relatively rare among cities with expensive housing markets.

Read More [[link removed]] If You Want A Home, ‘Move To Another State’ CA Building Assoc. Says To State’s Middle Class

A new law meant to change the way California builds into the future might be leading people to leave the Golden State in their past.

As of July 1, 2020, housing construction projects are no longer assessed a fee by how much traffic congestion they generate. Instead, a “Vehicle Miles Traveled” calculation is now applied. Developers have to account for how many miles a potential homebuyer might drive, and then offset those miles over a given threshold. Critics say the change will add costs to many housing projects.

Dan Dunmoyer serves as the president and CEO of the California Building Industry Association. He tells GV Wire℠ since the new law took effect there’s been a dramatic slowdown in new residential construction.

“We’re seeing substantial delay because cities and regional governments were not ready for VMT,” said Dunmoyer. “We call it the big pause button, which is exactly the wrong thing we need right now in California for housing and the housing crisis.”

Read More [[link removed]] Some Sober Advice On Homelessness

A year ago, before COVID-19 changed everything, Gov. Gavin Newsom dedicated almost all of his State of the State address to one issue: homelessness.

“As Californians, we pride ourselves on our unwavering sense of compassion and justice for humankind,” Newsom told legislators, “but there’s nothing compassionate about allowing fellow Californians to live on the streets, huddled in cars or makeshift encampments. And there’s nothing just about sidewalks and street corners that aren’t safe and clean for everybody.

“The problem has persisted for decades — caused by massive failures in our mental health system and disinvestment in our social safety net — exacerbated by widening income inequality and California’s housing shortage. The hard truth is we ignored the problem.”

Newsom pledged to attack the issue with money and “replace California’s scattershot approach with a coordinated crisis-level response.”

Read More [[link removed]] Rep. Costa Proposes Legislation To Pay For High-Speed Rail

Valley Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA-16) has re-introduced legislation to fund projects in federally designated high-speed rail corridors.

HR 867: High-Speed Rail Corridor Development Act will directly assist in funding to complete California’s High-Speed Rail project connecting San Francisco to Los Angeles via the San Joaquin Valley.

“A modern infrastructure lays the foundation for a thriving economy,” said Costa. “California is leading the way by building state of the art, fast, electrified trains that will go 220 miles per hour. This will help get cars off the road and help clean California’s air. With new business investments and more than 5000 new jobs created, we are already seeing the benefits of this project, and this is only the beginning. Now is the time to bring our transportation infrastructure into the 21st century and my bill will get the job done!”

The High-Speed Rail Corridor Development Act is a reauthorization of the High-Speed Rail Corridor Development Program and builds upon the success of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act of 2008 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. It authorizes $32 billion dollars through 2025 for the High-Speed Rail Corridor Investment program and also authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to award grants for projects that are part of a state rail plan, encourage intermodal connectivity, and those with environmental benefits.

Read More [[link removed]] California's Aging Dams Face New Perils, 50 Years After Sylmar Quake Crisis

It was a harrowing vision of the vulnerability of aging California dams — crews laboring feverishly to sandbag and drain the lower San Fernando Reservoir, as billions of gallons of Los Angeles drinking water lapped at the edge of a crumbling, earthquake-damaged embankment that threatened catastrophe on the neighborhoods below.

Although the 1971 San Fernando earthquake and the near failure of the Lower Van Norman Dam have given rise to construction improvements — the much newer Los Angeles Dam survived an equivalent shaking in the 1994 Northridge quake — the overwhelming majority of California dams are decades past their design life span.

And while earthquakes still loom as the greatest threat to California’s massive collection of dams, experts warn that these aging structures will be challenged further by a new and emerging hazard: “whiplashing shifts” in extreme weather due to climate change.

“The biggest issue facing dam safety in California is aging infrastructure and lack of money to fund repairs and retrofits of dams,” said Sharon K. Tapia, who leads the Division of Safety of Dams at the California Department of Water Resources. “Many older dams were built using construction methods considered outdated by today’s standards.”

Read More [[link removed]] Editorial and Opinion We’ll Have Herd Immunity By April

Amid the dire Covid warnings, one crucial fact has been largely ignored: Cases are down 77% over the past six weeks. If a medication slashed cases by 77%, we’d call it a miracle pill. Why is the number of cases plummeting much faster than experts predicted?

In large part because natural immunity from prior infection is far more common than can be measured by testing. Testing has been capturing only from 10% to 25% of infections, depending on when during the pandemic someone got the virus. Applying a time-weighted case capture average of 1 in 6.5 to the cumulative 28 million confirmed cases would mean about 55% of Americans have natural immunity.

Now add people getting vaccinated. As of this week, 15% of Americans have received the vaccine, and the figure is rising fast. Former Food and Drug Commissioner Scott Gottlieb estimates 250 million doses will have been delivered to some 150 million people by the end of March.

There is reason to think the country is racing toward an extremely low level of infection. As more people have been infected, most of whom have mild or no symptoms, there are fewer Americans left to be infected. At the current trajectory, I expect Covid will be mostly gone by April, allowing Americans to resume normal life.

Read More [[link removed]] Follow The Science, Not The Teachers Unions

Follow the science. That was Joe Biden’s promise to the American people—until Randi Weingarten and the American Federation of Teachers disagreed.

I spent much of my time as governor saying that we needed to put children and parents first in public education. The teachers union in New Jersey spent tens of millions of dollars to oppose my reform efforts and protect the status quo. As a result our per pupil costs were among the country’s highest, and families in many urban districts were held hostage by failure.

America’s public schools have mostly been closed to in-person learning for a year. Those that have opened are proving themselves to be relatively safe. In an article published Jan. 26 in the Journal of the American Medical Association, three researchers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found “little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission” of the coronavirus. Data from reopened classrooms don’t show the rapid spread that has been observed in congregate living facilities and high-density work sites.

Read More [[link removed]] We Need Schools Reopen Now

Late in the evening of March 12, 2020, I received a message from the superintendent of my children’s school district announcing the immediate closure of all campuses. The closure would last three weeks. It was meant to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus.

As our community hunkered down, my husband and I told our kids that this could be fun! Even though I’m in treatment for metastatic breast cancer, which means being the 24/7 mom on duty has an added layer of challenge, I welcomed the extra family time. We slept in, relaxed our screen-time rules and took on overly complex baking projects.

By late April, schools across the nation were closing. Teachers scrambled to develop “distance learning” plans. Parents scrambled to balance work and other obligations with supervising their children’s at-home learning. I scrambled to figure out how I could possibly homeschool two young children, one of whom has special needs, while also undergoing cancer treatment.

But, despite the shock and inconvenience of it all, I thoroughly understood our collective predicament. We would all have to rise to this challenge together.

Read More [[link removed]] Biden Rescues Texas With . . . Oil

With Texans shivering as power outages continue for a fourth day, the Biden Administration announced it is deploying diesel generators to the state. Yes, good ol’ dirty diesel fuel is coming to the rescue again.

The left’s denialism that the failure of wind power played a starring role in Texas’s catastrophic power outage has been remarkable. Liberals blame gas plants for not covering wind’s you-know-what when turbines froze amid surging demand. This is ironic since they seem to be acknowledging that fossil fuels are necessary, though they still want to banish them.

California and New York also haven’t been able to break their hate-love relationship with fossil fuels. After a heat wave strained California’s grid last summer and renewables were MIA, Gov. Gavin Newsom suspended emissions rules and leaned on diesel emergency generators to keep people from baking.

Read More [[link removed]] Paid Sick Leave Will Help Protect Us In This Pandemic

Time and time again we hear from public health officials that even as we see the light at the end of the tunnel, everyone must maintain vigilance in adhering to the basics of COVID-19 prevention: masking, social distancing, avoiding crowds, avoiding sharing indoor space with those outside our household and maintaining good hand hygiene. This is sound advice, but it won’t be enough on its own.

The burden of prevention cannot be successfully carried by individuals alone: we will only succeed if it is shared by governments and employers as well. The federal government and states need to maintain equally simple and basic steps to reduce the spread, one of the most important of which is supplemental paid sick leave.

This pandemic has highlighted the critical connection between worker health and public health. We have seen over and over how outbreaks in workplaces have spread to families and communities. Therefore, it is essential to implement measures that will allow sick workers to stay home.

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