Gov. Gavin Newsom Strips Fresno County Supervisors’ Power to Draw Election Lines

With his signature on Sunday, Gov. Gavin Newsom told the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to get lost when it comes to the next redistricting task in nine years. The governor signed legislation by Assemblymember Joaquín Arámbula, D-Fresno, to give those duties to a 14-member community redistricting commission. Arámbula said it was the only way to ensure that the Latino community gets a fair chance at political representation. The five-member board lobbied against the Arámbula bill, saying it takes the redistricting process “away from the voters” who elect the board “and gives it to appointed special interest groups with no accountability to voters.” “AB 2030 proposed to usurp local control and discretion of the County of Fresno’s elected representatives, while other counties with similar demographics and population would maintain local control and discretion over the redistricting process,” the board wrote. Arámbula, the Dolores Huerta Foundation and other community organizations said the supervisors can’t be trusted to draw fair and equitable districts based on the fact that supervisorial districts have changed little despite a spike in Latino population.

Sal Quintero is the sole Latino on the board. Latinos account for 53.4% of county residents, up from about 35% in 1990. There are three Republicans and two Democrats on the board, but Supervisor Brian Pacheco, a Democrat, tends to vote with the three GOP representatives. Registered Democrats are now counted almost eight points higher than Republicans, 39.7% to 32%, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. That’s a change from an even split a decade ago.

The League of Women Voters of Fresno backed Arámbula’s bill. The organization, in a letter of support, said the California Fair Maps Act moved the county closer to “an inclusive and more transparent process.” “However, the lack of an independent redistricting body allowed our county supervisors to disregard public testimony and more than 15 publicly-submitted maps to adopt a virtually unchanged district map,” the league wrote. The board voted 4-1 to adopt a district map that was drawn by county staffers that remained little changed from previous boundaries. A map promoted by the Central California Coalition for Equitable Realignment did not make the final cut despite support from 36 of 46 people who testified before the board. “I’m disappointed,” said former Assemblymember Juan Arámbula after the vote. “I think the time has come to look at requiring counties to set up independent commissions outside of their control to make these decisions because (the supervisors) just have too much self-interest.” Arámbula, the father of the current assemblymember, pushed for independent commissions when he served in the Assembly. Newsom appears to have paid attention this time, a year after vetoing legislation that would have required counties with more than 400,000 residents to turn over redistricting duties to a citizens commission. Newsom also signed a bill by Assemblymember Rudy Salas to create a citizens redistricting commission in Kern County. The Arámbula bill, which sailed through the Assembly 56-20 and the state Senate 29-10, was also opposed by the California State Association of Counties. The bill will establish a 14-member commission with political representation proportional to the county’s voter registration party preference. The Salas bill has identical language. “Fresno County must have an independent citizens redistricting commission that will seriously listen to the voices of people demanding representation that truly reflects their communities and will address their issues,” said Arámbula in introducing the bill. “Our county is changing, and Latinos now make up the majority of the population.”

The legislation, AB 2430, was strongly backed by the Dolores Huerta Foundation, whose community outreach led to an increase in resident involvement during the redistricting process. The foundation also backed community organizations that came up with new district boundaries designed to improve the chances of Latino candidates. In the June primary, José Ramírez and Daniel Parra lost the only contested race, losing to incumbent Buddy Mendes. The community-favored map would have created three Latino-majority districts, and would have kept the Mendes district west of Highway 41 and moved the portion east of the highway into a new district with farming and communities that are different from those that remain in the old district. Fresno County joins the counties of Los Ángeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Bárbara in having a citizens redistricting commission. Kern County got added this year also after Newsom signed the Salas legislation. Latinos represent the majority of residents in Fresno (53.6%), Tulare (65.5%), Kings (56.8%), Kern (54.9%), Madera (59.6%), and Merced (61.8%) counties, yet each have just one Latino/Latina on the board of supervisors. In Kern County, the board of supervisors also opposed the Salas bill, saying “a new and fundamentally partisan redistricting process is being unfairly and unnecessarily forced on the residents of Kern County, over the objection of their duly elected local representatives.” If the board is removed from the redistricting process, the county said, “it makes no sense at all that the board would still be responsible for footing the bill.” After Kern County came up with new supervisorial districts in 2011, it lost a lawsuit to the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) over those maps in 2018. MALDEF said the 2011 maps denied Latinos the right to elect their own candidates in violation of the federal Voting Rights Act.

Click here to read the full article in the Sacramento Bee

Voters Push to Take Local Redistricting From Politicians

California’s independent redistricting commission has received generally good reviews for its new maps that voters are using to elect legislators and members of Congress in November. 

Voters who say they are disenfranchised want similar panels to draw their local districts — and they’ve gone to the Legislature to make that happen.

Three bills on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk would overrule local officials and require independent redistricting commissions in Fresno, Kern and Riverside counties, respectively. If he signs them, those panels would work on districts for the boards of supervisors in those counties, starting after the next Census in 2030.

“I think people are aware now of how politicians have been using political lines to keep themselves in power. I think people want to see that power in the hands of the people,” said Lori Pesante, civic engagement director of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, which sponsored Assembly Bill 2030 for the Fresno County citizens commission. 

“Redistricting is very much in the consciousness of the people, so I hope the conditions are ripe now for the governor to sign,” she added.

While Newsom vetoed a bill in 2019 that would have required all 21 counties with populations of 400,000 or more to establish independent commissions to draw county supervisor districts, then-Gov. Jerry Brown signed two other bills to create such panels just in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. Under current law, counties are allowed to use advisory or fully independent commissions, but aren’t required to have them. 

The 2022-23 state budget includes $1 million for the Riverside citizens redistricting commission.

“This failure of a majority of the Board of Supervisors to protect the voting rights of our Latino community illustrates why an independent citizens redistricting commission is needed to draw fair maps for Riverside County,” Assemblymember Sabrina Cervantes, a Corona Democrat, said in a statement. She authored AB 1307 to create the Riverside commission and is vice chairperson of the California Latino Legislative Caucus. 

Advocates in Riverside County aren’t waiting on a new commission to draw fairer districts in the future. They’re suing to overturn districts drawn by the board of supervisors last year, alleging that the maps disenfranchise Latino voters by splitting them among districts. 

“What we saw happen in Riverside County was pure political self-preservation by the county supervisors,” said Michael Gomez Daly, executive director of Inland Empire United, a coalition that seeks to elect diverse candidates in San Bernardino and Riverside counties. “It had nothing to do with fair representation for the communities that they purport to serve.” 

Representative democracy? 

Riverside County is a prime example of the voting population shifts that can occur from decade to decade — and even more quickly. Within just one year during the pandemic, from July 2020 through July 2021, Riverside County gained 36,000 residents — the third highest county population gain in the nation. Even before that, the county saw 10% growth, with a couple of cities nearly doubling in size from 2010 to 2020.

It seems logical: The Inland Empire led the country in job growth after the Great Recession. It’s home to warehouses for retail giants such as Amazon, Walmart and Target. Housing is also more affordable than the rest of Southern California.

Riverside County’s demographics have also shifted, with increases in the Latino population and Asian populations, and decreases in the white population.

That’s why groups including Inland Empire United and the UCLA Voting Rights Project warned supervisors that the maps they were leaning towards would disenfranchise Latino voters. Plaintiffs in the lawsuit say their input on a map with two majority-Latino districts instead of just one was ignored. 

“For months, Riverside residents demanded the county to do the right thing and adopt maps that would lead to equitable and fair representation. Instead, the supervisors ignored the community and adopted maps that would ensure they had easier reelections,” Daly said in a statement in June. “The supervisors’ redistricting plan is a classic case of politicians putting their own interests over people.”   

The plaintiffs are calling on the board to rescind the current map, and adopt one that keeps communities of interest together.

Similar complaints are behind the bill for a Fresno County commission.

Critics said that supervisors approved a map that changed little from the 1991 version, despite a growing Latino population.

“Our county is changing, and Latinos now make up the majority of the population,” Assemblymember Joaquin Arambula, a Fresno Democrat, said in a statement when he introduced AB 2030. “We can no longer tolerate a process in which elected officials give lip service to following redistricting requirements, ignore public input, and then adopt a map that serves their purposes. This change is long overdue.”

The bill for the Fresno commission, however, is opposed by both the county and the California State Association of Counties.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Democrat Running For State Controller Studied Socialism in Venezuela on a Trip in 2006

‘The last thing we need as California’s fiscal watchdog is someone who extolled the virtues of socialism’

Malia Cohen, a Democrat running for California State Controller, the state’s fiscal watchdog, traveled to Venezuela in 2006 to learn about Hugo Chavez’s socialist revolution, Fox News reported Tuesday. Cohen, who currently is a member of the California State Board of Equalization, made a 10-day trip to Venezuela for $1,250.

Fox continues:

Cohen’s trip to the country was documented in a CNN story about the group’s tour, with Cohen claiming that “revolutionary thought” is “generational” as it showed an image of her gazing at a mural featuring a quote from Venezuelan leader Simon Bolivar that roughly translates to: “The health of a Republic depends on the morality acquired by education of citizens in childhood.…”

“The revolutionary thought and mindset is generational,” Cohen told the outlet at the time. “What we see in the United States, and you really don’t see grandparents and parents and even young as active politically.”

“We always knew Malia Cohen was extreme, but we had no idea she was this extreme,” Lanhee Chen, the lead candidate for State Controller told the Globe.

“The last thing we need as California’s fiscal watchdog is someone who extolled the virtues of socialism,” Chen said. “The many Californians who fled socialist countries deserve to know why Malia took this trip and whether she still believes in ‘the revolutionary thought and mindset’ of Hugo Chavez’s brutal regime.”

Venezuela was once among the richest countries in the world, and maintained a robust constitutional democracy until Hugo Chavez’s brutal dictatorship dismantled all democratic institutions and destroyed the economy, forcing the Venezuelan people into extreme poverty.

“The Controller is California’s independent fiscal watchdog,” Chen explains on his website. “The person who makes sure that taxpayer money—OUR money—is spent as we’re told it will be. But that’s not happening now. In fact, the Controller can’t even tell us where she sent over $300 billion in payments in 2018 alone.”

Chen, the son of immigrants from Taiwan, earned four degrees from Harvard University, including a law degree and doctorate in political science. Chen has served in senior roles in both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations. Describing why he is running for State Controller, Chen says no one is watching out for the California taxpayer.

“We need new leadership that isn’t afraid to take on as much as $30 billion of fraud in our state unemployment insurance system,” Chen says. “Russian mobsters and convicted murderers like Scott Peterson shouldn’t be getting government payments, while single moms in need go without.”

The Controller manages the state’s checkbook – it is a very important and serious role in State Government.

The Controller is responsible for:

  • accountability and disbursement of the state’s financial resources
  • independently audits government agencies that spend state funds
  • administers the payroll system for state government employees and California State University employees
  • serves on 70 boards and commissions with authority ranging from state public land management to crime victim compensation
  • is a member of numerous financing authorities, and fiscal and financial oversight entities including the Franchise Tax Board and Board of Equalization
  • also serves on the boards of the nation’s two largest public pension funds

Cohen was on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and led efforts to divest the city’s pension fund from fossil fuels. She currently is a member of the Board of Equalization where she “works to provide tax relief for Californians reeling from the pandemic, while holding corporations accountable for paying their fair share,” Cohen’s campaign website says. She was born and raised in San Francisco, earned a BA from Fisk University, and a Master’s in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

California to give $2,500 Training Grant to Workers Who lost jobs during pandemic

Living through a pandemic sucks, but for Diana McLaughlin, early 2020 was especially bad: A divorce in February 2020, societal shut-down in March, and as part of the COVID-19 economic fallout, she lost her job in April of that year, returning to full-time work only 18 months later.

California lawmakers had economically distressed folks like McLaughlin in mind when last year they approved half a billion dollars on education grants worth $2,500 to help workers displaced by the pandemic acquire new job-related skills. 

McLaughlin is among the first 3,000 or so recipients of this grant, adult learners who were issued checks in a pilot program this spring and summer. Now the state is opening the grant to a wide range of adults with low incomes who lost their jobs or saw their hours severely cut during the pandemic. Half of the grant funds are reserved for displaced workers with children under 18. 

Officials expect to reach 190,000 people with this money, called the Golden State Education and Training Grant Program

Among the few stipulations to receive the grant, applicants must fill out a short application that takes about 10 minutes to complete and attest that they lost a job or hours after March 4 2020, when Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency. Applicants also must affirm that they weren’t enrolled in an educational or job-training program when they lost their jobs. There’s an income threshold as well. 

Part of what makes the application quick to complete is how little it asks. Unlike other grant applications for college, this one is self-reported and self-certified, wrote Judith Gutierrez, spokesperson for the state financial aid agency running the grant, in an email. “We are not requesting any documentation,” she added.

McLaughlin wasted no time once she received her grant in June, 2022. After taking courses part-time at American River College, a community college in Sacramento, since October of 2020, she decided to go full-time to pursue her first ever-degree this fall and chose accounting as her major. 

The $2,500 is paying for her textbooks, software required for schoolwork and other supplies — anything remaining she’s putting in a personal education account. Though she receives tuition waivers as part of a state financial aid program and additional dollars through the Cal Grant, the Golden State grant gives her extra confidence that she can afford an education while earning around $38,000 a year.

“I spend my lunch break doing schoolwork,” she said. After returning from the office, she takes her associate degree courses online. McLaughlin’s younger son is a virtual charter school student, so the two complete their homework side by side. 

“I feel that it’s showing him how important an education is and to never give up because here I am, 47, and in college,” she said.

Expanding financial aid in California

At first blush the Golden State Education and Training grant, which will last through 2024 and is funded mostly through one-time federal stimulus funds, is yet another example of the state’s growing effort to lower the cost of college for adults and bring more Californians into college classrooms. 

In the past two years, public funding grew by nearly 50% for the California Student Aid Commission, which oversees most of the higher-education grant aid to students, to nearly $3.6 billion. That growth includes more tuition and cash support for community college students, middle-class students at the University of California and California State University, students formerly in foster care, students raising children and the Golden State training grant, among others.

But the Golden State grant’s eligibility rules start where other state and federal grants drop off, extending cash assistance to would-be students who otherwise wouldn’t be eligible for traditional college financial aid.

The Golden State grant can cover education programs that are shorter than about four months — something the federal Pell and state Cal Grant do not. Students receiving the Golden State grant may also use the money for extension and so-called noncredit programs, such as English-as-a-second-language courses, bicycle repair and various landscaping certificates. There’s no minimum program length for this grant — and because state dollars cover some of the grant costs — undocumented students are also eligible for the $2,500. Anyone getting the grant needs to already know which training program they plan to pursue.

Getting the word out

So that displaced workers with no ties to a college also apply, the Student Aid Commission is working with regional workforce boards, The California Workforce Development Board and other agencies to get the word out about the grant, said Jake Brymner, director of governmental relations for the Student Aid Commission. 

Grant recipients can also use the funds if they enroll in certain workforce training and apprenticeship programs unaffiliated with colleges or universities. The Student Aid Commission is reviewing which workforce training programs are eligible and will soon add those to the approved list on the grant application. Students will only be able to use their grants at California public colleges, universities and these approved workforce training programs.

During the pilot when only public colleges and universities were eligible, 84% of the grant applicants sought educations at community colleges, data from the Student Aid Commission shows. 

“This specific grant has great potential,” said Daisy Gonzales, interim chancellor of the California Community Colleges. “What it does is it provides an entry point to our colleges for students that may not know about us.” Students with no exposure to community colleges can gain access to food pantries and coordinators who are familiar with other state and local social services for which students could qualify. 

She’s also hopeful the grant may help to recover some of the colossal enrollment loss the system suffered in the past two years.  

Grant can combine with other student aid

Even if grant recipients qualify for free tuition, especially at community colleges where nearly half of learners attend for free, they can use the money to cover gas, housing, food and other expenses. It’s an added perk for learners who had no spare dollars to afford an internet connection or other expenses associated with attaining a degree.

Muideen Olawoyin was one class away from earning an associate degree in human services, a stepping stone toward social work. But a series of bad breaks and a long-term injury left him cash-dry. 

“I (couldn’t) even afford internet then, it was so hard,” he said. When he picked up the Golden State check from his school, Cosumnes River College, he was able to get back online, enroll in that final course and earn his degree this summer. 

The average income of the roughly 3,000 grant recipients was about $22,000 when they first applied, according to California Student Aid Commission data provided to CalMatters.

Some degrees don’t boost wages

Not all training and education programs are made equal, however. Some research shows that shorter-term college certificates — like the kind in which students with this grant can enroll — have a mixed record of boosting the earning power of graduates.

Overall, these certificates lead to higher wages, but noncredit programs are less remunerative than traditional for-credit certificates. Still, associate degrees and bachelor’s degrees lead to even higher wage gains for graduates, according to a 2020 Urban Institute study. Meanwhile, a fifth of certificate programs at public colleges and universities lead to lower wages than what workers with high school diplomas earn, a Hechinger Report analysis of national data showed

California’s foray into funding short-term credentials could inform the national conversation on whether to permit federal grant aid to pay for educations that are shorter than four months. For a few years now advocates have been trying to introduce “short-term” Pell grants, but the idea hasn’t won over enough lawmakers yet

None of the four Golden State training grant recipients CalMatters spoke with were pursuing short-term credentials — all wanted an associate degree. McLaughlin, who now works as an accountant for a fencing company, is dreaming bigger.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

Anonymous Letter to Assembly Lawmakers Alleges Abuse, Harassment of Sergeants-at-Arms by Chief

Letter says violations have been reported to Assembly leaders but nothing was done

The California Globe is in receipt of a letter stating it is from an Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms, recently sent to all members of the California State Assembly, as well as Assembly staffers, revealing alleged abuse and horrible work conditions in the legislature by the Assembly Chief Sergeant-at-Arms.

The complaint alleges that Assembly Chief Sergeant-at-Arms Alisa Buckley and Deputy Chief Sergeant Randy Arruda are abusive to the point of pushing Sergeants to retire early, leave for another job, or suffer demotion and schedule changes with little or no notice. 

The writer says the policy violations were reported to the Workers Conduct Unit (WCU) and Assembly Human Resources, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Chair of Rules Committee Ken Cooley, and Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gravert, but nothing changed.

“At the State Capitol, those who create the laws that the governed are required to follow, do not follow such practices themselves,” the letter writer says.

In December 2019, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced Alisa Buckley, a member of the Sacramento Police Department for 22 years, as the Assembly’s new Acting Chief Sergeant-at-Arms. The election for the new Chief Sergeant was held the first week of session in January 2020, and she was approved for the job.

With the complaint now being public, it appears the Assembly Speaker needs to initiate a thorough investigation into the allegations, which includes interviewing all staff Sergeants-at-Arms.

The California Capitol has been plagued with hostile working conditions in recent years. In 2018 the Joint Committee on Rules Subcommittee on Sexual Harassment Prevention and Response announced policy changes in response to widespread accusations of sexual harassment/assault and gross sexual misconduct by elected legislators and senior staff, I reported. Yet female employees still report harassment, as the Los Angeles Times recently reported.

The Globe contacted Assembly Speaker Rendon’s press secretary Saturday for a statement but we have not heard back. We will update the article when we do.

Here is the letter:

August 26, 2022

All Assemblymembers

1315 10th St.

Sacramento, CA 95834

RE: Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms Hostile Work Environment

Dear Assemblymembers,

Over the course of the last year, the Assembly’s Sergeant-at-Arms Department has become a hostile and demoralizing place of employment.  In 2021, the department had around 50 total employees.  Since then, the department has diminished to less than half that number due to the leadership of Chief Sergeant Alisa Buckley and Deputy Chief Sergeant Randy Arruda.  Diminishing staff is due to those who have chosen to retire early, leave for another job opportunity, or were demoted.   Those who left includes five of the eight in management.  Several Assembly policies have been violated and were reported to the Workers Conduct Unit (WCU) and Assembly Human Resources. Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, Chair of Rules Committee Ken Cooley, and Chief Administrative Officer Debra Gravert had been informed of such matters and made the decision to protect the institution instead of protecting staff vital to the functioning of the Capitol.

Assembly policy states that training in Workplace Violence Prevention, Ethics, and Sexual Harassment be conducted each legislative term and that staff compliance is mandatory.  The Ethics training course describes retaliation and purposeful misconduct by superiors.  This has been occurring in the Sergeant’s Department for two years.

-Demoting the employees

-Encouraging staff to ostracize individual employees without cause or evidence

-Giving poor reviews or nit-picking

-Sudden changes in work schedules and/or work locations

-Poor references without cause or evidence

-Poor performance feedback without cause or evidence

Assembly staff communicated such occurrences to individual members in the hopes that help would come. Staff has been repeatedly reminded that they are at-will employees and could be let go at any time for any reason.  The constant reminding has considered is a warning to any employees that discuss department matters to members will experience consequences.  This is a violation of the ethic protocols in the Capitol.  What is occurring in the department has reached the level of being discussed in a Democratic Caucus meeting.  

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

CA Teachers Union Did Oppo Research on Parents Who Wanted Schools to Reopen During COVID

‘To have the teachers’ union dedicate personnel to politically target moms and dads protecting their children is startling and disgusting’

Reopen California Schools just exposed via emails received through California Public Records Act requests that the California Teachers Association labor union conducted opposition research on parent groups pushing for school reopening during the government ordered COVID school shutdowns in California.

Opposition research (“oppo” research) is the practice of collecting information on a political opponent or other adversary that can be used to discredit or weaken them.

“Then after a principal was accidentally CC’d, the ‘damage control’ was asking him to illegally delete the email,” Reopen California Schools reported. “The email was initiated by CTA researcher Ann Swinburn, to an activist parent arm of the local union. In the email Ann says, she is ‘currently doing some research into the various ‘reopen’ groups around the state.’”

Reopen California Schools continues:

“In Dec 2020, the local SDUHSD union, with help from CTA, sued the district to stay closed. Parents then successfully sued to open schools in March 2021. The CTA researcher was wanting to dig up intel on the parents funding the reopen lawsuits. (Hint: It was just parents.)”

“Later in the email, one person accidentally cc’d the wrong Adam, who was a principal in the district. Knowing the information was not only embarrassing, but could be subject to a Public Records Request, they asked the principal to illegally delete the email (he didn’t).”

Reopen California reports that CTA activist Ann Swinburn then made her account private. “And now her account is deleted. Guess making it private wasn’t good enough. Truly was not expecting this (nor paid attention to her Twitter before), but now, I really want to know what were in some of those tweets.”

“The CTA researcher’s tweets are protected now, but older ones are available via an internet archive. Like these from Apr 1 & Oct 15 2021. She seems convinced it was right-wing dark money instead a parents just wanting their kids in school & w/ normalcy.”

he Globe spoke Wednesday with a parent group mom who has been active pressing for school re-openings and getting back to what used to be normal in schools. She said every school district “has a few loudmouth smart moms” who start shill group Facebook pages with innocuous sounding names like “Parents Supporting teachers,” and pump out teachers unions talking points. She said they are usually recruited by the teachers unions.

“Several archived tweets shared by Reopen California Schools, show that Swinburn appeared to be convinced that parent groups fighting to reopen schools were covertly being backed by big money interests,” Fox News reported.

“Lance Christensen, who is a candidate for California superintendent of public instruction, called the email revelations ‘startling and disgusting.’”

“Conducting opposition research is a common practice in political campaigns. But to have the teachers’ union dedicate personnel to politically target moms and dads protecting their own children and expressing their first amendment rights is both startling and disgusting,” Christensen said in a statement to Fox News.

He added: “Entrenched special interests have used their war chests over the last two and a half years to intimidate and threaten anyone who dares to challenge their ineffective reign over public education. This must end.”

These parents exemplify the desperation for normalcy:

“We just wanted schools open, now we just want our kids to be able to read and do math at grade level, and this is what CTA spends $$ on,” the mom says.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

Californians Asked to Conserve Power Amid Brutal Heat Wave

Californians sweltering in the West’s lengthening heat wave were asked to reduce air conditioning and cut other electricity use again during critical hours Friday and again Saturday to prevent stress on the state’s electrical grid that could lead to rolling blackouts.

Saturday will be the fourth consecutive day of requests by the state’s electrical grid operator for voluntary cutbacks during late afternoon and evening hours to balance supply and demand as millions of residents endured triple-digit temperatures.

The California Independent System Operator said multiple generators have been forced out of service because of the extreme heat, making energy supplies tighter.

Electricity demand on Thursday hit a peak of 47,357 megawatts, the highest since September 2017. Cal ISO credited conservation and reduced commercial use with keeping the grid stable.

“The major concern now is even higher temperatures forecast for Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, with projected loads climbing to more than 49,000 megawatts on Tuesday,” Cal ISO said in a statement.

In August 2020, a record heat wave caused a surge in power use for air conditioning that overtaxed the grid. That caused two consecutive nights of rolling blackouts, affecting hundreds of thousands of residential and business customers.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday declared an emergency to increase energy production and relaxed rules aimed at curbing air pollution and global warming gases. He emphasized the role climate change was playing in the heat wave.

“September is off to a searing start in the West with record breaking temperatures and fire weather expected to expand and settle over that part of the country this Labor Day weekend,” the National Weather Service said.

Author Stephanie Solomon, 33, brought her pet tortoise along with a portable baby pool with a miniature umbrella to keep it cool while selling her children’s books at the Huntington Beach Pier.

“It is really hot out here today. Well, Penelope Joy is a desert tortoise, so I think she is the only one that’s really enjoying this heat as hot as it is today,” said Solomon, as surfers and swimmers sought refuge in the ocean below.

Solomon said she was mindful of the power situation and her air conditioning was off while she was away .But she planned to activate it by phone on her walk home to “make sure it’s nice and cool in there.”

That wasn’t an option for some when temperatures climbed into the 90s on Tuesday in Colorado. About 22,000 Xcel Energy customers could not increase their air conditioning after getting messages saying thermostats were temporarily locked.

The customers had signed up for a program allowing the utility to adjust them to four degrees above the previous setting when demand for electricity is high, the company said.

Usually, customers can choose to override the adjustments, but the company said that was not allowed because of an emergency due to an unexpected loss of power generation and the heat.

One customer, Christopher Empson, said his thermostat was locked at 81 degrees (27.2 Celsius). He said he had no memory of signing up for the program, and he wished there was more communication about what the company had the power to do.

“I was kind of blindsided,” he said, and “there are some folks that, if their thermostat gets locked, that can be life or death.”

California’s “Flex Alerts” urge conservation between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., the hours when production of solar energy declines. The grid operator urges people to use major appliances, charge electric cars and cool down their homes earlier in the day, then turn up thermostats to 78 degrees (25.5 Celsius) or higher.

“The No. 1 most effective conservation measure is to set thermostats to 78 or higher” because air conditioners are the biggest users of electricity in the summer, Anne Gonzales, a spokeswoman for the grid operator, said in an email.

“We have traditionally asked for 78 degrees, because it has a good effect on our demand, and is still comfortable to allow consumers to easily participate,” she said. “We always ask consumers to set it higher, if they can, and if health permits.”

Keeping temperatures too low can cause air conditioners to run constantly, added Jay Apt, professor at the Carnegie Mellon University College of Engineering.

“If you set that puppy too low, it’s going to run all the time,” said Apt. “That’s going to do two things, the first is that it is going to use an awful lot of energy and the second is that it’s not going to give recovery time.”

The goal is to allow units to cycle on and off, said Apt, and 78 degrees is a rough estimate for the sweet spot that can vary depending on a building’s insulation.

In California, customers of Pacific Gas & Electric, the nation’s largest utility, can volunteer to let the company control their internet-connected thermostats during heat waves. The program automatically adjusts the thermostat schedule so it uses less energy during times of peak demand.

Customers can get $75 for participating and can opt out of it by simply changing their thermostat to a different temperature. The company does not lock thermostats, PG&E spokesperson Katie Allen said.

California cities and counties, meanwhile, were opening cooling centers.

“We have opened cooling centers in the past, but this heat wave looks like it’s the real thing,” said Dr. Ori Tzvieli, health officer in Contra Costa County east of San Francisco.

Some of the cooling centers will be specifically for homeless people, and an outreach team will also go out to hand out water to the homeless and inform them of available resources, Tzvieli said.

Read the full article at AP News

CA Legislature is Adjourned: What Bills Passed? What Failed?

Climate change package, gun sales tax, fail, Newsom’s Care Court proposal passes

The California Legislature wrapped up the 2022 session after midnight. There was drama, mean Tweets, arm twisting, heated language, and some surprises.

The members of the California Legislature rejected a bill by former Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) to allow legislative staff to unionize. Capitol staff are at-will employees and will remain so for now.

Concealed Carry restrictions: SB 918 by Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Canada-Flintridge) which sought to remove the right to protect oneself and family by preventing law abiding citizens, regardless of their background, from being able to carry a firearm outside the home failed to pass. The bill would have doubled the cost for licensing, raised the minimum age to carry from 18 to 21, added 16 hours of training requirement, and set stricter background checks including ongoing fingerprinting, a minimum of three character references, and a three-year review of public social media posts. The bill also would have also prohibited a legal CCW holder from carrying in the “sensitive areas” including Anywhere alcohol is served, Public transit, all airport buildings, hospitals, schools, medical facilities, nursing homes, parks, and more.

Diablo Canyon saved – the lights will stay on for now: Diablo Canyon currently powers 9% of the state, and in the throws of this summer heat wave, lawmakers saw fit to save the nuclear power plant from further decommissioning. This wasn’t likely altruism on behalf of lawmakers who have pushed every imaginable climate change clean green renewable energy bill recently – most lawmakers remember the last governor (Gray Davis) who was blamed for the rolling blackouts and recalled by angry voters.

Voters will blame Democrats for loss of electricity as CalISO warns the electricity grid cannot handle the load. We’ve been down this road before with power shortages and rolling blackouts – almost entirely since the California Legislature and the last three governors started imposing absurd “climate change” laws on the state, weakening the electricity grid and putting all Californians in jeopardy.

Environmental Justice for Oil and Gas Industry: Lawmakers approved a bill to require at least 3200 feet between new oil wells and homes, schools, hospitals and other public buildings. Senate Bill 1137, gut-and-amend legislation by Democrat Senators Lena Gonzalez and Monique Limón, would require 3,200-foot mandatory setbacks around California oil and gas wells. Expect legal challenges to this bill if Gov. Newsom signs it in to law.

Transgender Children Sanctuary StateSenate Bill 107, by Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), will make California a refuge state for transgender children and their families from other states that criminalize youth gender-affirming care treatments.

If the governor signs SB 107 into law, it will prohibit health care providers and service plans from releasing medical information related to someone allowing a child to receive gender-affirming health care in response to a criminal or civil action, including a foreign subpoena, based on another state’s law that authorizes a person to bring a civil or criminal action against a person or entity that allows a child to receive gender-affirming health care or gender-affirming mental health care. Law enforcement agencies would, as a result, be prohibited from arresting or extraditing the child or the people who approved the gender-affirming care due to an out-of-state law against gender-affirming care. Yikes.

Vaccines for kids

without parental consent fails: San Francisco Senator Scott Wiener pulled SB 866, co-authored by Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) outraged parents across the state. The bill to allow children as young as 12, then 15 after amendments, to take vaccines without parental consent.

““The anti-vaxxers may have prevailed in this particular fight, but the broader fight for science and health continues. This coalition isn’t going anywhere,” Sen. Wiener said. 

Mental Health courts: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s controversial bill, Senate Bill 1338, to push more homeless people into mental health treatment passed the Legislature.

Click here to read the full article in the California Globe

California Lawmakers Reject Bill to Allow Their Staff to Unionize at the State Capitol

For the fourth time in five years, the California Legislature rejected a bill to allow its staff to unionize, parting with other West Coast states that have approved similar legislation to try to improve workplace conditions and offset power imbalances between politicians and their legislative staff.

The bill died after Assemblyman Jim Cooper (D-Elk Grove) initially refused to allow a vote in his committee on the final night before the lawmakers adjourned for the year. Cooper reversed his decision minutes later and allowed a vote on the bill, which failed to earn enough support for passage.

“The reason I held this is not to make these folks take a hard vote,” Cooper said when he spoke in opposition of the legislation. “So you can get on Twitter. I don’t care. You can get on Facebook. I don’t care. It’s doing what’s right.”

For decades, legislative employees have not received the same right to unionize as other private and public sector workers despite the Democratic Legislature’s close ties with unions at the state Capitol.

The National Labor Relations Act of 1935 grants most private-sector employees the right to join a union and engage in collective bargaining. California lawmakers granted state employees the right to collectively bargain over pay, hours and other employment conditions more than 40 years later under the Ralph C. Dills Act of 1977, but excluded legislative staff. An attempt to include legislative workers in the Dills Act failed in 2000.

Former state Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego) launched an effort in 2018 to allow legislative staff to unionize. But despite several attempts, the powerful former lawmaker failed to move the legislation out of the Assembly before she resigned from the Legislature in January to lead the California Labor Federation.

To circumvent the Assembly, where the legislation had repeatedly died, Assemblymember Mark Stone (D-Scotts Valley) amended a bill already in the state Senate in May with new language to allow staff to unionize. The labor federation added the bill to its priority legislation for the year and formed a large lobbying coalition of unions representing teachers, machinists, nurses, firefighters, building trades, truck drivers, engineers, autoworkers and other occupations to push for its passage.

The only registered opponent of Assembly Bill 1577, an organization called Govern for California, argued that unionizing legislative staff could create a conflict of interest if workers are represented by a union that opposes certain legislation.

But the biggest challenge for advocates was convincing lawmakers.

In most workplace settings, employees sign cards or vote in support of forming a union, often in defiance of the company. Those dynamics flipped in the Legislature, where essentially the employer had to vote to allow workers to unionize.

“It would be like being in a normal workplace and having to write up a proposal for your boss that said, ‘Hey, you know, you’re not doing a good enough job. We need better protections. And by the way, I want you to push for it,’ ” Gonzalez said days before the vote. “It’s a really awkward position given the power dynamic.”

The Senate passed the bill by a 31-2 vote Tuesday.

“If we believe in the right to organize, if we believe in our obligation to protect and defend workers, we owe that to our staff to give them a voice in their affairs, in their working conditions and their career paths,” Sen. Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) said during the floor debate in the upper house.

In the Assembly the next day, Cooper argued the bill did not go through the proper vetting process.

The demise of the legislation Wednesday marked the third time it had failed to get out of the Assembly Public Employment and Retirement Committee, which Cooper chairs.

In a statement, Stone said his office reached out to Cooper’s committee multiple times before and after the language was introduced earlier this year.

“I have made multiple attempts, since May, to talk to the chair and address his concerns, but the chair refused to engage in discussions around his issues,” Stone said. “The message is clear. This committee trusts staff with shaping the laws that govern California, but not to bargain for basic working conditions.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

CA Lawmakers Pass Bill to Require 100% Clean Energy Statewide

Lawmakers ignore the additional $3.2 billion in costs in SB 1020, which will be passed on to 27 million ratepayers

Assembly Bill 1020, a bill to establish 100% clean energy statewide, and require state agencies to accelerate their 100% clean energy policy goal by 10 years, passed the Senate Tuesday. This is just one of many 2022 climate change bills being passed by the Legislature.

Sen. Brian Dahle (R-Bieber) railed against the bill critical of propping up a lofty goal with no plan on how to achieve this.

He’s right. California lawmakers have a long history of this laissez faire style of legislating: lawmakers pass the vague law, and then allow unelected, politically appointed regulatory officials and agencies to write the laws and implementation process.

The state has passed ambitious greenhouse gas reduction and clean energy goals since 2006 when AB 32, the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 was passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

At that time, AB 32 required statewide greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced to at least 40% below the 1990 level by 2020. But the state achieved that in only a few short years, largely because California did not have much greenhouse gas pollution, so lawmakers moved the goal posts out to 2030, which allowed the state to continue passing more and more strict regulations and laws.

Why should anyone care about AB 32 and its debilitating regulations?

AB 32 directs the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to be the lead agency to implement the law.  The Climate Action Team, made up of relevant state agencies, is charged with helping direct state efforts on the reduction of GHG emissions and engaging state agencies.

The Climate Action Team includes:

  • California Environmental Protection Agency
  • Governor’s Office of Planning and Research
  • California Air Resources Board
  • Business, Consumer Services, and Housing Agency
  • Government Operations Agency
  • California Natural Resources Agency
  • California Department of Public Health
  • Office of Emergency Services
  • California Transportation Agency
  • California Energy Commission
  • California Public Utilities Commission
  • California Department of Food and Agriculture
  • Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
  • Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Department of Transportation
  • Department of Water Resources
  • Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery
  • State Water Resources Control Board

California lawmakers also passed Senate Bill 2, the Renewable Portfolio Standard program in 2011, which required all retail sellers of electricity and publicly owned utilities to buy 33 percent of the electricity delivered to their retail customers from renewable resources by 2020.

Again, the goalposts were moved and now electricity providers must each meet at least 50% of their electrical load from renewable energy resources by December 31, 2026, and at least 60% by December 31, 2030.

State law – codified under SB 100 (De León), establishes the policy that eligible renewable energy resources and zero-carbon resources supply 100% of all retail sales of electricity to California end-use customers and 100% of electricity procured to serve all state agencies by December 31, 2045, the “100% clean energy policy.”

Bill analysis published opposition to SB 1020: “The Western Electrical Contractors Association writes in opposition to the bill’s requirements of project labor agreements on state agency procurement, claiming the requirement will raise costs, reduce competition and discriminate against otherwise qualified workers. The State Water Contractors and the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California have an Oppose Unless Amended position on the bill, citing cost concerns from the accelerated procurement required for SWP. A coalition of environmental and environmental justice organizations have an Oppose Unless Amended position on the bill, noting their concern with policies – such as RPS – which provide incentives to bioenergy production, specifically from dairy digester biomethane.”

Notably, lawmakers ignored the additional $3.2 billion in costs in SB 1020 to the Department of Water Resources, which will pass the costs on to the 27 million ratepayers of 29 public water agencies of the State Water Project.

Click here to read the full article at California Globe