California Democrats Spending Public Money on Voter Outreach

California is spending $35 million on ads now airing to tell state voters that mail-in voting is “simple, safe” and “secure” during the coronavirus pandemic.

Although voters are seeing the ads, the contract has yet to be seen by by key state departments or the public. It also appears Padilla’s office failed to secure the necessary authority to spend the money.

The contract was awarded by Secretary of State Alex Padilla to a public affairs firm that touts itself as on “Team Biden,” prompting questions about the bipartisan nature of the effort.

Now Republican leaders are raising concerns, telling county supervisors Padilla used money that would be better spent by individual counties. …

Click here to read the full article from the Sacramento Bee.

In Affluent O.C., Echoes of a Skid Row Shooting

Big questions loomed Friday over the death of Kurt Andras Reinhold, who was fatally shot by Orange County sheriff’s deputies last week in the beachfront town of San Clemente.

How did this well-educated, churchgoing Black man, who coached youth soccer and had two children of his own, end up living on the streets of south Orange County? What pushed him into mental illness and homelessness? Why did two deputies, part of a specialized detail to help people who are homeless, confront him Wednesday?

And then there’s the doubt that nagged at neighbors Laura Engeman and Rani Craig as they headed Thursday to an impromptu memorial near the spot where Reinhold was killed: “How did a routine interaction from a homeless outreach effort escalate into a gun incident?” Engeman asked.

Reinhold’s name joins the long list of Black men and women killed by police under questionable circumstances across the country: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Brendon Glenn, Michael Brown and many others. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Newsom orders ban of new gas-powered cars by 2035

In a dramatic move to tackle climate change, Gov. Gavin Newsom today ordered state officials to ban new gasoline-powered cars within 15 years. 

California has for longer than half a century been a leader in driving new, cleaner car technologies with its regulations. Today, Newsom raised the stakes: On the hood of an all-electric red Ford Mustang Mach-E, he signed a new executive order that aims to eliminate new models of traditional cars and put more vehicles powered by clean technologies such as fuel cells and batteries on California’s roads. 

The order also tackles fossil fuel pollution before it comes out of tailpipes, tasking California lawmakers with putting an end to new fracking permits by 2024. The Newsom administration’s approval of new oil and natural gas fracking permits this summer has drawn criticism from environmental groups

Taking aim at Californians’ beloved cars is a risky political move, especially amid an economic crisis. And the state’s power to enact a ban will hinge on the presidential election, and will likely be tested in court, according to some legal experts. 

Car companies Honda and Ford applauded the announcement. But some automakers, including General Motors and Toyota, are likely to mount an aggressive campaign to fight the order, saying it is a massive undertaking that requires an overhaul of fuel infrastructure, building codes and consumer demand. …

Click here to read the full article from CalMatters.org

CA unemployment claims paused for 2 weeks in order to overhaul system

Planning on applying for unemployment benefits? Well, you won’t be able to do so for the next two weeks.

California’s beleaguered unemployment department is putting a pause on new claims until Oct. 5 to give it time to implement an automatic identity-verification tool to speed up processing times. The move follows recommendations outlined in a report released late Saturday night from the “strike team” Gov. Gavin Newsom formed in July to find solutions to the department’s myriad problems. The report was due Sept. 14 and released five days late.

Also delayed: eliminating the Employment Development Department’s massive backlog of claims. Newsom said in July the department aimed to clear nearly 1 million unresolved claims by the end of September. But the strike team’s report found that nearly 1.6 million claims remain pending, and the backlog likely won’t be fully cleared until Jan. 27, 2021 — even as it continues to grow by at least 10,000 claims per day.

  • Assemblymember David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat“The report documents how EDD has failed the people it serves in almost every imaginable way. The size and scope of the backlog are shockingly large.”
  • Jennifer Pahlka, co-chair of the strike team: “With this roadmap, EDD is already on their way to meeting claimants’ needs faster, and I’m confident that over time the department will continue to improve the experience people have filing for unemployment insurance.”

Long-term, the strike team recommended completely overhauling the department — something lawmakers demanded of Newsom in a scathing August letter. The team also recommended ending an ongoing project to modernize EDD’s tech systems, pointing out that three years in, “a contractor has not been selected, and software code has not been written.” At this point, the team wrote, it makes more sense to start a new project from scratch, one “reimagine(d) for the future.”

Scrutiny on the department is far from over. By the end of this month, the state auditor will begin an emergency audit of EDD. But that may not provide much solace to Californians waiting on delayed payments, especially given the recent expiration of $300 weekly extra federal benefits. …

Click here to read the full article from CalMatters.org

Supreme Court may tilt right for decades

The death of liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg could allow legal conservatives to take full control of the Supreme Court for a decade or more, imposing a historic shift to the right with vast implications for U.S. jurisprudence and society at large.

A conservative court could use its majority to overturn Roe vs. Wade, which guarantees a woman’s right to abortion, and strike down Obamacare and its promise of health insurance for millions, including those with preexisting conditions.

A more conservative court would be likely to strike down affirmative action laws and many current gun control regulations, possibly including laws in California that limit the carrying of firearms in public or restrict the sale of semiautomatic rifles.

After decades of frequent 5-4 decisions that kept a relative balance in major court rulings, a decisive 6-3 conservative majority also could stand in the way of future progressive legislation from Congress. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

USC Football Players Urge Gov. Newsom To Allow Them To Play

On Tuesday, the entire University of Southern California (USC) football team sent a letter to Governor Gavin Newsom, urging him to allow them to play this season as other college conference holdouts announced they were returning to play this year.

“We want to play”

In the letter posted to Twitter by USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, the USC players accused the state of having too many restrictions preventing them from playing, despite the NCAA Division I football season having already started with no major COVID-19 outbreaks or known transmissions.

“The reason we are writing this appeal directly to you is that the state of California and its legislators have been the staunchest advocates for student-athlete rights,” began the letter “Over the last few months, athletics departments across the country have started listening to the voices of their student-athletes. It is a credit to your leadership that the state of California has been listening to our voices for years, and we are counting on you to hear us now: we want to play.

“The current reality is that there are too many restrictions imposed by state and local public health officials in California that prevent us from returning to practiced and competitions.”

The players even pointed out the stringent measures and rapid testing the University has deployed, which has gone above and beyond other teams already playing.

“Daily Antigen testing with a turnaround time of less than one hour reduces COVID-19 infectiousness by 100%, continued the letter. “With the Pac-12’s commitment to daily testing … and the continued dedication to comprehensive health and safety protocols locally on our campus, we feel comfortable proceeding with the season. We are fortunate to receive a level of care from our school that achieves the highest standard in sports.”

NFL dreams, health needs, potential billions on the line

The letter was sent that the same day that the only other premier college football division, the Big 10, announced that they would be returning in October. The decision left the Pac-12 without a season as many Western Governors, including Governor Newsom, continue to push for advanced COVID-19 measures.

“Scholarships aren’t on the line, but NFL dreams sure are,” explained college football scout Joey Warner to the Globe. “The Pac-12 in the last major holdout. And if the players don’t play this year, the players looking to get into the NFL draft in the next few years are going to miss vital tape of their play and a critical season for NFL teams to look at. It’s hard enough with high school closures disrupting us from looking at them for prospective colleges. These players careers and livelihoods are now on the line.

“These athletes care about COVID-19 and not infecting others. But with these universities putting all the proper pieces into place, and the state still not allowing them to go on, you can see their frustration. They want to play to compete and go for their dream of the NFL. Plus fans want them back in action. But right now, that’s not happening, and they’re doing everything they can, including writing the Governor, to play this year so they don’t fall behind everyone else.”

“Colleges are antsy too. The NCAA brings in billions each year combined for schools in straight revenue. And these programs aren’t cheap, so they need to play to at least get money back from TV contracts and partial admission. Some have already preemptively cut some athletics because of budget issues. In some cases, they may be fighting to actually keep their team.”

Health experts have remained divided on what danger COVID-19 presents to NCAA players. The Pac-12 has specifically cited cardiac risks associated with COVID-19 as a major factor in not playing this year. However, the Big 10 also cited that last month and still chose to start play soon regardless.

“People are reaching different conclusions,” added Warner. “This is just adding confusion over the risk here. We’ll know for sure in a few weeks if cases among players and even fans being allowed in jumps up. But the question now is where that line of risk stands.”

An urgent plea from USC players

For the USC players, they not only feel that enough precautions have taken place on campus, but that they can also form some sort of agreement or arrangement to play.

“Governor Newsom, our request of you is that you work with us to find a path forward to resume competitions later this fall so that we can have the same opportunity as other teams around the country to play for a national championship,” said the players in the letter. “We have the utmost confidence that we can partner together to quickly develop a plan that allows us to compete in a 2020 football season. Please let us play.

“As California goes, so too does the Pac-12 Conference,” the letter states. “You can be the champion for the conference of champions and, most importantly, its student-athletes. We believe that if the state of California endorses our season, the conference, other states, respective county and public health officials, and university leaders will follow.”As of Wednesday, the Pac-12 has been under greater pressure to resume their college football season as more teams and players have been ramping up support to play. With the NCAA football season expected to end in mid-December, a decision is needed in the next few weeks to allow players to resume practices and begin an abbreviated season no later than October.

Evan V. Symon is the Senior Editor for the California Globe. Prior to the Globe, he reported for the Pasadena Independent, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and was head of the Personal Experiences section at Cracked.

This article was originally published by the California Globe.

Progressives fret over Feinstein and judges

Progressives hoping for a Democratic White House and Senate next year are already voicing worries that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who would be next in line to lead the Judiciary Committee, will not commit to pushing a future Biden administration’s judicial nominees with the same aggressive tactics used by Republicansunder President Trump.

As Judiciary Committee chairman, Feinstein, 87, would wield significant political power if Democrats take control of the Senate. She would be responsible for reviewing and confirming the president’s Supreme Court nominees and other judicial appointments.

Fueling progressives’ concern is Feinstein’s refusal to say whether she would give Republicans power to block appellate appointees through a Senate practice known as withholding blue slips. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

Two deputies who survived ambush ‘a double miracle’

Two Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputies shot in what authorities described as an ambush attack are expected to survive amid an intense manhunt for the gunman captured on video firing inside their patrol car and as the violence became a new flashpoint in the political debate about policing and crime.

Both deputies were shot in the head near the Compton Metro station but went through surgery and are now listed in stable condition. The attack sparked widespread outrage, from the presidential campaign to the streets of Compton, where residents fear it will heighten already deep tensions between police and the community after several high-profile deputy shootings and uses of force.

“It makes no sense,” said Setif Capelton, 22, who has lived in Compton nearly all his life and heard the burst of gunfire Saturday night. “It hurts this community more than anything else. Now, what if someone walks up to a police officer’s car, and they get scared and shoot that person?”

Authorities have offered no motive for the attack. But new surveillance video and dispatch calls provide a more detailed account of what happened. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

L.A. schools won’t reopen till November

No campus in Los Angeles County will be allowed to reopen to all K-12 students until at least November, although schools can begin to offer small in-person classes for children with special needs at no more than 10% of capacity at one time, county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said Thursday.

The news will be a blow to students, parents and educators who have been hoping that progress against the coronavirus might allow for campuses to reopen on a faster tract. However, the small in-person classes for children who need special services, announced last week, could allow at least 200,000 students back to campus across the county.

No districts are currently required to offer in-person services to students — and officials with both the L.A. Unified School District and the district’s teachersunion have said they are opposed to any full campus reopenings at this time, citing safety concerns.

Some smaller school districts and private schools had hoped to open elementary campuses through a state-permitted waiver process, but Ferrer said that the county would not grant waivers. State guidelines allow for such waivers to help young students who have particular difficulties with online learning. …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.

California Businesses to Get COVID-19 Tax Cuts

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a trio of laws on Wednesday intended to bolster struggling small businesses in California and encourage their owners to hire more workers, each of which received bipartisan support but only light scrutiny by the Legislature before its adjournment last week.

The governor, who used a delicatessen in Sacramento as the backdrop for a bill-signing ceremony, touted the three laws as important help for businesses that are “the lifeblood of California and its economy.”

“Small businesses are feeling vulnerable to the pressures of this pandemic — so much so that they believe they are likely to close in the not too distant future, ” Newsom said, citing a survey that he said found 44% of businesses were considering closure. “That is a jaw-dropping percentage of small businesses that are looking at the prospect of a financial cliff.” …

Click here to read the full article from the L.A. Times.