LAUSD Student Test Scores Show Sharp Drops in English, Math Proficiency

Pointing to the COVID-19 pandemic as the driving factor, the Los Angeles Unified School District released test scores Friday showing sharp drop-offs in proficiency among students in nearly all grade levels in English and math.

According to the preliminary Smarter Balanced Assessments, the percent of LAUSD students meeting or exceeding state standards in English dropped by about two percentage points compared to the pre-pandemic 2018-19 year — falling from 43.9% to 41.7%. In math, the drop was steeper, falling by five percentage points from 33.5% to 28.5%.

“As anticipated, the preliminary state assessment results illustrate that there is no substitute for in-person instruction,” Superintendent Alberto M. Carvalho said in a statement. “Los Angeles Unified is proactively addressing the decline in achievement performance, particularly in English language arts and mathematics, at all grade levels.

“We are working collaboratively to accelerate and realize the learning potential of every student, bolstering important support systems including instructional, mental health and community supports to meet the needs of our students and realize our goals outlined in our 2022-2026 Strategic Plan.”

According to the figures, the percent of students meeting or exceeding the English standard fell in all grade levels except eighth grade, which saw slight increase. The biggest drop was in the 11th grade, which fell by 7 percentage points. Third-graders fell off by 4.5 percentage points and fourth- grades fell by about four points.

In math, every grade level saw a decrease, led by the 11th grade with a 9.7 point drop-off from 28.6% to 18.9%.

Eighth- and sixth-graders saw a nearly six-point drop.

“Los Angeles Unified has acted with urgency to ensure our students have the necessary supports to recover from the pandemic this year, and these results further underscore the need,” LAUSD Board of Education President Kelly Gonez said in a statement. “We have invested in strategies — from ensuring there’s a teacher in every classroom to summer school, tutoring and mental health supports — that will help us accelerate learning for all students, particularly our highest needs students who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.”

District officials said a variety of steps are included in the Strategic Plan to address learning loss from the pandemic, including the hiring of more teachers, providing additional training opportunities for teachers at the highest-need schools and using the test scores to guide “instructional planning and personalized learning so all students reach proficiency.”

Click here to read the full article at Fox11

New Court Order Means Noncitizen Parents Can Vote in Nov. 8 Election for San Francisco School Board

Noncitizen parents will be allowed to vote in the Nov. 8 election for school board in San Francisco after a state appeals court rejected opponents’ request to decide a case about the legality of the city’s voting ordinance before then.

Conservative activists behind a lawsuit challenging the ordinance had asked the court to expedite its review of the case and, in the meantime, grant an immediate injunction to block the city from providing ballots to noncitizens. But the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejected both requests in an order Thursday.

The three-member appeals panel noted, in its brief order, that opponents of the ordinance allowed “four elections to take place with noncitizen voting before filing the instant lawsuit.”

But the fate of San Francisco’s ordinance still hangs by a thread. The ordinance allows noncitizens — including undocumented immigrants and legal residents — to vote for school board candidates if they are a parent or guardian of a school-age child and are not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

In August, a Superior Court judge struck down the ordinance and said only U.S. citizens are permitted to vote. Conservative groups have cited a provision in the California Constitution that declares, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.”

San Francisco challenged that ruling to the First District Court of Appeal, which restored noncitizen voting, at least for now. The appeals court granted the city’s request for a stay to set aside the judge’s ruling and leave the ordinance in effect while the case is on appeal. The justices said opponents of the law had not shown they would suffer “irreparable damage in their business or profession” if the law remained in effect during the appeal.

City voters approved the ordinance, the first of its kind in the state, with Proposition N in 2016. The law took effect in 2018, and was extended indefinitely by the Board of Supervisors in 2021.

The lead plaintiff in the case, James V. Lacy, said in a statement Friday that the Court of Appeal’s decision to not expedite its review of the case would likely result in noncitizens casting ballots that “will unconstitutionally dilute the voting power of all citizen voters, including those of ethnic minority groups.”

Noncitizen voter turnout has been low in past elections, possibly due to fears about sharing their identities with the government. Election officials said noncitizen voters accounted for 238 of the 180,000 ballots cast in the February election that recalled three school board members from office.

Attorneys for San Francisco contend the provision in the California Constitution stating that citizens “may vote” does not prevent a local government from allowing noncitizens to vote.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

Karen Bass Got a USC Degree for Free. It’s Now Pulling Her Into a Federal Corruption Case 

During the last decade, two influential Los Angeles politicians were awarded full-tuition scholarships valued at nearly $100,000 each from USC’s social work program. 

One of those scholarships led to the indictment of former L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and the former dean of USC’s social work program, Marilyn Flynn, on bribery and fraud charges.

The other scholarship recipient, Rep. Karen Bass, is the leading contender to be L.A.’s next mayor.

Federal prosecutors have made no indication that Bass is under a criminal investigation.

But prosecutors have now declared that Bass’ scholarship and her dealings with USC are “critical” to their bribery case and to their broader portrayal of corruption in the university’s social work program.

When jurors ultimately decide whether to convict Ridley-Thomas and Flynn, prosecutors have indicated they want Bass’ relationship with USC, the largest private employer in her congressional district, to inform their verdict.

By awarding free tuition to Bass in 2011, Flynn hoped to obtain the congresswoman’s assistance in passing coveted legislation, prosecutors wrote in a July court filing. Bass later sponsored a bill in Congress that would have expanded USC’s and other private universities’ access to federal funding for social work — “just as defendant Flynn wanted,” the filing states.

Flynn is charged for what prosecutors allege was a quid pro quo with Ridley-Thomas involving a scholarship awarded to his son in exchange for lucrative county contracts. To bolster their case, prosecutors have pointed to an email from Flynn in which she noted doing “the same” sort of scholarship-for-funding with Bass.

Bass’ name is redacted in much of the court filings, which prosecutors said accorded with Department of Justice policy.The Times confirmed her identity through case records, people familiar with the matter and some copies of emails that were briefly filed in court this summer and later redacted.

Federal prosecutors declined this week to elaborate on their statements about the scholarship. “At present and based on the evidence obtained to date, Rep. Bass is not a target or a subject of our office’s investigation,” said Thom Mrozek, director of media relations for the U.S. attorney’s office in L.A.

But with Flynn and Ridley-Thomas on trial in November, the circumstances of Bass’ free master’s degree could become an increasingly contested part of the case. In June, Flynn’s lawyers subpoenaed USC for correspondence pertaining to Bass’ scholarship and any honors or benefits given to the congresswoman, according to a copy of the subpoena filed last month. 

A court battle over the involvement of Bass’ scholarship could in turn offer grist for political attacks as she heads into the final weeks of her mayoral campaign against developer Rick Caruso.

Through a spokesperson, Bass denied ever speaking with Flynn about federal funding for social work programs at private universities while the pair discussed her attendance at USC. Asked whether it was apparent that Flynn had a legislative agenda in offering the scholarship, Bass said, “No.”

“Everybody knows that the welfare of children and families has been a passion and policy focus of mine for decades,” Bass said. “The only reason I studied nights and weekends for a master’s degree was to become a better advocate for children and families — period.”

‘Clearly’ a gift

The Times revealed the Bass scholarship last year, noting that full-tuition awards like the one she received were not publicized, had no formal application process and were more generous than grants typically given to other students.

In an interview last fall for that article, Bass said that she didn’t apply for the social work program; Flynn apparently made the decision to admit her after learning of her interest in getting a graduate degree.

Before accepting the scholarship, Bass said, she wrote to the House Committee on Ethics in 2011, requesting an exemption on the rule prohibiting gifts to members of Congress. She told ethics officials the graduate degree would deepen her knowledge of child welfare policy and help her better represent constituents, according to congressional records.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Sacramento Drug-Addicted Transients Taking Over Neighborhoods While City Fiddles

Kate Tibbitts’ horrific murder remains on locals’ psyches, but seems to be a far-away, inconvenient memory for local politicians

The City of Sacramento has a big problem, and it isn’t the “existential threat of climate change.”

Narcotics, burglary, aggravated assault, battery, vandalism, and weapon-related crimes are now commonplace in residential neighborhoods where new moms push strollers on daily walks, kids bicycle to baseball practice, runners prepare for the next marathon, elderly groups do tai chi together, neighbors walk their dogs, and families picnic.

“Open drug use has worsened in the Broadway area of Land Park recently, according to neighbors who say they are upset about a lack of action to combat lawlessness,” KCRA 3 reported this weekend. Only this isn’t a recent problem – it’s been building exponentially, and since Mayor Darrell Steinberg was elected in 2016.

Is this a case of bad timing for Steinberg or a case of bad policy and politics?

As the Globe reported last week, “The latest Starbucks casualty is in Sacramento, along the Broadway corridor, wrought with blocks of homeless transients, escalating crime, and legitimate safety concerns for the residents and business owners who live and work there.”

The Sacramento Land Park neighborhood is also where long time resident Kate Tibbitts was brutally murdered in her home by a parolee. Last fall “homeless” transient Troy Davis, out on the streets despite his recent parole violation, raped and murdered downtown Sacramento resident Kate Tibbitts, in the Land Park neighborhood, killing her dogs and setting her house on fire,” the Globe reported.

Tibbitts horrific murder remains a fresh imprint on locals’s psyche, but seems to be a far-away, inconvenient memory for local politicians.

This past weekend, this transient man was making such a scene tossing trash at the now-closed Starbucks on Broadway, the police were called. He has an ankle bracelet on.

This is video of his mania taken by a local resident: 91C91B8B-21CD-46E4-BDC2-BA2717D39AFCAnd this video.

KCRA received a statement from Councilwoman Katie Valenzuela:

“The police have gotten more resources than they ever had before – $47m additional in just the last two budgets. Despite that increase in funding our crime has gone up, because the issues here are not about enforcement. We will not see a decrease in crime until we start prioritizing the reasons people commit crimes: drug and mental health treatment, affordable housing, economic opportunity.”

Many in the city dispute Valenzuela’s claim of $47M additional funding for SacPD. The budget includes money for pensions, police equipment, and other non-officer spending. SacPd is still seriously understaffed. Sacramento had more police officers on the street in 2008 than we do today in 2022, and the city population has grown significantly since then. Sac Fire’s budget has also increased, but nobody complains about that.

Councilwoman Valenzuela continues to blame police, but now at least admits that drug addiction and mental health is a large part of the crimes by homeless transients. But mouthing the words isn’t enough for the Councilwoman facing a recall election.

In April, the Globe reported “Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg, together with Democratic state lawmakers and ‘criminal justice reform’ advocates, held a press conference and demanded $3 billion ‘for immediate and substantial investments in crime prevention and healing services for crime victims.’ Their demand follows the weekend [gang] shooting in Sacramento which left 6 dead and 12 injured.”

Steinberg has demanded a lot of state and federal funding since he took over the Mayor’s office in 2016. It seems to be all he knows how to do – demand and spend, and we don’t really know where the money is spent with so many questionable NGOs and non-profits attached to city government.

Steinberg created the non-profit Steinberg Institute in 2015 while still a State Senator, just prior to leaving the California Senate, to help the mentally-ill: “Since its inception in January 2015, the institute has helped enact sweeping improvements in California mental health policy, including securing $2 billion to provide housing and care for homeless people living with brain illness,” the website says.

Has the Steinberg Institute spent $2 billion helping the mentally-ill, creating housing and funding crime prevention? The odds are no, they have not. We are betting that $2 billion isn’t going to the mentally ill, drug addicted homeless transients living on Sacramento streets.

With Steinberg at the April press event following the downtown gang shooting were gun control and defund-the-police advocates:

Advocates used the opportunity to call for more state funding for crime prevention, cash assistance to victims and survivors of violent crime, and “interventions around gun violence.” However, the advocates for interventions around gun violence offered no specific solutions – just funding. Maybe these groups are where Steinberg’s demand for funding end up.

After another deadly shooting downtown in July, Mayor Steinberg announced the “investments” he was making to make Downtown Sacramento more safe:

  • increased our minimum patrol staffing on Saturdays
  • bike officers now work until 3 a.m. on weekends
  • Officers in the entertainment unit are also working until 3 a.m., focusing on hotspots in downtown and midtown
  • Additional officers have now been directed to patrol parking lots near nightclubs to make sure they aren’t used by people getting in fights or engaging in illegal activity
  • an additional funding allocation from City Council pays for two foot patrol officers every day

This is nice and already should already be standard operating procedure.

Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher suggested a different tact last Spring:

  • End the Early Release of Violent Felons
  • Restore Stiff Penalties for Gun & Gang Crimes
  • Disarm & Penalize Felons with Guns

Those policies would make a difference.

As for the downtown neighbors and the Land Park neighborhood, Land Park Community Association vice president Kristina Rogers told KCRA, “We’ve got people dealing drugs, and shooting up, and having crazy episodes in front of children … I keep hearing about revitalization in this area, and this is what we’re getting instead.”

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

‘Extreme’ Weather Hysteria is Latest Crisis

‘Soft lockdown: The parks were closed due to the forecasted heat wave’

It was 105 degrees in Sacramento Sunday. Today it could be 111 degrees. This is what is known as hot summer weather in California. We native Californians also know this is normal.

As a kid, I remember such hot Sacramento summer days, I couldn’t walk barefoot on the sidewalks.

But no one cautioned us to “be safe.” In fact, back when I was a kid, parents told us to put shoes on and to stop being stupid.

This is Sacramento weather in 1972 – notice the 114 degrees on July 14, 1972:

In 1973, the hottest temperature in Sacramento was 107 degrees. By 1975, it was back up to 113 degrees. In fact, between 1972 and 1992, over 20 years, every summer in Sacramento was in the triple digits, and there were four summers hotter than 110 degrees.

In 1996, it was 110 degrees in Sacramento. In 2002, it was 110 degrees. In 2006, it was 111 degrees. In 2017 it was 110 degrees. In 2020 it was 112 degrees in Sacramento. Last summer in Sacramento, temperatures reached 109 degrees. The point is, every summer in the Sacramento region, temperatures are hot – 104 up to 113 degrees. The standard appears to be 104 to 108 degrees – really hot.

Radio and television weather reporters are now medical professionals telling us how to be safe under these “extreme” heat conditions:

  • drink fluids
  • stay inside
  • stay hydrated
  • stay in an air-conditioned room
  • stay out of the sun

Even my dogs are smart enough to stay out of the sun.

The Sacramento Bee has an article today hyping the heat and fear mongering:

How can Sacramento heat turn fatal? What to know with temps headed to 110 degrees

The Bee claims this weather is a “recording-breaking heat wave,” and has “forced many residents indoors this holiday weekend.”

I beg to differ. It’s not record-breaking, and I saw a street fair outdoors yesterday when temps reached 105 degrees.

KCRA has an “Excessive Heat Warning” on their news website, and offers these tips on how to “be safe:”

We are also ironically asked “to conserve power amid brutal heat wave.”

The U.S. National Weather Service in Sacramento also warned of “Dangerous Heat” and tells us  to “Practice heat safety!”

US National Weather Service Sacramento California .

Despite headlines claiming “record breaking heat,” when interviewed, weather officials say it “may” be record breaking.

“This heat may be record breaking and will likely produce a very high heat illness risk,” the Los Angeles-area weather office wrote.

The torrid conditions will be caused by high pressure that was already pushing into the state and making it difficult for onshore flow of marine air.

“These trends are forecast to continue and will likely set up (a) prolonged and likely dangerous heat event,” the office said.

One East Bay mom Tweeted an interesting report:

“My family wanted to get outside this morning before it got hot, but the parks were closed due to the forecasted heat wave. This is another soft lockdown. They are forcing us to stay inside, isolated and inactive, for our ‘safety.’”

Read the full article at the California Globe

In Lawsuit Over Distance Learning, Parents Accuse San Diego Schools of Violating Constitution

Five of San Diego County’s largest school districts and one charter school were sued last week by parents who say the schools failed to provide adequate instruction to their children during distance learning two years ago in what they allege was a violation of their constitutional rights.

Twenty parents and guardians filed the federal lawsuit against San Diego Unified, Sweetwater Union High, Chula Vista Elementary, Grossmont Union High, La Mesa-Spring Valley and the Helix High charter school in La Mesa. Those schools altogether enroll 184,400 students, almost 40 percent of the county’s public school students.

The lawsuit is one of several that California parents have previously filed against state and school district officials over distance learning since the pandemic began.

The defendant school districts and Helix High declined to comment on the pending litigation. Some said they are still reviewing the lawsuit.

In the lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status, the parents say the schools failed to provide the minimum number of hours of instruction and components of distance learning required by state law during the 2020-21 school year, when schools were closed for months at a time due to COVID-19. For example, some parents said their children sometimes went whole school days without a check-in or instruction from their teacher.

“During the COVID-19 related school closures, children were too often ignored by the public schools that were required to educate them,” said Marc Levine, a Los Angeles-based attorney representing the parent plaintiffs, in an email. “We are hopeful that, as a result of this action, these children will be given an opportunity to reverse the excessive learning loss they have experienced.”

State law required schools to provide three to four hours of instruction each school day during distance learning, depending on the student’s grade level. Those three to four hours of daily online instruction did not have to consist entirely of live instruction; instead, those hours were to be based on the time value of assignments given.

For distance learning, schools had to provide students with computers, adequate internet connectivity, academic content that was on par with what they would have received during in-person learning, special education services if needed, and daily live interaction with teachers, which could involve online or telephone communication.

The lawsuit also accuses the districts and Helix of violating state law by offering only distance learning to the vast majority of their students for much of the 2020-2021 school year. The plaintiffs point to a state law that said schools and districts “shall offer in-person instruction, and may offer distance learning.”

The plaintiffs allege that the defendant schools failed to provide sufficient distance learning and violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment.

During the 2020-2021 year, many schools and districts were at times blocked from reopening for general in-person learning by state public health officials.

Schools and districts were allowed to provide small-group, in-person instruction to certain students. But many were barred from reopening to general in-person learning until COVID-19 levels declined in their areas if they had not reopened for in-person learning during the fall of 2020.

Some districts, including San Diego Unified, Chula Vista Elementary, Sweetwater Union High and La Mesa-Spring Valley, chose to delay reopening for weeks after the state allowed them to reopen, citing continuing COVID-19 health risks.

Parents across California have filed multiple similar lawsuits arguing that public schools provided low-quality education during distance learning.

One of the most publicized lawsuits filed against Gov. Gavin Newsom in July 2020 argued that the forced school closures and distance learning violated their children’s due process and equal protection rights under the 14th Amendment.

An appeals court sided last year with a lower court that rejected those claims for public school parents and had ruled that the 14th Amendment does not recognize a fundamental right to a public education.

Click here to read the full article at the San Diego Union Tribune

Newsom Calls GOP Governors “Bullies,” But What About Him?

Politicians who claim to have an elevated moral purpose risk being branded as hypocrites if they fail to live up to the standards they set for others.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom runs that risk as he denounces the Republican governors of other states, particularly Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas, as “bullies” for their states’ policies on abortion, gay rights and other issues.

Newsom has run ads critical of the two governors and donated $100,000 to DeSantis’ challenger, Charlie Crist. At the very least, Newsom is raising his national political profile. But it could be the beginning of a presidential campaign, which he denies.

“People keep asking why I’m calling out DeSantis and these Republican governors,” Newsom tweeted late last month. “The answer is simple: I don’t like bullies.”

Newsom’s tweet contained his interview with ABC news, including a lengthy rant beginning with “I can’t take what’s going on in this country.”

“I can’t take what these governors are doing state after state affecting minorities, affecting vulnerable communities, threatening the Special Olympics with fines, going after the LGBTQ community, saying if you’ve been raped by your father you don’t have the right to express yourself and rights over your own body,” Newsom told ABC’s Matt Gutman.

“My entire life I don’t like bullies,” Newsom added. “I don’t like people who other other people. I don’t like people who demean other people and that’s being celebrated in American politics today and you got to call it out. DeSantis is the worst of it but Abbott and these other guys, they’re right there and forgive me, I’m naming them because we have to and I think people need to understand what’s going on in this country and there’s too much at stake.”

On the issues that Newsom cites, particularly abortion and LGBTQ rights, his criticism is more than warranted. But calling rival governors “bullies” is over the top. After all, they were duly elected to their positions, as was Newsom, and like him, probably will be re-elected this year. Their positions on these hot button issues would not fly in California, but they apparently do in their states.

That’s not bullying; it’s governing, which often means compelling people to do things they’d rather not do. Newsom has done a lot of it since becoming governor nearly four years ago, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, when he was governing by decree.

Was Newsom being a bully or governing when he ordered thousands of small businesses to shut down to stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus? Those affected, including more than 2 million workers who lost their jobs, might say he was being a bully, since larger businesses were often exempted.

Likewise, parents complained that Newsom arbitrarily closed schools and forced their children into “Zoom school” even though COVID-19’s threat to children was scant.

Many of California’s city officials have complained that Newsom is bullying them into building high-density housing that their constituents don’t want, threatening legal action or financial sanctions if they don’t comply. Newsom says the state must act aggressively to solve its housing shortage.

California gun owners complain constantly that Newsom and the Legislature impose nonsensical, harassing regulations on their constitutional right to bear arms.

Click here to read the full article at CalMatters

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

Looking For a Deal on a Car? California May Offer $1,000 Tax Break for Not Buying One

With 28 million vehicles on the road, California can rightfully call itself the unofficial capital of American car culture. The Legislature, though, just passed a bill offering a $1,000 tax break to households that don’t have any. In an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change, both houses of the Legislature overwhelmingly passed SB 457 on Wednesday. It was one of several climate bills lawmakers sent Gov. Gavin Newsom on the last day of the legislative session. The bill’s author, Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Burbank, called it an attempt to get motorists to trade their cars for buses and other forms of transit. “We can invest in the future by providing financial incentives for Californians to transition from vehicles to more sustainable options,” he said in a prepared statement. California already offers rebates of as much as $7,000 for purchases of electric vehicles of plug-in hybrids. Portantino’s bill takes the fight against tailpipe carbon emissions a step further, with a tax credit for moderate and low-income households “with zero registered vehicles,” according to the legislation’s text.

“Cars impose a pretty big societal cost that we all experience,” said Marc Vukcevich of Streets For All, a Los Angeles-based advocacy group that pushed for SB 457. The legislation creates a reward for those who “are not causing air pollution,” he said. “They’re not causing traffic violence. They’re not causing congestion.” Transportation accounts for 41% of California’s greenhouse gas emissions, more than any other sector of society, according to the California Air Resources Board.

The original version of SB 457 would have made any taxpayer eligible, regardless of income. It was rewritten to cap eligibility at households making no more than $60,000 a year in adjusted gross income. The bill will prove costly to taxpayers if Newsom signs it. An Assembly floor analysis says the tax break could cost the state $900 million a year. The legislation runs through the 2028 tax year. The bill wasn’t among the package of legislation promoted heavily by Newsom in the waning days of the session, and his office wouldn’t comment on whether he plans to sign SB 457.

Click here to read the full article at the Modesto Bee

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.”

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