Undocumented Students Qualify for Financial Aid in California. Why Aren’t More of Them Using It?

When Deysi Mojica received her acceptance to UC Riverside, she was excited. Not only had she overcome her high school’s lack of resources to help undocumented students like herself apply to college, but the university was offering a financial aid package that would make her college dream possible.

“Even though I am undocumented,” said Mojica, now a first-year student, “the amount of money that they gave me was basically covering all my expenses.” 

But an unexpected $13,000 charge from the university just before she was due to start classes quickly changed her excitement into confusion, leaving her wondering where the money she was awarded had gone. It was only after repeated calls to the financial aid office, Mojica said, that a helpful student assistant who was also undocumented gave her the information that saved her from dropping out: Her aid package was held up because a signature was missing from one of her application forms.

Like Mojica, many undocumented students lack accurate information about applying for financial aid or find the process intimidating. California has since 2011 allowed undocumented students to receive financial aid from the state and its public universities if they meet certain eligibility requirements. But students, advocates, and even the California Student Aid Commission itself say the aid application developed under a state law known as the California Dream Act is unnecessarily complex, not enough college staff are trained to advise students about it, and campus departments don’t collaborate well when processing applications. As a result, they say, many undocumented students are missing out on aid for which they qualify.

Only 14% of undocumented students in California receive any form of financial aid to pursue higher education, according to a recent California Student Aid Commission report. Of the nearly 45,000 undocumented students who applied for financial aid for this past academic year, fewer than 30% ultimately enrolled in school and received aid.

“What we know is we’ve got a lot of students that are willing and going through the process, but they’re not getting the financial aid support,” said Marlene Garcia, executive director of the student aid commission. “I think that’s a starting point to analyze that there is a problem here.”

One of the problems Garcia cited: Verifying eligibility for the aid can be cumbersome and fear-inducing to undocumented students concerned about the risks of sharing their personal information.

California exempts undocumented students from paying nonresident tuition if they spent three years at, and received a degree, diploma or certificate from a California high school or community college. When those students want to apply for financial aid, they must also submit a document — also known as an AB540 affidavit —  to the campus they plan to attend verifying they qualify for the exemption and promising to legalize their immigration status as soon as possible.  

The student aid commission then randomly selects 20% of students for verification that the information they reported in their applications is accurate. 

But individual campuses do the actual verifying, and there is no statewide standard. 

California State University Chico and American River College, for example, accept a simple statement from students that they are eligible and only require extra documents if there is conflicting information in their applications, according to the student aid commission. But other campuses require much more information, such as W-2 forms, IRS tax transcripts, and/or household size information.

That’s when some students fall through the cracks, said Sergio Belloso, a counselor at Santa Monica College’s Dream Resource Center, which provides legal, mental health and financial aid counseling services for the college’s undocumented students. 

“Sometimes students just stop that process, because they’re like, ‘I don’t want to give them my information,’ ” Belloso said.

The affidavit and financial aid application also must be sent to different departments on campus, often causing delays and confusion for students.

“What we know is that we’ve got a lot of students that are willing and going through the process, but they’re not getting the financial aid support.”MARLENE GARCIA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, CALIFORNIA STUDENT AID COMMISSION

At Santa Monica College, the Dream Resource Center serves on average 200 undocumented students per semester, Belloso said. Although tuition at California community colleges is just $46 per credit hour, or free on some campuses, many students, regardless of immigration status, use financial aid to cover additional expenses such as textbooks, transportation, and living costs. 

Belloso said he and other center staff spend a large portion of their time and resources on helping students get financial aid, including those who don’t qualify for aid and in-state tuition.  If other campus staff members were better trained to understand financial aid for undocumented students, the center would have more time to explore other aspects of its mission, such as providing legal help, he said.  

Cristina Sanchez, who provides drop-in counseling to undocumented students at Solano College, said she started her job right after graduating from college with little more than an Excel spreadsheet with student contact information. As the sole, part-time staff member tasked with supporting about 200 undocumented students, Sanchez is also concerned the students she serves may not be getting the financial aid information they need. 

“I was not given any training or anything like that, it was kind of like, ‘Here you go,’” Sanchez said. “So it’s been a lot of teaching myself or going out of my way to learn more, because I’m not undocumented.” 

Sanchez said a lot of times she is sending students to other counselors and financial aid officers, creating a game of hot potato and potential communication breakdowns between campus departments. 

Strengthening campus centers for undocumented students could help such students persist and navigate financial aid difficulties, students and counselors said. Even though the staff at UC Riverside’s Undocumented Student Programs couldn’t fix Mojica’s financial aid problem, she said, they welcomed her to campus, apologized for the difficulties she was having and even helped her find a work-study job doing social media for an undocumented student organization. Mojica said the support helped her feel like she belonged on campus.

“They were super welcoming. They spoke to my mom, started telling me about our (food) pantry and about the groceries. Although I didn’t ask, they were already giving me so much information,” said Mojica. “It had a big impact on me.”

The center, which supports more than 600 students, one of the largest undocumented student populations among UC campuses, plans to hire a dedicated counselor to assist undocumented students with their financial aid applications. 

Meanwhile, the student aid commission is working to tackle some of the issues in the Dream Act application process. It has recommended reducing the percentage of applications requiring verification and allowing Dream Act applicants to receive text message updates on the status of their aid. 

The commission is also sponsoring Assembly Bill 1540, introduced by Los Angeles Democratic Assemblymember Mike Fong, which would allow undocumented students to fill out a single application for both their financial aid and residency. It’s currently under consideration in the appropriations committee. 

“We think that it should be intuitive. Students shouldn’t have to go through a maze to figure out how to get financial aid,” said Garcia. “The financial aid system should meet students where they’re at more effectively.”

Although both Sanchez and Belloso are excited to see a more streamlined application for students, Belloso feels there is still more that can be done to help undocumented students pursue higher education. He hopes campuses and the aid commission will collect and share campus-level data on how many undocumented students are applying for and receiving aid, so counselors like him can better support them. More financial aid training for other campus staff would also help, he said.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

California Bill Advances, Requiring Big Tech to Pay for News

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Big Tech companies such as Google and Meta might soon have to pay media outlets for posting and using their news content under a proposed California measure attempting to save local journalism.

The bill, which cleared an important Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday with bipartisan support, would require Google and Meta to share with California media companies their advertising revenue stemming from the news and other reported content. The amount would be determined through an arbitration process.

Supporters of the bill said it would provide a “lifeline” to local news organizations that have seen their advertising revenues nosedive in the digital era. Opponents, including trade groups and some journalism groups, said the legislation would be an unprecedented mandate that violates the First Amendment.

The bill would mandate that at least 70% of their revenue go to local news organizations to help pay for reporters’ salaries. Big Tech companies would also be prohibited from retaliating against a news outlet for demanding a fee by excluding their content on the platforms.

“As news consumption has moved online, community news outlets have been downsized and closing at an alarming rate,” said Assemblymember Buffy Wicks of Oakland, who authored the bill, said during the Tuesday hearing.

The Democrat said that California has lost more than 100 news organizations in the past decade.

“The dominant type platforms, both search engines and social networks, have such unrivaled market power that newsrooms are coerced to share the content they produce, which tech companies sell advertising against for almost no compensation in return,” she said, noting her bill is being backed by major journalism unions such as the News Media Alliance and Media Guild of the West, which represents The Los Angeles Times and other newsrooms.

But critics of the bill said the legislation is unconstitutional for requiring online platforms to post content from all news organizations. It would also reward clickbait content and limit the ability for Google and Meta to fight misinformation on their platforms as it could be seen as retaliation, said a representative from Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group.

Chris Krewson, executive director of LION Publishers, a national news group representing more than 450 independent newsrooms, said the bill is “fundamentally flawed” and wasn’t written with small newsrooms in mind.

The bill would mostly benefit newspaper chains and hedge funds that have gutted local newsrooms in the last few decades, he said. His group represents more than 50 local newsrooms in California, 80% of which are operations with five or fewer journalists. Most of those news outlets wouldn’t meet the requirements to benefit, he said.

“I applaud the lawmaker for getting bipartisan support on this,” Krewson said in an interview Tuesday. “But this is backward.”

Over the last two years, LION Publishers has received at least $1 million in funding from Meta but Krewson said he’s not speaking on the tech company’s behalf.

Similar efforts to bolster local news companies have been attempted across the United States, Australia and Canada, among others, with various levels of success. Australia adopted a law in 2021 that resulted in $140 million in payments to news companies from Google and Facebook last year.

U.S. lawmakers are also pushing for similar initiatives, reintroducing a bill in March that failed in the last congressional session and would have allowed news companies to jointly negotiate an advertising rate with tech giants such as Google.

Meta declined to comment on the California bill but pointed to a statement it made to the U.S. Congress in 2022 and another it made to the Canadian government this year when it threatened to pull all news content from its platform if the company would have to pay for news. Google didn’t respond to an email seeking comment on the California bill.

Despite clearing another hurdle Tuesday, questions remain about how the bill would be implemented. Some lawmakers noted that Meta’s Facebook and Google do not operate the same way. Google scrapes news websites and provides users with summaries of reported content, while Facebook shows content such as photos, videos and articles to users based on their activities on the platform.

Democratic Assemblymember Matt Haney of San Francisco said he’s also concerned with how the state would ensure the money goes to local journalists.

Click here to read the full article in AP News

California Democrats at Odds Over How to Close Growing Budget Deficit

California’s tax revenues continue to fall short of expectations, its deficit continues to grow and with the June 15 deadline for enacting a new budget, there’s a three-way split among the Capitol’s top Democrats.

In January, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared that the state had a $22.5 billion deficit, just months after bragging about a nearly $100 billion surplus. However, revenues – particularly personal income taxes – have grown even softer since then. When Newsom unveils a revised 2023-24 budget later this month, he’s expected to declare a wider income/outgo gap.

The problem is exacerbated by two factors: the spending expectations that were raised by last year’s phantom surplus and the lack of revenue clarity because the deadline for filing income tax returns, originally April 18, was extended by six months due to winter storms.

The current budget, passed when surplus projections were soaring, contains dozens of appropriations to create new projects or services, or to expand existing ones, particularly in social welfare and health care fields. The cornucopia of cash pleased advocates for those services, but they were disappointed in January when Newsom proposed to claw back many allocations to close the newly discovered deficit.

Since then, budget stakeholders have been pressing the Legislature not only to resist Newsom’s cuts but increase spending even more. Some of the heaviest pressure is coming from hospitals and mass transit systems, both of which say they face financial collapse if they don’t get billions of dollars from the state.

Last week, state Senate leaders issued their budget plan, entitled “Protect Our Progress,” that, they said, would close the state’s deficit while maintaining last year’s new spending – principally by borrowing money from the state’s stash of uncommitted cash and raising corporate income taxes by more than $7 billion.

“We are, in effect, getting our biggest corporations closer to pay their fair share,” said Sen. Nancy Skinner, an East Bay Democrat who chairs the Senate budget committee.

Spending advocates immediately issued statements of praise for the Senate’s budget framework.

“Senate Democrats’ plan acknowledges that California’s projected budget shortfall will never be solved by putting more burden on those who are struggling, but by asking California corporations to chip in more of their vast wealth – created by working people – to create a stronger economy and deliver on our state’s shared commitment to equity,” Tia Orr of the Service Employees International Union said in one of many supportive statements.

However, business groups denounced the proposed corporate tax increase. “Now is not the time to test California’s ability to withstand the impact of an economic downturn or a recession by placing our economic success at risk,” said Jennifer Barrera, president of the California Chamber of Commerce.

More importantly, Newsom immediately rejected the tax increase. “Governor Newsom cannot support the new tax increases and massive ongoing spending proposed by the Senate today,” spokesperson Anthony York said in a statement. “It would be irresponsible to jeopardize the progress we’ve all made together over the last decade to protect the most vulnerable while putting our state on sound fiscal footing.”

Significantly, the Senate’s plan didn’t have an endorsement from Assembly leaders. In January, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, a Democrat from Lakewood, said he would prefer to tap the state’s “rainy day” reserves if the deficit widened.

“That’s what it’s there for,” Rendon told POLITICO.

Click here to read the full article in CalMatters

Why is California’s Air Board Using Chinese Research to Ban Diesel Trucks?

CARB used two Chinese studies on Air Pollution and Mortality in the Medicare Population

“The California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced on Friday that the sale of all new diesel big rig trucks and buses will be banned in the state starting in 2036, coming in a year after a similar new gas-powered car bar was previously voted on,” the Globe reported Friday.

“In addition to the 2036 sales ban on new diesel trucks and buses, CARB, also announced that all trucks in California are to be zero-emissions by 2042. Under these new regulations, also known as the Advanced Clean Fleets rule, CARB hopes to achieve a total zero-emissions truck and bus fleet by 2045, as well as have at least 1.6 million zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty trucks operating in the state by 2048.”

Why is California’s Air Board using Chinese research to ban diesel trucks in the state? California has record low pollution levels. And CARB admits trucks represent only 6% of the vehicles on California’s roads. Other than further destroying the trucking industry and the businesses of independent owner/operators, what is the purpose of this new law?

The science behind these regulations is not only dubious, it is from China, which has a strong motive to see that the United States succumbs to the climate change movement, much of which is funded by China, as Real Clear Energy reported: “For China, climate change offers a strategic opportunity. Decarbonizing the rest of the world makes China’s economy stronger – it weakens its rivals’ economies, reduces the cost of energy for its hydrocarbon-hungry economy, and sinks energy-poor India as a potential Indo-Pacific rival.”

The US economy is being deliberately held back as China builds 2 new coal power plants per week = 8 new coal plants a month = nearly 100 new coal power plants a year, according to a report by energy data organizations Global Energy Monitor and the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air. China quadrupled the amount of new coal power approvals in 2022 compared to 2021, NPR recently reported.

Dr. James Enstrom contacted the CARB Board and Research Screening Committee Members about their latest pending decision:

I am a highly accomplished California epidemiologist who has had a 50-year career at UCLA and the Scientific Integrity Institute in Los Angeles.  I have published overwhelming epidemiologic evidence that there is NO relationship between PM2.5 and mortality or life expectancy in California.  In addition, there is very strong evidence that the current average personal exposure to air pollution in California is below the level of known adverse health effects.

PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that have a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3 percent the diameter of a human hair and can only be detected with an electron microscope. Back to Dr. Enstrom’s letter to CARB:

Thus, the CARB Research Screening Committee (RSC) must reject both the Su Proposal on “Impacts of Air Pollution on Life Expectancy” and the Zhang Proposal on “Characterization of PM2.5 in the San Joaquin Valley”. 

The RSC must examine the evidence in my disqualified January 23 Proposal that there has been NO relationship between PM2.5 and mortality or life expectancy in California from 1960 to 2020 (http://scientificintegrityinstitute.org/CARBProp012323.pdf).  My proposal has ZERO cost and includes extensive epidemiologic, statistical, and toxicological expertise, as I explained to the RSC on January 26  -(http://scientificintegrityinstitute.org/JEECRSC012623.pdf).  All of the null evidence in my proposal has been deliberately ignored by Su and his collaborators Jerrett, McConnell, Burnett, Zhu, Ritz, Ghosh, and others. Detailed research misconduct complaints have previously been filed against Jerrett (http://scientificintegrityinstitute.org/Jerrett040623.pdf) and McConnell (http://scientificintegrityinstitute.org/McConnell040623.pdf).

By evaluating only the Su and Zhang proposals, the RSC is participating in a pre-determined CARB process to improperly award sole-source contracts that deliberately exaggerate PM2.5 health effects in California.  In addition, there are many technical problems with these proposals. For instance, Su’s proposed use of Medi-Cal records for air pollution epidemiology is totally inappropriate and violates HIPAA confidentiality requirements. I will strongly oppose approval of the Su proposal by the Human Subjects Review Committees of UC Berkeley and the California Department of Health and Human Services.

In conclusion, these Chinese investigators should be focused on the very high pollution levels in China, not on the record low pollution levels in California.  RSC approval of their proposals will be immediately appealed.

Thank you very much for your consideration of my comment.

Sincerely yours, James E. Enstrom, PhD, MPH, FFACE

Retired UCLA Research Professor (Epidemiology)



Enstrom told the Globe, “This crazy, destructive regulation that has nothing to do with public health. The current personal exposure to AP in CA is below level of proven health effects.”

To no avail. The CARB Board has an obvious mandate. They admit it:

And the Governor and Legislature allow them to illegally make law based on fraudulent, doctored science from China, a foreign country which says it will “own America” inside the next 15 years.

So is someone at the CARB on China’s payroll? For that matter, who in state government is helping China along with their nefarious goal? How is this information easy for us to find, but the CARB either can’t or won’t.

Remember, this is the same California Air Resources Board which has a rich history of fraudulent diesel emission studies, violations of California’s open meeting act, and even experimented on children with dangerous diesel exhaust. The CARB also launders cap and trade funds extorted from California businesses by way of carbon offset auctions, through Western Climate Initiative, Inc., “WCI Inc.,” a Delaware Corporation formed by the California Air Resources Board under Mary Nichols, CARB Chairwoman.

Additionally, the Globe reported in 2019:

California Globe can report that a number of USC professors in the Department of Preventive Medicine have received at least $268 million in air pollution research funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, according to Dr. James Enstrom, who believes that this massive amount of research funding has influenced their research findings and their continuing support for the South Coast Air Quality Management District regulations.

Enstrom says his belief is reinforced by USC Preventive Medicine Professors Duncan C. Thomas and Kiros T. Berhane who have failed to respond to Enstrom’s January 2019 and June 2018 emails, which summarize the latest epidemiologic evidence that PM2.5 does not cause premature deaths and that there is no justification for new SCAQMD regulations.

The Globe also reported:

Tasked with overseeing climate change policy and improving California’s air quality, the California Air Resources Board operates like no other state agency. The rogue agency conducts its business in private, without the scrutiny of the public it is accountable to, despite legislative and public outrage over the shroud of secrecy.

In 2012, the CARB, with help from the Democratic Assembly Speaker, figured out a way to exempt itself from the state’s open meeting act. Government Code 11120, the Bagley-Keene Open Meeting Act, is explicitly exempted in the language of a 2012 budget trailer bill authored by then-Assembly Speaker John Perez, a Democrat from Los Angeles.

The California Air Resources Board has not played by their own rules for a long time, and even moved the goal line. The Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, also known as AB 32, charged the California Air Resources Board with the responsibility of reducing California’s greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. This represents a 25 percent reduction statewide. However, the CARB took it one step beyond, and instead adopted the United Nation’s goal: “To avert catastrophic warming,” the world’s scientists have concluded we must reduce GHGs to 80 – 90% below 1990 levels by 2050.”

Many believe the motive is entirely economic by the “world’s scientists,” who want to maintain existing funding, as well as keep future funding flowing in. In order to do this, they must go along with the EPA’s and CARB’s goals.

The EPA and the CARB board insist their goals are the protection of the most vulnerable in society. It’s difficult to believe the EPA and the CARB are sincere when the EPA conducted diesel exhaust experiments on children at UCLA and USC, I wrote in 2015. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency paid the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles to conduct experiments on children, to determine whether exposure to diesel exhaust harms humans.

Click here to read the full article at the California Globe

California Air Regulators Approve Landmark Zero-Emission Rules for Trucks and Locomotives

California air regulators have adopted two landmark rules setting aggressive zero-emission requirements for fleets of heavier vehicles and locomotives, a move expected to drastically cut pollution near ports and rail yards and alter the way goods move through the American West.

In a marathon two-day hearing, perhaps the most consequential session of the year, the California Air Resources Board voted to set an age limit to retire old locomotives while establishing a regulatory framework that requires operators to set aside money to upgrade to cleaner engines and eventually zero-emission powertrains.

In a second vote Friday, the board enacted a rule that will accelerate the adoption of zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in all public and many large private fleets — a regulation that will necessitate more than 1 million new electric freight trucks, school buses and delivery vehicles over the next 25 years. Arguably the most notable provision will require all cargo trucks entering California seaports and rail yards to be zero-emission by 2035.

“This is an absolutely transformative rule to clean our air and mitigate climate change,” said Liane Randoph, chair of the state Air Resources Board. “And I’m so proud to be here with my colleagues to work on this and advance this forward. We all know there’s a lot of challenges, but those challenges aren’t going to be tackled unless we move forward.”

Taken together, the two rules are expected to bring tremendous relief to such communities as Long Beach and San Bernardino, which have been besieged by diesel exhaust and smog-forming emissions from heavy truck traffic and trains. The rules are estimated to prevent more than 5,000 premature deaths by 2050, decrease cancer risk near rail yards by 90% and bring nearly $60 billion in health benefits statewide.

The votes demonstrate how California, a titan of clean air policy, has become increasingly ambitious in its quest to curtail pollution from the transportation sector and eventually zero out the state’s carbon footprint. In the last year alone, California has also banned the sale of new gasoline cars by 2035 and set requirements that an increasing percentage of annual truck sales be zero-emission vehicles.

In turn, California’s national influence has grown under a presidential administration that seems to welcome its pacesetting environmental agenda, and a collection of states have chosen to adhere to these more stringent standards rather than those at the federal level.

Due to historically poor air quality, California is the only state in the nation granted the right to set its own emission standards for motor vehicles, with federal government approval. Even still, the newly approved locomotive rule highlights California’s intention to test the limits of its state authority as emission standards for trains have largely been subject to federal regulation.

As the world’s fourth-largest economy, the state has often thrown around its economic weight to compel industries to comply with its stringent standards. But port authorities, business leaders and public utilities have expressed concern surrounding the feasibility of purchasing the necessary quantities of zero-emission vehicles and locomotives, in addition to installing the infrastructure, including electric charging stations for trucks.

The Air Resources Board argues that 135 models of zero-emission trucks are being manufactured and delivered, and billions of dollars in incentives will be available for new vehicles and infrastructure.

Of an estimated 1.8 million medium- and heavy-duty vehicles operating daily in California, about 532,000 will be subject to the new fleet requirements.

This includes the roughly 30,000 cargo trucks, which overwhelmingly run on diesel and natural gas, visiting ports and rail yards in California. By the end of this year, all legacy gas- and diesel-powered cargo trucks that intend to operate in ports and rail yards must register with the state if they want to do business to the end of their useful life, which the Air Resources Board defines as 18 years old or with a maximum of 800,000 miles traveled. A truck that has driven over 800,000 miles can operate only 13 years.

But this will be a herculean lift. At the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, collectively the largest port complex in the nation, more than 20,000 trucks have access to transport freight. Only 72 are “electric” or “battery electric.” One is a hydrogen fuel cell truck.

“Collectively, we need to accelerate technology and development for the estimated $20-billion investment needed to transition to zero-emission trucks,” Port of Los Angeles Executive Director Gene Seroka said in a statement. “Public- and private-sector stakeholders must coordinate to increase commercial availability of equipment, plan and install infrastructure, reduce acquisition costs and improve overall drayage productivity in order to build a sustainable zero emission truck market.”

Enrique Rivas, who owns and operates a freight truck, told the board he was supportive of the new proposal, but said it puts many independent truckers in a bind. Rivas said he just bought a 2016 freight truck last year. Although Rivas wants to buy a new truck, he isn’t currently able to afford it by this year, meaning he will be able to buy only an electric or hydrogen vehicle next year.

“I’m in a truck all day I’m at the ports,” he said. “I know what it’s like to inhale diesel all day long. There’s a lot of us out here, owner-operators trying to live the American dream and own your own little business.

“I hope you guys consider us — there’s a lot of us,” Rivas said. “Just remember that if trucks stop, you know, everything stops. … I’m all for it. But I hope you guys can give us a little bit more time because it’s expensive to do all these things.”

Starting in 2036, per the fleets rule, manufacturers may sell only zero-emission medium- and heavy-duty vehicles in California. This builds on the Advanced Clean Trucks Rule that requires half of the trucks sold in California to be zero-emission by 2035.

The fleets rule also establishes rules for all publicly owned fleets and so-called high-priority fleets, owned by entities with 50 or more trucks or revenue over $50 million.

The federal and high-priority fleets would be required to purchase only medium and heavy vehicles that are zero-emission starting in 2024, and phase out other vehicles by the end of their useful life. If they don’t want to buy all zero-emission by next year, they have the option to scale up their percentage of zero-emission vehicles over the next two decades, culminating in all fleet vehicle categories by 2042.

This will have huge implications for the 230,000 mail trucks in the U.S. Postal Service — the nation’s largest fleet. In December, the Postal Service announced it would purchase 106,000 new mail trucks, about 62%of which will be electric vehicles, a startling reversal from an earlier proposal to order mostly gas-powered vehicles achieving a dismal 8.2 miles per gallon.

It will also ensure high-priority fleets such as Amazon, UPS and FedEx follow through on their zero-emission pledges.

Between 2024 and 2026, 50% of all state and local government fleet purchases need to be zero-emission, unless the municipal fleet is fewer than 10 vehicles. However, by 2027, all public vehicle purchases must be zero-emission.

Alternatively, state and municipal fleets can also meet the annual benchmarks with an increasing percentage of zero-emission vehicles.

The locomotives rule, however, will be the largest reduction in air pollution from state regulators this year, eliminating 7,400 tons of fine particulate matter and 386,300 tons of smog-forming nitrogen oxides by 2050.

“This locomotive rule is going to have one of the biggest impacts I’d say out of any of California’s clean air regulations,” said Yasmine Agelidis, senior associate attorney for the environmental nonprofit Earthjustice. “Locomotives have not been regulated by any entity at the state, federal or local level in the past 15 years, so railroads have been allowed to pollute recklessly.”

Starting in 2030, only locomotives under 23 years old will be allowed to operate in California. Depending on the type of train, in 2030 or 2035, any new trains must be zero-emission or they can gradually ramp up the percentage of lower-emission and zero-emission train usage. The rule would essentially guarantee all train fleets would be zero-emission by no later than 2058.

To finance this transformation, starting next year, locomotive operators would be required to deposit funds into a trust account based on their emissions in California. That money can be used to invest in cleaner locomotives or infrastructure.

Though more than 60% of passenger locomotives are tier 4 (the cleanest diesel-powered engines), less than 10% of line-haul locomotives that move freight belong to this category.

Union Pacific Rail Co, the second-largest rail company, expressed its disapproval of the new rule.

“Union Pacific is deeply disappointed in the California Air Resources Board’s decision to impose burdensome regulations on the railroad industry, which fail to take into consideration that the technology and infrastructure needed for success do not exist,” a company spokesperson said in a statement. “We are committed to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050 and are making significant strides in addressing criteria pollutants. For example, we are investing $1 billion to modernize locomotives, signed a $100-million deal to test battery-electric locomotives, and are testing biofuel blends to improve carbon and criteria pollutant emissions. We are dedicated to ongoing collaboration to find balanced solutions.”

Despite such industry opposition, however, a large contingent of environmental advocates and residents who live in areas affected by transport pollution spoke in support of the new train and truck rules.

Gema Pena Zaragoza, an educator in San Bernardino, the smoggiest county in the nation, told the board that she and her students have been sickened by the toxic haze that regularly overtakes their community.

Click here to read the full article in the LA Times

Man Bites Off part of LAPD Officer’s Finger During Metro Station Altercation

A man bit off a chunk of an Los Angeles police officer’s finger at a Metro Red Line station on Thursday, April 27, authorities said.

Officers assigned to the subway were patrolling the station at Santa Monica Boulevard and Vermont Avenue at around 10 a.m. when they say they came across a man aboard the train who seemed to have illegal drugs.

Police attempted to escort him off the train when they say he became violent. While they were attempting to restrain him, he bit off part of a sergeant’s finger.

An officer then used undisclosed force against the man, who police say sustained minor injuries and was taken in custody to a hospital. The sergeant also went to a hospital.

RELATED STORY: Metro responds to rising crime with more drug arrests and ‘transit ambassadors’

Police did not further describe what drugs the man was suspected of having. It is unclear how badly the suspect injured the sergeant’s finger.

“I’m deeply disturbed by the vicious and gruesome attack on our sergeant as he and other officers were simply conducting routine patrol of the transit line,” LAPD Chief Michel Moore said in a statement. “We remain committed to our work each day to improve the safety of the entire transit system with dedicated patrol engaging.”

Click here to read the full article in the LA Daily News

State Republicans Call on Newsom to Back Fentanyl Legislation

After the California Senate Public Safety Committee agreed to hold a special hearing to address a number of fentanyl-related bills this month, it did not take long for said bills to stat getting shot down.

California Republicans have now called on Gov. Newsom to support some of the legislation. Assembly Republican’s letter to the Governor can be viewed here.

Click to watch full interview at KUSI

San Diego to Pursue Buying Three Hotels to House Homeless People — at a Cost of $383,000 Per Room

San Diego Housing Commission would use state funds toward $150 million purchase of extended-stay hotels

The San Diego Housing Commission will apply for state funds to help purchase three extended-stay hotels with more than 400 rooms that could provide homes for people experiencing or facing homelessness.

In a move contingent on funding from the state, commissioners voted 4-0 at the board’s April 20 meeting to pursue the purchase of the 107-unit Extended Stay America Hotel at 3860 Murphy Canyon Road for $40.7 million, the 140-unit Extended Stay America Hotel at 7440-7450 Mission Valley Road for $52 million and the 165-unit Extended Stay America Hotel at 2085-2095 Hotel Circle South for $65.2 million.

The total cost of the three buildings would equate to about $383,000 a unit, which is greater than the per-unit cost of two hotels the city bought for housing three years ago.

Each unit will have a kitchenette and be near public transportation routes and other services.

As with the purchases from 2020, some funding for the new purchases would come from the third and final round of funding from the state’s Project Homekey, which was created by Gov. Gavin Newsom as a competitive grant program for public agencies to quickly develop housing through the use of hotels, motels, hostels, multifamily apartments, manufactured housing and other means.

The latest round has $736 million throughout the state, and $34 million has been set aside for the San Diego region. On top of the money set aside for San Diego, local agencies also can apply for a share of the statewide funds.

As part of the application process, the Housing Commission will begin due diligence on Thursday, which SDHC Vice President of Real Estate Finance and Acquisitions Buddy Bohrer told commissioners involves zoning conformance, pest control, inspections for potential environmental hazards and peer-review appraisals, among other steps.

Bohrer said the Housing Commission also will have to invest $750,000 to perform due diligence as part of the application process, which it would fund through its federal Moving to Work funds.

Applications for Project Homekey funds will be submitted in May or June, and awards are expected in August or September. If all goes well, the anticipated close of escrow will be in October, Bohrer said.

The per-unit cost of the three properties would be about $380,000 for the Murphy Canyon Road hotel, $371,000 for the Mission Valley Road hotel and $395,000 for the Hotel Circle south hotel for an average price of $383,192.

Commissioners praised their staff for working on the proposal that could house hundreds of homeless people at a time when the area’s median home price is about $750,000.

“This seems like a fantastic value proposition here,” Commissioner Ryan Clumpner said.

“These programs are incredible when you see the cost at the door,” Commissioner Stefanie Benvenuto said, referring to the per-door cost.

“When you can find a way to pick up 412 rooms and begin housing people and close in October, you have to be thrilled about the opportunity,” said Commissioner Eugene “Mitch” Mitchell.

This is the second time the Housing Commission has pursued hotels with Project Homekey funds.

In October 2020, the San Diego City Council approved the Housing Commission’s plan to buy two extended-stay hotels.

A 190-unit hotel on Hotel Circle South cost $67 million, or $353,000 a room, and the 142-room hotel in Kearny Mesa cost $39.5 million, or $278,000 a room.

The $383,000 per-unit cost of the three hotels being pursued by the Housing Commission is greater than the cost of the two hotels purchased in 2020 and other similar projects, but less than some affordable housing projects built from scratch.

Father Joe’s Villages purchased a South Bay hotel that was converted to housing and opened in October 2020 as Benson’s Place. The 82-room hotel and its reconstruction cost $24.5 million, or $299,000 a room.

In February 2022, Father Joe’s Villages opened Saint Teresa of Calcutta Villa, a 407-project that cost $145 million, or $356,000 a room.

Earlier this month, the 95-unit affordable housing Amanecer Apartments in Linda Vista opened at cost of $51.1 million, or $538,000 a room. The project developed by Community HousingWorks required the demolition of existing projects and was supported with Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers from the Housing Commission and $7 million from the county.

San Diego Union-Tribune article from September 2020 asked several people in a variety of fields if purchasing hotels to house homeless people was a good use of tax dollars. Three said no, citing the cost and suggesting other solutions, while 10 people said yes.

Bob Rauch of R.A. Rauch & Associates, which owns and operates hotels, was among the people who thought the last purchases were bad deals, and he has problems with the proposed cost of the new ones.

“They’re nuts,” he said. “They overpaid last time during a pandemic, and they’d be overpaying again.”

Rauch said extended-stay hotel rooms would fetch more than regular hotel rooms, but still sees the Housing Commission’s proposal as too high.

He also said he has a high-end, 120-room extended-stay hotel in Del Mar, and its value is about $300,000 to $325,000 a room.

Alan Gin, an economic professors with the University of San Diego Knauss School of Business, said homelessness and the housing market are serious and related problems that should be addressed.

When compared to the Amanecer Apartments, Gin said the proposed purchases were a good deal, but he also said he would have to research the market more.

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

Lt. Gov. Kounalakis Announces 2026 Run to Replace Newsom

LOS ANGELES – Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis Monday declared her candidacy for governor in the 2026 election, seeking to be the first woman to hold the post.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is barred from running for re-election that year because of term limits.

“As a proud mother, daughter, advocate, and leader, I know the struggles Californians face and have the experience and grit to bring meaningful change to our state,” Kounalakis, 57, said on social media.

“I will fight fiercely to build a future where everyone — regardless of race, class, or immigration status — has the same opportunity that my family and I had.”

A Democrat, Kounalakis in 2018 became the first woman elected as California‘s lieutenant governor, succeeding the man she is seeking to succeed as governor. She was re-elected in November.

Mona Pasquil served as acting lieutenant governor between John Garamendi’s election to the House in a 2009 special election and Abel Maldonado’s confirmation in 2010 to be Garamendi’s successor.

Born March 3, 1966, in Sacramento, Kounalakis worked for her family’s Sacramento-based housing development firm, AKT Development, for 18 years, building master-planned communities. She was United States ambassador to Hungary from 2010-13 and a virtual fellow with the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 2014-17, specializing in international trade and immigration.

Kounalakis also chaired the California Advisory Council for International Trade and Investment and was a member of California’s First 5 Commission and the California Blue Ribbon Commission on Autism.

Three women have been major party nominees for governor of California — Democrats Dianne Feinstein in 1990 and Kathleen Brown in 1994 and Republican Meg Whitman in 2010 — but all lost.

Kounalakis’ announcement came on the sixth anniversary of her announcement of her candidacy for lieutenant governor.

Click here to read the full article in the FoxNews11

An Official Named Su

President Biden’s nominee to be secretary of labor is in real danger of not being confirmed.

Julie Su, a lifetime labor-union official, isn’t an ordinary nominee. Until 2021, she was California’s labor secretary and presided over perhaps the biggest single example of fraud in the state’s history. The state’s unemployment system paid out tens of billions in expanded Covid-19 unemployment benefits that were subsidized by the federal government.

The fraud came after a state auditor warned the state to stop printing Social Security numbers on mail. He was ignored. Others warned that rings of scammers were bilking the system. They, too, were ignored. The Washington Examiner reports that “California reportedly sent $1 billion to fraud rings involving prisoners who were filing fraudulent claims while actively behind bars.”

Even Senator Mitt Romney, one of the Republicans most supportive of confirming Biden’s previous cabinet choices, says he has reached his limit in being asked to confirm Julie Su. At her confirmation hearing last Thursday, he said:

The fact that under your lead, unemployment insurance payments in California of some $31 billion went to people who were basically receiving money on a criminal basis  . . . $31 billion, that’s about as much as we provided in military aid to Ukraine. That’s almost twice the total budget of the Department of Labor. . . . In this case, your record there is so severely lacking, I don’t know how in the world it makes sense for the president to nominate you to take over this department.

Despite this record, Su was confirmed by 50 to 47 as Biden’s deputy secretary of labor in 2021. But several Republicans were absent from that vote, and three of the senators who voted for her have yet to back her promotion: Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, and Jon Tester of Montana. All are up for reelection in 2024 and nervous about being linked to Su’s radicalism and incompetence.

All the country’s major business groups lined up against Su before her confirmation hearing. They pointed out that Su was also a major force behind California’s Assembly Bill 5, a law that essentially abolished independent contractors in the state. AB 5 was eventually repealed in a referendum by a 58 percent majority of the state’s voters, but not before it temporarily wrecked the state’s trucking industry and exacerbated its supply-chain problems at major ports.

Click here to read the full article in the National Review