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California, explained
In summary
Republican legislators tried to force a vote on ending the COVID state of emergency and cited the Super Bowl.
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The forecast for Super Bowl Sunday in Inglewood, Los Angeles County: unseasonably warm, with a chance of political controversy.
First, there was this week’s warning from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that truck drivers protesting vaccine mandates may seek to snarl Super Bowl traffic or to impede security operations — actions apparently inspired by trucker demonstrations blockading parts of the U.S.-Canada border.
Then, there are questions about who will benefit from a game expected to draw more than 100,000 visitors to a new $5 billion stadium built in a city that for years was so financially strapped it struggled to provide basic services to residents, most of whom are people of color.
And then there are the optics of the Super Bowl itself: tens of thousands of people crowding into SoFi Stadium — albeit with strict vaccine-or-testing and masking rules — in the middle of a pandemic.
Republican lawmakers seized — quite literally — on this image Thursday, when many showed up at the state Capitol in Sacramento wearing face masks emblazoned with the now-infamous photo of Gov. Gavin Newsom posing maskless with Magic Johnson at last month’s NFC Championship game, also at SoFi Stadium.
Their goal: Force a vote on ending California’s pandemic state of emergency — which would also terminate Newsom’s emergency powers. However, Democratic legislators voted against weighing in on proposals to do so.
Newsom, who on Thursday signed into law a $1.9 billion emergency COVID package, slammed the effort from Kiley and co-author Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City.
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The coronavirus bottom line: As of Wednesday, California had 8,181,224 confirmed cases (+0.2% from previous day) and 81,074 deaths (+0.2% from previous day), according to state data. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
California has administered 70,454,894 vaccine doses, and 73.7% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.
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1. California sues Tesla
In the latest sign of bad blood between California and Tesla, the state’s civil rights regulator sued the electric-car maker late Wednesday night, alleging that “Tesla’s Fremont factory is a racially segregated workplace where Black workers are subjected to racial slurs and discriminated against in job assignments, discipline, pay and promotion.”
News of the lawsuit came the same day as reports that California in 2021 became the first state to register more than a million electric and plug-in hybrid cars — and the federal government’s announcement that California is eligible for nearly $384 million in electric vehicle infrastructure funding over the next five years.
2. Scientists battle for better pay
Newsom has taken pains throughout the pandemic to emphasize the importance of “following the science” — but members of his own administration warned two years ago that underpaying state scientists is compromising California’s ability to follow through on its scientific endeavors, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports. Now, the union representing staff scientists is trying to negotiate a new contract to close the wage gap with other state workers, particularly engineers.
3. Fire-related updates
In case there was any doubt as to whether the Golden State’s fire season is now year-round, two fires broke out Thursday in Southern California amid summer-like temperatures and gusty Santa Ana winds, forcing thousands of evacuations in an affluent Orange County community near Laguna Beach and destroying at least two homes near the Los Angeles suburb of Whittier.
The news came the same day that PG&E estimated its years-long plan to bury 10,000 miles of power lines in wildfire-prone areas could cost more than $25 billion. The utility — which recently secured a wildfire safety certificate from Newsom’s administration against the wishes of environmental justice advocates — also got the go-ahead from state regulators Thursday to increase rates for the second time this year. Starting in March, the average customer’s monthly bill will jump by 9.2%, or around $14, the Mercury News calculates.
Why is California banning Indigenous philosophies in the classroom? If politicos want to outlaw Indigenous knowledge, they should learn it first, argues Roberto Cintli Rodriguez, a professor in Mexican American Studies at the University of Arizona.
Paper water is a California constant: We all need to keep saying the state should calculate the actual amount of water available until the agencies in charge wake up, writes Jan McCleery, former president of Save the California Delta Alliance.
LA County on track to relax some outdoor mask rules. // Los Angeles Times
Oscars: In-person attendance won’t be contingent upon COVID vaccination. // Hollywood Reporter
Which GOP candidates will run to replace Devin Nunes? // CalMatters
3 Democrats vie for Elk Grove Assembly seat in state Legislature. // Sacramento Bee
Capitol staffers tell job gripes and slam bad bosses — anonymously. // Capitol Weekly
The gig workers of California community colleges face worsening conditions. // EdSource
Exits by teachers of color pose a new threat to COVID education. // California Healthline
California senators propose public fund for journalism. // The Hill
Does Fresno’s new rule make it harder to help the homeless? // CalMatters
COVID eviction battles have moved to the Bay Area suburbs. // San Francisco Chronicle
Survey underscores LA voters’ anger about homelessness. // Los Angeles Times
West Oakland’s only full-scale grocery store is shutting down. // San Francisco Chronicle
High-level OC prosecutor dismissed from District Attorney’s Office. // Orange County Register
3 million plaintiffs seek $1.2B from California health firm. // Associated Press
BART faces ‘most challenging revenue outlook’ in history as low ridership numbers persist. // San Francisco Chronicle
Paying by the mile for California roads and infrastructure. // Capitol Weekly
Older Koreatown businesses struggle amid COVID surge while hip spots thrive. // Los Angeles Times
Bay Area Starbucks, Chipotle stores closed or shortening hours due to omicron. // Mercury News
As drought continues, Southern California offers millions to buy Sacramento Valley water. // Sacramento Bee
Cupertino quarry and cement plant may be bought and shut down by Santa Clara County government. // Mercury News
Rare wayward dove lands in Palo Alto, sparking birdwatching frenzy. // Mercury News
See you Monday.
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Emily Hoeven writes the daily WhatMatters newsletter for CalMatters. Her reporting, essays, and opinion columns have been published in San Francisco Weekly, the Deseret News, the San Francisco Business… More by Emily Hoeven

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