EDD on the hot seat + COVID in youth prisons + ‘California Rule’ decision today + NARAL endorses

Andrew Sheeler

Good morning and happy Thursday! Thanks as always for reading!

EDD ON THE AGENDA TODAY

The Employment Development Department, and its myriad problems as it struggles to keep up with skyrocketing pandemic unemployment, is going to be on the agenda today, specifically the agenda of a subcommittee of the Assembly Budget Committee.

The committee hearing is set for 1 p.m., and comes as Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced that he is sending a strike team to EDD to help the agency address its massive backlog.

Even after hiring thousands of temporary employees, Newsom projects it will take another two months to work through a backlog of 1 million actionable claims. The state has paid more than $49 billion in unemployment benefits since March.

“There should be no barriers between Californians and the benefits they have earned,” Newsom said in a statement. “Unprecedented demand due to job loss during this pandemic paired with an antiquated system have created an unacceptable backlog of claims. Californians deserve better, and these reform efforts aim to move the Department in that direction.”

One person who isn’t a fan of Newsom’s handling of the situation: Assemblyman Jim Patterson, R-Fresno.

“Gov. Newsom has become notorious for his words - not his actions. It’s our responsibility in the Legislature to not only hold the EDD accountable, but the governor as well. I will continue to do both on behalf of the people of California,” Patterson said in response to the governor’s announcement.

You can watch today’s hearing by visiting here.

COVID IN TEEN LOCKUPS

Jane Faalataina’s son is among the 47 teens and young adults who have tested positive for COVID-19 inside the walls of California’s youth prisons. So far, his symptoms are minor, but he’s locked in an isolation unit inside a Stockton facility, and his studies are suffering, she said.

The state adult prison system has seen thousands of inmates released early as the coronavirus has surged through those institutions. Faalataina said she wonders why California isn’t willing to do the same for incarcerated youth offenders like her 20-year-old son.

There are around 775 teens and young adults in the facilities. Forty-seven inmates infected with COVID-19 represent 6% of the population.

“Why not the youth?” Faalataina said this week in a phone interview from her home in San Francisco. “The youth are as important as adults. If you’re releasing adults … with COVID, why not for all?”

Gov. Newsom has said he eventually wants to disband the state’s youth prison system, which houses offenders convicted of the most serious and violent crimes. And state lawmakers are currently weighing a reform plan that would shift custody of youth offenders to the county probation offices that run local juvenile detention facilities.

But Newsom has not commented on releasing the state’s youth offenders early. Officials with the Department of Juvenile Justice deferred questions about releasing inmates to Newsom’s office, which didn’t comment Wednesday.

With no plans to release youth offenders early, prison officials said they have been taking steps to limit the spread of COVID-19 among the young people inside the state’s three youth lockups and one firefighting camp. They’re aged between 14 and 25 years old.

Officials have suspended all visits, and on Tuesday, officials announced they would no longer be accepting new youth offenders into the Ventura Youth Correctional Facility in Southern California to limit the disease’s spread. They said they were weighing whether to do the same at the two state youth lockups in Stockton, the N.A. Chaderjian and O.H. Close youth correctional facilities.

“Our highest priority is the health and wellness of our youth and staff, and this pause, in cooperation with county courts and probation, will help us accomplish that goal,” Heather Bowlds, acting director of the Department of Juvenile Justice, said in a statement.

Read more on what’s happening behind the walls in Ryan Sabalow’s story today.

SUPREME COURT TO ISSUE PENSION DECISION

Look for a California Supreme Court decision on former Gov. Jerry Brown’s marquee pension law. The court is expected to weigh in on whether the law allowed local governments to end practices that Brown referred to as “pension spiking.”

Back in May, both sides in the case of Alameda County Deputy Sheriff’s Association v. Alameda County Public Employees’ Retirement Association argued before the Supreme Court.

At stake is the so-called California rule, a decades-old set of legal precedents that have been interpreted as protecting public pensions from reductions.

As State Worker reporter Wes Venteicher reported in May, the court could go narrow in its ruling, focusing specifically on end-of-career benefits that the Alameda deputies’ union and unions from two other counties, Contra Costa and Merced, want to restore, or the court could go broad, by addressing the question of whether public pensions are sacrosanct and untouchable in a recession.

While you wait for the decision to drop, read Venteicher’s story here.

NARAL ENDORSEMENTS

NARAL Pro-Choice California has issued new endorsements in the upcoming Assembly and Senate district races. The organization is throwing its support behind seven Democratic candidates:

  • Josh Becker, who is running against Republican Alexander Glew to replace Sen. Jerry Hill.

  • John Laird, who is running against Republican Vicki Nohrden to replace Sen. Bill Monning.

  • Kathy Miller, who is running against Democrat Carlos Villapudua to replace Assemblywoman Susan Eggman.

  • Alex Lee, who is running against Republican Bob Brunton to replace Assemblyman Kansen Chu.

  • Steve Bennett, who is running against Republican Charles Cole to replace Assemblywoman Monique Limon.

  • Andrew Rodriguez, who is running to unseat Republican Assemblyman Phillip Chen.

  • Lisa Calderon, who is running against Republican Jessica Martinez to replace Assemblyman Ian Calderon.

“NARAL is proud to endorse these seven candidates, all of whom can be trusted to stand strong against Republican attacks on abortion and will fight to ensure that every Californian has the freedom to make their own decisions about pregnancy and equitable access to the full range of reproductive healthcare,” the group said in a statement.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“I vote by mail. I’ve done so for more than 20 years. The integrity of our elections system is sound. Please stop with the nonsense.”

-Assemblyman Chad Mayes, via Twitter.

Best of the Bee:

  • California Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, both Democrats, aren’t crazy about the Republican plan to send most people another round of economic stimulus payments, saying the proposal won’t always reach the people who need the money most, via David Lightman.

  • A year after California passed a law to crack down on lenders charging triple-digit interest rates, Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced a lawsuit against a federal agency to block a new rule that would let certain banks and lenders avoid the state cap, via Hannah Wiley.

  • Latino and Black tenants in California are much more worried than their white and Asian counterparts about paying their rent in the economic downturn caused by the coronavirus pandemic, according to data taken by the U.S. Census Bureau, via Kate Irby.