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WECA Political Update January 7, 2021

Thursday, January 07, 2021

Government Affairs and Merit Shop Advocacy
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Late-Breaking News:

Biden chooses Boston Mayor Marty Walsh as Labor Secretary

According to Politico, President-elect Joe Biden has picked Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, the former head of the Boston Metropolitan District Building Trades Council, to serve as his Labor secretary, ending a selection process that split the labor movement and stoked diversity concerns among Democrats. Walsh beat out a host of other names floated for the position, including Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), former Deputy Labor Secretary Seth Harris, California Labor Secretary Julie Su and AFL-CIO Chief Economist Bill Spriggs. His selection suggests that Biden was willing to overlook calls for a diversity choice, since Walsh is a white man, and Asian American and Pacific Islanders had been lobbying heavily for Su. Spriggs is Black. Biden was widely expected to choose a Labor Department head who enjoyed the support of unions, given the president-elect's long-standing ties with labor leaders, his support for the right to organize and the key role the agency will play in implementing the sweeping pro-worker agenda he campaigned on. Walsh and Biden also have strong personal ties. Not only did Biden speak at the mayor’s 2017 inauguration, but the two have been spotted together in Boston at the anniversary of the marathon bombings, at a Stop & Shop workers rally, and at dinner.

Governor Newsom to Propose $4.5 Billion for Equitable Recovery for California’s Businesses and Jobs in 2021 Budget

He previewed his plan in advance of the release of his 2021-22 State Budget. If you have time, you can watch the Governor provide a brief overview of his plan here.

Workforce Development Among its other provisions, the Budget proposes one-time and ongoing investments totaling $353 million to support California’s workers. “These investments lift up proven workforce development strategies like apprenticeship and High-Road Training Partnerships and encourage greater collaboration and coordination among California's institutions of higher learning and local workforce partners. Demand-driven workforce programs can help California train the workforce of the future in key sectors including health care and technology.”

Other elements of the plan:

Small Business Grants - $575 million – unclear how much will go to out-of-state, or prison-based small businesses.

California Jobs Initiative - a $777.5 million proposal, focuses on job creation and retention, regional development, small businesses and climate innovation

Fee Waivers - $70.6 million for fee waivers to individuals and businesses most impacted by the pandemic

Deferred Maintenance - a $300 million one-time General Fund expenditure for the most critical statewide deferred maintenance

Housing - Through the Infill Infrastructure Grant (IIG) Program, he proposes $500 million to create jobs and long-term housing development to unlock more than 7,500 new permanently affordable homes for Californians.

But the BIG winner!

Zero-Emission Vehicles and Zero-Emission Vehicle Infrastructure – his budget proposes $1.5 billion to encourage rich Californians to buy more zero-emission vehicles and provide the charging/fueling infrastructure (using EVITP certified electricians). Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, who recently launched a gubernatorial exploratory committee, excoriated Newsom’s proposal Tuesday. “In the middle of a pandemic and deep recession, California’s highest priority should not be zero-emission vehicles. We need K-12 education at the top of the list.” But the Sierra Club was happy. “It signals the governor is serious about transitioning away from fossil fuel vehicles and the pollution they create. But we need to look at the details.”

Details to follow when he releases his budget next week.

Hunger Games (Update)

Now that Kamala Harris’s election as Vice-President has been certified and she will be leaving the US Senate, Governor Newsom has picked his replacement – Secretary of State Alex Padilla. Several capitol insiders have wondered why Harris didn’t resign her seat before now – which would have given Padilla more seniority over the newly elected Senators – but I haven’t heard any plausible explanation.

Secretary of State

Since Newson picked Padilla for the Senate (he picked San Diego Assembly Member Shirley Weber as SoS), a special election for Weber’s Assembly seat will be triggered. Two Assembly Members who had already announced plans to run in 2022 (Gonzalez and Chiu) will now have to look elsewhere.

California Attorney General

And since the US Senate will now have a Democratic majority, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra’s appointment as Health and Human Services Secretary.is likely to be confirmed. Governor Newsom gets to pick a new AG. Rumors are rampant about which constituency Newsom will attempt to mollify with THIS appointment.

Other News and Views

Dems Edge Closer to in Senate Control, Raising Stakes for Construction

“Our livelihoods are riding on Georgia,” said Kristen Swearington, vice president of legislative and political affairs at Associated Builders and Contractors. “No pressure down there, right?” Story Democratic control of the Senate should also ensure California Attorney General Xavier Becerra will clear confirmation for U.S. Health and Human Services secretary. The US Chamber recently released "Implications of 50-50 Senate and Closely Divided House" that highlights the Chamber’s initial take on the implications of this outcome.

California in Bottom Ranking of Merit Shop States

Alaska, California, Illinois and Washington are in the bottom tier of states, each receiving F ratings in project labor agreements, prevailing wage and right-to-work policies for the sixth year in a row. Story

New lawsuit could delay UC Davis’ $1.1 billion Aggie Square project in Sacramento

A Sacramento community group has filed a lawsuit that could delay or kill UC Davis’ $1.1 billion Aggie Square project, set to start construction next year near Sacramento’s Oak Park neighborhood. Story

Study: Construction Has the Highest COVID-19 Rate of Nearly Any Industry

A new study tracking the results of more than 730,000 COVID-19 tests found that construction workers had the highest positivity rates for asymptomatic cases of any occupation, including healthcare staff, first responders, correctional personnel, elderly care workers, grocery store workers and food service employees. Story

Los Angeles Is Paying $130,000 For An 8-Foot-By-8-Foot Shed to House the Homeless

In other cities, 64-square-foot aluminum and composite sheds are being used as quick and inexpensive emergency shelter for homeless people. Not in Los Angeles. Here, plans to employ the minimalist structures, known as “tiny homes,” have blossomed into expensive development projects with access roads, underground utilities and concrete foundations — and commensurate planning delays. At the city’s first tiny home village, scheduled to open in January, each of the 39 closet-sized homes is costing $130,000, about 10 times what some other cities are spending. Five more villages are planned to open later. Story

Projected EDD Fraud Hits $4 billion

The recent revelation that California’s unemployment department may have paid nearly $100 million in fraudulent claims to out-of-state jail and prison inmates has pushed the projected scope of fraudulent payments to $4 billion — double the amount prosecutors had previously estimated. According to an analysis reviewed by the Los Angeles Times, more than 2,000 of the high-risk claims were filed under the names of inmates in Florida prisons or jails — including that of a convicted murderer who allegedly received nearly $11,000 in payments. The news came a day after EDD suspended payment on an unspecified number of claims in an attempt to mitigate fraud — and a Sacramento man on probation was charged with nine counts of felony EDD fraud after scamming the department for $219,000. Dan Walters summed it up “’Rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic’ is an overworked cliché, but it certainly applies to California’s Employment Development Department. The name itself is a farce. There’s no evidence that EDD ever developed any jobs, other than employing thousands of bureaucrats to pay out unemployment insurance benefits — and that’s been a titanic disaster.” Story

Newsom appointed a new EDD director  last month. But “every month there’s a new E.D.D. fiasco,” State Senator Scott Wiener told The San Francisco Chronicle, adding that he had received at least 50 complaints in recent days from constituents whose accounts were frozen despite legitimate claims.

This Gift’s for You…

According to CalMatters, Gov Newsom is “considering appointing Assemblymember Ed Chau, a Monterey Park Democrat, as a judge on the Los Angeles County Superior Court… Chau, who was reelected to the state Assembly in November and wouldn’t hit term limits until 2024, said Tuesday he is seeking the judgeship because ‘I’d like to plan ahead to continue in public service,’ though ‘my commitment now is to the constituents I serve.’ It’s rare for a California governor to appoint a sitting legislator to the judicial bench. In the past 50 years, only six state legislators have resigned after being appointed as judges, according to … the California State Library. The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.”

Ex Union President Sentenced To 12 Years in Prison

The former president of a Colton-based labor union was sentenced Tuesday, Jan. 5, in Los Angeles to a dozen years in federal prison for stealing nearly $800,000 from the union’s health plan trust fund, which he used for personal expenses including legal bills and a sports car loan for his son. Story (email may be required)
Ask Richard
Richard Markuson
WECA Government Affairs Advocate, Pacific Advocacy Group
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