California Government Relations Update

April 5, 2022

Pardon Our Dust

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Los Angeles Unified School District lifted its mask mandate for students and staff on March 23, 2022, a significant development for California’s largest school district. In line with the agreement made with the teachers union, the district will keep its weekly testing program through the end of the school year, at a price tag of around $5 million per week.

California Democrats rejected a resolution by Republican Sen. Melissa Melendez that would have terminated Gov. Gavin Newsom’s two-year-old COVID-19 state of emergency, which allows the governor to access federal funding and override state laws. Republicans argue that the state of emergency gives Newsom too much power, and that local governments should take the lead on COVID response. Newsom maintained that the state of emergency is necessary to implement the state’s SMARTER plan, California’s next phase of pandemic response.

March 31 was the last day for California residents to apply to the state’s COVID rent relief program. On April 1, landlords can begin to evict non-paying tenants in cities or counties without local eviction protections. Acknowledging the slow distribution of relief funds, a group of Democrats submitted a proposal to extend eviction protections through June 30th for Californians who have applied for the COVID rent relief program. The bill passed the Assembly and the Senate and was signed into law by Lt. Gov. Kounalakis.

What’s happening in Sacramento?

Gas Prices

Gas prices have started to drop nationwide but remain high across California, with the average price of a regular gallon over $6 in Southern California. Since Newsom’s initial announcement, four gas rebate proposals have been introduced, which would be funded with California’s sizeable budget surplus. Newsom’s $11 billion plan would send a $400 debit card to car-owning Californians statewide for up to two registered vehicles, $750 million in grants for public transit agencies to offer Californians three months of free rides, up to $600 million to pause part of the diesel sales tax for one year, and $523 million to suspend July’s scheduled increase to the gas and diesel excise tax.

President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Speaker Anthony Rendon introduced a proposal to give $200 per person to taxpaying Californians, including their dependents, but the rebates would be capped for households with an income exceeding $250,000. Notably, Atkins and Rendon do not support suspending the gas tax increase in July. A group of Democratic lawmakers unveiled a plan to send a $400 rebate to every Californian, regardless of income and car ownership, to mitigate the high price of gas across the state.


The California Energy Commission (CEC) met the first week of March to discuss AB 525 and to review its strategic plan for offshore wind (OSW) energy in California, which must be completed by June 30, 2023. By June 1, 2022, the CEC must evaluate and quantify the maximum feasible capacity of OSW to achieve reliability, ratepayer, employment, and decarbonization benefits and establish megawatt OSW planning goals for 2030 and 2045. While OSW has been viewed as a clean energy powerhouse for many, members of the Northern Chumash Tribe are protesting the development of a floating wind turbine project off Morro Bay in the name of tribal preservation.

Tribal Affairs

Tribal affairs were at the forefront of California politics again with Newsom’s announcement of a budget proposal to give Native American tribes $100 million to purchase and preserve their ancestral lands. Tribes could also use the money for programs to address climate change and workforce development. While enthusiastic about the proposal, some tribal leaders expressed concern about competing claims over the same land.


The Legislative Analyst’s Office recently released its assessment of the costs associated with CalCare, the single payer healthcare proposal that failed to clear the Assembly. The analysis projects that a single payer system would cost the state between $494 billion and $552 billion per year. The analysis reveals a significantly higher price tag than previous estimates for single-payer care and projected that the plan would have a $70 to $193 billion funding shortfall. This assessment could impact future progressive attempts to establish statewide healthcare.

A new state budget proposal introduced by Gov. Newsom would instruct California to spend $100 million to produce its own insulin, according to a letter from the Department of Finance to legislative budget leaders. This proposal reflects Newsom’s push for California to create its own generic label – under the moniker CalRx – to reduce prescription drug costs for residents. Insulin is Newsom’s first target, driven by his belief that the diabetes medication “epitomizes the failures in the pharmaceutical industry.” If successful, California could become the first state to manufacture its own drugs. In their letter, the finance officials called for a one-time infusion of $100 million in the 2022-23 budget “to support the development of three low-cost interchangeable biosimilar insulin products and a California-based insulin manufacturing facility.” Newsom’s plan would have California enter partnerships to make the diabetes drug and develop its own manufacturing capabilities.

What’s happening in Los Angeles?

USC hosted a mayoral debate between the five leading candidates: Joe Buscaino, Kevin de León, Karen Bass, Mike Feuer, and Rick Caruso. Most of the debate centered on key issues such as homelessness and crime, with most attacks targeted at Caruso, appearing in his first debate since he announced his candidacy. Ironically, the large number of attacks directed towards Caruso gave him – seemingly – the most airtime and attention. On the other hand, Bass did not attack Caruso, staying above the fray as the race’s current front runner.

George Gascón continues to be a polarizing figure in the LA mayoral race, despite not being a candidate. As Angelenos’ fears about crime escalate, many voters are focused on which candidates have endorsed Gascón’s recall. Both Buscaino and Caruso have endorsed removing Gascón from office. Bass, Feuer, and De León have all expressed disagreement with some of Gascón’s policies, like zero bail for misdemeanors and accountability for low-level offenses but have not endorsed a recall.

In total, 55 people qualified to run for 11 LA city offices in the June 7 election. The election will generate the most significant political turnover in City Hall since 2013, with the opportunity to elect a new mayor, city controller, city attorney, and vote on eight city council races, three of which have no incumbent. The general election will be held on November 8 between the top two candidates from each primary.