Capitol Update 07/23/2021
Historic Broadband Investment Signed, Work Continues
In a significant victory for counties, coalition allies, and all Californians, Governor Gavin Newsom signed SB 156 into law this week, providing a historic $6 billion investment in broadband infrastructure. The investment prioritizes construction in communities with little or no broadband access in both rural and urban areas. The bill includes investments for last-mile fiber that provides service directly to homes and businesses by allocating $2 billion over three years to the CPUC’s capital expenditure subsidy program, CASF. It also includes a statewide open-access middle-mile network ($3.25 billion), which will be available to any internet provider on non-discriminatory terms, making it faster and cheaper for internet providers to build additional last-mile infrastructure into communities with limited options. The middle-mile network will be owned by the state, built along much of the state’s highway system, and will be overseen by the Department of Technology
Wildfires: PG&E will place 10,000 miles of electric lines underground
Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest power company, said Wednesday that it plans to place 10,000 miles of power lines underground to reduce the possibility of sparking massive wildfires in Northern and Central California — but the utility provided no timeline for the project and limited details of how it would be paid for. Fiona Kelliher, George Avalos in the San Jose Mercury Ryan Sabalow and Dale Kasler in the Sacramento Bee
Weekly new jobless claims leaped to 419,000 last week, the highest level seen since mid-May, the feds said Thursday.
Initial filings for benefits, seen as a proxy for layoffs, reached 419,000 last week, a leap of 51,000 up from the prior week’s revised level of 368,000, the feds added. The number dashed economists’ hopes for a continued and robust recovery of the labor market heading toward the fall. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones expected exactly 350,000 initial claims for unemployment last week. NYPost.
L.A. County sees big spike in coronavirus: 2,551 new cases in one day
Los Angeles County reported its largest single-day total of new coronavirus cases in months as the region races to wrap arms around what officials now say is a new surge of the pandemic. Luke Money in the Los Angeles Times
California’s delta surge pushes COVID hospitalizations to their highest since April
With the now-dominant delta variant still on the rise in California, COVID-19 hospitalizations are also increasing, passing thresholds in the Bay Area and state not seen since the spring. Kellie Hwang in the San Francisco Chronicle
Federal Infrastructure – Giant budget bill still in doubt
Most of Wall Street figures there is little need to worry about a quick reduction in fiscal stimulus next year, assuming Democrats will eventually slam through a $3.5 trillion package that will also include a debt limit increase (which will be needed by October). But with talks toward a smaller-bipartisan infrastructure deal stalled, nothing about the coming fall fiscal fight looks to be easy. Via our Marianne LeVine, Sarah Ferris, and Heather Caygle: “With bipartisan infrastructure talks trapped in limbo, progressives are already hustling to protect — or even grow — their massive social spending proposal. … “Not every Democrat agrees: Some centrists are flatly rejecting the idea of adding even a single more dollar to the party’s already-hefty plan that’s on tap to pass without GOP votes … Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), a member of the Budget Committee, said in an interview Wednesday that he remains optimistic about the bipartisan talks, but added that, ‘if for some reason the bipartisan version doesn’t work out, then we ought to be looking at a reconciliation bill that’s at $4.1 trillion.’”
All major construction sectors suffered declines in June as construction starts fell 7%, according to Dodge Data & Analytics. The biggest decline was the nonbuilding category’s 13% drop, largely because of a 63% decline in utilities and gas plants.
Full Story: Dodge Data & Analytics
Labor secretary calls for additional funding for OSHA
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh made a case to boost OSHA staffing during a Senate subcommittee hearing last week, in a request that would increase both the number of safety inspectors and wage-hour investigators who scrutinize employer payroll records by 2024. The department’s protection agencies lost 14% of their personnel over the last four years, while the DOL has lost around 3,000 employees overall during that span, according to Walsh. The department is requesting $2.1 billion in its budget request to Congress for fiscal year 2022 for worker protection agencies, including $73 million for OSHA, a 17% increase from last year. The proposal, which would bring overall Labor Department funding to $14.2 billion, must be approved by Congress.
California voters OK’d billions for water projects. Where are the new dams, reservoirs?
None of the major water storage projects being funded by Proposition 1, the 2014 water bond, will be able to provide short-term relief for California’s worsening water situation. They’re all still in the pre-construction phase: reviewing environmental impacts, designing dams and nailing down financing to pay for the costs the state won’t handle. Dale Kasler and Ryan Sabalow in the Sacramento Bee
Newsom administration hires special counsel in probe of California unemployment fraud
Faced with widespread fraud in California’s unemployment benefit system, state officials said Tuesday they have hired former federal prosecutor McGregor Scott to serve as special counsel to assist in the investigations of bogus claims filed by international criminal organizations, prison inmates and others. Patrick McGreevy in the Los Angeles Times Sam Stanton in the Sacramento Bee