November 30, 2020
The number of Santa Clara County residents contracting COVID-19 and the number of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 has continued to rise significantly over the last several weeks. If these trends continue, hospitals in the County will reach or exceed their capacity within the next few weeks. At present, several hospitals in the county, particularly those serving the eastern and southern parts of the county have few if any ICU beds available.
To reduce the likelihood of a surge in hospitalizations that would exceed the capacity of hospitals in the county, the Health Officer is making several modifications to the current Mandatory Directives applicable to businesses and county residents, including requiring that certain sectors modify their operations to increase safety, reducing the number of persons allowed in facilities at any one time, and reducing the size of outdoor gatherings. Further, certain higher risk activities will be prohibited.
The Health Officer is also issuing a Mandatory Directive on Travel, which strongly discourages leisure and non-essential travel, and requires persons entering the county to quarantine for 14 days upon return from travel of more than 150 miles.
These revised and new Mandatory Directives will take effect on Monday, November 30, 2020 at 12:01 a.m. and will remain in effect until December 21, 2020 at 5:00 a.m. unless they are extended.
Below are key changes being made to the Mandatory Directives:
Capacity Limits for Indoor Facilities Open to the Public-
Stores and other facilities open to the public will be limited to 10% capacity indoors. Grocery stores, drug stores, and pharmacies, however, will be allowed to operate at 25% capacity indoors to ensure adequate access to food and medicine.
All facilities open to the public must establish a “metering system” to ensure that the applicable capacity limits are not exceed by, for example, posting an employee at the facility entrance to track the number of people entering and exiting.
Gatherings continue to be allowed only outdoors, with a maximum of 100 people. The State limits such gatherings to First Amendment protected activities, such as religious services or protests.
Professional, Collegiate, and Youth Sports-
All recreational activities that involve physical contact or close proximity to persons outside one’s household, including all contact sports, will be temporarily prohibited. People can continue to engage in outdoor athletics and recreation where social distancing can be maintained at all times.
Cardrooms are temporarily closed.
Hotels and Other Lodging Facilities-
Hotels and other lodging facilities will be open only for essential travel and for use to facilitate isolation or quarantine.
Leisure and non-essential travel are strongly discouraged, and a new Mandatory Directive on Travel will require people to quarantine for 14 days upon return to the County from travel of more than 150 miles. Healthcare workers traveling into the county to provide care or patients traveling into the county to obtain treatment will be exempted from this requirement.
Below are key rules under the Revised Risk Reduction Order:
Consistency with State’s Blueprint: Unless otherwise specified in the County’s Order or Mandatory Directives, businesses are allowed to open to the extent allowed under the State’s Blueprint and the restrictions applicable to the tier to which the County is assigned.
Requirements Applicable to All Businesses: The Revised Order continues to require that all businesses follow a set of rules to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19, including-
- Telework: All businesses must continue to require workers to do their jobs from home whenever possible. Workers can go into work only to complete the job duties they can’t complete from home.
- Social Distancing Protocol requirements: All businesses must complete and submit a Revised Social Distancing Protocol for each of their facilities on the County’s website at COVID19Prepared.org. Social Distancing Protocols submitted prior to October 11, 2020 are no longer valid. The Revised Social Distancing Protocols must be filled out using an updated template for the Social Distancing Protocol at COVID19Prepared.org.
- Positive case reporting: All businesses (and governmental entities) are legally required to report to the Public Health Department within 4 hours if they learn that any of their workers are confirmed to be positive for COVID-19. They must also ensure workers alert them if they test positive.
- Capacity Limitation: All businesses must comply with applicable capacity limitations established in the Mandatory Directive on Capacity Limitations.
Starting today, millions of Californians will be subject to new stay-at-home orders amid a third wave of COVID-19 infections that has hospitalized a record number of residents.
Under Los Angeles County’s new stay-at-home order — which lasts through Dec. 20 — almost all gatherings are banned, and retail stores must further limit capacity. Santa Clara County, the Bay Area’s largest, announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for residents entering the region from more than 150 miles away, new capacity limits for retail stores, and a ban on contact sports. The new directives, which last through Dec. 21, will effectively ban San Francisco 49ers practices and games at Levi’s Stadium.
These restrictions are on top of the state curfew — which now applies to 99% of residents — and come as California shattered its previous record for coronavirus hospitalizations. On Sunday, 7,415 Californians with COVID-19 were hospitalized or in intensive-care units, compared to a previous high of 7,170 in July, CalMatters’ tracker shows. Average daily deaths also shot up 44% in the last two weeks, though they remain significantly below record levels, state data show.
- Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County’s health officer: “This pandemic is like a high-speed train, and our projections tell us that we are on target to derail by the third week of December if we don’t apply brakes right now with all our collective might.”
Amid concerns that cases and hospitalizations could surge even higher following the Thanksgiving holiday, other Bay Area counties said they would consider orders similar to Santa Clara’s, while Los Angeles plans to implement an even more restrictive stay-at-home order if cases keep increasing.
The tighter rules are just another gut punch to struggling businesses and restaurants, and resistance is rising. This week, Lancaster, a city in Los Angeles County, will consider a no-confidence vote in the county’s public health officer, as well as potentially establishing its own public health department. Other officials are fed up.
- Los Angeles County Supervisor Janice Hahn: “I am not convinced that shutting down, reopening and shutting down again is effective.”
State Improperly Issued Oil Well Permits
Story by CalMatters
California oil regulators ignored their own rules and issued inappropriate permits for hundreds of new wells last year, according to a scathing Department of Finance audit released the day before Thanksgiving. Although the audit found that the California Geologic Energy Management Division, or CalGEM, “generally” complied with regulations, it also identified significant breaches that the department is required to address in a corrective action plan due in 60 days. CalGEM’s breaches include:
- Issuing 201 oil well permits between April and October 2019 using “dummy folders,” which allowed the projects to move forward without required reviews or approval.
- Allowing companies to modify large projects without required reviews — in one such case, CalGEM approved adding 400 new wells to an existing project.
- Failing to update permit review policies and procedures for the past decade.
- Incorrectly mapping and diagramming some proposed fracking projects, while failing to document risk assessment for others.
Gov. Gavin Newsom has come under fire for approving new fracking permits even as he tasked the state Legislature with halting the practice by 2024. Many of the new permits have gone to Aera Energy — a firm represented by lobbyist Jason Kinney, whose birthday Newsom was celebrating at the infamous French Laundry dinner.
Every year about this time, the Gilroy Chamber sends out a survey which helps us measure our efforts and effectiveness. You will see emails beginning tomorrow regarding this survey. The Chamber Board reviews the survey and determines where we need to focus more effort to help our businesses and community. We would ask that you take just a few minutes out of your day to respond to the survey which will help us leading into 2021.
The Milias Restaurant and the Gilroy Garlic Festival Association (GGFA) are teaming up this Saturday at The Milias, 7397 Monterey Street, from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm. Garlic Festival food prepared by The Milias Restaurant and shirts and masks being sold by GGFA. You can preorder your meals starting tomorrow. Call (408) 337-5100 to place your order, and pick it up on Saturday, or come by and eat outside during that time, while supplies last.
November 23, 2020
New Loan Fund to Provide Important Lifeline to California Small Businesses in Need
Statement by Mark Herbert, Vice President, California for Small Business Majority on the launch of the California Rebuilding Fund
“We’re thrilled Gov. Gavin Newsom formally launched the California Rebuilding Fund today, a new loan program built to support California’s small businesses as they adapt and navigate the effects of COVID-19. This announcement couldn’t come at a more critical time as Washington fails to act on much-needed relief for our struggling small businesses, and we applaud the state of California for stepping up to provide a lifeline to our business owners who are facing daily challenges in keeping their doors open as the pandemic continues to harm our communities.
Over the past several months, we’ve seen firsthand that the pandemic has exacerbated an already challenging landscape in accessing capital for business owners, particularly women, immigrants and people of color. Through a public-private partnership, the Fund will help fill this financing gap by providing access to business support and flexible and affordable credit to eligible small businesses across the state.
This support is critical because California is reported to have had the nation’s highest rate of permanent closures. Our own surveying recently revealed more than 1 in 3 small businesses may not survive the next few months without additional relief. As a member of the California Small Enterprise Task Force, a volunteer effort of small business supporters across the state, Small Business Majority has worked diligently to bring the California Rebuilding Fund to life and ensure it can support vulnerable small businesses.
This Fund is an important step towards preserving the resilience of our smallest and most diverse businesses. Small businesses employ nearly 50 percent of the state’s workforce and the launch of the California Rebuilding Fund will help foster the vitality of these important contributors to our economy as we look to retain quality jobs and drive development in communities most affected by COVID-19.”
Newsom Issues Curfew for California Residents
Article by CalMatters
Starting this past Saturday night, nearly all Californians will be subject to a curfew aimed at curbing a statewide surge in coronavirus infections.
Under the terms of the “limited stay-at-home order” Gov. Gavin Newsom unveiled Thursday, nonessential work and gatherings will be prohibited between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in the 41 counties currently in the most restrictive purple tier, which comprise 94% of the state’s population. The order, which will remain in effect through Dec. 21, appears to target bars and late-night gatherings — Californians will still be able to get takeout, go to the grocery store and leave their homes after 10 p.m., as long as they aren’t gathering with other households.
- Newsom: “We are sounding the alarm. It is crucial that we act to decrease transmission and slow hospitalizations before the death count surges.”
Not all local governments seem to be on board. Sacramento County Sheriff Scott Jones said Thursday his office would not enforce the curfew, a position echoed by law enforcement in other regions. And public health experts are mixed on whether curfews help tamp down the spread of disease, CalMatters’ Barbara Feder Ostrov reports.
Tara Smith of Kent State University College of Public Health: Curfews “give cover for leaders who want to be seen as ‘doing something’ even though they likely won’t be effective.”
This critique will likely keep being lobbied at Newsom, who pulled an emergency brake on the state’s reopening plan Monday, three days after news broke of his attendance at a dinner party whose guests included top officials from the powerful doctors’ lobby. San Bernardino County supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to sue Newsom over the new regulations, while two potential 2022 gubernatorial challengers — Republicans John Cox, who ran for California governor in 2018, and San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer — seized on the political opportunity with Thursday tweets.
- Cox: “What a way for Gavin Newsom to make people forget about the French Laundry lobbyist dinner fiasco — announce a month long statewide curfew.”
- Faulconer: “After breaking his own COVID rules, it appears the Governor is already under curfew — he wont (sic) even address the public or media about his sudden lockdown.”
Council to Mull Dealership Incentives
by Erik Chalhoub
South County Hyundai’s sales operations have been closed since March.
Gilroy could offer incentives to attract new dealerships to its auto mall, boosting sales tax revenue lost from the pandemic-related economic downtown.
The Gilroy City Council on Nov. 16 showed interest in discussing what those incentives might look like at a future meeting.
The city relies heavily on vehicle sales tax to fund services such as public safety and parks maintenance. Gilroy financial reports list five dealerships among the 25 highest sales tax-generators in the city.
Senior Management Analyst Trevin Barber said it is too early to say what those incentives might be, but examples could be along the lines of sales tax rebates or reimbursement for improvements.
City Administrator Jimmy Forbis pointed to the City of Morgan Hill, which has offered tax rebates to entice auto dealerships to come to the city since 2002.
Ford Store Morgan Hill was the first to take advantage of the program in 2003, and secured another tax incentive deal when that one expired.
Since March, when the Covid-19 shelter-in-place order was enacted, South County Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM permanently closed in the Gilroy Auto Mall.
Soon after, South County Hyundai closed its sales operations, but its service department remains open.
Gill Automotive Group, which owns Gilroy Chevrolet Cadillac, is looking to take over operations of the adjacent Chrysler dealership.
Mayor Roland Velasco said the council needs to decide quickly if it wants to offer incentives.
“The reality is, we can’t keep this dealership on hold for too long,” he said. “They are trying to figure out what the next step is. If we want to be serious about economic incentives, then the council needs to have a discussion about what that is going to look like.”
Rob Benn with Gill Automotive Group said the Gilroy Auto Mall is an ideal place to do business, but said more needs to be done to attract more dealers to it.
He pointed to Nissan of Gilroy, which will soon relocate down the street to 6807 Automall Parkway, leaving its current location at 400 Automall Drive vacant.
“With Nissan moving out to their new facility, that’s going to leave another blank building in the auto mall,” he said. “Which is really sad. You’ve got a beautiful auto mall there, and we can’t afford to have blank buildings there.”
He said the automotive group has reached out to different franchises about the possibility of opening a dealership in Gilroy.
“Nobody has a taste to jump here,” he said. “Part of it is because there are no incentives to come here. We need to do something to try to make it more attractive.”
Councilmember Marie Blankley pointed out that existing dealerships would not be able to participate in the incentive program, unless they were expanding their operations. Councilmember Cat Tucker said she would expect existing dealerships to ask for similar incentives.
To continue finding ways to crawl out of the recession, the council agreed to renew two downtown incentive programs on Nov. 16.
In 2019, the council approved the programs that reduced building and planning fees for downtown development, and offered matching grants for facade improvements.
According to city staff, over the year the programs were available, 12 facade projects were reimbursed, while 34 permit applications qualified for the reduced fees.
The council approved a renewal of both programs with modifications. The facade improvement program will now apply to Gourmet Alley as well, while the city will reimburse other projects at either 50 percent of the costs or $2,500, whichever is lower.
Gary Walton of the Gilroy Downtown Business Association said the programs were successful in helping improve the aesthetics of downtown. He encouraged the city to find funding to allow businesses such as restaurants to construct parklets downtown, pointing to Hollister’s recently completed project as an example.
With indoor dining once again prohibited by the state due to the rise in Covid-19 cases, Walton said restaurants will need outdoor seating that is comfortable for diners, especially as the winter months approach.
“With the state action, it’s really impairing our restaurants,” he said. “Restaurants are important to our downtown. They bring people to downtown, and they go to the other retail shops. They create a destination.”
Change in food bank distribution service sets off alarm bells
Commentary by John Healey, Chairman and CEO of California Emergency Foodlink
COVID-19 has meant many Californians are struggling to stay healthy, keep their jobs and put food on the table. In this moment, organizations that provide food to the needy are serving more Californians than ever before.
So why has the state chosen now to dramatically change the way commodities are distributed to food banks?
The California Department of Social Services is awarding a multimillion-dollar, no-bid contract to an unproven entity – CalFoods Logistics – that formed about five months ago. As of Jan. 1, CalFoods Logistics will be responsible for distributing millions of pounds of food to food banks throughout California, despite not having a warehouse suitable for fresh food or any experience running an operation of this magnitude.
I’m ringing the alarm bell for anyone who will listen.
For 30 years, the nonprofit organization that I lead, California Emergency Foodlink, has distributed food from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on behalf of the California Department of Social Services. With our fleet of trucks, we help feed 400,000 families every year, delivering dried and fresh goods to food banks from our warehouse in Sacramento, a facility that was gifted to us by the federal government and which we humbly use rent free.
It would be easy to dismiss our concerns as sour grapes, but the reality is that the state has not acted appropriately. Government officials and the public should know what’s happening, regardless of who receives the contract.
First, under state law, The Emergency Food Assistance Program is supposed to be overseen by a 22-member advisory board subject to open meeting requirements. But as far as we can tell, this board has never existed. The Governor, Assembly Speaker and Senate President Pro Tem are all responsible for making appointments to the board. Why doesn’t this advisory board appear on the governor’s appointments list?
Instead of the state-required advisory board, the Department of Social Services made up its own rules, establishing the Fresh Look Advisory Group last year to review The Emergency Food Assistance Program food distribution. The meetings were not open to the public and the agendas and minutes were kept on the California Association of Food Banks’ website, a private organization.
Second, the Department of Social Services failed to notify the USDA of substantial changes to the program, as required by federal law. We know this because in September, the USDA gave the state 30 days to get its act together.
Third, we met with the Department of Social Services last month to discuss their transition to a new provider – an alarming meeting because of the simplistic, naive questions they asked about how we order and store food, where we deliver to and how we invoice. The answers to those questions should have been known to the state, considering that the purpose of the Fresh Look Advisory Group Committee was to review the food delivery system for efficiencies. Instead, the man who ran the Fresh Look Advisory Group Committee, an employee of the California Association of Food Banks, established CalFoods Logistics in June 2020 and was awarded the state’s multimillion-dollar distribution contract. CalFoods Logistics is so new that its official address is a residence in Concord and its “warehouse” is a recently rented facility in Woodland that appears to lack refrigeration.
Is this really the best provider to reliably distribute millions of pounds of food to our state’s neediest?
The simple fact is that a competitive, transparent process did not happen, and now officials can’t even do the basic task of delivering food. When our contract with Lassen and Modoc counties abruptly ended in October, food banks stopped receiving The Emergency Food Assistance Program food they were entitled to. Will the same happen to dozens of other food banks in less than two months?
I urge the Newsom administration to investigate why these state employees have seemingly gone rogue. The issue of hunger and food insecurity is more important than ever with millions of Californians facing unemployment and an uncertain future. Please don’t allow vulnerable families to become the collateral damage of bureaucratic mismanagement.
By Mark Mensheha, The National Observer
Opposition is building to a new Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program loan-forgiveness questionnaire, as a collection of industry groups see the documentation as excessive and offering little chance for public comment. The questionnaire, unveiled earlier this month, focuses on the certification that businesses had to make when applying for a PPP loan. It asks for significant documentation about how businesses subsequently fared through the pandemic, but after applying for the loan. Small businesses that don’t comply could be considered ineligible to have their loans forgiven.
The Associated General Contractors of America has sent the SBA a cease-and-desist letter arguing the process for rolling out the questionnaire is “badly disregarding the Administrative Procedure Act, the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), and fundamentals of due process.” Additionally, more than 80 organizations representing small businesses across industries and the lenders that provided PPP loans have signed a letter asking about the need for the questionnaire and the burden it would put on small businesses. The groups asked for Congress to encourage the SBA to temporarily suspend use of the questionnaire while another solution is worked out. The SBA declined comment to The Business Journals, saying it does not address pending legal cases or issues before Congress.
Also: Uncertainty remains for many business owners about the impact PPP will have on the taxes they owe. Here’s what financial advisers are saying about some of the questions being asked.
November 16, 2020
Back on September 14, the Silicon Valley Chamber Coalition held a press conference to pressure County leaders to take action regarding the survivability of the small business community.
At the time, Mark Turner, President of the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and the Chair of the Silicon Valley Chamber Coalition said, “If the County is going to implement a more restrictive order than the state and keep certain businesses from operating at a capacity that ensures survival, then the County should consider providing funding mechanisms in the form of grants, low to no interest rate loans and other financial support to keep businesses afloat until they can safely reopen.”
At least two of the County Supervisors were listening to that comment and have now taken steps to provide a loan program for small businesses.
Supervisors Susan Ellenberg and Joe Simitian have proposed a COVID-19 small business loan program up to $100 million.
The Chamber Coalition, made up of nearly 20 Chambers of Commerce in and around Silicon Valley, have agreed to provide information and resources to the county to assist in their efforts to determine criteria and eligibility requirements for the loans and grants.
As the County announced a move back to the Red Tier, a more restrictive category, which is a devastating blow to restaurants and other small businesses, this loan program is needed more than ever. The County Supervisors need to step up, approve this loan program and provide a lifeline to the struggling small businesses in our County.
Please contact all the County Supervisors and let them know how important this $100 million small business loan program is to our small businesses, our families, and our community.
Santa Clara County Moving Back to the Red Tier and Closing Indoor Dining
On Friday, November 13, County Health Officer, Dr. Sara Cody announced that due to our dramatically rising case counts, Santa Clara County will unfortunately be falling back into the Red Tier of the State’s COVID-19 Framework this coming Tuesday, November 17th.
Per state requirements, this will force several activities and businesses to close or reduce capacity. Unless the current surge is brought quickly under control, the County expects to be moved into the Purple Tier in the coming weeks. Dr. Cody announced that indoor dining will also be required to close on Tuesday, due to the high-risk nature of this activity. Several other large Bay Area counties, including San Francisco and Contra Costa have similarly announced the closure of indoor dining. Dr. Cody emphasized that the steepness of our growth curve in recent days is a major concern that requires swift action. She and health officers across the Bay Area have stated they will have to consider additional closures if current trends continue. To view a press release on this subject, see here.
In addition to the announced closure of indoor dining, moving to the State’s Red Tier means that:
- Indoor gyms and fitness centers will have to reduce their maximum capacity from 25% down to 10%
- Indoor retail (including shopping malls) will have to reduce their capacity to a maximum of 50%
- Indoor pools will have to close
- Indoor family entertainment centers (such as bowling alleys) will have to close
- Indoor cardrooms will have to close
- Wineries will have to close indoor operations
- Outdoor bars, breweries, and distilleries will have to close, unless they are functioning as a restaurant and providing meals
- Indoor museums, zoos, and aquariums will have to reduce their maximum capacity from 50% down to 25%
These changes will all take effect at 12:01am on November 17th.
In light of rising cases, West Coast states issue travel advisories recommending 14-day quarantines for inter-state and international travel; ask residents to stay local.
SACRAMENTO – As COVID-19 cases continue to increase across the country, California Governor Gavin Newsom, Oregon Governor Kate Brown and Washington Governor Jay Inslee issued travel advisories today urging visitors entering their states or returning home from travel outside these states to self-quarantine to slow the spread of the virus. The travel advisories urge against non-essential out-of-state travel, ask people to self-quarantine for 14 days after arriving from another state or country and encourage residents to stay local.
“California just surpassed a sobering threshold – one million COVID-19 cases – with no signs of the virus slowing down,” said California Governor Gavin Newsom. “Increased cases are adding pressure on our hospital systems and threatening the lives of seniors, essential workers and vulnerable Californians.
Travel increases the risk of spreading COVID-19, and we must all collectively increase our efforts at this time to keep the virus at bay and save lives.”
In addition to urging individuals arriving from other states or countries to self-quarantine for 14 days after arrival, the states’ travel advisories recommend individuals limit their interactions to their immediate household. The advisories define essential travel as travel for work and study, critical infrastructure support, economic services and supply chains, health, immediate medical care and safety and security.
“COVID-19 does not stop at state lines. As hospitals across the West are stretched to capacity, we must take steps to ensure travelers are not bringing this disease home with them,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown. “If you do not need to travel, you shouldn’t. This will be hard, especially with Thanksgiving around the corner. But the best way to keep your family safe is to stay close to home.”
“COVID cases have doubled in Washington over the past two weeks. This puts our state in as dangerous a position today as we were in March,” said Washington Governor Jay Inslee. “Limiting and reducing travel is one way to reduce the further spread of the disease. I am happy to partner with California and Oregon in this effort to help protect lives up and down the West Coast.”
To learn more about the risk that travel itself poses for COVID-19 exposure, please visit the CDC page on travel risks.
Information by CalMatters
Prop. 19 passed late Wednesday night (November 11), when the Associated Press called the race with 51.1% of voters in support and 48.9% against. One of the most complex measures on the ballot, Prop. 19 gives older Californians a big property tax break when buying a new home and curtails a separate tax break residents may receive when inheriting homes from parents and grandparents — though questions about its implementation remain. New revenue will be divided between schools, local governments, the state and firefighting agencies using a complex formula. Prop. 19 was one of two ballot measures that would modify Prop. 13, the landmark 1978 measure that capped property taxes. The other, Prop. 15, failed by a close margin.
- Jeanne Radsick, president of the California Association of Realtors, Prop. 19’s major backer: “Voters passed Prop. 19 because it is a win-win for California, providing needed housing and tax relief for seniors, wildfire victims and generating much-needed revenue for schools, fire districts, cities and counties.”
- Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association: Prop. 19 “will wipe out an important source of economic advancement for California families that work hard to provide a better life for the next generation.”
Only one California ballot measure hasn’t yet been called: Prop. 14, which would borrow $5.5 billion for stem cell research. As of Thursday, November 12, 51% of voters supported and 49% opposed it.
November 9, 2020
California is giving small businesses the tools they need to thrive by helping them expand their online presence. Our Office of the Small Business Advocate’s Digital Bootcamp series is free and kicks off November 9. Click here to sign up today!
How Long Will Newsom Have One-Man Rule?
Opinion by Dan Walters, CalMatters
California has been a one-party state for the last decade, with Democratic governors and supermajorities in both legislative houses doing pretty much as they pleased without paying any attention to the relative handful of Republican legislators.
However, one-party rule gave way to one-man rule eight months ago when Gov. Gavin Newsom declared an emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic, thus empowering himself to govern by decree and suspend any laws that stood in his way.
Democratic legislators were fully complicit, even suspending their proceedings and abandoning Sacramento for months. Eventually, however, even they chafed a bit at Newsom’s seeming endless string of emergency orders.
In effect, some of those orders essentially made new law and while Democratic lawmakers stood by, two Republican legislators, Kevin Kiley and James Gallagher, filed suit, alleging that Newsom had gone too far.
Last week, Sutter County Superior Court Judge Sarah Heckman sided with the Republicans, declaring that Newsom’s order changing procedures for the November election, including a mandate that every voter be sent a mail ballot, crossed the line.
Although the Legislature later ratified the election changes, Heckman wrote that it was still important to place limits on a governor’s powers under the California Emergency Services Act. Heckman indicated that in her final ruling, she would permanently enjoin Newsom from issuing any order “which amends, alters, or changes existing statutory law or makes new statutory law or legislative policy.”
“The doctrine of the separation of powers prohibits any of the three branches of government exercising the complete power constitutionally vested in another or exercising power in a way which undermines the authority and independence of another,” Heckman, who was elected in 2012, wrote.
The law empowering a governor to declare an emergency and suspend laws that impeded a rapid response was clearly aimed at some immediate catastrophe such as a flood, an earthquake or a riot. It envisioned something like then-Gov. Pete Wilson’s suspension of contract bidding laws to quickly rebuild a major freeway after the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.
COVID-19 required a rapid response, but it’s also something that could last, in one form or another, for years. Conceivably, Newsom could continue governing under his emergency decree for the remainder of his first four-year term.
Even before pandemic struck, Newsom was prone to sidestepping laws that could impede whatever he might want to do. He boasts, for instance, of ignoring state law when, as mayor of San Francisco, he unilaterally authorized same-sex marriages. More recently, he declared that there would be no executions of murderers during his governorship even though California’s death penalty is still law — one that voters refused to repeal just four years ago.
Newsom claims moral imperative as justification for his acts, but if elected officials ignore laws they don’t happen to like or find inconvenient, they undermine the concept of governance under law and encourage disrespect for legal authority. Ironically, this is the same governor who demands that 40 million Californians obey his pandemic decrees, such as shutting down small businesses.
Judge Heckman’s order will certainly be appealed and the issue will probably wind up in the state Supreme Court. Newsom press secretary Jesse Melgar said Newsom and his advisers “strongly disagree” with “specific limitations” on the governor’s emergency authority.
Meanwhile, it’s time for the entire Legislature, not just Kiley and Gallagher, to reassert its co-equal authority rather than allowing Newsom to operate indefinitely as a one-man band.
The law that gives Newsom the authority to declare an emergency also allows the Legislature, on its own, to end such an order.
Over $20 Million in New Small Business Technical Assistance Grants Expands Small Business Assistance
On November 2, 81 awardees of the FY2020/21 California Small Business Technical Assistance Expansion Program and Capital Infusion Program grant funding were announced. Isabel Guzman, their Small Business Advocate talked with awardees about how this will help them help California small businesses.
Grantees will focus on capital access and on delivering consulting services and trainings needed to help under-served small businesses start, grow, and operate within the state. Click here to read the announcement!
When Will Silicon Valley Return to the Office
By Allison Lefitsky, Tech Reporter, Silicon Valley Business Journal
It’s been nearly eight months since the largest tech firms closed their U.S. campuses, banishing employees to their home offices in order to prevent the further spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since then, widespread remote work has taken hold, likely transforming the way companies do business in the long term. But while most tech firms are rethinking their remote and flexible work strategies — with some already offering employees the option of working remotely long-term — big companies are generally eager to return to the office, where collaboration is easier.
Apple Inc., for example, is planning to return to the office early next year, while Intel Corp. is planning on a June return. Amazon.com Inc., Facebook Inc., Google LLC and Microsoft Corp. are among the firms that are planning to head back in July.
Under California’s Blueprint for a Safer Economy, counties with a “moderate” level of Covid-19 infections — a classification determined by factors that include the number of new cases reported each day and the test positivity rate — can allow the offices of nonessential businesses to reopen indoors with modifications. The levels of infection in Santa Clara, San Mateo, Santa Cruz and Alameda counties are all classified as moderate, also known as the orange tier.
But by and large, most tech firms headquartered in the region are planning to remain remote until next year. The Business Journal is tracking the return-to-office dates of the largest companies in the region, and will continue to update this gallery as new information is announced.
After Gig Companies’ Prop 22 Win, Labor Groups Vow Challenges
Written by Lauren Hepler, CalMatters
Now that Californians have voted to keep ride-hailing drivers classified as contractors with limited job benefits, unions are shoring up their defenses as labor lawyers eye legal challenges and hope that Democrat Joe Biden ekes out a White House victory. In a major blow to organized labor, 58% of California voters have thus far backed Proposition 22, sending ride-hailing giants’ stock prices soaring Wednesday.
Labor groups that spent $20 million against Prop. 22, meanwhile, are warning that the measure cements gig workers as a “second class” of workers and mulling limited options to challenge it.
“It’s too soon to know what the shapes of those challenges will look like,” said Rey Fuentes, a fellow with labor advocacy group the Partnership for Working Families, which opposed Prop. 22. “There’s been such a sweeping change to the law that there are still questions to be answered.”
Fuentes said they could lobby a potential Biden administration’s Department of Labor to issue stronger federal rules for worker classification. Another option, he said, could be to sue over provisions like preemption of local labor laws, issues related to state worker’s compensation requirements or a 7/8 supermajority to amend the measure. Gig companies could push their own federal legislation, too, after successfully spurring President Donald Trump to provide emergency pandemic unemployment benefits to drivers.
Gig companies spent $205 million on the ballot fight, shattering state campaign spending records, and the victory marks a dramatic rebuke of California lawmakers’ move to reclassify many contract workers as employees entitled to minimum wage, overtime pay, health care, paid leave and other benefits.
Now, with the presidential race still undecided, the state’s war over gig work could also sway the national conversation over the future of work.
“Prop. 22 is now the first law in the nation requiring health, disability and earnings benefits for gig workers,” Lyft Chief Policy Officer and former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx said in a statement. “Lyft stands ready to work with all interested parties, including drivers, labor unions and policymakers, to build a stronger safety net for gig workers in the U.S.”
Under Prop. 22, delivery and ride-hailing drivers for companies like Uber, Lyft, Instacart and DoorDash — the yes campaign’s primary backers — will be guaranteed 120% of minimum wage and health care subsidies, based on the time when a passenger or order is in the car, plus new offerings including accident insurance.
Unions hit a roadblock
In the months before the election, omnipresent Prop. 22 campaign ads focused heavily on driver flexibility and access to fast cash with unemployment surging during the pandemic. But under the surface, the campaign doubled as a proxy war over the future of organized labor.
That tension was clear in a tweet re-posted by Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi shortly after the Prop. 22 victory was projected by the media, which attacked “big-money unions” and San Diego Democrat and AB 5 author Lorena Gonzalez as a “grifter.” Gonzalez also didn’t mince words after the results were tallied: “Don’t come at me with your anti-union dribble,” she wrote on Twitter. “Uber & Lyft didn’t spend $200 (million) talking about unions, they spent it lying about worker protections.”
Another controversial provision of Prop. 22 that labor groups said could spur a legal challenge is a pre-emptive ban on driver collective bargaining, another setback for unions that have struggled to organize the exploding tech workforce. In an election night statement, anti-Prop. 22 driver group Gig Workers rising vowed that, “For California’s gig workers, this is far from over.”
Unions’ 21st-century political influence were also tested in the presidential race, with labor strongholds like Ohio and Wisconsin splintering in their support for Trump and Biden.
In the meantime, drivers like Erica Mighetto are reevaluating their future in the state. The Bay Area Uber and Lyft driver is currently homeless and opposed Prop. 22 in hopes of higher pay and benefits as an employee.
“We’re already making less than minimum wage,” Mighetto said. “I know that for myself and my partner who’s also a driver, we have one foot outside California, and we would be very sad to leave.”
The driver divide
Hope Alexandra Slason already had her star-spangled celebration outfit ready when she heard that Prop. 22 won on Tuesday night. It was a major milestone on a long road for Slason, 28, who was living in a storage unit near her college in Santa Barbara when she started driving for Uber and Lyft in the fall of 2018.
At an average $20-30 an hour before expenses, she was soon working full-time and “making more than I ever have,” and quit her two other jobs at a café and as a math tutor. She moved into a hotel, then an Airbnb, then her own place. With AB 5, Slason was horrified that income would go away, so she became a vocal supporter of Prop. 22 to keep working when she chooses as she finishes a computer science degree.
“I will definitely go out to the bar and scream and holler,” Slason said, “because this has been the most stressful eight months of my life.”
In Palm Springs, fellow driver Kenneth Martinson felt just as strongly about Prop. 22 — but he vehemently opposed the measure on the grounds that drivers will earn much less after factoring in expenses. “I think they’ll be emboldened to keep lowering our pay,” Martinson said.
Dueling business and labor-backed pay studies before the election found that drivers make anywhere from $5.64 to $27.58 an hour, depending how you calculate wait time and expenses. The nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office told voters that most drivers make $11-16 an hour after expenses.
After Prop. 22 passed, Fuentes said that labor groups will continue to push state and city officials to see through previous enforcement actions, such as wage theft claims that workers have filed this year for the months when gig companies did not comply with AB 5. Several other pending state court cases against Uber, Lyft, DoorDash and Instacart are likely to wither after the changes under Prop. 22.
Under California law, ballot measures take effect five days after election results are certified, putting Prop. 22 on a path to implementation by mid-December.
As the dust settles in California, drivers in other states are also watching closely. On the outskirts of Washington, D.C., Isabel Rodriguez lives in her car between shifts for Lyft and DoorDash. Rodriguez has an IT degree but started working as a driver while applying for permanent U.S. residency, and sees the far-away Golden State as a preview of her own fate.
“If they win and they’re so powerful, no one will be able to stop them,” Rodriguez said. “Especially now with the pandemic, there won’t be much jobs.”
November 2, 2020
Article by CalMatters
Image via iStock
As Election Day inches nearer, 87% of California voters are concerned that many Americans won’t respect the outcome of the presidential election — and 88% think violence is likely if the outcome is in dispute, according to a Wednesday poll from UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies. That marks a noticeable increase from September, when 82% of voters expressed doubt that Americans would respect the results of the presidential election. Meanwhile, 46% of voters said they were less confident mail-in ballots would be counted than votes cast in person — a view expressed by 78% of Trump supporters and 32% of Biden supporters.
- IGS Co-director Eric Schickler: “The lack of public confidence that all votes will be counted and that both parties will respect the election outcome are worrisome signs of a political system that is under unusual stress.”
The news comes as some California police departments are gearing up for potential election-related unrest. The Beverly Hills Police Department recently announced plans to close Rodeo Drive on Nov. 3 and 4, and the Los Angeles Police Department told officers they may need to reschedule vacations originally booked during the week of the election.
Article by Katie Culliton, Editor, CalChamber
The general election is Tuesday, November 3, 2020, and employers should double check a few important things right now — like making sure they’ve correctly posted California’s voting leave requirements notice and understanding what voting leave they are required to allow, even if their workforces remain largely remote.
Because employers must display a poster describing voting leave requirements at least 10 days before every statewide election, yours should have been up as of Friday, October 23. Thankfully, if you have one of CalChamber’s convenient all-in-one California and Federal Employment Notices Poster, it contains all required California and Federal notices including the Time Off to Vote notice.
On election day, some employees may not have sufficient time outside of their working hours to vote, even though California polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The employee may take up to two hours of working time to vote without loss of pay. If employees need more than two hours to vote, they can take it — but only two hours of that time is paid. You cannot require that employees use their accrued vacation or paid time off.
The time off must be taken at the beginning or end of the regular working shift, whichever gives the employee the most free time for voting and the least time off from working. You and the employee may mutually agree to a different part of the working shift when the time off can be taken. The employee must notify you at least two working days in advance to arrange a voting time.
However, as previously reported, California’s Voter’s Choice Act allows approximately one month in which to cast a ballot, either by mail or at multiple ballot drop boxes, making it extremely difficult for an employee to justify that they don’t have time outside of working hours to cast a vote.
Since California voters should have already received their vote-by-mail ballot and may mail or drop-off their ballot between now and November 3, it’s very unlikely that employers will need to allow voting leave on November 3 — but if they do get a request, it’s important that they understand their obligations. Employers with questions regarding this leave should consult legal counsel.
The Gilroy Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors invites the community to nominate individuals and businesses for the 2021 Spice of Life awards. Applications are available online at gilroy.org with the deadline to submit Friday, November 6, 2020. Categories include:
2021 Man and Woman of the Year – designed to acknowledge those persons who have a history of unselfish service to the community, contributing to Gilroy’s welfare and betterment.
2021 Small and Large Business of the Year – designed to recognize an outstanding Gilroy Chamber of Commerce business which has demonstrated an extraordinary level of excellence and success in areas such as management skills, innovation, personal commitment, community involvement and support, and a contribution to the entrepreneurial spirit. Separate categories are presented based on business size with small businesses being 25 full or part-time employees or less and large businesses with 26 and above full or part-time employees.
2021 Gilroy Educator of the Year – designed to recognize an outstanding individual who has made a significant contribution within the educational community of Gilroy.
2021 Firman B. Voorhies Volunteer of the Year – designed to recognize an outstanding Gilroy Chamber of Commerce volunteer.
2021 Non-Profit of the Year – designed to recognize an outstanding non-profit organization in Gilroy.
2021 Young Professional of the Year – designed to recognize the accomplishments of a highly motivated young professional who works or lives in South County. Nominees for this award must be between the ages of 21-40 years old.
2021 Susan Valenta Youth Leadership Award – Awarded to young leaders in the community who inspire others through their service and dedication