Maui trip is latest COVID controversy for CA politicians

Good morning and happy Tuesday!

DO AS I SAY

First Gov. Gavin Newsom got hammered for attending a political adviser’s 50th birthday party at fancy food place French Laundry.

Then, on Monday, the spotlight shifted to California lawmakers who traveled to Maui this week for the California Independent Voter Project’s annual policy conference.

Never mind the surge in new coronavirus cases that’s skyrocketed California’s positivity rate to 5% over seven days. Never mind the stern warning against non-essential and out-of-state traveling. The project kept its summit, traditionally a chance for lawmakers, lobbyists and industry representatives to rub elbows over cocktails while discussing policy under the Hawaiian sun.

The details — Dan Howle, chairman and executive director for the organization, said about 50 participants are in Hawaii this week, a third of its normal size, including fewer than 20 legislators from multiple states. Howle declined to say how many California lawmakers are in attendance, but said both Democrats and Republicans are participating in the four-day conference that started Monday.

By the way — DMs are open, as is my email, for any tips on who’s there: [email protected]/@hannahcwiley

Howle said the organization has been working for months with the hotel, Fairmont Kea Lani, which hosts the summit each year, to make sure the event was as safe as possible and in accordance with Hawaii’s stringent COVID-19 guidelines. Attendees are wearing masks, adhering to food and drink regulations and physically distancing from others.

Faced with questions on the public policy benefit of a trip to Hawaii for a four-day event amid the nation’s worst COVID-19 surge, however, Howle also said participants are learning about how to reopen the economy safely, especially within the hotel and services sector.

“There’s a lot of different ideas about how we can get people’s businesses (open), about starting the process of bringing people back to some semblance of normal,” Howle said. “And because we have this long relationship with the hotel we agreed, let’s give this a try.”

‘WE ARE LONG OVERDUE TO HAVE THAT VOICE’

Via Kim Bojórquez…

Latino elected officials and organizers in California continued to push Newsom on Monday to name a Latino U.S. senator to replace Sen. Kamala Harris as she prepares to become the nation’s next vice president in nine weeks.

“We’re here this morning because we’re united in, respectfully, asking our governor to recognize our community, its contributions and its needs,” said Assemblyman Robert Rivas, D-Hollister, vice-chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus at a press conference in Sacramento’s Cesar Chavez Plaza. “Latinos helped build this state. We grow its food, serve in its national guard (and) contribute so much to its art and culture.”

The campaign was organized in partnership with a myriad of Latino civic engagement and advocacy groups, including the California Latino Legislative Caucus, the Latino Community Foundation and the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

The Sacramento press conference is the first of five scheduled events to be held in Los Angeles, San Jose, Fresno and San Diego this month that will feature a coalition of prominent Latino leaders in the state calling on Newsom to make the historic appointment. In the state’s history, Californians have never elected a Latino to the U.S. Senate. Nationwide, a total of nine Hispanic Americans have served in the U.S. Senate.

Latinos, Rivas said, account for about 40% of the population and more than half of the state’s K-12 students, but do not “see themselves represented at the highest levels of our government.”

Phil Serna, the first Latino member of the Sacramento County Board of Supervisors, called for fair representation in the state’s public offices. His father, Joe Serna Jr., served as Sacramento’s first Latino mayor in the 1990s.

“We don’t want to necessarily have to advocate as hard as we do for those firsts,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to in a state that has nearly 40% of its population as Latino.”

Jacqueline Martinez Garcel, CEO of the Latino Community Foundation, said it was important for a Latino senator to represent “hurting” Latino families that have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. As of Nov. 15, public health data shows Latinos continue to make up more than half of the state’s documented COVID-19 cases and nearly half of the state’s COVID-19 deaths.

“We are long overdue to have that voice,” she said.

Read the full story here.

BECERRA URGES BOARD TO ADOPT STANDARD TO PROTECT WORKERS

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra on Monday penned a letter to the California Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board, urging them to adopt an emergency temporary standard aimed at protecting workers from COVID-19 exposure.

“As we enter the holiday season and are seeing a disturbing increase in COVID-19 cases in California and across the country, there is no room for complacency,” Becerra said in a statement. “We have to stay vigilant to protect our essential workers and our communities across the state. This temporary emergency standard will help clarify what needs to be done to protect workers and ensure that local authorities have the tools they need to take action. It also requires employers to allow for employee participation in evaluating and correcting COVID-19 exposure hazards.”

The proposed regulation aims to set “clear and enforceable standards” for the prevention of COVID-19 and the management of major outbreaks in the workplace, according to Becerra’s office.

It requires employers to:

  • Conduct hazard assessments and create a written COVID-19 prevention program, allowing for employee participation;
  • Correct COVID-19-related hazards in the workplace;
  • Identify and notify all workers exposed to COVID-19-positive individuals;
  • Provide testing free of charge to employees in the event of COVID-19-positive cases in the workplace;
  • Train employees on COVID-19 prevention;
  • Mandate and enforce the wearing of face coverings in the workplace;
  • Provide personal protective equipment free of charge where needed; and
  • Implement safety measures in employer-provided housing and transportation.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“Newsom is considering a statewide curfew. Unless you’re going to a birthday party for a lobbyist at an expensive restaurant like French Laundry. Then you can go and just say ‘I made a bad mistake’ and just like that, all is forgiven.”

– Sen. Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, via Twitter.

Best of the Bee:

  • Citing a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases, California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Monday announced that most of the state will revert back to the most restrictive tier, even as he considers more stringent measures like curfews, via Andrew Sheeler and Dale Kasler.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom apologized Monday for attending a birthday party earlier this month, acknowledging his actions undermined the message he’s been preaching for months as he asked other Californians to avoid gathering with their friends and family, via Sophia Bollag.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom said Monday there was a plan in place to restart youth sports, but he halted the reboot as coronavirus numbers spike in California. The announcement came shortly after the state moved all of the counties in the Sacramento region into the purple tier of the state’s COVID-19 reopening guidelines, via James Patrick.

Andrew Sheeler covers California’s unique political climate for the Sacramento Bee. He has covered crime and politics from Interior Alaska to North Dakota’s oil patch to the rugged coast of southern Oregon. He attended the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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