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Bay Area Headlines: Thursday, 5/14/20, PM


$54 Billion Shortfall Projected In New California Budget Proposal / SF Regulators Recommend New Policies To Protect Gig Workers / Concerns Over Secrecy Due To Suspended Access To Public Records / Contra Costa Courts Begin Reopening On May 26

$54 Billion Shortfall Projected In New California Budget Proposal

Governor Gavin Newsom presented his revised budget for the next fiscal year. It reflects a $54 billion shortfall compared with his original proposal back in January. He said the forecast estimates unemployment to climb to nearly 25 percent and tax revenues will drop by about a quarter.

“Remember, no printing press here in the state of California. We are constitutionally obliged to pass a balanced budget, and that is our requirement through the next number of weeks. Has to be done by July 1 of this year.”

The $203 billion budget proposed Thursday is about a 5 percent decrease from the current year’s. To help cover costs, Newsom plans to tap the state’s $16 billion rainy day fund over the next three years.

He proposed cutting over $6 billion from a variety of programs while trying to prioritize public education, public health and public safety. On schools, Newsom is relying on roughly $4 billion in federal coronavirus funding as one way to bring in more money. Newsom hopes for billions more in federal relief to keep California’s deepest cuts from taking place.

Union leaders say Gov. Gavin Newsom will propose a 10 percent pay cut to help cover a projected $54.3 billion budget deficit. SEIU Local 1000 President Yvonne Walker said in a Facebook video that Newsom's office informed her of the proposed cut on Wednesday. A state official with knowledge of the budget confirmed the proposal, adding it will be part of the collective bargaining process. If that bargaining process fails, the governor could order furloughs instead. Walker said the union will try to negotiate an alternative plan. Newsom's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

SF Regulators Recommend New Policies To Protect Gig Workers 

San Francisco officials are recommending more protections for gig workers, after seeing new data about the devastating impacts of COVID-19. A study ordered by the Local Agency Formation Commission, a San Francisco regulatory body, has revealed that most of the city’s gig workers lost the majority of their income in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. And most want local officials to do more to protect them.

The report surveyed hundreds of gig workers about employment conditions and the specific impacts of COVID-19. Most said gig work was their primary source of income, and that they work full-time.

Yet a fifth have no health insurance. Most reported having trouble accessing bathrooms. And just 16 percent felt their employer was offering reasonable protections from the virus.

In response, city regulators recommend several new policies, according to the San Francisco Examiner. Those include establishing a minimum wage for gig workers, and setting up bathrooms.

The commision, which includes both supervisors and members of the public, will meet Friday to discuss what to recommend to the full Board of Supervisors.

Concerns Over Secrecy Due To Suspended Access To Public Records

Many state and local governments across the U.S. have suspended access to public records amid the coronavirus pandemic. Public officials have said employees don’t have the time or ability to comply with records requests because they are too busy responding to the coronavirus or are working from home. But open government advocates have raised concerns about the rise in secrecy. First Amendment Coalition Director David Snyder says public records requests are the best way to "avoid waste, fraud, abuse and to ensure that governments aren’t overstepping their bounds” during the pandemic.

Contra Costa Courts Begin Reopening On May 26

Ever since the shutdown, Bay Area courthouses have struggled to balance their essential services and public safety. As a result, cases and trials have been delayed or conducted virtually. But this may change. Yesterday, the Contra Costa Superior Court announced that they will reopen all locations to the public on May 26. Other Bay Area courts, such as San Francisco and Santa Clara, will follow on June 1.

What this means is that prospective jurors scheduled after those dates will be expected to appear in person. Officials also warn that you should expect to wait in line when you arrive. 

Courthouses have been preparing to reopen for weeks. Public spaces have been measured and to maintain social distancing they have determined a maximum of 50 jurors at a time. Each courthouse will only have one entrance and exit. Face coverings will be required indoors and temperature checks will be taken upon entry. Anyone exhibiting symptoms or with a temperature above 100 degrees will be dismissed. Summoned jurors considered high-risk will also be excused. But proof may be required.