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Bay Area Headlines: Thursday, 8/13/20, AM

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Examining Kamala Harris's Role As California's Attorney General / California Lawmakers Consider Governor's Pandemic Relief Proposals / Sea-Level Rise Could Cost California As Much As $10 Billion / Governor Says California Turning A Corner Against The Pandemic / Airbnb Pursuing Legal Action After Three People Were Shot At A Party

Examining Kamala Harris's Role As California's Attorney General

Senator Kamala Harris is known for taking bold stands on criminal justice reform, both in Congress and as Joe Biden’s running mate. But as California’s attorney general and San Francisco’s district attorney, Harris was labeled as cautious. 

During her time as attorney general, Harris declined to take public positions on measures to reduce criminal sentences and to legalize marijuana. She also stayed silent on a bill that would have required her office to investigate police shootings. As a Senator, she now supports many of these positions. 

McGeorge Law School Associate Dean Mary-Beth Moylan says the overly cautious label is not entirely fair. Harris, in her role as attorney general, was not in charge of setting California’s priorities. She says:

“There’s also a clear distinction in the California constitution that the governor sets the state policy. So, the attorney general needs to be subordinate in terms of making policy statements to the governor.”

But other legal experts say Harris did have the power to make more change as attorney general. UC Davis Law professor Irene Joe says Harris, for example, could have refused to defend the state’s death penalty law, which Harris says she is personally opposed to. 

“As the attorney general, as a prosecutor, you are permitted to take whatever steps. We rely on their discretion. So, she certainly could have taken a step to not support that.”

Lateefah Simon is a civil rights activist who worked for Harris when she was San Francisco’s top prosecutor. Simon says Harris could not overturn all the inequities of the criminal justice system at once. 

“She was trying to undo slowly a system that had been burdening communities of color for generations."

As Joe Biden’s running mate, Harris has vowed to do that work from the White House, if elected. 

California Lawmakers Consider Governor's Pandemic Relief Proposals

Governor Gavin Newsom proposed a handful of new pandemic relief measures for businesses, workers, and renters yesterday. But many of them would require legislative approval — and the deadline for lawmakers is looming.

Newsom wants new tax credits for small businesses, and to give tax relief to other businesses that have benefitted from the Paycheck Protection Program.

For renters, he’s negotiating with lawmakers to extend a moratorium on evictions, which could expire September 1. 

"We are committed to getting something done over the course of the next few weeks on eviction protections."

Newsom proposed using a settlement fund from the 2008 housing crisis to help struggling renters and mom and pop landlords. The state has around $300 million in that account. 

Lawmakers have until Aug. 31 to pass bills. If they don’t get through this to-do list, Newsom could call them back into a special session — but that would cut into time they normally spend campaigning before the election.

Sea-Level Rise Could Cost California As Much As $10 Billion

If California lawmakers set aside climate concerns, like sea-level rise, to only focus on the pandemic the state could be setting itself up for an even worse economic hardship. That’s according to a new report from the state’s nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office.  

With huge budget cuts because of COVID-19 Rachel Ehlers says it’s quite tempting to just think of the immediate concerns. The Legislative Office analyst says sea-level rise is forecast to cost California as much as $10 billion dollars in property damages in the next 30 years.

"It does seem very far away, but yet it has a lot more certainty than something like a wildfire because we don't know when a wildfire will strike. We do have some certainty about sea-level rise.”

She says oceans are forecast to rise seven feet by 2100. And six feet of rise would mean nearly two-thirds of Southern California beaches could be totally gone by the end of the century.  

That means that part of California’s identity as a beach-loving coastal playground could be lost unless the world curbs its emissions or if California doesn’t start preparing. 

Governor Says California Turning A Corner Against The Pandemic

Gov. Gavin Newsom says California is turning the corner in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic. He cited a significantly lower number of confirmed new cases as California begins to clear backlogged cases caused by a technical error. Newsom says he's also encouraged by the downward trend in hospitalizations, which have fallen 21% in the past two weeks. Dr. Roger Lewis, director with the Los Angeles County Department of Health Services, says there’s been “a clear decline” in hospitalizations there. California reported 180 additional deaths from the virus Wednesday, bringing the state's coronavirus deaths to more than 10,600.  

Airbnb Pursuing Legal Action After Three People Were Shot At A Party

For the first time ever Airbnb says it's taking action against a guest for throwing an illegal party. The party occurred in Sacramento this past weekend and ended with three people shot. 

Airbnb says it "will pursue legal claims and damages" against the guest who booked a home in Sacramento County where there was a party on Saturday night.

The company says it notified the guest and alleges they made the reservation under false pretenses and violated local health and safety orders.

Three people in their twenties were injured during the shooting early Sunday morning at the rental.

Airbnb says it's been working to prevent "party houses" after a fatal shooting in 2019 at a rental home in the Bay Area.