Political Watch: February 18, 2021

• Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and cosponsors Social Compassion in Legislation and the Center for Biological Diversity introduced Assembly Bill 534, the Whale Entanglement Prevention Act, on Feb. 10. If approved, the bill would require the California Dungeness crabbing community and other trap fisheries to use ropeless gear by Nov. 1, 2025. Supporters of the bill say crabbing operations deploy antiquated pots or traps with vertical lines that often entangle endangered whales, needlessly killing or harming them. “California is a global leader in technology and innovation, yet we continue to crab with archaic technology that puts our cherished marine wildlife at risk,” Bonta said in a press release. “As we move into the future, we can have both productive crabbing operations and oceans that are safe for whales and sea turtles. Whale-safe ropeless crabbing gear is already available; now we’re just implementing a deadline that crabbers can work with to make the necessary transition.” 

• The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors voted on Feb. 9 to put $13.3 million in allocated federal Consolidated Appropriations Act funds toward direct assistance to renter households. It will be provided to eligible Santa Barbara County community members who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the form of rent, overdue rent, utilities, and overdue utility payments. The program will provide three-month rental subsidies of up to $6,000 to qualified renters, and renters can reapply for a total of 15 months of rental assistance. All county residents at or below 80 percent of the area median income will be eligible, but those at or below 50 percent of the area median income will be prioritized. The county has contracted with United Way of Santa Barbara to administer the application process, which began the week of Feb. 15. 

• On Feb. 10, Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham (R-San Luis Obispo), along with state assembly colleagues Laura Friedman (D-Glendale) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco), introduced Assembly Bill 525, which would promote offshore wind development off the California coast. “This bill would require the Energy Commission, in coordination with specified agencies, to develop a strategic plan to achieve a goal of at least 10,000 megawatts of offshore wind energy developments installed off the California coast by 2040, with an interim target of 3,000 megawatts installed by 2030,” the bill reads. It would further “require the Energy Commission to submit the strategic plan to the Natural Resources Agency and the Legislature on or before June 1, 2022.” Cunningham spoke about his support of the bill in a Feb. 13 Facebook post. “The Central Coast has a unique opportunity to be the West Coast hub for the offshore wind industry,” the legislator wrote. “Studies show that this new industry would create not just a sizable amount of clean, emission-free energy, but also tens of thousands of high-paying jobs across the state. Proud to introduce AB525 to formalize the state’s commitment to this emerging technology and job creator. We have the wind at our backs—let’s get it done!”

• Gov. Gavin Newsom recently announced the launch of the Safe Schools Reopening Map, “an online tool providing a statewide snapshot of the status of school reopenings across California.” The map is viewable to the public at maps.schools.covid19.ca.gov/public.html and displays data on school districts’ reopening status, safety planning, and COVID-19 supports. “As COVID-19 conditions continue to improve and vaccinations ramp up throughout the state, this map will provide local communities with accessible, up-to-date information on how districts in their communities and beyond are adapting to the pandemic, including safety planning and implementation,” Newsom said in a statement. “This map is one of many resources we have made available that will help school staff and families make informed decisions as we safely reopen our schools.”

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