Capitol Alert AM Newsletter

Barriers to childcare + California’s moral dilemma on killing rats + Lara faces more questions

Four-year-old Chloe Galaviz, front, with classmates in the pre-kindergarten immersion class at Ewing Elementary, tries to make a whistle sound as teacher Maria Rodriguez reads a book in English.
Four-year-old Chloe Galaviz, front, with classmates in the pre-kindergarten immersion class at Ewing Elementary, tries to make a whistle sound as teacher Maria Rodriguez reads a book in English. Fresno Bee file

Top of the Tuesday morning to you, Capitol Alert readers! Thanks for starting your day with us. Things have been quiet around here lately, so tell me all the things: hwiley@sacbee.com

EARLY CARE AND EDUCATION

A new report out this morning from the Economic Policy Institute reveals a “desperately” needed “major overhaul” to California’s early care and education system.

State and federal funding, the institute’s researchers wrote, fall short of providing California kids and their families with a quality and affordable childcare option.

The result?

  • Many California families can’t access high-quality childcare options.
  • A typical California family would have to spend up to 25 percent of their annual income to afford a center-based care option for their child.
  • Early educators, many of whom are women and people of color, experience economic and food insecurity because they are underpaid. Many live in poverty.
  • The total annual cost of a comprehensive and high-quality system would cost California $29.7 to $75.4 billion, or up to $37,000 per child.

The report arrived on the heels of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s signing of a budget that allocates additional resources for low-income families to afford childcare, and for the workers who don’t make enough to cover living expenses.

The signed budget authorizes hundreds of millions of dollars to make childcare more affordable. His plans also put California on the path toward universal preschool, increasing professional development opportunities for workers and bulking up CalWORKs funding.

Lawmakers are also considering legislative solutions to the ongoing affordable childcare dilemma.

Assembly Bill 123 would increase subsidized preschool slots for California students, and Senate Bill 321 allows CalWORKS families greater access to childcare.

“This report reiterates what we now know,” said Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Democrat who wrote AB 123.. “Quality ECE matters because it helps families escape poverty and addresses our inequitable education opportunity gap, but our system has glaring holes and is woefully underfunded. I’m especially intrigued about the funding related to our undervalued and under-compensated ECE workforce, and how this relates to expanding universal access to preschool.”

OH, RATS

What happens when an environmentally conscious state like California is faced with growing threats from rat infestations that only intense pesticides can get rid of?

It’s a question that the California Legislature is considering this year, and one that investigative reporter Ryan Sabalow asked for a story that untangles the state’s moral dilemma in the fight against rat infestations.

Despite a typhus outbreak in Los Angeles, thanks to the long-tailed critters, and a rat invasion in CalEPA headquarters this summer, the Legislature is poised to ban the toxins that are most effective at killing the rodents.

Assembly Bill 1788 would ban anticoagulant rodenticides in most cases, at the behest of environmental advocates who’ve argued on behalf of wildlife affected by “secondary poisonings.”

The legislation is partially inspired by the recent death of a mountain lion named P-47, who died in March from exposure to six different anticoagulant compounds.

“This bill will make significant progress in preventing our wildlife from incidental poisoning while ensuring the public health of residents of California is protected,” Assemblyman Richard Bloom, the Santa Monica Democrat who wrote the bill, said in an emailed statement.

But not everyone is on the same page. Bloom faced opposition from pest control companies, the California Chamber of Commerce, apartment owners, food processors, restaurant associations and other industry groups, Sabalow writes.

Rodent control professionals argue that it’s already a challenge to stave off rodent infestations, especially amid an affordability crisis that drives people to homeless encampments, which attract rodents.

The legislation now awaits a vote in Senate Appropriations.

COMMISSIONER UPDATES

The Sacramento Bee reported last week that Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara was refusing to release his calendars to Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit that is questioning campaign contributions to Lara’s reelection campaign.

The story followed the San Diego Union-Tribune’s investigation into donations by insurance executives and their spouses, which equaled more than $50,000. Lara pledged to return the contributions, the second time he’s had to send back donations after he promised to keep industry money out of his campaign.

But the Union-Tribune followed up with another story that found Lara “intervened in at least four proceedings” in cases related to Applied Underwriters, the company with ties to the executives and spouses who donated the money in question.

Consumer Watchdog has refreshed its call for Lara’s records.

“Commissioner Lara should disclose his communications with Applied Underwriters so the public has a clear view of what really happened,” said Jerry Flanagan, litigation director for the group.

TWEET OF THE DAY

Best of The Bee:

Hannah Wiley joined The Bee as a legislative reporter in 2019. She produces the morning newsletter for Capitol Alert and previously reported on immigration, education and criminal justice. She’s a Chicago-area native and a graduate of Saint Louis University and Northwestern.
  Comments