Daily Headlines

Daily Headlines for December 7, 2021

We scan major news sources* and compile selected articles to keep you up-to-date on current issues affecting California business – the economy, health care, environment, transportation and more.

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Today’s Top Story

World Trade Organization Postpones Ministerial Conference
New travel restrictions due to the omicron virus variant have forced yet another shift in the timetable for the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial conference. The ministerial, whenever it may take place, is expected to be a turning point for discussions on the future of the organization.


California Prepares for Winter COVID-19 Surge; If Not from Omicron, Then from Delta
California is preparing for a winter COVID-19 surge — if not from the newly identified Omicron variant, then from the Delta variant, which still poses a severe threat and has already caused surges in other states. It’s still far from clear what kind of increase California will see, and the state has been doing better than other parts of the country. But officials say they want to be ready. Los Angeles Times

Omicron Spreads Uncertainty About Holiday Travel and Dampens Recovery for Airlines
…The discovery of the omicron variant of the coronavirus in at least a third of states in the U.S. is raising questions about whether it will be safe to travel for the upcoming holidays, with Christmas now less than three weeks away. To try to curb the spread of the variant, many countries are imposing travel restrictions and bans, including the U.S, which has banned most non-U.S. citizens who have recently been in any of eight southern African countries from entering the United States. Capital Public Radio

Public Affairs/ Politics

First-Ever Redistricting Commission to Draw Boundaries for L.A. County Supervisors
…After more than a dozen public hearings around the county, the 14-member commission has narrowed its options to three maps and is set to choose one by Dec. 15, in a redistricting process that occurs once a decade following the U.S. census. Los Angeles Times

Pomona’s Gain Is San Fernando Valley’s Loss as County Redistricting Hits Stretch Run to Final Map
…Pomona was breathing a sigh of relief — the San Fernando Valley not so much — as Los Angeles County’s great redistricting debate inches to within days of defining the final map that will determine voting power and political clout for the next decade. After months of public input, the first-of-its-kind, 14-member county citizens redistricting commission this week elevated a trio of proposed supervisorial district maps, redrawn to reflect changes in the population reflected in the Census of 2020. Los Angeles Daily News

Rep. Devin Nunes Is Resigning from Congress to Be CEO of Trump’s New Media Company
Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., an ally of former President Donald Trump, is resigning from his congressional seat to become CEO of Trump’s new media company that aims to launch its own social media platform. Capital Public Radio

14 Californians Can Make or Break Elections for Politicians in 2022. How They Got There
A pastor, a former United Nations elections expert and a political science professor are three of the 14 people entrusted with redrawing California’s voting boundaries for next year’s midterm elections. California voters opted for a nonpartisan group driven by citizens ahead of the last time the state underwent redistricting, the process by which legislative districts are redrawn based on population changes tracked through the Census. The Sacramento Bee

Human Resources / Health & Safety

California Expands Crackdown on Non-Disclosure and Non-Disparagement Provisions
As we recently reported, California has expanded the list of claims that cannot be subject to non-disclosure provisions in the employment or housing context. SB 331, which takes effect on January 1, 2022, expands the state’s limits on non-disclosure provisions to include the settlement of claims of assault, harassment, or discrimination based on any protected characteristic (such as age, race, disability, etc.), and not just sex. The National Law Review

Here Are 22 New Laws Californians Must Start Following in 2022
After the pandemic overwhelmed California’s unemployment insurance system — leading to endless wait times for benefits and potentially tens of billions of dollars in fraudulent claims — lawmakers passed a suite of measures to overhaul it. San Francisco Chronicle


Groundhog Day for the California Economy?
…Most recent job growth has occurred in the hardest-hit service sectors, but jobs in these sectors still lag behind pre-pandemic levels. In October, one-quarter of all jobs added in California were in food service and accommodations, arts and entertainment, and other services. However, employment in these sectors remains nearly 17% below pre-pandemic levels. Public Policy Institute of California

Democrats’ Minimum Tax Unlikely to Vanish, So Businesses Seek to Soften Its Impact
Congress is poised to create a new corporate minimum tax, and pension advocates, renewable-energy backers and manufacturers are pushing for changes before the plan is finished. The tax is aimed at companies, such as Amazon.com Inc., that report large profits to shareholders but—legally—pay relatively little in taxes. It would impose a minimum 15% federal tax rate on many companies with at least $1 billion in profits, based on the income reported to investors. The Wall Street Journal

California Democrats Say They Want to Help Lower Prices for the Holidays. Can They?
Four California Democrats and 18 other House members are calling on their colleagues to get prices down and ease the supply chain crunch before Christmas. “With just three weeks to Christmas, we have to do more to get the supply chain under control so these outrageous prices come back down to Earth,” Rep. Josh Harder, D-Turlock, said in a news release. The Sacramento Bee


California’s Drought Threatens Food Production in 2022 with Water Cuts
California farmers who struggled to make it through record-breaking drought and heat in 2021 are bracing for another bad year, this time without any additional water from the state. The state said it won’t give any water from the State Water Project to farmers unless drought conditions improve. That could mean even higher food prices at a time when consumers are struggling with an ongoing pandemic and inflation across the board. Bloomberg

Alameda Judge Orders a Statewide Halt to Use of Pesticide Harmful to Honeybees
A judge has sided with environmental groups and announced a statewide halt to use of the pesticide sulfoxaflor, which kills insects on many crops but is toxic to honeybees. The state Department of Pesticide Regulation, under Gov. Gavin Newsom, lifted California’s ban on sulfoxaflor and approved limited use of the chemical in the spring of 2020. The department said its application on crops would have an overall beneficial effect and, in court filings, dismissed predictions of damage to bees as “speculative.” San Francisco Chronicle

California Drought: Wasting Water? You Could Be Hit with a $500 Fine
Hosing off the driveway. Watering lawns within 48 hours of a rain storm. Washing a car without a shut-off nozzle. Any of those wasteful practices could soon be illegal in drought-stricken California, with fines of up to $500 for violators. The San Jose Mercury News

$63 Million Wetland Restoration Could Be A Blueprint For How California Adapts To Climate Change. But It’s Taking Forever
An ambitious project to restore tidal wetlands on almost 1,200 acres of delta farmland has just completed its first phase, and the hoped-for transformation already is flourishing: River otters, rare seabirds and a single black bear have all returned to once-drained-out pastureland called Dutch Slough — results that hold promise for similar efforts toward many California environmental goals, including storage of greenhouse gases. San Francisco Chronicle


Why Is the Biden Administration Increasing the Cost of Building Houses?
…Despite having campaigned against Donald Trump’s trade policies, Biden has largely continued in his predecessor’s protectionist footsteps — not just with Canadian lumber, but with many products from China and a host of other nations. Now with rising concerns about inflation, many economists and business leaders are arguing that an effective way to combat spiking prices is to cut these tariffs, which amount to a gigantic tax — as high as $51 billion a year — on American consumers and businesses that rely on imports. NPR

‘China Shock’ Still Shakes World Grappling with Trade’s Future
Twenty years after China’s ascent into the World Trade Organization, governments around the world are grappling with how to handle the exporting juggernaut for the next two decades. While it’s largely agreed even by those who brought China into the global trading tent that its entry hasn’t played out as expected, there’s little consensus on what to do about it. Bloomberg

Export Container Dwell Times Soar at Main Ports Globally, as Berthing Delays Bite
Supply chain visibility data tracked by project44 indicates that berthing delays are causing a huge build-up of export containers within port terminals and creating a big spike in container dwell times globally. The American Journal of Transportation

Infrastructure / Education

Retailers Restocking Inventory Face a Potential Postholiday Hangover
Businesses that have been ordering goods earlier and in larger volumes to guard against shortages are on a knife’s edge, balancing between the possibility of lost sales and the risk of getting stuck with excess or outdated inventory. The Wall Street Journal

California Community Colleges Struggle to Eliminate Remedial Math, English Classes
Two years after California implemented a law requiring that community colleges “maximize” the chances that new students complete math and English coursework that can be transferred to a four-year university within their first year, all but three community colleges in the state are not in compliance, a new study has found. Desert Sun

Stuck at Port for 54 Days: How One Ship’s Delays Hurt Small Businesses
…More than 100 companies needed cargo on the 574-foot-long ship, including giants like Amazon.com Inc. But for smaller businesses that were waiting for just one or two containers, the delays have taken a heavy toll, leaving some with disgruntled customers and significant financial pain. The Wall Street Journal


State Leaders Should Use Budget Surplus to Restore Tax Incentives, Repay UI Debt
Restoring the tax incentives and paying off the UI loan are prudent uses of the surplus. These are one-time expenses that will not add to permanent state fiscal obligations. They will also ensure productive businesses are not paying higher taxes when the need for those taxes has either vanished or was created by global catastrophe or the actions of public officials. Loren Kaye in Capitol Insider

California Housing Crisis Both Wide and Deep
California’s housing crisis is a hot current topic but it has been developing for decades and there are no magic solutions for it. Dan Walters in CalMatters


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