Good morning and welcome to another week! Hopefully your family Zoom sessions took place without a glitch. Thanks as always for reading!
KEY NEWSOM ADVISER STEPS DOWN
Lenny Mendonca, Gov. Gavin Newsom’s top business adviser and chairman of the High-Speed Rail Authority, is leaving the administration to focus on his family and personal business.
Newsom’s office announced the departure Friday night. In a statement, Newsom praised Mendonca for launching an initiative aimed at improving the economic fortunes of the state’s inland counties and kicking off Newsom’s Future of Work Commission.
Mendonca, a former senior partner at the consulting powerhouse McKinsey & Company, has long been a go-to adviser for Newsom.
“I don’t know what he hasn’t done for California: Everywhere I go, there’s Lenny or his footprint, his point of view, his involvement, his interest, his insight,” Newsom told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2015. “He is remarkable in this respect: He has this unique ability to navigate in disparate places, both traditional and nontraditional..
On Friday, Newsom said, “Lenny has been an invaluable partner in growing our California economy and making sure it includes everyone. With a lifetime of business experience and an entrepreneurial spirit, Lenny has guided our economic development strategies with equal parts skill and grace. A son of the Central Valley, Lenny made room at the table for parts of California that for too long have been left out of our state’s prosperity.
On social media, Capitol hands wished Mendonca well. “Thank you for your service – our state is better off because of you,” wrote Richard Costigan, the former CalPERS Board of Administration member and legislative secretary to former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“Losing @Lenny_Mendonca is a great loss for @CAgovernor and CA!,” wrote Michael Gunning, vice president of legislative affairs for the California Building Industry Association.
COST OF CORONAVIRUS
Newsom’s administration on Friday released an outline of what it expects to spend right away fighting the coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 651 Californians and infected more than 21,000 residents.
The big number, according to the Finance Department, is expected to be at least $7 billion. The federal government should reimburse the state about $5.25 through emergency funds, softening the hit to expenses.
FEWER DRIVERS, MORE ROADWORK
Contractors said they are working during the day instead of at night, extending work hours and closing longer stretches of road at a time under temporary agreements with the state Department of Transportation and local agencies.
“There’s recognition that we can get more done with less traffic for sure, and that’s happening,” said Ed Herrnberger, an executive vice president at Teichert, a Sacramento-based construction company. “I’d say that’s consistent industrywide.”
Traffic is down 36 percent on average in urban areas across the state, said Matt Rocco, a Caltrans spokesman.
“Construction crews are still working on Caltrans projects while maintaining social distancing,” Rocco said in an emailed statement.
Caltrans launched a wave of new road construction projects after the state passed a new gas tax to fund the improvements in 2017. The 12-cent-per-gallon increase was expected to raise $5.4 billion per year in new money.
At this point, it’s too soon to say how the stay-at-home directives that have Californians using less gas will affect future road improvement budgets.
Rocco, the Caltrans spokesman, said the department is “monitoring traffic reductions and any updates or changes to revenue estimates” will be reflected in the revised state budget proposal Newsom is expected to release in May.
Read Wes Venteicher’s full story on the roadwork here.
WARNING ON E-VOTING
Election Day is less than seven months away, and a consortium of cybersecurity groups and experts are pleading with the nation’s governors to avoid using any kind of online voting or voting apps.
“Just as we all fervently wish that COVID-19 could be vanquished with a medical silver bullet, it’s natural to hope that internet voting might be a technical silver bullet for the problem of how to hold secure elections in the midst of the pandemic,” said Association for Computing Machinery chair James Hendler. “Sadly, the clinical science about internet voting — and there is a lot of it — proves that it will open our electoral processes to potentially fatal cyber-infection. If we value the health of our democracy, we must not yet vote over the internet.”
The group sent a letter to all state governors, secretaries of state and election directors, warning that internet-based voting remains insecure.
“Scientists and security experts express concern regarding a number of potential vulnerabilities facing any internet voting platform, including malware and denial of service attacks; voter authentication; ballot protection and anonymization; and how disputed ballots are handled,” the letter read in part. “Importantly, there is no way to conduct a valid audit of the results due to the lack of a meaningful voter-verified paper record. If a blockchain architecture is used, serious questions arise regarding what content is stored in it, how the blockchain is decrypted for public access, and how votes are ultimately transferred to some type of durable paper record.”
The letter, signed by a myriad of experts and advocates, stated that access to the ballot is an essential American right, and that while COVID-19 may present a formidable obstacle for voters, “internet voting is not a viable solution given the longstanding and critical security issues it presents.”
QUOTE OF THE DAY
“California’s curve is flattening. But that progress will only hold if we continue to STAY HOME and practice physical distancing. #StayHomeSaveLives”
– Gov. Gavin Newsom, via Twitter.
Best of the Bee:
‘National security issue’: What Congress wants to give farmers for coronavirus downturn, via Kate Irby
Seniors and low-income people who do not file tax returns can finally submit their information to the Internal Revenue Service to receive their coronavirus stimulus checks, but others who need to update their information from their latest tax returns will have to wait longer, via Kate Irby.
As job losses surge and more and more people lose their employer-sponsored health insurance, consumers are finding it harder to get quick, timely help finding or paying for coverage, via David Lightman.
Millions of Californians have now filed unemployment claims. Many more don’t know if their employers can hang on in a recession. It’s a time of great worry for many people who don’t yet know what the economy will look like when the coronavirus outbreak recedes. Does that mean this is a good time to consider that career change? Via Andrew Sheeler.