Tuesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom will signed into law a $536 million wildfire prevention bill lawmakers sent to his desk on Monday. But even as the state Assembly and Senate unanimously passed the bill — which includes $280 million for projects to improve forest health and nearly $200 million to cut fuel breaks — lawmakers warned that it will take an even larger, sustained investment to get a handle on the threat, per CalMatters’ Julie Cart.
Last year, California spent more than $9 billion to combat more than 9,400 fires — its worst wildfire season on record. But the state, which appears to be on the brink of a serious drought, could feasibly set a new record this year. From the start of this year through April 4, firefighters have fought 995 fires that burned 3,007 acres — a massive uptick from the 697 fires that charred 1,266 acres during the same period last year.
- Assemblymember James Gallagher, a Yuba City Republican: “If we think this is enough to address the crisis of catastrophic wildfires we are fooling ourselves.”
In other pervasive problems facing the state: Some lawmakers say more funding is needed to clear severe backlogs in California’s court system that have caused at least 1,300 defendants to wait behind bars for more than three years despite not being convicted or sentenced for a crime, CalMatters’ Robert Lewis reports.
- Assemblymember Ash Kalra, a San Jose Democrat: “The reality is our courts are under-resourced and people are suffering because of it.”
But even when money is earmarked for a specific purpose, getting it can be a challenge.
Desperate child care providers who run state-subsidized programs are anxiously waiting on a one-time stipend of $525 per child promised by Newsom in February. But a complicated payment process — which involves routing the money from the federal government to state agencies to local organizations and then to providers — has caused significant delays, CalMatters’ Elizabeth Aguilera reports.
There is some good financial news, though: Californians enrolled in Covered California, the state’s health insurance marketplace, will see substantial savings as $3 billion in federal aid kicks in, CalMatters’ Ana Ibarra reports. Covered California opened a special enrollment period Monday to encourage hundreds of thousands more residents to benefit from the aid, which lasts through 2022.