Archive for the ‘State of California’ Category

CPUC follows State Senate Republicans’ recommendation, scraps income-based utility bill scheme

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2024

Sacramento, CA – March 28, 2024 – After immense pressure from California Senate Republicans, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has finally listened and is scrapping the income-based utility bill scheme proposed by California’s largest utilities, which came to fruition as a result of Assembly Bill 205 (2022). The non-elective commission released a flat fixed rate proposal, with reduced charges for low-income customers, and is expected to vote on it on May 9, 2024. (See related article)

“I’m cautiously optimistic to see that CPUC’s preliminary decision on a new fixed-rate plan for electrical billing includes a flat rate rather than one of the ludicrous income-based charges that had been proposed,” said Senate Minority Leader Brian W. Jones (R-San Diego). “I’m looking deeper into the proposal and studying how it will affect my constituents and ratepayers across the state. Still, I hope this may be a compromise Californians can live withAt the same time, I anticipate that electricity rates will continue to be a huge affordability issue in California, even under this new flat rate proposal.”

“As vice chair of the Senate Energy, Utility and Communications Committee, l have strongly advocated for affordable and reliable energy for Californians, but the majority party’s misguided approach has been driving up the rates for years,” said Senator Brian Dahle (R-Bieber). “This income-based utility scheme was another disastrous measure. I appreciate the CPUC heeding Republicans’ advice to pause this nonsensical bill, and I will continue to work tirelessly with my colleagues to make energy reform a reality in our state.”

The CPUC’s fixed rate proposal has a 20-day comment period and is eligible for a vote at the next CPUC public meeting on May 9, 2024. 

California Senate Republicans have been leading the fight against the income-based electricity charge after Capitol Democrats rammed it through budget trailer bill AB 205 in 2022. In 2023, and as recent as January 2024, Senate Democrats thwarted Senate Republicans’ efforts to provide Californians a lifeline by repealing AB 205. Additionally, this year, Senate Minority Leader Jones and the entire Senate Republican Caucus introduced SB 1326 to repeal the income-based fixed charge mandated by AB 205. Click here to learn more about the caucus’ efforts.  

After immense pressure from California Senate Republicans, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has finally listened and is scrapping the income-based utility bill scheme, which came to fruition as a result of Assembly Bill 205 (2022). The non-elective commission released a flat fixed rate proposal and is expected to vote on it on May 9, 2024. 

What to know about money waiting in CalKIDS state-funded savings accounts | Quick Guide

Tuesday, March 26th, 2024

Webinar April 17

By Lasherica Thornton,

Over 3.6 million school-aged children across the state qualify for at least $500 in savings with the California Kids Investment and Development Savings program (CalKIDS), a state initiative to help children from low income families save money for college or career. 

Just 8.3% of eligible students, or 300,000, have claimed their accounts as many families are unaware of CalKIDS or face challenges accessing the accounts once aware.  The money is automatically deposited into the savings account under a student’s name, but families must claim the accounts by registering online. 

Here is information you should know about the state-funded accounts: 

What is CalKIDS? 

The CalKIDS program was created to help students, especially those from underserved communities, gain access to higher education. It helps families save for post high school training by opening a savings account and depositing between $500 and $1,500 for eligible low-income students in the public school system. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who launched the program in August 2022, invested about $1.9 billion in the accounts.

Who qualifies? 

Low-income students and all newborns qualify. 

According to program details, low-income public school students are awarded $500 if they:

  • Were in grades 1-12 during the 2021-22 school year 
  • Were enrolled in first grade during the 2022-23 school year, or 
  • Will be in first grade in subsequent school years. 

An additional $500 is deposited for students identified as foster youth and another $500 for students classified as homeless. 

For newborns, 

  • Children born in California after June 2023, regardless of their parents’ income, are granted $100. 
  • Those born in the state between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, were awarded $25 before the seed deposit increased to $100. 
  • Newborns get an additional $25 when they claim the account and an additional $50 if parents link the CalKIDS account to a new or existing ScholarShare 529 college savings account. 

The California Department of Education determines eligibility based on students identified as low income under the state’s Local Control Funding Formula or English language learners. The California Department of Public Health provides information on newborns.

How can students use the money? 

The money can be used at eligible higher education institutions across the country, including community colleges, universities, vocational or technical schools and professional schools, according to CalKIDS. 

The funds can be used for: tuition and fees, books and supplies, on or off-campus room and board as well as computer or other required equipment, according to the CalKIDS program guide

Click hereto search for schools that qualify as an eligible higher ed institution. 

Does the CalKIDS account have restrictions similar to those for a 529 savings account? 

CalKIDS accounts are a part of the ScholarShare 529 program — California’s official tax-advantaged college savings plan — and administered by the state’s ScholarShare Investment Board. 

Transportation and travel costs are usually not considered qualified expenses for 529 savings accounts. 

According to the guide for CalKIDS, if a student has no account balance with their higher education institution — which receives the CalKIDS distribution check —  the institution can pay the funds directly to the student. 

Does the money in the CalKIDS accounts earn interest? 

The deposits grow over time because CalKIDS accounts are interest-bearing.

How aggressive that growth is depends on the age of the student, said Joe DeAnda, communications director with the California State Treasurer’s Office, which oversees the CalKIDS program. 

“If it’s a newborn, (the seed deposits are) invested in a fairly aggressive portfolio that assumes 18 years of investing time,” DeAnda said. “If they are school-aged, they’re invested in a more conservative portfolio that assumes a shorter investing timeline and is a more secure portfolio.”  

Even among students, the younger a child is, the more aggressive the savings portfolio will be. The investment provides “opportunity to grow savings while the child is younger and better safeguard savings against market fluctuations when the child nears college age,” according to the CalKIDS program guide.

Specifically, accounts for newborns, each new class of first graders and students in grades 1-5 during the 2021-22 school year are invested in a portfolio that corresponds to the year that they’re expected to enter a program after high school, or at age 18. The portfolio will become more conservative as the child gets older. 

For students in grades 6-12 during the 2021-22 school year, the accounts are invested with a guaranteed, or fixed, rate of return on the investment. 

Can I add to the account? 

No, you cannot add money to the CalKIDS account. Parents or guardians can open a ScholarShare 529 account, which can be linked to the CalKIDS account so they can view the accounts in one place. 

In fact, CalKIDS encourages families to open a ScholarShare 529 college savings account, which is a way for families to save even more money for their children, DeAnda said. 

What if my student already graduated? What happens to unclaimed money? 

The accounts remain active under a student’s name until the student turns 26 years old. Up until that age, students can claim the money. 

If the account is not claimed by age 26, the account closes, and the money is reallocated to others in the CalKIDS program, DeAnda said. 

What if I’m not sure if my child is considered low income? 

CalKIDS has sent notification letters of program enrollment to over 3.3 million eligible students and nearly 270,000 students in last school year’s class of first graders. 

Without the letters, to check student eligibility, families must enter students’ Statewide Student Identifier (SSID), a 10-digit number that appears on student transcripts or report cards, according to the CalKIDS website. 

The California Department of Education provides CalKIDS with data on first graders in the late spring or early summer and asks parents to wait until then before checking for their child’s eligibility. 

How do I access that SSID number to check eligibility or to register the account? 

The SSID may be found on the parent’s or student’s school portal, transcript or report card. 

The CalKIDS website instructs families to contact their child’s school or school district if they’re unsure of how or unable to locate the number.

How do I access or ‘claim’ the account? 

The notification letter that CalKIDS sends families contains a unique CalKIDS Code that can be used to register the accounts. Even without the code, families can register the accounts. 

To claim the student account: 

  1. Visit the CalKIDS registration page to claim the accountClick here to register
  2. Enter the county where the student was enrolled (for a student in grades 1-12 in the 2021-22 school year; for a first grader, where the student was enrolled in 2022-23 or subsequent years)
  3. Enter student’s date of birth
  4. Enter the SSID or CalKIDS Code from the notification letter
  5. Click Register
  6. Set up the account, either as the child or as the parent/guardian, with a username and password

To claim the newborn account, which should be available about 90 days after birth: 

  1. Visit the CalKIDS registration page to claim the account.
  2. Enter the county where the child was born
  3. Enter child’s date of birth 
  4. Enter the Local Registration Number on the child’s birth certificate or CalKIDS Code from the notification letter 
  5. Click Register
  6. Set up the account, either as the child or as the parent/guardian, with a username and password

I still need help. How do I get additional support? 

Contact CalKIDS at (888) 445-2377 or 

The CalKIDS team is also hosting an April 17 webinar to outline the program, eligibility, account registration, fund distribution and benefits. To sign up for the webinar, click here

How does my high school graduate make a withdrawal to use the money?

According to the CalKIDS program guide, to request a distribution, log into the claimed CalKIDS account and request a distribution, which doesn’t have to be for the entire amount. The funds are tax-free for the qualified expenses of tuition, books, fees, computers and equipment. 

The student must be at least 17 years old and enrolled at an eligible institution. 

The CalKIDS money, which will be sent to the institution, is considered a scholarship from the state of California.

Californians face higher electricity rates based on income

Saturday, March 16th, 2024

For households earning $28K per year or more; unless state legislature reverses course; 5 local legislators voted for bill

By Allen D. Payton

Bill Votes – AB-205 Energy. (

In 2022, the California legislature passed and Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB205 – Energy into law, which requires that the Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) “shall, no later than July 1, 2024, authorize a fixed charge for default residential rates.” As a result, the CPUC is currently reviewing proposals for a tiered, fixed-price structure, as directed by the bill.

According to FOX Business, the state’s three main, investor-owned utilities – Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), Southern California Edison (SCE) and San Diego Gas and Electric (SDG&E) – proposed a tiered rate plan: “Households earning $28,000-$69,000 would be charged an extra $20 to $34 per month. Those earning $69,000-$180,000 would pay $51 to $73 per month, and those earning more than $180,000 would pay a $85-to-$128 monthly surcharge.”

According to California Energy Markets, “The first version of the income-graduated fixed charge, or IGFC, could be implemented by SDG&E and SCE by 2026, according to Freedman. PG&E is in the process of changing its billing system, he said, so its implementation would likely be in 2027.”

That’s on top of the 13% increase for both electricity and natural gas rates for PG&E customers approved by a unanimous vote of the CPUC last November that went into effect on January 1, 2024. Plus, another vote on March 7 for $4-$6 in additional monthly fees for the typical ratepayer that will take effect in April, was approved for PG&E to recover $516 million in costs for wildfire mitigation, gas safety and electric modernization.

According to a Canary Media report, “The utilities are also proposing to significantly lower the per-kilowatt-hour charges that customers pay to counterbalance the big increase in fixed charges, and to structure both fixed and volumetric charges in a way that allows lower-income customers to save money overall. Still, the proposal, if enacted, would instantly make California the home of the nation’s highest monthly utility fixed fees, according to analysis by clean energy research firm EQ Research.”

The IGFC would require the CPUC to evaluate every ratepayer’s income annually in order to assess the appropriate fee.

Local Legislators Voted for Bill

Five of Contra Costa’s state legislators supported AB205 on party-line votes including Assemblymembers Tim Grayson, Rebecca Bauer-Kahan, Buffy Wicks, Lori Wilson and State Senator Nancy Skinner. The first four each voted for the bill, twice.

Assemblyman Jim Frazier didn’t vote on the bill in 2021 and State Senator Steve Glazer didn’t vote on AB205 during the State Senate’s floor vote in 2022. Newsom signed the bill into law on June 30, 2022.

Details of New Law

As of July 1, 2022, the applicable portion of the law now reads as follows:

SEC. 10. Section 739.9 of the Public Utilities Code is amended to read:

(d)  The commission may adopt new, or expand existing, fixed charges for the purpose of collecting a reasonable portion of the fixed costs of providing electrical service to residential customers. The commission shall ensure that any approved charges do all of the following:

    (1) Reasonably reflect an appropriate portion of the different costs of serving small and large customers.

    (2) Not unreasonably impair incentives forconservation, energy efficiency, and beneficial electrification and greenhouse gas emissions reduction. 

    (3) Are set at levels that do not overburden low-income customers.

(e)(1) For the purposes of this section and Section 739.1, the commission may authorize fixed charges for any rate schedule applicable to a residential customer account. The fixed charge shall be established on an income-graduated basis with no fewer than three income thresholds so that a low-income ratepayer in each baseline territory would realize a lower average monthly bill without making any changes in usage. The commission shall, no later than July 1, 2024, authorize a fixed charge for default residential rates.

    (2) For purposes of this subdivision, ‘income-graduated’ means that low-income customers pay a smaller fixed charge than high-income customers.”

Source: Energy Sage published 3/10/24

Californians Pay 27% More for Electricity Than National Average

According to Energy Sage, California residents currently pay 31 cents per kilowatt-hour compared to the national average of 18 cents per kilowatt-hour. “On average, California residents spend about $256 per month on electricity. That adds up to $3,072 per year. That’s 27% higher than the national average electric bill of $2,426.” 

Effort to Reverse Course

Now, some members of the legislature are trying to backpedal on their votes and stop the IGFC increases from being approved. As they had unsuccessfully attempted last September, on Jan. 30, Republican lawmakers tried to bring an immediate vote to repeal AB 205 to the Senate floor, but Democrats who have the majority, voted to table the motion.

That same day, Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin, (D-Thousand Oaks) and 10 others introduced a bill to repeal AB205. According to Irwin’s press release about the new bill, “The CPUC has had the authority to implement a fixed rate charge, up to $10, since 2015, but has declined to do so. I see no need to rush now. It’s time to put some reasoning back into how we charge for electricity in California.” Bauer-Kahan is listed as a principal coauthor. It was also introduced in the State Senate.

According to the aforementioned Canary Media report, “The newly introduced bill, AB 1999, would limit the CPUC to adding a fixed charge of no greater than $10 a month on customers’ bills to pay for the rising costs of maintaining the state’s utility grids, regardless of household income.”

The bill is in the committee process, was referred to the Assembly Committee on Utilities and Electricity. If approved it will then head to the floors of both houses of the state legislature for votes and if passed, the bill will head to the governor’s desk for his signature or veto.

3/27/24 UPDATE: According to Sylvie Ashford, Energy & Climate Policy Analyst for The Utility Reform Network (TURN) which supports the implementation of an income-graduated fixed charge, and is one of the authors of the organization’s IGFC proposal,

  • “The IOUs are no longer proposing the charge levels that you cite (e.g. up to $128 per month). The CPUC has already ruled that the first iteration of the fixed charge will have income tier cut-offs based only on the existing CARE/FERA programs, with no ‘high-income’ tier. The IOUs submitted new proposals in the fall, with a max charge of $51-$73 (page 5 of their brief).
  • It’s not that utilities will “also” lower $/kWh rates. The fixed charge itself lowers rates, as is comprised only of costs that are included in rates today. It shifts some fixed costs out of electricity rates and into a separate line item.
  • Thus, your headline that “Californians face higher electricity rates based on income” is incorrect. All customers will pay lower electricity rates (15% lower under TURN’s proposal). Some higher income customers will see higher overall bills only if their assigned fixed charge exceeds their savings from the reduced rates. (For example, TURN’s proposal has a maximum monthly fixed charge of $30, and we estimate those customers will see $3-7 bill increases, depending on their usage).”

Iin addition, she shared, “TURN believes that the fixed charge presents a critical opportunity to reduce low-income energy bills in the state. TURN also believes much more is needed to make bills affordable and intervenes widely at the CPUC to oppose rate increases. A few quick points:

  • The fixed charge will not increase utility revenue/profits; it removes costs from rates and shifts them to a separate line item on your bill.
  • This will reduce electricity rates ($/kWh) for all Californians, making it more feasible to operate electric vehicles and appliances.
  • Because the new line item is based on income, it will also reduce overall bills for low-income Californians (likely to be defined as the low-income CARE/FERA discount programs, which cover 30% of the state) and it will make electricity bills less regressive.
  • TURN strongly opposes the joint proposal of the utilities for fixed charges, and the CPUC is not considering it. The CPUC has already ruled that the first iteration of the fixed charge will have income tier cut-offs based only on the existing CARE/FERA programs, with no ‘high-income’ tier, so the average fixed charge will be low (TURN proposes an average of $23.50, which is the same charge already offered by the Sacramento Municipal Utility District).

Ashford was asked to explain how, if the cost of providing electricity does not differ from one user to the next in one of the three utility company’s service areas, it’s fair to charge one customer more based on their income. She was also asked weren’t renewals supposed to reduce electricity costs and aren’t we relying more on them, now for electricity generation in California,

Ashford responded, to your questions about the fairness of paying based on income, and why rates have been increasing when generation keeps getting cheaper (thanks to renewables): the problem is that your $/kWh electricity rates today are largely comprised of costs that have nothing to do with your personal usage. They are bloated with the fixed costs of the grid, like the utilities’ wildfire mitigation programs and infrastructure projects.

As a result, a UC Berkeley study found that California’s electric rates are highly regressive; low-income households pay more of their income on shared system costs. Households in hot climates, that need to use more electricity to keep cool, also pay more than their fair share of these costs. On the flipside, solar customers are paying less than their fair share, which has created a ‘cost shift’ that hikes rates for everyone else (source).

TURN is a strong advocate of reducing utility spending, which is the most important step to reduce rates. The fixed charge alone doesn’t address that problem, as it simply shuffles the collection of existing costs, but it will make bills more affordable for those that are disproportionately burdened by shared system costs.”

Homeless, Drug Addiction, Retail Theft Reduction Act to reform Prop 47 collects 75% of required California voters’ signatures

Monday, March 4th, 2024

Over 400,000 have signed petitions to place the measure that will stop theft and fentanyl crimes onto the November 2024 ballot

Gains support of Californians Against Retail and Residential Theft, over 30 mayors & local leaders

Get petition to help gather signatures below

Over 400,000 California voters have signed the petition to place the Homeless, Drug Addiction, Retail Theft Reduction Act on the November 2024 ballot.

“We have seen a record number of voters seeking to sign the petition to place this measure on the ballot – sometimes waiting in line to do so,” said campaign chair Greg Totten who is also chief executive officer for the California District Attorneys Association. “This is consistent with polling that has shown that 70% of likely California voters support the Homeless, Drug Addiction, Retail Theft Reduction Act. The measure is commonsense and injects accountability back into our laws for repeat offenders of theft and for crimes involving fentanyl and other serious drug crimes.”

Californians Against Retail and Residential Theft endorses proposed initiative to reform Proposition 47

Californians Against Retail and Residential Theft (CARRT) announced last week its support for the proposed initiative called the Homeless, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Act.

“Our current system puts Californians at risk as crime continues to rise without any real repercussions. That is why Californians Against Retail and Residential Theft is supporting the Homeless, Drug Addiction and Theft Reduction Initiative,” said Matt Ross, spokesman for Californians Against Retail and Residential Theft.

“The initiative focuses on repeat offenders of retail crime. It provides an opportunity for those with substance abuse and mental health problems to seek help through diversion programs. At the same time, it also ensures that there are real consequences for individuals who continue to break the law.”

“Moreover, this initiative is a significant step towards putting an end to retail and residential theft in both Main Street and neighborhood areas.”

According to data from the Public Policy Institute of California, there has been a significant increase in commercial shoplifting, with a 28.7% rise in 2022 alone. Commercial burglary and robbery have also seen an increase of 5.8% and 9%, respectively. Furthermore, a recent survey revealed that 88% of retailers are experiencing more aggressive and violent shoplifters compared to the previous year.

CARRT is a diverse coalition consisting of over 200 business associations, local groups, and victim organizations. Their main goal is to advocate for California officials to take action and equip law enforcement with the necessary tools to reduce theft. Prominent members of the coalition include local Chambers of Commerce, California Asian Pacific Chamber of Commerce, California Business Roundtable, California Black Chamber of Commerce, California Grocers Association, California Peace Officers Association, Crime Victims United, Klaas Kids Foundation, and the National Federation of Independent Business.

CARRT has been engaging in discussions with local officials, law enforcement, and legislators to ensure that they comprehend the true impact of retail and residential crime. They aim to provide public safety officials with additional resources to effectively address this problem. For more information about CARRT, please visit their website at

Over 30 mayors and local elected leaders endorse Prop 47 reform initiative

Bipartisan support continues to grow with over 30 mayors and local elected officials from across the state have endorsed the Homelessness, Drug Addiction, Retail Theft Reduction Act. The measure will increase community safety by holding those who repeatedly steal or traffic hard drugs accountable. The measure has collected 75% of the needed signatures from California voters to place it on the November ballot.

“Our city has continued to prioritize safety for our residents, businesses and visitors. We realize that the laws must adapt to the circumstances we see on our streets today. Retail theft and drug offenders repeat their crimes without any accountability or consequence which is why I am supporting this ballot measure,” said Santa Monica Mayor Phil Brock. “We need smart changes to Prop 47 so that we can stop crime and hold repeat offenders accountable. Consequences act as a deterrent while at the same time, this measure prioritizes effective drug treatment and rehabilitation programs. This ballot measure will provide the tools our city needs to improve community safety.”

Local mayors and elected officials from every region across the state continue to endorse a measure that balances accountability and rehabilitation programs.

Bay Area Elected Leaders

Mayor Matt Mahan, City of San Jose

Mayor London Breed, City and County of San Francisco

Mayor Lily Mei, City of Fremont

Mayor Carmen Montano, City of Milpitas

Vice Mayor Renee Golder, City of Santa Cruz

Councilmember Shebreh Kalantari-Johnson, City of Santa Cruz

Former Mayor Ryan Coonerty, City of Santa Cruz

Vice Mayor Sherry Hu, City of Dublin

Councilmember Liang ChaoCity of Cupertino (title for identification purposes only)

Councilmember Kitty Moore, City of Cupertino (title for identification purposes only)

Mayor Yan Zhao, City of Saratoga

Councilmember Rishi Kumar, City of Saratoga

Councilmember Javed Ellahie, City of Monte Sereno

Northern & Central CA Elected Leaders

Mayor Jerry Dyer, City of Fresno

Mayor Karen Goh, City of Bakersfield

Supervisor Rich Desmond, Sacramento County

Southern California Elected Leaders

Mayor Phil Brock, City of Santa Monica
Mayor Mark Arapostathis, City of La Mesa
Mayor Richard Bailey, City of Coronado
Mayor Keith Blackburn, City of Carlsbad

Mayor John Franklin, City of Vista
Mayor Lesa Heebner, City of Solana Beach
Mayor Rebecca Jones, City of San Marcos
Mayor Tony Kranz, City of Encinitas
Mayor John McCann, City of Chula Vista
Mayor John Minto, City of Santee

Mayor Ron Morrison, City of National City
Mayor Esther Sanchez, City of Oceanside
Mayor Steve Vaus, City of Poway
Mayor Bill Wells, City of El Cajon
Mayor Dane White, City of Escondido

A survey of likely California voters found that 70% of voters support the title and summary of the Homeless, Drug Addiction, Retail Theft Reduction Act. The overwhelming support was consistent across every demographic and geography including the Bay Area and Los Angeles. Furthermore, 89% of likely voters support amending Proposition 47 for stronger penalties for those engaged in repeated retail theft and trafficking hard drugs like fentanyl. The measure also includes incentives to complete drug and mental health treatment for people who are addicted to hard drugs. The survey was conducted online from November 8-November 13, 2023, with a margin of error of +/- 2.28%.

To qualify the measure for the November 2024 ballot, the law requires 546,651 valid signatures. The campaign is required to notify the Secretary of State after 25% of the signatures from California voters have been collected.

For more information, go to and to obtain a petition and help gather signatures visit .

Impressive spring wildflower blooms anticipated in desert state parks

Saturday, March 2nd, 2024
Top: Current wildflower bloom at Anza-Borrego Desert SP. Bottom left: Sparse flowers are starting to show at Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve State Natural Reserve (SNR). Bottom right: Goldfields currently adorn the Tule Elk SNR. Source: CA State Parks

Public asked to keep the beauty in the bloom by staying on designated trails and taking only photos, not flowers.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – This spring, California’s desert state parks could potentially be adorned with a sea of rainbow colors as the wildflower season is expected to be an impressive one, and California State Parks is asking all visitors to enjoy them responsibly. 

“In recent years, California has been lucky to see spectacular wildflower blooms in many public lands, including in state parks,” said State Parks Director Armando Quintero. “We welcome all Californians and visitors from around the world to experience this natural phenomenon and ask all to keep the ‘Beauty in the Bloom’ by staying on designated trails and taking only photos, not flowers.”

Current Bloom Situation

Depending on the park, visitors may see colorful lupine, coreopsis, desert sunflowers, evening or brown-eyed primroses, desert bells, desert poppies or desert lilies.

Detailed information, in Spanish and English, on this year’s potential wildflower blooms and park rules is available at

Recreate Responsibly

For those wishing to visit areas where the blooms are popping, State Parks is providing visitors with tips on how to explore safely and responsibly, especially in the desert parks where the landscapes may have changed due to recent storms.

Understand the Area

  • Cell coverage can be spotty or nonexistent in some parks—be prepared.
  • Read about your state park destination online and download a map prior to your visit, especially if you are visiting a desert. Many GPS and map apps will take you to dirt roads requiring four-wheel drive vehicles.
  • Know your vehicle’s limits. Know which areas allow off-highway vehicle recreation.
  • Visit the parks during the week and arrive early to beat the crowds.
  • Remember to pull off the roadway when viewing wildflowers, wildlife or to take photos. Please leave roadways clear for vehicle traffic.
  • Leave an itinerary of your trip with a family member or friend with information such as time of departure and expected return, site visit location and names of everyone in your group. This will ensure law enforcement personnel have a better understanding of your location in the event of a rescue.

Check the Weather

  • While planning your trip, check weather conditions. Be prepared and plan for all types of weather.
  • Make sure your equipment and clothing are appropriate for the expected weather.

Respect the Landscapes

  • Each park has unique landscapes. Stay on designated trails whenever possible. Tread lightly in the desert. Do not trample flowers.
  • When viewing the blooms, take only pictures. Flower picking is prohibited.
  • If dogs are permitted, they must remain on leash, on designated roads, in campgrounds and in picnic areas. Dogs are not allowed on hiking trails, in the backcountry or in the wildflower fields. Do not leave dogs unattended in your vehicles—temperatures can reach lethal levels.
  • Drone use may be prohibited. If drone use is allowed, a filming permit from individual state park units must be requested.
  • Help keep the landscapes pristine, leaving it better than when you arrived by packing out anything you packed in—pack it in, pack it out.

Know Your Body Limitations

  • Bring plenty of food and water. There are often no restaurants, gasoline stations or stores near the bloom areas.
  • Drink plenty of water prior to your visit to remain hydrated and avoid heat-related emergencies.
  • Outdoor conditions can change quickly, especially in the desert. Bring sunscreen, a hat, layers of clothing and closed-toe shoes to avoid injury.
  • Walk at a pace that allows you to talk easily. If you are too out of breath to speak, you are probably working too hard. Take a rest or stop exercising.
  • In the event of an emergency, call 911.


In 2017, 2019 and 2023, wildflowers carpeted state parks like Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve SNR, Anza-Borrego Desert SP and Ocotillo Wells State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA), attracting hundreds of thousands of people from around the world to view this rare occurrence in nature. These wildflower blooms vary from year to year based on multiple factors: Precipitation levels, the timing of that precipitation, amount of sunlight, humidity levels and seasonal temperature patterns can all affect both the bloom timing and number of flowers seen across the region. Since California was fortunate to receive more rain last fall and this winter, public land managers are expecting a “good” to “better-than-average” wildflower blooms in spring, depending on the continued weather conditions.

CTA-sponsored legislation would remove one of state’s last required tests for teachers

Monday, February 26th, 2024
First grade teacher Sandra Morales discusses sentences with a student. Credit: Zaidee Stavely / EdSource

State could retain unpopular written literacy test

By Dana Lambert, – republished with permission

Newly proposed legislation sponsored by the California Teachers Association would eliminate all performance assessments teachers are required to pass, including one for literacy that it supported three years ago. The result could leave in place an unpopular written test that the literacy performance assessment was designed to replace.

Senate Bill 1263, authored by state Sen. Josh Newman, D-Fullerton, would do away with the California Teaching Performance Assessment, known as the CalTPA, through which teachers demonstrate their competence via video clips of instruction and written reflections on their practice. 

Eliminating the assessment will increase the number of effective teachers in classrooms, as the state continues to contend with a teacher shortage, said Newman, chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

“One key to improving the educator pipeline is removing barriers that may be dissuading otherwise talented and qualified prospective people from pursuing a career as an educator,” Newman said in a statement to EdSource.

The bill also would do away with a literacy performance assessment of teachers and oversight of literacy instruction in teacher preparation programs mandated by Senate Bill 488, authored by Sen. Susan Rubio, D-West Covina, in 2021.

The literacy performance assessment is scheduled to be piloted in the next few months. It is meant to replace the Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (RICA) set to be scrapped in 2025. 

New law could leave RICA in place

The proposed legislation appears to leave in place a requirement that candidates for a preliminary multiple-subject or education specialist credential pass a reading instruction competence assessment, said David DeGuire, a director at the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

“At this time, it is unclear what that assessment would look like, but it could be that the state continues to use the current version of the RICA,” he said.

Newman will present the legislation to the Senate Education Committee in the next few months. Discussions about whether the RICA remains in use are likely to take place during the legislative process.

Rubio recently became aware of the new legislation and had not yet discussed it with Newman.

“For three years, I worked arduously and collaboratively with a broad range of education leaders, including parent groups, teacher associations and other stakeholders to modernize a key component of our educational system that in my 17 years as a classroom teacher and school administrator I saw as counterproductive to our students’ learning,” Rubio said of Senate Bill 488.

Teachers union changes course 

The California Teachers Association, which originally supported Senate Bill 488, now wants all performance assessments, including the literacy performance assessment, eliminated.

“We are all scratching our heads,” said Yolie Flores, of Families in Schools, a Los Angeles-based education advocacy organization. “We were really blindsided by this (legislation), given the momentum around strengthening our teacher prep programs.”

The results of a survey of almost 1,300 CTA members last year convinced the state teachers union to push for the elimination of the CalTPA, said Leslie Littman, vice president of the union. Teachers who took the survey said the test caused stress, took away time that could have been used to collaborate with mentors and for teaching, and did not prepare them to meet the needs of students, she said.

“I think what we were probably not cognizant of at that time, and it really has become very clear of late, is just how much of a burden these assessments have placed on these teacher candidates,” Littman said. 

Teacher candidates would be better served if they were observed over longer periods of time, during student teaching, apprenticeships, residencies and mentorship programs, to determine if they were ready to teach, Littman said. This would also allow a mentor to counsel and support the candidate to ensure they have the required skills.

California joins science of reading movement

California has joined a national effort to change how reading is being taught in schools. States nationwide are rethinking balanced literacy, which has its roots in whole language instruction or teaching children to recognize words by sight, and replacing it with a method that teaches them to decode words by sounding them out, a process known as phonics. 

Smarter Balanced test scores, released last fall, show that only 46.6% of the state’s students who were tested met academic standards in English.

Last week Assemblymember Blanca Rubio, D-Baldwin Park, introduced Assembly Bill 2222, which would mandate that schools use evidence-based reading instruction. California, a “local control” state, currently only encourages school districts to incorporate fundamental reading skills, including phonics, into instruction.

 “It (Newman’s SB 1263) goes against not only the movement, but everything we know from best practices, evidence, research, science, of how we need to equip new teachers and existing teachers, frankly, to teach literacy,” Flores said. “And that we would wipe it away at this very moment where we’re finally getting some traction is just very concerning.”

Lori DePole, co-director of DeCoding Dyslexia California, said the proposed legislation would cut any progress the state has made “off at the knees.” 

Among her concerns is the elimination of the requirement, also authorized by Senate Bill 488, that the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing certify that teacher preparation programs are teaching literacy aligned to state standards and a provision that requires the commission to report to the state Legislature annually on how stakeholders are meeting the requirements of the law.

“It would be going away,” DePole said. “Everyone agreed with SB 488, all the supporters agreed, this was the direction California needed to go to strengthen teacher prep with respect to literacy. And before it can even be fully implemented, we’re going to do a 180 with this legislation. It makes no sense.”

Flores said teachers want to be equipped to teach reading using evidence-based techniques, but many don’t know how.

“We know that reading is the gateway, and if kids can’t read, it’s practically game over, right?” said Flores. “And we are saying with this bill that it doesn’t matter, that we don’t really need to teach and show that teachers know how to teach reading.”

Teacher tests replaced by coursework, degrees

California has been moving away from standardized testing for teacher candidates for several years as the teacher shortage worsened. In July 2021, legislation gave teacher candidates the option to take approved coursework instead of the California Basic Education Skills Test, or CBEST, or the California Subject Examinations for Teachers, or CSET. In January’s tentative budget, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed eliminating the CBEST and allowing the completion of a bachelor’s degree to satisfy the state’s basic skills requirement.

Littman disagrees with the idea that there will be no accountability for teachers if the legislation passes. “There’s always been, and will continue to be, an evaluation component for all of our teachers in this state,” she said. “It just depends on what your district does and how they implement that. There’s always been a system of accountability for folks.”

State Division of Boating and Waterways set to control aquatic invasive plants in Delta

Thursday, February 22nd, 2024
Photos from Division of Boating and Waterways.

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— California State Parks’ Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) today announced plans to control aquatic invasive plants in the west coast’s largest estuary, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its southern tributaries. Starting March 6 through Nov. 30, 2024, DBW crews will begin herbicide treatments on water hyacinth, South American spongeplant, Uruguay water primrose, Alligator weed, Brazilian waterweed, curly leaf pondweed, Eurasian watermilfoil, coontail, ribbon weed, and fanwort in the Delta. Depending on weather conditions and plant growth/movement, treatment dates may change. Select areas of the Delta with high infestations or coverage of water hyacinth will be controlled using mechanical harvesting efforts through December 2024.

DBW works with local, state, and federal entities to better understand the plants and implement new integrated control strategies to increase efficacy. These aquatic invasive plants have no known natural controls and negatively affect the Delta’s ecosystem as they displace native plants. Continued warm temperatures help the plants proliferate at high rates. Plants are also known to form dense mats of vegetation creating safety hazards for boaters, obstructing navigation channels, marinas, and irrigation systems. Due to their ability to rapidly spread to new areas, it is likely that the plants will never be eradicated from Delta waters. Therefore, DBW operates a “control” program as opposed to an “eradication” program.

“Thank you to the public and partners for working with us on combating these aquatic invasive plants,” said DBW’s Deputy Director Ramona Fernandez. “Together we are mitigating their impacts on the lives of all who live, work, and recreate in the Delta.”

All herbicides used in DBW’s Aquatic Invasive Plant Control Program are registered for aquatic use with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation. Treated areas will be monitored to ensure herbicide levels do not exceed allowable limits and follow EPA-registered label guidelines. The public may view the public notices and sign up to receive weekly updates on this year’s treatment season on DBW’s website.

Below is a list of proposed control actions for the 2024 treatment season:

Floating Aquatic Vegetation (Public Notice)

Water hyacinth, South American spongeplant, Uruguay water primrose, and alligator weed.

Herbicide Control

· Proposed Treatment Period
  All Sites: March 6, 2024 – Nov. 30, 2024

· Type of Herbicides: Glyphosate, 2,4-D, Imazamox, or Diquat

· Potential Treatment Areas: Initially in and/or around, but not limited to the following areas: San Joaquin River, Old River, Middle River, Fourteen Mile Slough, and Snodgrass Slough.

Mechanical Harvesting (If necessary)

· Harvesting Dates: March 2024 – April 2024 and July 2024 – December 2024

· Mechanical Harvesting Sites: Select areas of the Delta with high infestations or coverage of water hyacinth. See the Public Notice for potential mechanical harvesting control areas.

Submersed Aquatic Vegetation (Public Notice)

Brazilian waterweed, curlyleaf pondweed, Eurasian watermilfoil, coontail, ribbon weed, and fanwort.

Herbicide Control

· Treatment Period: Starting March 6, 2024, through Nov. 30, 2024, treatment period is based upon DBW field survey data, water temperatures and fish surveys.

· Type of Herbicide: Fluridone, Endothall or Diquat.

· Potential Treatment Areas: In and/or around the following areas (individual areas will be noticed prior to treatment application):

Anchorages, boat ramps and marinas: B & W Resort, Delta Marina Yacht Harbor, Grindstone Joes, Hidden Harbor Resort, Korth’s Pirates Lair, Oxbow Marina, Owl Harbor, River Point Landing, Rivers End, St. Francis Yacht Club, Tiki Lagoon, Tracy Oasis Marina, Turner Cut Resort, Vieira’s Resort, Village West Marina, and Willow Berm.
Near Old River: Berkeley Ski Club, Bullfrog Ski Club, Cruiser Haven, Delta Coves, Diablo Ski Club, Discovery Bay, Golden Gate Ski Club, Hammer Island, Italian Slough, Kings Island, Orwood Marina, Piper Slough, Sandmound Slough, Stockton Ski Club, and Taylor Slough.

Sacramento Area: French Island, Hogback, Long Island Slough, Prospect Island, Sacramento Marina, Snug Harbor, and Washington Lake.

Stockton Area: Atherton Cove, Buckley Cove, Calaveras River, Fourteenmile Slough, Mosher Slough, and Windmill Cove.

Mechanical Harvesting

This type of control method is not used for submersed aquatic vegetation. These plants are spread by fragmentation. Cutting the plants back exacerbates the problem, as shreds of the plants float away and re-propagate.

To report sightings, subscribe for program updates or more information regarding the control program, connect with us online at our website, via email at, or by phone at (888) 326-2822.

Last year, DBW treated 2,377 acres of floating aquatic vegetation and 1,405 acres of submersed aquatic vegetation. No mechanical harvesting was conducted. A combination of herbicide, biological, and mechanical control methods were used to help control invasive plants at high-priority sites in the Delta.

In 1982, California state legislation designated DBW as the lead state agency to cooperate with other state, local, and federal agencies in controlling water hyacinth in the Delta, its tributaries, and the SuisunMarsh. The Egeria Densa Control Program was authorized by law in 1997 and treatment began in 2001. In 2012, spongeplant was authorized for control upon completion of the biological assessment. In 2013, DBW was able to expand its jurisdiction to include other invasive aquatic plants, and since then other aquatic invasive plants such as Uruguay water primrose, Eurasian watermilfoil, Carolina fanwort, coontail, Alligator weed, and Ribbon weed have been added to the AIPCP program.

Revenues from boaters’ registration fees and gasoline taxes (Harbors and Watercraft RevolvingFund), provide funding for DBW’s Aquatic Invasive Plant Control Program.

Contra Costa Health awarded state grant for Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Program

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024
Graphic source: OTS

$202.7K from the Office of Traffic Safety

Contra Costa Health (CCH) announced today that it has received a $202,692 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to support its Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Program. This grant will allow CCH to promote safe practices for pedestrians and bicyclists and provide education about the importance of sharing the road.

Local data show an increase of nearly 30% in fatal crashes involving pedestrians over the past 10 years in Contra Costa County, and that pedestrians and bicyclists are 2.4 times more likely to be seriously injured or killed in a traffic crash compared to drivers. The OTS grant funds multiple efforts to improve safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.

“Everyone deserves a safe environment to travel, regardless of how people get to places,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “The safety of people walking and biking on our roads is a high priority. Education plays a pivotal role in creating a strong road safety culture that prioritizes traffic safety, especially for our most vulnerable road users.”

Grant funds will support a variety of activities focused on bicycle and pedestrian safety:

  • Support for local jurisdictions to include public health in road safety plans and address the community conditions that create unsafe environments for non-motorized road users.
  • Local bicycle and pedestrian safety campaigns.
  • Community bicycle and walk “audits” of streets with high rates of pedestrian or bicyclist fatalities and serious injury crashes.
  • Bicycle training courses that teach youth on how to stay safe on the road.
  • Community events that promote bicyclist and pedestrian visibility and the importance of sharing the road, slowing down, and staying alert to bicyclists and pedestrians while driving.

Area Goals for the OTS program include:

  • Reduce the total number of pedestrians killed.
  • Reduce the total number of pedestrians injured.
  • Reduce the number of pedestrians killed under the age of 15.
  • Reduce the number of pedestrians injured under the age of 15.
  • Reduce the number of pedestrians killed over the age of 65.
  • Reduce the number of pedestrians injured over the age of 65.
  • Reduce the total number of bicyclists killed in traffic related crashes.
  • Reduce the total number of bicyclists injured in traffic related crashes.
  • Reduce the number of bicyclists killed in traffic related crashes under the age of 15.
  • Reduce the number of bicyclists injured in traffic related crashes under the age of 15.
  • Increase bicycle helmet compliance for children aged 5 to 18.

The grant program will run through September 2024.

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.