Essential California: Becerra’s nomination hearings and more in the week ahead

President Joe Biden, right, and Vice President Kamala Harris, left, listen to Xavier Becerra, on screen
President Biden, right, and Vice President Kamala Harris, left, listen to California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra, on screen, in December. Becerra has been nominated by Biden to serve as secretary of Health and Human Services.
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

Good morning, and welcome to the Essential California newsletter. It’s Monday, Feb. 22, and here’s a quick look at the week ahead:

California Atty. Gen. Xavier Becerra’s nomination to serve as the country’s top health official will be considered in the Senate this week, with committee hearings on Tuesday and Wednesday. Becerra’s path to confirmation as the next secretary of Health and Human Services is not expected to be easy.

[See also: “How Republicans plan to sink Xavier Becerra’s nomination” in the Los Angeles Times]

Also Tuesday: The Senate will hold a hearing to examine the security failures during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, with testimony from the former chief of the Capitol Police and the former sergeants-at-arms for the House and Senate. Those security failures will also be examined in a House hearing on Thursday.

The Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, begins Thursday. Expect plenty of headlines out of Orlando on Sunday, when former President Trump is expected to make his first post-presidential appearance at the nation’s preeminent conference of conservatives.


Also Sunday: The Golden Globes will air as a bicoastal telecast for the first time, hosted by Tina Fey in New York and Amy Poehler in Los Angeles.

And now, here’s what’s happening across California:

Speaking of the Golden Globes: The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. — a tiny group of international journalists that wields outsize power as the arbiter of one of Hollywood’s most important awards — is in tumult over member accusations of self-dealing and ethical lapses. An investigation from my colleagues Stacy Perman and Josh Rottenberg finds that the nonprofit HFPA regularly issues substantial payments to its members in ways that some experts say could skirt IRS guidelines. In response to questions, the HFPA said in a statement, “none of these allegations has ever been proven in court or in any investigation.” Los Angeles Times

No quick path to reopening L.A. Unified is emerging as the school year slips away: Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new plan to vaccinate school staff more quickly does little to move campuses toward reopening in Los Angeles, where the teachers union remains opposed until community infection rates drop further and vaccines take full effect for returning workers — calling into question whether a robust return to in-person instruction is possible before the end of the school year. Los Angeles Times

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L.A. County continues to see a decline in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Orange County has reported similar trends. Los Angeles Times

[See also: “New optimism that COVID-19 is finally dwindling as L.A. gains some herd immunity” in the Los Angeles Times]

Before far-right UCLA student stormed Capitol, he faced a furor over incendiary tweets. Long before he was arrested for his alleged role in the U.S. Capitol riot, the 22-year-old had stirred up tensions over free speech at UCLA. Los Angeles Times

A TV news screenshot of a young man in a red hat in front of a very official looking Senate desk.
UCLA student Christian Secor was captured on video camera inside the Senate chambers sitting at the presiding officer’s chair, after a pro-Trump mob broke into the Capitol.
(U.S. District Court)

Remembering the glorious disco days of Flipper’s roller rink: “The skate center was L.A.’s answer to Studio 54—on wheels.” Los Angeles Magazine

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Since the California speaker rose to power, corporate money has flowed to nonprofits tied to his wife. In the years since Anthony Rendon became speaker of the California Assembly, nonprofits associated with his wife, Annie Lam, received more than $500,000 in donations and event sponsorships from dozens of companies with business before the Legislature. Sacramento Bee

A “low-cost” plan for the California bullet train brings $800 million in overruns, big delays: Seven years after awarding a low-bid high-speed rail contract to a Spanish firm, California is paying for that decision in delays and cost overruns in the San Joaquin Valley. Los Angeles Times


U.S. death toll from COVID-19 approaches 500,000. A year into the pandemic, the running total of U.S. lives lost was about 498,000 — roughly the population of Kansas City, Mo., and just shy of the size of Atlanta. Associated Press


San Francisco’s much-discussed school renamings are now on hold. The school board president made the announcement in a Sunday op-ed, writing “reopening will be our only focus until our children and young people are back in schools.” San Francisco Chronicle

The entire board of an East Bay school district has resigned, after a very public hot mic moment. Unaware that the meeting was already being broadcast, they had joked that parents pushing school reopenings just wanted “their babysitters back” and to be able to smoke pot in their homes without their kids present. Mercury News

Julian Araujo, a 19-year-old Galaxy player, uses his soccer fortunes to give back to the people working in fields around his hometown of Lompoc. “I made a decision that when I was a professional, I would use my platform to show support for farmworkers and amplify struggles they face.” Los Angeles Times

A poem to to start your week: “For the Sake of Strangers” by Dorianne Laux. Poetry Foundation

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Los Angeles: sunny, 79. San Diego: sunny, 73. San Francisco: sunny, 64. San Jose: sunny, 72. Fresno: sunny, 72. Sacramento: still sunny, 70.


This week’s birthdays for those who made a mark in California:

Actor Edward James Olmos (Feb. 24, 1947), former Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey (Feb. 27, 1957) and architect Frank Gehry (Feb. 28, 1929).

If you have a memory or story about the Golden State, share it with us. (Please keep your story to 100 words.)

Please let us know what we can do to make this newsletter more useful to you. Send comments, complaints, ideas and unrelated book recommendations to Julia Wick. Follow her on Twitter @Sherlyholmes.