Legislative Update – March 4


It was just a year ago when toilet paper became the symbol of the pandemic (the question remains: wtf?) Everyone was making sourdough, then everyone had a Peloton, and 14 million puzzles/failed home improvement projects/streamed shows/mumblemumble pounds later…. Here we are. Facing down what might be the final few months of this experience.

And hey, have we told you how much we appreciate you lately? Because we do. Thanks for sticking with us and tolerating what we know are not the best jokes. As of Monday, it was estimated that one in seven Californians had been vaccinated. That light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting brighter.

We’re gearing up for our virtual Sacramento Summit, in place of our usual delegation trip. Skip the 7:30 flight to Sacramento, and jump on Zoom March 23-25 to hear from some of the biggest names in California, including GO-Biz Chief, Dee Dee Myers and Newsom’s new Chief of Staff, Jim DeBoo.

Business News

Be sure to register for our next Small Business Series webinar, taking place March 16 from 9-10:30 am, to stay up to speed with the latest state business incentives, changes to labor law and upcoming state legislation.

The San Diego Zoo is changing its name to the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance to incorporate its new mission. The pandemic (and two gorillas getting COVID) helped accelerate the shift to a more holistic approach to conservation, reflecting the relationship between people, wildlife and our shared ecosystem.

Chamber Boardmember Bank of America triples down on its commitment to affordable housing, investing $15 billion into needed initiatives.

Thermo Fisher has officially acquired Mesa Biotech for $450 million. Mesa Biotech was granted FDA emergency use authorization for its rapid COVID test.

Etsy reports that it made over $700 million in revenue from mask sales in 2020. Seriously.

In sad (but socially responsible) news, Comic-Con has announced it will be virtual again in 2021.

Chamber members Quidel received FDA emergency use authorization for their at home COVID-19 test on Monday, which delivers results in 10 minutes. As we continue the vaccine rollout, it could be a great tool as we start to return to in-person activities.

Legislative Update


The Johnson & Johnson vaccine, now widely known as the “J&J” shot was approved over the weekend for use by the FDA and is expected to add around 380k shots to California’s supply. Further, being just a single dose, many health experts see this as a huge opportunity to vaccinate harder to reach populations since it requires no scheduling and follow up for a second dose.

A Texas judge has ruled the eviction moratorium from the CDC unconstitutional. But as he did not issue an injunction (at least as of this writing), it doesn’t change much for landlords and renters. It remains to be seen how the Biden administration will respond.

Oink oink! After pretending that we didn’t intentionally steer federal money to certain issues/projects/areas as a way of negotiating Big Things, Democrat leadership has decided to bring the oft-panned “earmark” to the toolbox. This is coming after a 2011 ban in which the practice was technically prohibited, and everyone pretended like they believed it. (Not everyday you can use “oink” in a newsletter!)

Neera nearly nominated! Alas, the Biden administration announced Wednesday they would withdraw the Neera Tanden nomination to lead  the Office of Management and Budget. The short version of the story: be careful with your Twitter, y’all. You never know when that’s gonna come back around. Meanwhile, Xavier Becerra’s confirmation continues its tight-rope walk as the first vote for him was a deadlock in Senate Committee. It’s now being sent over to the full Senate for consideration.

Biden’s $1.9 trillion relief package passed the House this weekend and is off to the Senate. Tricky aspects of this legislative process have highlighted the role of the Senate parliamentarian (the congressional referee), who ruled against including a $15 federal minimum wage due to budget reconciliation limits. Centrists will have outsized influence on key stipulations in the bill, as most Republicans in the Senate are expected to vote against the package. Democrats hoped to get a bill to the president by March 14, when unemployment benefits are set to expire.

A four-hour hearing on telehealth legislation at a federal committee underscores that technology doesn’t fit neatly into legislative buckets and/or processes. It’s anticipated that later in 2021 a bill will be produced to update the 21st Century Cures Act. Read the coverage here.

President Biden has announced that all US adults will be vaccinated by the end of May.

The 2021 Report Card for America’s Infrastructure has been published. The Country is at a C-.


Presidents Biden and Lopez Obrador met virtually on Monday to advance joint efforts to address migration and advance development in Southern Mexico and Central America. Both Presidents reaffirmed their commitment to bilateral collaboration to fight the pandemic, reactivate our shared economy, and address climate change.


In Baja, the State Government announced the following changes to restrictions and precautionary measures following a statewide decrease of new COVID-19 cases:

  • Restaurants, retailers and hotels may operate at up to a 75% capacity including access to common areas.
  • Gyms, public pools, spas, and sport centers may operate at up to a 65% capacity.
  • Public transportation vehicles, museums, places of worship, public parks, theaters, and supermarkets may operate at up to a 50% capacity.
  • Hair salons may operate at up to a 50% capacity and by appointment only.
  • Sports events may take place with no audience present.
  • High-risk activities including bars, nightclubs, mass events and large gatherings remain prohibited until further notice.

Baja’s Secretariats of Health and Public Education are working on a pilot program to gradually reopen schools. The program would designate two educational institutions per municipality and implement a series of health protocols which include alternative schedules and prioritizing vaccines for school workers returning to classrooms. In addition, state authorities are currently evaluating San Diego’s vaccination approach to determine if Baja could implement a similar model and designate vaccine superstations to boost access to vaccines.

San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), in partnership with Caltrans and the Imperial County Transportation Commission, released the Impacts of Border Delays at California – Baja California Land Ports of Entry study (click here for the summary in Spanish). The report assesses the economic and climate impacts caused by border delays in our region including the estimated impacts of Otay Mesa East LPOE.

The U.S. Environmental and Protection Agency (EPA) held a public meeting last week and provided an update on the evaluation of infrastructure projects to support a comprehensive solution to transboundary pollution issues in our region, in accordance with the new trilateral agreement (USMCA). A copy of their presentation is available here.

Tourism passes are turning out to be a thing, with Greece and Israel running a test pilot for easier travel when you can prove that you’ve had a vaccine. The EU will consider a digital travel pass later this month.

The Chamber is proud to partner with the UK Government Office in San Diego to host our upcoming International Business Affairs Forum featuring a virtual presentation and roundtable discussion with Greg Hands MP, UK Trade Minister of State for Trade Policy. The meeting will take place on Thursday, March 18 at 9:00am and highlight the UK-San Diego trade and investment relationship and explore new opportunities that may arise from a new trade agreement between both countries. The event is free but registration is required.


Governor Newsom announced on Wednesday that 40% of the vaccine supply would be allocated to individuals living in specified zip codes as determined by the state’s Healthy Places Index. This is an effort to address equity in the distribution of the vaccines which hasn’t had the success the Governor was looking for as of yet. Once two million people in those zip codes (there’s about 8 million eligible) are vaccinated, the state will then adjust the eligibility requirements to move into the red tier- making it easier for counties to get there. And once four million of those are vaccinated, the state will ease requirements for orange and yellow tiers.

The state legislature voted on school reopening legislation (SB 86 & AB 86) today. The deal that was initially struck by the Governor and legislative leaders took heat from legislators following yet another tier change (see above) and the pressures they are getting from frustrated parents (one may be writing this right now), and teachers unions. Ultimately, it got unanimous support in the Senate and in the Assembly it was passed with overwhelming support.

As a number of cities and counties in California consider what is being called “hazard pay” for those workers who have remained in in-person jobs through the pandemic (generally grocery store and retail work), a judge has refused to block such a policy in the city of Long Beach, giving other jurisdictions who may have been on the fence a legal green light.

Governor Gavin Newsom will deliver his annual State of the State speech on March 9 at 6:00 pm, remotely from Los Angeles County. This is different from years past when it is typically delivered in February and in front of the State Legislature during the day.


San Diego was not included in the list of counties moving to the red tier this week. As of Tuesday, our adjusted case rate was 10.8 per 100,000 people, slightly higher than the 7.0 adjusted case rate needed to move into the red tier. We’re almost there!

The San Diego Public Library Foundation is looking for feedback on their Library Master Plan.  Help em out and take their survey

The California Department of Conservation is seeking public comment from residents and property owners on proposed changes to earthquake fault zones. Within the City of San Diego, the proposed maps identify regulatory zones from La Jolla to downtown San Diego that could impact development and real estate transactions. Comments must be submitted before May 19, 2021.

The San Diego City Council voted 8-1 to extend their emergency recall and retention ordinance for employees working in the service and hospitality industry which was set to expire on March 8. The ordinance will now be in place for another year.

On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously for the County’s chief administrative officer to help guide the board on distributing federal and state COVID relief funds. If the federal relief package passes, San Diego County can expect up to $652 million in federal funding.

San Diego has fully vaccinated 10% of all residents against COVID..only 90% to go.

On Wednesday, Chair Fletcher announced that San Diego County will allocate 20% of vaccine availability to teachers and staff instead of the state mandated 10%.

This was quite the busy week for the Board of Supervisors as they also voted 4-1 to receive more feedback on a cannabis equity program and industry regulations. County staff will now have six months to seek more input from stakeholders and will have to return in three months to provide a progress report on environmental and permitting issues.

Due to environmental concerns, the Board of Supervisors decided to delay their vote on moving forward with a proposed warehouse in El Cajon. The developer plans to lease the warehouse to Amazon, although no leases have officially been signed.

San Diego City Council meets Tuesday, March 9th. Agenda here. The County of San Diego Board of Supervisors will meet Tuesday as well. That agenda is not posted as of writing.

Capital Opportunities & Resources

  • FOUR new funding rounds have been made available for businesses from GO-Biz, with the first round opening up tomorrow, March 5. Details here.
  • Apply for your first or second PPP Loan now! Learn more here.
  • City of Oceanside COVID-19 small business grant program: Small businesses able to demonstrate a loss in profit caused by the COVID crisis can qualify for a grant of $1,000 to $7,5000. Learn more and apply here.
  • Applications for the County of San Diego’s 2021 Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) can be submitted starting Tuesday, March 2, 2021.The County’s ERAP 2021 serves all areas of the San Diego region except for the cities of San Diego and Chula Vista. Click here for more information on the County’s program or click here to check which program serves your area.
  • The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) is accepting applications for a small business hiring credit against California state income taxes or sales and use taxes. The credit (authorized by SB 1447) is available to certain California qualified small business employers that receive a tentative credit reservation. Learn more here.
  • The California Rebuilding Fund is offering small businesses with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees loans up to $100,000. Learn more and apply here.
  • The County’s Small Business Stimulus Grant Program is accepting additional applications. Eligible businesses must have fewer than 100 full-time employees and are following sectors (restaurant, gym fitness center, yoga studio, movie theater, museum, zoo, or aquarium) that were impacted by moving from the Red to Purple Tier OR part of the event industry. Learn more and apply here.
  • City of San Diego Temporary Outdoor Business Operations Permit – Businesses (restaurants, retail stores, gyms, hair salons, nail salons) can now expand into the public right-of-way, parking lots, and public spaces. Information on how to apply for a Temporary Outdoor Business Operations Permit can be found here.
  • Businesses can reach out to their nearest Small Business Development Center (SBDC), which has developed the Small Business Survival Resources Guide to help business owners navigate through the chaos COVID-19 is having on our communities. SBDC can help with applying for relief, guiding you through available resources, and assisting with cash flow concerns, supply-chain interruptions, workforce capacity, insurance coverage, and more–all at no cost.
  • The State Treasurer’s Office has published this list of Federal, State, Local, Private, and Non-profit resources available to small businesses.