California lawmakers break with Newsom, order audit of state worker return to office policy

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Good morning and welcome to the A.M. Alert!

FIRST UP — Please take a minute to fill out our newsletter reader survey. Thank you so much!


The California State Auditor’s Office is set to scrutinize Gov. Gavin Newsom’s controversial “Return to Office” (RTO) policy, after the Joint Legislative Audit Committee voted unanimously to give it the green light.

In April, Newsom issued the order demanding that state agencies and departments produce a hybrid telework policy that includes mandatory in-office days, beginning June 17.

The audit will study “the rationale, timing, legality, and costs associated with the decision to rescind telework privileges for state employees,” according to the office of Assemblyman Josh Hoover, R-Folsom, who proposed the audit.

“The decision to force state employees back to the office is harmful and counterproductive,” Hoover said in a statement. “I am grateful for the support of my colleagues on my audit to further study the effectiveness of telework policies that allow the state to remain competitive with the private sector.

“I urge the Governor to reconsider his RTO mandate, at least until the results of the audit are made available,” Hoover said.

His office noted that the state, cash-crunched as it is, could find significant savings from continuing to allow employees to work remotely. The state spends more than $600 million a year on rent to maintain more than 2,000 leases on privately owned buildings, and also manages 59 of its own office buildings.

”We have significant work to do to revitalize downtown Sacramento,” Hoover said. “Adding housing, addressing homelessness, and spurring economic development must all be part of the solution. But it should not be done on the backs of state workers.”


Former Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, on Wednesday joined forces to issue a joint condemnation of an upcoming ballot measure that they call a “sneak attack” on state housing laws.

The initiative, which qualified for the ballot last July, would prohibit the state government from limiting local governments’ ability to set rent control laws.

Opponents say that this is a backdoor effort to try and let wealthy coastal communities get out of having to build affordable housing.

“Those of us who have been on the front lines trying to help Californians find safe housing they can afford know that this initiative is as deceptive as it is dangerous,” Atkins said in a statement.

Atkins called the initiative “one giant loophole’ that would erase decades of progress.

“All I can say is don’t be fooled. The only way to guarantee the strides we made on housing are protected is for the initiative proponent to remove it off of the ballot,” Atkins said.

Wicks warned that the measure will “end housing production in California full stop.”

“We will not end the housing crisis unless we build millions of new homes at all levels of affordability. We’ve passed critical new laws to streamline housing construction, protect tenants, and give working families access to affordable, transit-friendly homes, all of which will be in jeopardy if this ballot measure passes,” she said.

The ballot measure is being promoted by Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.

“The Justice for Renters ballot measure is 23 words: ‘The state may not limit the right of any city, county, or city and county to maintain, enact or expand residential rent control.’ Everyone can read for themselves exactly what it says and means. Any claim to the contrary is categorically false,” said AIDS Healthcare Foundation spokeswoman Jacki Schechner in a statement.

The initiative, which has qualified for the ballot, will go before voters this November unless it is pulled by its proponent.


“This year, more than 40 states have introduced over 500 bills that block transgender people from receiving basic health care, education, legal recognition, and the right to publicly exist. As these bans on crucial services like health care go into effect, California must be prepared to provide this vital care and serve as a beacon of hope to LGBTQ+ and transgender communities experiencing this discrimination and cruelty.”

- Assemblyman Rick Chavez Zbur, D-Hollywood, in a statement discussing his bill, AB 2442, to increase access to gender-affirming medical care passing in an Assembly floor vote and moving to the Senate.

Best of The Bee: