On the advice of public health officials and in compliance with an executive order from Governor Gavin Newsom, the Executive Committee of the California Taxpayers Association announced this morning that the association will hold its 94th Annual Meeting later this month via telephone conference call, with no in-person attendance.

“Through 94 years, CalTax has continued fighting for taxpayers while overcoming unexpected challenges,” CalTax President Robert Gutierrez said. “Together, CalTax and its members made it through the Great Depression, World War II, terrorist attacks and much more – now, we will make it through a pandemic by adapting, taking precautions and watching out for the health of our communities.”

Gutierrez said the association has been in regular contact with local public health officials as COVID-19 spread, and those officials originally advised CalTax to move forward with the in-person event. That advice changed this week, however, when the spread of the virus was declared a pandemic. Health officials now recommend that conferences and other events be postponed.

Newsom issued an executive order March 12 stating that gatherings should be postponed or canceled across the state until at least the end of March. “Non-essential gatherings must be limited to no more than 250 people, while smaller events can proceed only if the organizers can implement social distancing of 6 feet per person,” the governor stated. “Gatherings of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19 should be limited to no more than 10 people, while also following social distancing guidelines.”

The governor’s order also delays the deadline for state tax income tax filing by 60 days for individuals and businesses unable to file on time “based on compliance with public health requirements related to COVID-19 filings.”

“Each of us has extraordinary power to slow the spread of this disease,” Newsom said. “Not holding that concert or community event can have cascading effects – saving dozens of lives and preserving critical health care resources that your family may need a month from now. The people in our lives who are most at risk – seniors and those with underlying health conditions – are depending on all of us to make the right choice.”

This is the first time in CalTax’s 94 years that the association has had to eliminate in-person attendance at the Annual Meeting. Until this year, the largest change to the event had been in 1972, when the 46th Annual Meeting was rescheduled by five days to accommodate the schedule of the only speaker on the agenda (John Veneman, undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare).

In related news:

Lawmaker Asks FTB and EDD to Adjust Deadlines. Assembly Member Phil Ting is asking the Franchise Tax Board and Employment Development Department to adjust state tax deadlines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a letter to FTB Executive Officer Selvi Stanislaus and EDD Director Sharon Hilliard, Ting wrote: “On March 11, 2020, the White House announced that it would instruct the U.S. Treasury Department ‘to defer tax payments, without interest or penalties, for certain individuals and businesses negatively impacted’ by the coronavirus pandemic. I respectfully request that your departments utilize your existing statutory authority to adjust state tax deadlines, interest, and penalties to match the federal government’s relief actions – or, if needed, to provide even greater relief for affected individuals and businesses in California.”

CDTFA Pledges Assistance During 60-Day Window. The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration added this statement to its website this week: “During the 60-day window specified in the Governor’s COVID-19 Executive Order, CDTFA has been able to make it easier for taxpayers to request relief. They can go through our normal online process, they can send a letter, or call our call center at 1-800-400-7115.”

Legislature Considering Options for Public Meetings. The governor’s order allows local or state legislative bodies to hold meetings via teleconference and to make meetings accessible electronically, but legislative leaders are still weighing their options. While some committee hearings have been canceled in the wake of the pandemic, many others are being held.

In a March 12 social media post, Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins said COVID-19 “remains serious and fluid,” and the Legislature “is assessing the situation on a constant basis, ensuring that we approach it with clarity, calmness, and, above all, science.”

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon said in a March 12 statement: “My staff and I are committed to strong and targeted response. In cooperation with the Senate and Governor, at this time we are continuing to carry out the legislative business of California, with the aim of protecting the physical health and well-being of all Californians. Science and calm are the keys to an appropriate response, and we will attempt to use those as our guide.”

Atkins and Rendon also issued a joint statement to legislators and Capitol staff urging them to “assess and modify your event schedules and consider alterations to meet the new public health parameters.”

“This is a time not to shy away from our work, but to be creative in the ways we interact with constituents, so that they continue to receive the support, resources, tools and information they need and deserve from their state government,” Atkins and Rendon wrote.

Split-Roll Proponents Make Light of COVID-19 Pandemic in Campaign Message. In a message posted on Twitter, Schools & Communities First – the campaign supporting the split-roll initiative on the November ballot – used the spread of COVID-19 to support the proposed $12 billion-a-year tax increase. The post read: “One way we can stop the spread of illnesses is by washing your hands! Here’s a #SchoolsAndCommunitiesFirst guide to keeping germs and corporate greed away.” The message was paired with a meme giving illustrations of recommended hand-washing technique, accompanied by statements including: “Corporations have been exploiting property tax loopholes.”

The campaign posted a follow-up message that provided official government health guidance, prompting one responder to ask: “Posted the real guidelines after you realized your post is smarmy?”

Lawmakers Postpone Campaign Fundraisers. In an apparent response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many lawmakers canceled campaign fundraising events. Today’s Capitol Morning Report – a publication that focuses on state politics and includes daily notices of political fundraisers – notes that all four of the legislative fundraisers that had been planned for this weekend have been cancelled or postponed.

Senator Proposes Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures. Senator Scott Wiener on March 12 urged the state and federal governments “to immediately place an emergency moratorium on evictions – for both renters and businesses – as well as home foreclosures.”

The San Francisco Democrat added: “As we move through the COVID-19 emergency, people must be able to focus on our community’s health – slowing the virus’s spread – and not on economic survival. Yet, more and more California workers and businesses are being forced to choose between protecting public health and paying the mortgage or rent. In addition, many businesses have seen their revenue go off a cliff. … We’re all in this together, and as we move through this emergency, we need to support each other and give people leeway to focus exclusively on keeping healthy.”

Press Club Postpones Panel Discussion Featuring Lawmakers and Others. The Sacramento Press Club announced March 12 that it has postponed a March 30 luncheon discussion about Assembly Bill 5, the controversial new law that redefines who is considered an employee vs. an independent contractor in California. The meeting was to have featured Assembly Members Lorena Gonzalez and Vince Fong, along with California Labor Federation Executive Secretary-Treasurer Art Pulaski and California Business Roundtable President Rob Lapsley.

“We hope to reschedule it as public health concerns permit,” the Press Club wrote in a notice to members.