After a four-month sabbatical, state legislators returned to Sacramento Monday for a new session that will be dominated by several seemingly contradictory factors.

On the negative side, California is once again dealing with a surge of COVID-19, this one caused by a particularly virulent variant called Omicron, that creates thorny issues, such as whether public schools serving 6 million kids can remain open. Californians’ angst over the pandemic’s impacts is magnified by rising public fears over crime, particularly homicides and other violent crime.

Crime and disease threaten an economy that is still struggling to recover from earlier pandemic surges, which erased more than two million jobs and shuttered countless small businesses, particularly restaurants. While employment is slowly increasing, the state still has the nation’s highest unemployment rate, 6.9% in November.

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