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SACRAMENTO — The weekend before California shuttered its Capitol building, Senate leader Toni Atkins spent hours on the phone ― taking the roles of a student learning from epidemiologists and a legislator discussing with colleagues how the country’s most populous state should respond to the COVID-19 crisis.

Like many lawmakers from New York to Washington state, Atkins and her fellow Sacramento legislators find themselves in uncharted territory.

Legislative sessions are on hold. Sweeping initiatives are shelved. State budgets are already squeezed by massive spending on COVID-19.

On March 19, Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order in a bid to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus. There is no end

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