End of Session Legislative Recap – 9/13/2021
The legislative session adjourned Saturday around 9pm for both houses. In nearly 2 decades of working around the Capitol I can’t remember a session ending as calmly and quickly as this one…usually we are burning the midnight oil and pushing right up to the finish line. Past years have also seen incredible inter-house and inter-party dynamics, explosive negotiations and hostage-taking of bills between the houses, and of course the infamous “menstrual blood” incident in 2019….it’s actually kind of nice to be home at a decent hour on the last night of session. I’ll take one of these every decade or so!
We ended quietly and quickly in part because major legislative proposals were shelved in the final weeks of session in the interest of not “rocking the boat” too much with a pending recall election on Tuesday (Sept 14th). The Democratic majority bent over backward to work with the Governor’s office to hold a significant number of policies that could have reflected on the election. Couple this with limiting legislation to 12 bills per Member in the second house and it all added up to far less drama than usual.
The Governor now has until Oct 10th to act on all the policy measures sent to his desk in the final two weeks of session. I don’t anticipate any additional action on this front until AFTER the recall on Tuesday. Also, a reminder that it took 38 days to certify the election when Gray Davis was recalled before Arnold Schwarzenegger was sworn in. Under a similar timeline, even if Governor Newsom is recalled he will be the one acting on all 2021 legislation between now and Oct 10th before his replacement takes office.
Last night was also the last time session will be conducted with lobbyists (and clients) on the third floor of the annex working the “back gate”…..the Legislature is slated to move into the swing space on the corner of 10th and O in October. Shortly thereafter, the Legislative annex will be torn down and we will begin construction of a new modern facility designed to meet the needs of legislators, staff, and members of the public. If you had not heard about this before, or need a reminder, you can find more information here: https://annex.assembly.ca.gov/ The timeline for construction will be 3-4 years and will provide a major facelift to California’s Capitol.
I’ve assembled some information from news clips below to provide a highlight of end-of-session action. Although these policy items may not be exclusively in your lane line, we are all people with kids, elderly parents, concerns about public safety, education, housing costs, retirement, wildfires, and general quality of life. Sometimes it’s easy to focus on our specific sponsored bill or policy area and we forget the vast expanse of policy the legislature engages in every year that touches us all.
Please let me know if you have specific questions on anything I haven’t covered. It’s been my pleasure to work with you so far this year, and I’m looking forward to many more!
The Democratic-held Legislature passed roughly 900 bills this year and delayed hundreds of others until next year.
In a rare early finish, both chambers wrapped up their business before 9 p.m. The low-drama adjournment was in stark contrast to the past two years, which saw a menstrual cup tossed from the Senate gallery in 2019 and chaos stemming from tech issues and quarantined lawmakers in 2020.
Legislative leaders touted bills on police reform, drought and wildfire preparedness and a massive state budget surplus which funds progress toward universal pre-K, expanded health care coverage for undocumented immigrants, and projects to prepare for climate impacts like sea-level rise.
“It’s huge,” said Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego). “I think we’ve delivered for Californians at a time when the need was at an all-time high and a pandemic and uncertainty reigned supreme.”
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said legislators made “tremendous strides” toward meeting goals on police reform, access to broadband, and other priorities but acknowledged “more work to do” in 2022. The end of the legislative session came days before voting ends in a special recall election that will determine the political fate of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Rendon and Atkins both denied that the election played a role in which bills were successful. But Atkins said there may be an appetite among lawmakers to revisit the process to qualify a recall, which currently requires signatures from voters equal to 12% of those who voted in the most recent statewide election.
“We’ve heard that people want change and we in the Legislature will take a look at that,” she said.
Here are a handful of bills passed in the final days of the legislative session.
Senate Bill 2: The most closely watched police reform bill in the wake of George Floyd’s killing and racial justice protests in 2020, Senate Bill 2 would create a process for law enforcement officers to lose their badges if convicted of crimes or some forms of misconduct. In certain circumstances, such as if an officer is convicted of wrongful death, the bill would remove immunity protections, which shield public employees from civil lawsuits.
“Police have one of the most difficult jobs on the planet,” author Sen. Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) said in a statement after it was passed. “A decertification system puts California back on track to restoring communities’ faith in men and women of uniform who do their job well.”
Other bills in the police reform realm include Assembly Bill 48, which bars police from using tear gas and “less-lethal” projectiles on protestors.
Assembly Bill 118, known as the CRISES Act, would create a pilot program for cities or counties to shift certain emergency response calls from law enforcement to community-based organizations.
State Sen. Sydney Kamlager, a Los Angeles Democrat who authored the bill, has argued that having community members and trained mental health professionals respond to issues involving mental health crises and unhoused individuals would reduce violent conflicts with law enforcement. If signed into law, the bill would provide grants of at least $250,000 to communities to pilot the program.
Assembly Bill 9: AB 9 would create a new state workforce to handle wildfire prevention responsibilities, including forest-thinning, prescribed burns and home-hardening. Right now, Cal Fire is largely responsible for handling prevention efforts — in addition to suppressing fires.
“Year after year, even though we have increased our firefighting force and resources, wildfire prevention work has had to take a back seat because our resources have been needed virtually full time to fight fires,” said Democratic Assemblyman Jim Wood, who authored the bill, in a statement.
Experts widely agree that decades of prioritizing fire suppression over forest management resulted in overgrown wildlands primed to burn out of control. To reverse this trend, they advocate for substantially ramping up forest-thinning and prescribed burning. California has entered into an agreement with the federal government to collectively treat 1 million acres of forestland per year — a target they remain well short of.
Senate Bill 62 bans piece-rate garment production, where garment workers are paid for each piece of clothing produced. Many advocates say it results in below-minimum wage earnings for those workers.
In a win for warehouse workers, the Legislature also approved Assembly Bill 701, which would prevent companies like Amazon from imposing quotas that interfere with an employee’s ability to use the restroom or take meal breaks.
Senate Bill 742: Following a protest that caused a Los Angeles COVID-19 mass vaccination clinic to shut down earlier this year, pediatrician and state Sen. Richard Pan proposed SB 742. The bill would make it a misdemeanor to intimidate, harass or obstruct patients and workers leaving or entering a vaccine site, punishable by a fine up to $1,000 and six months in jail.
Senate Bill 98: This bill would affirm journalists’ right to attend and cover protests, rallies and other events, even in an area that has been closed by law enforcement. It would prevent police from detaining, arresting or citing news media for failing to disperse. It comes after several California journalists were detained at protests, particularly in Southern California, in 2020.
A pair of housing bills that were a major priority for Senate Democratic leadership were approved before the final week of the session. The bills, part of a housing package put forth by Atkins, would reduce barriers for new affordable housing by allowing for denser housing like duplexes and multi-units to be built on single-family lots.
Senate Bill 9 would allow homeowners to split their lots and build additional units, including duplexes, on lots zoned only for single-family housing.
Senate Bill 10 would allow cities to zone for up to 10 housing units per parcel in urban areas or places close to transit, if they choose.
Defeated or Delayed Until 2022
Climate proposal Assembly Bill 1395 suffered a resounding defeat on the final day of the legislative session. The bill would have set a goal for the state to reach net-zero emissions by 2045. Many moderate Democrats did not vote on the bill and it failed without adequate support.
Hundreds of other bills were delayed until next year under a designation known as a “two-year bill,” meaning they will be taken back up in the second year of the Legislative session in 2022.
Among them are proposals to decriminalize certain hallucinogenic drugs, ban fossil fuel extraction within a certain distance from homes and develop resilience hubs, or places where community members can gather to escape climate disasters like heat waves and wildfires.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — California lawmakers finished their work for the 2021 legislative session Friday night, just four days before voting concludes in a statewide recall election targeting Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.
Whatever the outcome of the recall election, Newsom will likely still have the final say on the hundreds of bills the Legislature put on his desk in the past two weeks. Even if Newsom were to lose the election, by the time his successor took office the deadline for signing or vetoing legislation will have passed.
Bills that have passed must be reviewed by the governor before becoming law, unless otherwise noted. Here’s a look at what passed — and what failed — in the California Legislature this year.
Two bills passed that would make it easier to build small apartment buildings in areas where only single-family homes are allowed. The goal is to address a housing shortage in the nation’s most populous state. A group of 241 cities have urged Newsom to veto one bill because it would bypass local zoning laws, with some exceptions.
Two other high-profile housing bills didn’t make it. The bills would have made it easier to turn abandoned shopping malls into apartment buildings. Both bills passed the Senate but did not get a vote in the Assembly.
A bill passed that could make California the first state to pay people struggling with drug addiction to stay sober. The treatment, known as “contingency management,” pays people as little as $2 for every negative drug test over the course of a few weeks. The federal government has been doing it for years with military veterans, and research shows it is one of the most effective treatments for drugs like methamphetamine and cocaine.
But bills that would have legalized some psychedelic drugs and given opioid users a place to inject drugs while supervised failed to pass this year. Sen. Scott Wiener, the author of both bills, said he will try again next year.
Lawmakers approved a bill that would end the careers of bad cops by preventing them from getting hired at other law enforcement agencies. The bill would create a mandatory new license for law enforcement officers. A new disciplinary board could permanently revoke someone’s license with a two-thirds vote. The Legislature also approved barring police from arresting anyone for loitering with the intent to engage in prostitution, following a debate over whether the move would help or harm sex trafficking victims. But Sen. Scott Wiener then used a procedural move to withhold his bill from the governor’s consideration until next year, saying supporters need more time to make their case about why it’s a good idea.
Jaywalking would be decriminalized under another bill that passed, eliminating a crime that Democratic lawmakers said is arbitrarily enforced against people of color.
California would set statewide standards for law enforcement’s use of rubber bullets and chemical irritants during protests under another of the many criminal justice bills considered by lawmakers.
But a bill that would have overhauled California’s cash bail system failed to pass this year. The bill’s demise comes one year after voters blocked a law that would have ended cash bail in favor of risk assessments.
Low-income people who are 50 and older and living in the country illegally can now get their health care bills paid for by taxpayers. Lawmakers also made it easier for older people eligible for Medicaid by eliminating an asset requirement that disqualified many people 65 and over. Newsom signed both proposals into law as part of the state budget.
California public schools and colleges would have to stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under another bill that passed.
But a proposal that sought to make health care less expensive for everyone in California failed to pass this year. Newsom had wanted to create a new “Office of Health Care Affordability,” which would have the power to regulate health care prices.
Lawmakers passed a bill that would make ethnic studies a requirement to graduate high school in California. Newsom vetoed a similar bill last year because he thought the model curriculum was “insufficiently balanced.”
California became the third state to approve reparations of about $25,000 a person for those who were sterilized against their will. The program targets people sterilized under the state’s eugenics laws that sought to weed out undesirable traits by sterilizing people with mental illnesses and other issues. The state also agreed to pay women the state coerced into getting sterilized while in prison. Newsom signed that into law as part of the state budget.
Lawmakers also moved to allow the return of prime beachfront property to descendants of a Black couple who were stripped of their Bruce’s Beach resort for African Americans amid racist harassment in the city of Manhattan Beach a century ago.
California is the first state to approve a statewide guaranteed income plan. Newsom signed into law a $35 million plan designed to give monthly cash payments to qualifying pregnant people and young adults who recently left foster care with no restrictions on how they can spend it.
STIMULUS CHECKS AND RENTAL DEBT
Lawmakers approved, and Newsom signed, a plan to send stimulus checks of up to $1,000 to more California adults. Lawmakers also agreed to use federal money to pay off 15 months worth of people’s unpaid rent.
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