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California lawmakers lead charge against climate change, gun violence in 2023 session

Among thousands of bills this session, lawmakers have prioritized new ways to tackle the root causes behind climate change and gun violence.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Thousands of bills have been introduced in the California Legislature, and with the deadline to bring new business past it appears gun control, climate change and transparency top the list of priorities for lawmakers.

Climate change 

Legislators have proposed multiple ways to tackle climate change, including increasing corporate transparency of emissions reporting and public education about the effects of a warming climate. 

Senate Bill 12 seeks to update the California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, which designated the California Air Resources Board as the agency charged with monitoring and regulating sources of emissions of greenhouse gasses. SB 12 would instead require the board to ensure that all greenhouse gas emissions are reduced to at least 55% below the 1990 level by no later than Dec. 31, 2030 — upending the current goal of cutting emissions to at least 40% below the 1990 level by that date. 

Senate Bill 253 would require the California Air Resources Board to require corporations, limited liability companies and other entities doing business in California with annual revenues topping $1 million to publicly disclose their greenhouse gas emissions annually by 2025. Dubbed the Climate Corporate Data Accountability Act, it would require the board to review and update deadlines to evaluate trends in emissions reporting beginning in 2030. 

Eyeing hydrogen as a replacement for fossil fuels, Assembly Bill 321 would require the state to consider establishing procurement goals for renewable hydrogen, and requiring each gas corporation and core transport agent to annually procure a share of renewable hydrogen to meet those goals. The bill would require making specific findings before establishing renewable hydrogen procurement targets.

And Assembly Bill 285 proposes requiring schools to ensure that science courses include an emphasis on the causes and effects of climate change, and include methods to mitigate and adapt to it. The bill would require coursework including this material by no later than the 2024–2025 school year. 

Gun control

Numerous bills around the sale and use of firearms are before lawmakers this session. For example, Senate Bill 2 would enhance the existing licensing system by ensuring those permitted to carry firearms in public are “law abiding," setting a minimum age requirement of 21 years of age to obtain a concealed carry license, advancing stronger training requirements and identifying public places where people should expect freedom from gun violence.

Assembly Bills 92 and 301 look to make it a felony for anyone to use a firearm and body armor to commit a violent crime. Assembly Bill 92 would make it a misdemeanor for any person to purchase or possess body armor unless they are employed in specified professions. 

Assembly Bill 97 looks to change existing law requiring anyone who assembles, manufactures or possesses an unserialized firearm to obtain a unique serial number from the state Department of Justice and to inscribe it on the firearm. The bill would update the law to show that violating this requirement is punishable as a felony, not just a misdemeanor. 

And Senate Bill 241 would update existing law, which prohibits anyone from selling, leasing or transferring a firearm unless the person is licensed as a firearms dealer. SB 241 would require a licensee and any employees that handle firearms to annually complete specified training, and require the state Department of Justice to develop and implement an online training course, including a testing certification component. 

Governor Gavin Newsom, Attorney General Rob Bonta and Senator Anthony Portantino announced these bills this month after multiple mass shootings rocked the state over a short period of time.

Newsom speaks to a crowd in Sacramento, Calif. at his second swearing in. (Screenshot via Courthouse News)

“America is number 1 in gun ownership and we far surpass every developed nation on Earth in gun deaths — it’s not complicated,” Newsom said. “In California, we’ve passed common sense gun safety laws and they work: we have a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average. We’re doubling down on gun safety and strengthening our public carry law to protect it from radical Republican attacks.”

Last year, Newsom signed a package of gun safety laws making it easier to sue manufacturers of illegal assault weapons and irresponsible gun industry members, strengthening prohibitions on ghost guns and restricting marketing to minors.


Assembly Bill 315 seeks to prohibit people doing business in California, who intend to perform a pregnancy-related service, from advertising using false or misleading statements about whether they can provide an abortion or not. It seeks to limit so-called “pregnancy crisis centers” which do not offer abortion but may advertise their business misleadingly, by making this an unfair business practice and authorizing the attorney general, a district attorney or a city attorney to seek an injunction or civil penalties.

And Senate Bill 354 seeks to increase media access to prisons and jails across California, challenging a longstanding policy in the Golden State since the 1990s. 

It would require the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and all county and city jails to permit journalists to tour a facility or interview prisoners in person, and prohibit retaliation against an incarcerated person for communicating with a member of the news media. The bill would also require all correctional facilities and county jails to allow state officials to visit at any time and meet with incarcerated people upon request “in order to provide policymakers with the information they need for effective oversight.”

General population inmates walk in a line at San Quentin State Prison in San Quentin, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

“The news media plays a vital role in providing information to the public and policymakers about how our government operates," state Senator Nancy Skinner, a Democrat from Berkeley and the bill's author, said in a statement. "California used to allow the news media much greater access to state prisons, enabling us to learn more about prison conditions. But for the past three decades, California prisons have been among the least transparent in the nation.”

Brittney Barsotti, general counsel of California News Publishers Association, agrees. “Increasing media access to jails and prisons is critical for transparency,” Barsotti said. “Current regulations are so onerous that there is no meaningful access. This bill will ensure access that is necessary to shine a light on what occurs inside our jails and prisons. We cannot afford to be behind states like Florida when it comes to transparency.”

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