SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) – California Governor Gavin Newsom capped his first legislative session as governor with a weekend bill-signing that included legislation meant to improve students’ health and grades by giving them more time to sleep before school.
The law signed Sunday bars California middle schools from starting before 8 a.m., while high schools can’t start before 8:30 a.m. The requirements extend to public and charter schools and must be in place by July 2022 at the latest.
The proposal by state Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-Pasadena, was based on research by the American Academy of Pediatricians showing that teenagers need nearly 10 hours of sleep per night and that later start times have the potential to boost health, academic performance and attendance.
“Today, Governor Newsom displayed a heartwarming and discerning understanding of the importance of objective research and exercised strong leadership as he put our children’s health and welfare ahead of institutional bureaucracy resistant to change,” Portantino said in a statement.
The change could affect a large portion of California’s over 3 million middle school and high school students, as the average start time for teenagers is 8:07 a.m. According to data cited in the bill’s analysis, just 21% of schools start at or after 8:30, while 30% hold their first class before 8:00.
Senate Bill 328 exempts rural school districts and so-called “zero periods,” and allows smaller school districts that do not receive state funding for average daily attendance to still hold earlier classes for a limited number of students. Supporters included the Academy of Pediatricians, the California Medical Association and the California State Parent Teacher Association.
But the later start times won’t sit well with many California educators: The California Teachers Association and a range of the state’s largest school districts opposed the bill, claiming it takes away local control.
“Determining school schedules is a decision that even more than most should reflect specific conditions and be decided locally, not from Sacramento,” said the Elk Grove Unified School District in an opposition letter.
Former Gov. Jerry Brown agreed with the opposition that start times should be handled at the local level when he vetoed the same proposal last year.
Portantino thanked the new governor for giving his proposal a fresh look.
“When I heard the good news, I literally got choked up because of the overwhelming positive impact this will have on our children and for the deep appreciation for everyone who took this journey together,” said the former television producer and member of the California Film Commission.
In addition to later school start times, Newsom approved legislation that will cap interest rates on “payday” loans.
Assembly Bill 539 will prohibit lenders from charging outrageous interest rates – sometimes as high as 200% – with a 36% interest cap on loans between $2,500 and $10,000.
Proponents said the government has a duty and interest in protecting low-income Californians lacking the financial literacy to understand the risks involved with taking out loans with such steep interest rates. Critics said lawmakers were dealing a critical blow to the payday industry and ending the last accessible credit line for hundreds of thousands if not millions of Californians.
No more fur
California will become the first state to ban the sale of new fur products under legislation signed Saturday. Assembly Bill 44 exempts used fur products and goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2023.
“Today, California became the most compassionate state in America. The governor has signed a bill that will end the suffering of countless animals due to the senseless cruelty of the fur industry,” said Marc Ching in a statement, founder of Animal Hope in Legislation.
And no smoking – but privacy, please
Newsom approved a smoking and vaping ban at California state parks and beaches after it was vetoed twice by his predecessor. He also inked a consumer privacy proposal that will require businesses to notify consumers of compromised passport numbers and biometric information.
Newsom rejected over 170 bills this session, including a proposal that would have allowed the city of San Francisco to charge tourists for driving down historic Lombard Street. The former mayor of San Francisco said he was worried that the fee would prevent people from accessing the iconic, winding street.
The Democratic governor signed a total of 870 bills this year, including a variety of bills that grabbed national headlines. He gave his signature to a range high-profile bills, from stricter police use-of-force laws, a landmark gig-economy labor law, a $21 billion wildfire insurance policy for the state’s embattled utilities and rules that will allow student athletes to take paid endorsements.
“I want to take a moment to congratulate the Legislature on their work this year and to thank Senate President pro Tempore Toni Atkins and Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon for their leadership. Together, we have accomplished a great deal this year – through the budget and legislation – that helps California families get ahead and tackles some of the state’s most intractable problems,” Newsom said in a statement.