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Friday, June 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Swath of bills pass major deadline in California Legislature

Many lawmakers also saw their bills held in committee, meaning their legislation has died.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Hundreds of bills in the California Legislature met a crucial deadline Thursday, passing key committees and advancing to the floor of their respective house.

However, many others — like the latest version of a psychedelic therapy bill — received no vote and died.

Bills with a fiscal impact get routed to their chambers' Appropriations Committee, which had to pass them before week’s end. The next major deadline is May 24, when bills must pass out of their house of origin to stay alive.

A looming $27.6 billion deficit — or $73 billion shortfall, depending on whose estimate is used — is foremost in the minds of lawmakers. Assemblymember Buffy Wicks, an Oakland Democrat and chair of her chamber’s Appropriations Committee, spoke to that as her hearing began.

“It’s a very difficult budget year this year,” Wicks said.

Bills moved quickly through both Wicks’ committee as well as Senate Appropriations, chaired by state Senator Anna Caballero, a Merced Democrat.

The Senate committee passed a handful of bills that have drawn headlines. Senate Bill 1053 — written by state Senator Catherine Blakespear, an Encinitas Democrat — would fix what Blakespear has called a loophole in the state’s plastic bag law.

Her bill would require bags to be at least 50% recycled material. Reusable bags could only be sold if they met certain criteria, like being made from cloth.  

The committee also passed Senate Bill 1331, called the Fund for Reparations and Reparative Justice. It would create a fund that would pay for future policies to address harms caused by the state to descendants of enslaved people or descendants of a free Black person in the country before the 20th century.

Speaking previously to Courthouse News, Mia Settles-Tidwell, vice president for inclusive excellence and university diversity officer for Sacramento State, said funding is linked to priorities.

“For me, it’s whether or not this is a true priority or a performatory priority,” she added.

Other bills passed by the Senate committee include Senate Bill 1043 — written by state Senator Shannon Grove, a Bakersfield Republican. Championed by television personality Paris Hilton, the bill would require the state to keep a public database about the use of behavioral restraints and seclusion in short-term residential therapeutic programs.

Senate Bill 954 — written by state Senator Caroline Menjivar, a San Fernando Valley Democrat — has the goal of making free condoms available to state public high school students. A similar bill was vetoed last year over budget concerns.

Senate Bill 1116 — written by state Senator Anthony Portantino, a Burbank Democrat — would make someone who left their job because of a trade dispute eligible for unemployment benefits. A similar bill was vetoed last year.

On the Assembly side, the Appropriations Committee passed constitutional amendments to the floor of that house, including Assembly Constitutional Amendment 10 and 16.

The first — written by Assemblymember Matt Haney, a San Francisco Democrat — would declare that California recognizes adequate housing as a fundamental human right for everyone and that it’s the obligation of local and state governments to protect and fulfill that right.

Assembly Constitutional Amendment 16 — written by Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, a Los Angeles Democrat — would enshrine into law that Californians have a right to clean air, water and the environment.

The amendments must pass both legislative houses by two-thirds and then win a majority of the vote at the polls.

Legislation that would restrict businesses from owning over 1,000 single-family homes also passed Wicks’ committee. Assembly Bill 2584 — written by Assemblymember Alex Lee, a San Jose Democrat — would prohibit those businesses from buying homes and converting them into rentals. Lee has said first-time homebuyers can’t compete with the corporations.  

A bill by Assemblymember Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, a Winters Democrat, that closely resembles one vetoed last year by Governor Gavin Newsom, also passed Appropriations. Assembly Bill 2286 would require a driver be in an autonomous vehicle weighing over 10,000 pounds when it’s driven on public roads.

Newsom in his veto message about the other bill said existing law already provides enough authority for the creation of a regulatory framework.

The fear of a youth tackle football ban, which reared its head earlier this year at the Capitol, returned on Thursday in the form of Assembly Bill 3047, written by Assemblymember Kevin McCarty, a Sacramento Democrat.

McCarty’s previous bill would have barred youth tackle football until age 12. His new bill, now headed to the Assembly floor, would lead to recommendations on how to reduce health risks and a suggested minimum age for the sport.

Speaking weeks ago with Courthouse News, Steve Famiano, a leader with the Save Youth Football California Coalition, said his group wasn’t happy to see another bill after defeating the prior one.

“I’m very disappointed that we’re here,” Famiano said.

Held in committee

Several bills failed to get past Thursday’s crucial deadline.

Senate Bill 1012 — written by state Senator Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat — would have created a regulatory framework for the use of psychedelics in therapy. It was the answer to a similar bill vetoed last year by the governor.

“We’re in a terrible budget year, where all bills with significant costs are at risk,” Wiener said in a statement. “Nevertheless, it’s disappointing for this bill not to move forward. Psychedelics have massive promise in helping people heal and get their lives back on track.”

Assembly Bill 2881, by Lee, would have created the California Housing Authority, an entity focused on establishing social housing. It also failed to get past Thursday’s hearing.

It’s a form of housing that has people with different income levels living in it and is self-sufficient because higher-income residents subsidize others.  

Other bills that didn’t make the cut include Assembly Bill 1811 — by Assemblymember David Alvarez, a San Diego Democrat — which would have allowed lawful permanent residents to be jurors between 2026 and 2031. Currently, only U.S. citizens can serve on juries.

Assembly Bill 3065 — by Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, a Coachella Democrat — would have permitted the sale of “safe and sane fireworks” from Dec. 26 to New Year’s Day.

Categories / Government, Politics, Regional

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