What Passed? What Didn't? Catch Up With the California Legislature as Session Ends

Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks at the Capitol in Sacramento on Aug. 15, 2019. (Stephanie Lister/KQED)

The final day of session for the California State Legislature was disrupted late Friday afternoon when a woman in the Senate gallery tossed what the California Highway Patrol said was a substance that "appeared to be blood" onto the Senate floor while yelling "That's for the dead babies."

East Bay Sen. Steve Glazer (D-Orinda) said the liquid landed on his head and splashed onto five other senators.

The woman, identified as 43-year-old Rebecca Dalelio of Santa Cruz County, is linked to some of the anti-vaccine protesters demonstrating in recent weeks over the passage of Senate Bills 276 and 714 aimed at tightening up medical exemptions for children's vaccines. She was arrested and charged with assault, vandalism and disrupting the business at hand in the Senate.

The CHP cordoned off the Senate, forcing lawmakers, media and others to move into a committee room to finish its business hours later.

Below are some of the highlights from this legislative session, including bills that have already been signed into law, are awaiting signature or are in limbo until next year.

Children's Issues

AB 378: In-home child care providers would be allowed to unionize under this measure. Supporters said unionizing could give child care workers a voice and encourage them to stay in the industry. The bill has made it through the Legislature. Several similar bills have either died or been vetoed by governors in the past. But supporters are hoping this measure will be signed by Governor Gavin Newsom.

Sponsored

SB 337/AB 1092: Lawmakers sent Newsom two bills aimed at making sure more low-income kids in California benefit from child support payments.

Currently, a quarter of a million California families only receive $50 a month in child support payments, even if the non-custodial parent is paying hundreds of dollars more each month in child support. This happens when a family is also receiving government assistance, like welfare or Medi-Cal. The government takes the rest of the money to repay the public for the cost of those safety net programs.

And parents that fail to pay their required child support on time see huge interest added to those debts — 10% a year. In addition to the crippling debt that racks up, parents can also lose their driver’s license, or go to jail if they fall too far behind.

Two bills now on Newsom’s desk would change that: Oakland Sen. Nancy Skinner’s SB337 will increase the amount of child support paid to families on welfare assistance. Families with one child will get $100 a month under the bill; families with two or more kids will receive $200 a month. And AB 1092 will end the practice of adding interest to child support debt. Both bills, if signed by Newsom, will take effect in 2022.

Health

SB 24: State lawmakers have passed a bill that would require student health centers at all 34 state campuses to provide medication abortions.

If the measure becomes law, it will be the first of its kind in the U.S. The bill's supporters say they want to remove the obstacles women face accessing medical abortion off campus.

While a consortium of women's groups that support abortion rights has promised to pay for all the required ultrasound equipment and upfront training costs of providing the abortion pill on campus, eventually universities would likely need to dip into tax dollars or student fees for ongoing costs — which abortion opponents object to.

SB 276/SB 714: California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a pair of bills into law earlier this week to crack down on doctors who write fraudulent medical exemptions for schoolchildren's vaccinations.

The news laws would create state oversight of medical exemptions for vaccines required by most schools and day care centers in California. Under them, the state would begin collecting medical exemptions electronically by Jan. 1, 2021. But health department officials would review them only when a school's immunization rate falls below 95% or when a doctor writes more than five medical exemptions per year (beginning in 2020).

The laws would also allow officials to revoke any medical exemptions written by doctors who have faced disciplinary action.

Since being introduced last year, hundreds of parents have protested the legislation, insisting it would disrupt confidential doctor-patient relationships and scare doctors from writing new exemptions.

SB 343: Under legislation signed into law last week, Kaiser Permanente will have to share more information — like other insurers do — on revenue and expenses at each of its facilities, The Sacramento Bee reported. The legislation was introduced on behalf of Kaiser’s largest union, the Service Employees International Union, which has been in contract negotiations for roughly a year.

Housing

AB 1482 marks the biggest victory for California renter protections in decades. It would create a statewide limit on rent increases of 5% plus inflation, and requires that landlords provide a "just cause" when evicting tenants who have been renting for a year. The limits on rent hikes don’t go nearly as far as local rent control laws in places like San Francisco and Oakland, but it would cover millions of Californians whose units don’t already have such protections.

The measure exempts units under 15 years old, but it was opposed by real estate agents who argued that the legislation would discourage construction of rental housing. Newsom has committed to signing the bill, which will sunset after 10 years.

AB 1487, which has been sent to Newsom, would allow for a Bay Area regional ballot measure to raise money for affordable housing. Previous measures on ballots in the nine counties have raised taxes to pay for transportation and bay restoration. The executive board of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) would decide what form a potential revenue-raising measure would take.

SB 330, which has been sent to Newsom, would prohibit local governments from downzoning by either placing a moratorium on development or lowering the number of housing units permitted. It also would speed up the permitting process for development. The provision sunsets after five years.

Law Enforcement

SB 22 requires prompt testing of newly collected rape kits in Califonia. Under the bill, new rape kits must be submitted for testing within 20 days and actually tested with 120 days. The bill’s author, Senator Connie Leyva (D-Chino) says the measure would help solve crimes and prevent testing backlogs.

“Survivors should never have to wait years or even decades for their rape kits to be tested and it is outrageous that collected evidence could ever sit on a shelf untested,” Leyva said.

SB 230 is meant to reduce the use of force among law enforcement agencies. Governor Newsom has signed it into law.

The new law requires agencies to maintain a policy providing guidelines on the use of force. That policy must also include de-escalation techniques and other alternatives to force, and specific guidelines for when deadly force can be used. In addition, the agencies' policies must include a way to evaluate and review all use- of-force incidents.

SB 230 is meant to be used in conjunction with AB 392, which Newsom signed into law in August. It states law enforcement can use deadly force only when “necessary,'' rather than just “reasonable.”

AB 61 would expand the scope of people able to request a gun violence restraining order against a person they believe is a danger to themselves or others. Currently, only immediate family members and police are allowed to make a request. This measure would allow employers, co-workers, schoolteachers and employees to request a restraining order as well. The legislation has been sent to Newsom for his signature.

AB 1215 places a three-year ban on the use of facial recognition technology on body cameras by the state and local law enforcement agencies.

The bill was supported by the ACLU, which said the technology is not ready for prime time. To prove its point, the ACLU entered photos of all 120 state legislators into a database of mugshots. The software incorrectly identified 26 of the lawmakers as criminals.

San Francisco and Oakland have already passed similar legislation. The bill has been sent to Newsom for his signature.

Prisons

AB 32 would ban the use of private for-profit prisons and detention centers in California.

Bill author Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) said there’s no room for the facilities in the state. “California should not be home to companies that are profiteering from the tearing of innocent children from their families. This is inhumane and goes against who we are as Californians and Americans,” Bonta said.

Critics say the measure would reduce the state’s options for dealing with prison overcrowding and put more pressure on local jails to hold dangerous inmates. The legislation has been sent to Newsom for his signature.

SB 132, which would allow transgender prisoners in the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to be housed according to their gender identity, and not their sex assigned at birth, will be carried over to the next session.

California would be the third state in the nation to pass such legislation.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Scott Wiener of San Francisco, said the coalition supporting the legislation had decided to make it a two-year bill so they could “come to a solution that works for” the community, CDCR and Newsom.

“Transgender people in our prison system are among the most marginalized people in society, and we must protect them,” he said Friday in a statement. “Over the fall recess, I will join community leaders to visit several state prisons to meet with transgender people who are incarcerated there. This listening tour will help us craft the best legislation possible.”

SB 136 is part of a larger push in California to roll back tough on crime laws that helped pack prisons and jails to the brim and resulted in ballooning corrections spending in the Golden State.

The bill would end the practice of automatically adding an extra year to a defendant’s sentence if they had previously served time for a felony. Wiener said 11,000 people currently in prison have this extra year tacked on at a cost of $80,000 a year. State officials estimate that the change would save taxpayers $80 million a year. The legislation has passed the Legislature and is heading to the governor.

The Environment

AB 792 would establish a minimum level of recycled content – 50% – in plastic bottles by 2035. On Monday, Assemblyman Phil Ting introduced another bill, AB 54, to bring temporary relief to cities feeling the bite from the sudden closure of recycling centers across the state. The bill provides $10 million for recycling centers and gives grocers a reprieve from paying some recycling fees. Both bills passed the Legislature.

SB 1 is aimed at blunting any weakening of federal environmental laws in California by the Trump Administration. It was sent to Gov. Newsom early Saturday morning with strong backing from environmental groups, despite vigorous objections from Sen. Dianne Feinstein and some water groups who warned against creating two sets of environmental standards. If signed by the governor (or allowed to take effect without his signature) it would replace any federal environmental regulation (Clean Power Plan, Endangered Species Act, etc.) with a state alternative.

AB 1080 and SB 54:  The legislative session ended without passage of the bills, which would have enacted the strongest plastic pollution rules in the U.S. The bills are eligible to be considered next year.

The plan required plastics manufacturers to take responsibility for the fate of their products — from coffee cup lids to takeout boxes to plastic packaging.

Businesses would have had to ensure that plastic forks, for example, are recyclable or face a potential ban. If the bill had passed, all of the state’s single-use plastic utensils would need to be recyclable or compostable by 2030, and companies must reduce waste from plastic packaging by 75%.

Wildfires

SB 160: This bill mandates that counties include “cultural competence” into emergency plans. It's partially a response to elderly and non-English-speaking residents who missed emergency alerts during the state's recent wildfires.

The bill, which has been sent to Newsom for his signature, calls for local communities to hold public forums that represent residents of many backgrounds when counties plan their emergency protocols.

SB 520 would give utilities like PG&E the designation of "provider of last resort" in the areas they serve. Utilities already enjoy that privilege in practice, but the law sponsored by Sen. Robert Hertzberg would enshrine it in the law.

Critics say the bill could limit the options that cities and counties have to wrest control from utilities and run them municipally, and limit opportunities for community choice aggregation just as they are starting to thrive. The legislation has been sent to Newsom for his signature.

Other Notable Bills

SB 206: NBA icon LeBron James threw his weight behind SB 206, the "Fair Pay to Play" bill by East Bay Sen. Nancy Skinner that would allow student-athletes at all four-year colleges in California to sign endorsement deals and receive compensation for the use of their names, images or likenesses.

But NCAA President Mark Emmert wrote in a letter to Newsom that signing the legislation could make it "impossible to host fair national championships." He also implied that if the bill became law, athletes at California schools could be barred from competing in NCAA national championships.

Nonetheless, the Senate and the Assembly passed the bill without any opposition. Now — will LeBron be there for the bill signing?

AB 44: Anti-fur advocates have long sought a ban on killing animals for their fur. And if Newsom signs this bill, which he said he will in a tweet, California will become the first state in the nation to ban the creation of new fur products. Republican critics said the state was once again telling Californians what they can and cannot do (the nanny state argument) and that it was disrespectful to Native Americans, whose cultures value fur. The mink, rabbit and coyote communities are no doubt pleased.

AB 1505 seeks to more closely regulate California’s 1,300 charter schools. It would allow school districts to consider the impact to the community and the neighborhood schools when reviewing applications for new or expanded charter schools. It would require charter school teachers to be credentialed and establishes a two-year moratorium on non-classroom based charter schools. The legislation has been sent to Newsom.

SB 313: Another victory for furry citizens of California, this bill would ban the use of wild animals in circus acts, including bears, elephants, tigers and monkeys. If signed by Newsom, California will become the third state after New Jersey and Hawaii to enact such a ban.

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