After eight months, California’s legislative session came to a close on Sept. 1 with a final flurry of frantic activity. Lawmakers rushed to pass hundreds of remaining bills before the clock struck midnight on Aug. 31. For a select few measures, with urgency clauses that allow them to take effect immediately upon the governor’s signature, the votes stretched into the wee hours the next day.

High-profile measures that went to Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom aim to establish California as a progressive leader on abortion access, on measures to counter climate change and on transgender health care for minors. These votes took place as campaigns ramp up for 100 of the 120 seats in the Legislature. On several bills, the governor not only signaled his support, but lobbied lawmakers to approve them.

Not every contentious proposal made it through the gantlet: Bills to restrict bail costs, to allow legislative staff to unionize, and to preserve California’s concealed-carry gun limits all went down to defeat in the final hours. And a bill that would have allowed teenagers to get vaccines without parental permission was pulled without a vote.

Newsom had until Sept. 30 to either sign or veto the bills that did pass — and his choices will likely be more closely watched than ever as speculation builds about whether he is positioning himself to run for president.

Here are some of the interesting and consequential bills that CalMatters is tracking — bookmark this page and keep checking back as we update the fate of each:

✅ Boosting paid family leave

Jerry Sandoval with his daughter Ariel in their living room in Chula Vista on March 13, 2022. Photo by Ariana Drehsler for CalMatters
Jerry Sandoval with his daughter Ariel in their living room in Chula Vista on March 13, 2022. Photo by Ariana Drehsler for CalMatters

By Jeanne Kuang

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

SB 951 by Los Angeles Democratic Sen. Maria Elena Durazo increases payments to workers from the state’s disability and paid family leave programs. Starting in 2025, workers who earn less than about $57,000 a year would be paid 90% of their regular wages, an increase from the current 70%. Other workers also would get a boost, receiving 70% instead of 60% of their wages. The bill would offset some of these costs by removing a cap on workers’ contributions to the program, which currently shields earnings above $145,600.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Groups supporting workers’ rights, child and maternal health, gender equity, retirees, and benefits for low-income Californians are pushing for the bill. 

WHO IS OPPOSED

No one officially. Last year, Newsom vetoed a similar bill over the costs, but his administration’s been silent on this year’s version. The Department of Finance in August declined to take a position. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Supporters say few low-income workers can afford the 30% to 40% pay cut to take time off for a disability or to care for a new child or sick family member. From 2017 to 2019, leave claims by workers making less than $20,000 a year declined while they rose for all other workers — increasing the most for those making $100,000 and above, according to the Employment Development Department. And under current law, lower-earning workers contribute a greater share of their paychecks to the program than higher earners because of the cap on taxing incomes above $145,600. More immediately, without this bill the current amount of benefits is set to expire and would return to 55% of a worker’s wages in January.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 30, the last day of his decisions. “California created the first Paid Family Leave program in the nation 20 years ago, and today we’re taking an important step to ensure more low-wage workers, many of them women and people of color, can access the time off they’ve earned while still providing for their family,” he said in a statement.

✅ Limit enforcement of jaywalking

A man jaywalks across California Street in San Francisco on Tuesday, April 7, 2020. Photo by Jeff Chiu, AP Photo
A man jaywalks across California Street in San Francisco on April 7, 2020. Photo by Jeff Chiu, AP Photo

By Ariel Gans

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

AB 2147, The Freedom to Walk Act, would allow law enforcement officers to stop a pedestrian for jaywalking only when “a reasonably careful person would realize there is an immediate danger of a collision.” The Legislature passed, but Newsom vetoed, a similar bill last year that would have repealed the state’s jaywalking laws and prohibited fines until Jan. 1, 2029.

Assemblymember Phil Ting, a San Francisco Democrat and the bill’s author, is hopeful this version of the legislation meets Newsom’s objections.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

The California Bicycle Coalition, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area and other groups say the bill will prevent racially biased enforcement while still keeping pedestrians safe. 

WHO IS OPPOSED

The California District Attorneys Association and other groups say the bill will endanger pedestrians and unnecessarily tie the hands of law enforcement. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Last year, pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. hit a four-decade high, and California recorded the highest number of any state. At the same time, local law enforcement agencies in California write thousands of jaywalking tickets every year, which studies find disproportionately impact people of color.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 30 among his final decisions.

✅ Disciplinary action for COVID disinformation 

 

A person receives the COVID-19 vaccine on their arm.
A COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Oakland. Photo by Marissa Leshnov for CalMatters

By Ana B. Ibarra

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

AB 2098 would make it easier for the Medical Board of California to punish doctors who deliberately spread false information about COVID-19, vaccines and treatments. The bill, authored by Cupertino Democrat Evan Low, would classify disinformation as “unprofessional conduct,” allowing the board to take action. Discipline could include a public reprimand, probation, suspension, or license revocation. 

WHO SUPPORTS IT

The bill is supported by doctor groups including the California Medical Association, the California chapters of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Emergency Physicians. The groups argue that COVID disinformation is dangerous and undermines public health efforts.

WHO IS OPPOSED

Some individual doctors and groups like A Voice for Choice Advocacy argue that the bill infringes on doctors’ free speech and that physicians should be allowed to share their professional opinions without fear of repercussions. 

WHY IT MATTERS

The COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing and the virus has killed more than 94,000 people in California. COVID disinformation has been linked to vaccine hesitancy and in some cases has popularized unproven treatments. Since early in the pandemic, California has dealt with its share of doctors who have made false claims about the virus. Disinformation can have serious consequences. For example, last year the nations’ poison control centers saw a spike in calls after people reported taking ivermectin, an anti-parasite drug for animals, to cure COVID-19 after being persuaded by false information shared by influential people on the internet. 

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 30, among his final decisions. In a signing statement, he sought to make clear that the measure “does not apply to any speech outside of discussions directly related to COVID-19 treatment within a direct physician patient relationship.”

“I am signing this bill because it is narrowly tailored to apply only to those
egregious instances in which a licensee is acting with malicious intent or clearly
deviating from the required standard of care while interacting directly with a
patient under their care,” he added.

✅ Introducing rap lyrics at trial 

Condenser microphone on a boom stand in a music studio. Photo via iStock Photo
Condenser microphone on a boom stand in a music studio. Photo via iStock Photo

By Nigel Duara

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

AB 2799 would require prosecutors who want to use “creative expressions” as evidence of a crime to hold a pretrial hearing away from the jury to prove that rap lyrics or other artistic expression are relevant to the case. The bill by Democratic Assemblymember Reggie Jones-Sawyer of Los Angeles would require judges to balance the value of the evidence with the “undue prejudice” and racial bias possible when that evidence is presented to a jury. 

WHO SUPPORTS IT 

The bill has enjoyed broad support as it sailed unopposed through both houses. The California Attorneys for Criminal Justice cited the 2019 book “Rap on Trial: Race, Lyrics, and Guilt in America,” which they say proves that prosecutors use rap lyrics and other forms of expression to imply a defendant’s guilt, They contend such usage plays on a jury’s racial bias and a belief that what someone said in a song is also a true accounting of the crime with which they’re charged. 

WHO IS OPPOSED

There’s no official opposition to the bill, though the original version from Jones-Sawyer only called for a judge to instruct the jury to treat artistic expressions with “caution and close scrutiny.” A revised version from the Senate calls for an entirely separate hearing, away from the jury. 

WHY IT MATTERS

This bill is about rap lyrics and the book “Rap on Trial.” In one study mentioned in the book and by California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, two groups of people were read identical lyrics. One group was told they were from a country song, the other was told they were from rap. Participants rated the lyrics they were told was rap as more offensive and more likely to be true to life. In 2021, a Contra Costa man was convicted of murder after an expert prosecution witness testified that the man’s repeating of rap lyrics from popular songs was a confession to his own alleged crimes. He was sentenced to life in prison. 

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 30, the last day to act. The governor’s Twitter account said the bill makes California the “1st state to ensure creative content — like lyrics & music videos — can’t be used against artists in court without judicial review.”

✅ Fewer remedial courses at community colleges

Students walk through campus at Sacramento City College on Feb. 23, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
Students walk through campus at Sacramento City College on Feb. 23, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

By Mikhail Zinshteyn

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

Assembly Bill 1705 continues California’s efforts to ensure more community college students enroll in classes required to transfer to a UC or Cal State campus. The bill, by Democratic Assemblymember Jacqui Irwin of Camarillo, would order community colleges to enroll most students in a transfer-level math and English course if their program requires those subjects. It would exempt short-term credentials that have industry-specific math requirements and adult programs that don’t require a math or English course (think: basic office software or fire-resilient landscaping), among other carve-outs. 

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Pretty much everyone but faculty. The bill received not a single dissenting vote from lawmakers. Its champions include the Chancellor’s Office of the California Community Colleges system, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, various think tanks and a few individual community colleges.  

WHO IS OPPOSED

Faculty unions, associations and the academic senate, plus Mt. San Antonio College, who fault it for being too prescriptive. Faculty groups also say the bill comes with no additional funding to hire more tutors who work alongside faculty to help students during class and give faculty more training.

WHY IT MATTERS

Until a few years ago, most community college students had to take remedial math and English. For many, their goal was to eventually transfer, so remedial courses were a key hurdle. Over time research chipped away at that logic: Students with high school grades who enrolled directly into transfer-level math and English courses were likelier to pass the courses in a year than if they took a remedial class first. Following a 2017 change in the law, most students started taking gateway courses to eventually get into a UC or CSU, but still thousands — 20% of first-time students — continue to take these remedial courses. In almost all cases, campuses couldn’t justify their policy of requiring that.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill and several other higher education proposals on Sept. 30, his last day to act. “California is increasing resources, adding services, and advancing equity to boost graduation and transfer rates throughout our higher education systems,” he said in a statement.

❌ Limiting solitary confinement

A correctional officer walks near one of two entrances into Kern Valley State Prison, in Delano on June 14, 2005. Photo by Ric Francis, AP Photo
A correctional officer walks near one of two entrances to Kern Valley State Prison in Delano. Photo by Ric Francis, AP

By Nigel Duara

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

Assembly Bill 2632 from Democratic Assemblymember Chris Holden of Pasadena would overhaul how California prisons treat inmates in solitary confinement. They would no longer be held in solitary for longer than 15 consecutive days, or 45 days in a 180-day period. The bill would also prohibit the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation from putting certain groups in solitary confinement, including inmates younger than 26 or older than 59, pregnant people or those with mental or physical disabilities.  

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Civil liberties groups, immigration advocates and a constellation of criminal justice reform groups, including the California Public Defenders Association. A federal judge has ruled that the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has systematically violated the due process rights of inmates, and continues to ignore a 2015 settlement between the state and two Pelican Bay State Prison inmates held in solitary confinement for decades based on their perceived gang affiliations.

WHO IS OPPOSED

The people operating prisons and the Security Housing Units within them. The California Correctional Peace Officers Association wrote in a letter of opposition that forcing violent inmates back into the general prison population will lead to more violence, both to inmates and prison guards. “Inmates who have attempted, or succeeded in, murdering their cellmates would be let right back into the population they pose a risk to.”

WHY IT MATTERS

Solitary confinement is the Wild West of carceral regulations – there aren’t many rules in place, so prisons set many of their own. Horror stories abound from California and elsewhere of people kept for years in solitary confinement, getting perhaps two hours of time outside their cell a day with little contact with the outside world. The bill would also extend its regulations to private California prisons that house federal inmates or immigration detainees.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom vetoed the bill on Sept. 29, but directed the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to develop regulations to restrict the use of segregated confinement to “limited situations, such as where the individual has been found to have engaged in violence in the prison.”

In his veto message, he said the bill “establishes standards that are overly broad and exclusions that could risk the safety of both the staff and incarcerated population within these facilities.”

✅ Protecting transgender youth

Supporters of transgender rights gathered at the Capitol during a press conference by Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, where he announced legislation to provide refuge to out-of-state transgender kids and their parents. March 17, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
Supporters of transgender rights gathered at the Capitol during a press conference by Senator Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, where he announced legislation to provide refuge to out-of-state transgender kids and their parents. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

By Ariel Gans

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

SB 107 would protect from prosecution patients who travel to California for what supporters call gender-affirming care and doctors who provide that care. If signed, the bill would make California a refuge for minors seeking gender-affirming care by prohibiting the removal of a child from their parent or guardian because that parent allowed their child to receive gender-affirming care. It also bans California from complying with out-of-state subpoenas seeking medical information related to gender-affirming care.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

The bill’s supporters list is largely populated by civil rights groups and city governments. They and bill author Sen. Scott Wiener, a San Francisco Democrat, say that California has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for transgender youth and their families to get gender-affirming care given a recent rise in legislation in other states that would restrict access. They also argue that access to this care lowers suicide rates among transgender youth.

WHO IS OPPOSED

The opposition is led by the California Family Council, which argues that gender-affirming care is not an agreed-upon treatment for transgender children. The council also says that children often misunderstand their gender identity and are likely to regret their decision to get irreversible treatments such as hormone replacement therapy and gender-affirming surgery.

WHY IT MATTERS

According to a survey by The Trevor Project, affirming gender identity among transgender and nonbinary youth is consistently associated with lower rates of attempted suicide. The bill responds to a recent national wave of legislation that aims to restrict access to gender-affirming medical care for transgender youth.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill Sept. 29. “States across the country are passing laws to demonize the transgender community, especially transgender youth and their parents,” he said in a signing statement. “With the signing of this bill, California will ensure these kids and their families can seek and obtain the medical and mental health care they need.”

✅ Clearing criminal records

Police officers in Balwin Park on Aug. 6, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Police officers in Balwin Park on Aug. 6, 2019. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

By Ariel Gans

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

SB 731 would, as of July 1, expand criminal record relief for all felonies, not just jailable felonies, if an individual is no longer serving a probationary sentence, not currently involved in another case, and two years have elapsed. It would exclude crimes requiring the offender to register as a sex offender. Criminal records must be disclosed to school districts, which can use those records for deciding teacher credentialing or employment.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

A long list of criminal justice reform and rehabilitation organizations are supporting the bill, including Californians for Safety and Justice, who sponsored it. Supporters say that criminal records are serious barriers to the successful reentry of formerly incarcerated individuals to society. These barriers appear when, for example, individuals look for housing, pursue careers in education or healthcare, want to coach a sports team, adopt a child or care for their grandparent. Supporters say poor and Black and Latino residents are disproportionately affected.

WHO IS OPPOSED

Law enforcement and medical groups make up the majority of the bill’s opponents, including the Peace Officers Research Association of California. It argues that dismissing records for violent criminals will reduce deterrents for repeat offenders and jeopardize public safety. The group says it would have supported the bill if it excluded violent criminals.

WHY IT MATTERS

Nearly one in three adults in California have a past arrest or conviction on their record, according to the Brennan Center for Justice. While many cases are never prosecuted, these incidents remain on an individual’s record until they are 100 years old in California. These records, when they appear in background checks, can block access to employment and housing, which are primary factors driving recidivism, costing California $20 billion annually.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 29.

✅ Cell fee to fund 988 crisis hotline

llustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock
llustration by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters; iStock

By Jocelyn Wiener

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

AB 988 would raise funds to support call centers and mobile crisis teams associated with the new three-digit federal mental health crisis hotline, also 988. The bill would attach a fee to cell phone lines.That fee has been lowered significantly in negotiations with the telecommunications industry, which in turn has dropped its opposition.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

The Steinberg Institute and The Kennedy Forum, co-sponsors of the bill, point to a rise in mental health needs, which has been further aggravated by the pandemic. They say the fee is an important way to make sure the services associated with the hotline are adequately funded.

WHO IS OPPOSED

The California Association of Health Plans is opposing the bill, saying amendments to it have created a broad new mandate on insurers without a chance for stakeholders to weigh in. County mental health directors and the union that represents county mental health employees called for the bill to be amended, saying they want private insurers to pitch in more, and that they fear implementation may be patchy and variable among counties without sufficient funding. 

WHY IT MATTERS

In July, the new federal 988 number debuted in California and across the country. The number, billed as an alternative to 911, is intended to make it easier for people experiencing mental health emergencies to tap into the state’s network of National Suicide Prevention Lifeline call centers. But to build out the system as envisioned, including providing mobile crisis response, proponents of the cell phone fee say the state needs ongoing funding.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 29, but directed his administration to draft “cleanup language” in the governor’s budget next year because the use of the revenue is “unduly restricted.”

“This creates considerable confusion about how certain services will be financed, and could severely limit the full potential of the behavioral health crisis response promised by the bill,” he said in a signing statement.

❌ Water bill help for low-income Californians

María Dolores Díaz keeps a bowl in the sink while she washes her hands to save water on Aug. 8, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
María Dolores Díaz, who lives in Fresno County, keeps a bowl in the sink while she washes her hands to save water. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

By Rachel Becker

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

California lawmakers approved SB 222 by state Sen. Bill Dodd, a Democrat from Napa, which offers state assistance to low income residents who struggle to pay for drinking water and sewage. Many of the details for how it would work remain up in the air — including how much assistance would be offered and how many people would qualify. There’s also a major catch: The program remains unfunded as final budget negotiations continue. 

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Environmental justice advocates supported the bill, including bill sponsor Community Water Center, a safe drinking water advocacy group. Investor-owned utilities represented by the California Water Association, such as California Water Service, also support it; the largest already offer rate assistance programs of their own. 

WHO IS OPPOSED

The Association of California Water Agencies, which represents more than 450 public water agencies, was opposed over concerns that the program’s division of state and local responsibilities is inefficient and would waste money. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Californians have been struggling to pay their water bills statewide, and it reached a boiling point during the pandemic. Nearly 650,000 residential and 46,000 business accounts owed more than $315 million in unpaid water and wastewater bills by September 2021. This would be the only program of its kind in the country. It aims to make water more affordable before Californians are in crisis. 

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom announced Sept. 28 he had vetoed the bill. In a veto message, he said that “lowering costs and making sure that Californians have access to safe and affordable drinking water is a top priority,” but said that “there is no sustainable, ongoing funding identified.”

✅ Easier farmworker unionization

Members and supporters of the United Farm Workers march through Fresno during day 10 of their 24-day march on Aug. 12, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
Members and supporters of the United Farm Workers march through Fresno during day 10 of their 24-day march on Aug. 12, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

By Jeanne Kuang

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

AB 2183 would allow farmworkers to vote in union elections by mail, rather than the current system that requires in-person elections, which usually take place on a farm owner’s property. Assemblymember Mark Stone, a Santa Cruz Democrat, carried the bill. It gives agricultural employers two options for union drives: They could select a “labor peace” process in which they pledge to remain neutral during a union election, during which farmworkers could choose to receive and submit ballots by mail from the Agricultural Labor Relations Board; or if growers do not agree to neutrality, workers could unionize via a “card check” process in which growers must recognize the union if a majority of workers sign cards expressing interest.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

The United Farm Workers and other labor groups say the bill protects agricultural workers from interference and intimidation when voting in union elections. More than half of California’s farmworkers are undocumented, and they often live on their employers’ land. The UFW says under the current, more rigid voting system, growers hearing of unionization efforts have called immigration authorities on organizing workers. Over the Labor Day holiday, President Biden announced his strong support.

WHO IS OPPOSED

Business groups, including the Western Growers Association, said the proposal opens the door for unions to request ballots for workers, influence their votes and “force” unionization. Newsom says he’s opposed, though the bill has been amended to include provisions he supports after he vetoed a similar bill last year. 

His main sticking point: that the bill allows workers to request union ballots before growers are notified there will be an election.

WHY IT MATTERS

The bill is an effort to ease the path toward collective bargaining – and potentially higher wages – for the 400,000-member California agricultural workforce. Union representation among California’s farmworkers has dwindled to statistically zero, UC Merced researchers found, and a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year effectively kicked union organizers off growers’ property. 

GOVERNOR’S CALL
Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 28, after reaching agreement with the United Farm Workers and California Labor Federation on clarifying language to be passed by the Legislature next year to address his concerns on implementation and voter integrity.

“California’s farmworkers are the lifeblood of our state, and they have the fundamental right to unionize and advocate for themselves in the workplace,” Newsom said in a statement.

✅Build housing on strip malls: Two ways

Abandoned businesses at a Fresno strip mall on Aug. 25, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
Abandoned businesses at a Fresno strip mall on Aug. 25, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

By Manuela Tobias

WHAT THE TWO BILLS WOULD DO

AB 2011, by Democratic Assemblymember Buffy Wicks of Oakland, would fast-track housing development along the ubiquitous strip malls that flank California’s roads. In order to skip lengthy and costly local review processes, including the much-dreaded California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, developers would pay their workers union-level wages and in bigger projects, offer apprenticeships and health benefits, and cap at least a portion of rents. Apartments would have to be either 100% affordable or mixed-use, meaning market-rate but affordable to at least 15% of lower income earners, or 8% of very low income and 5% of extremely low income earners.
SB 6, by Democratic Sen. Anna Caballero of Salinas, would bypass the first step in permitting housing on commercial real estate while allowing other opportunities for local input, like CEQA. It applies to a much wider swath of land and doesn’t cap rents, but developers must use at least some union labor on every project. If at least two union shops don’t bid on the project, union-level wages kick in.

WHO SUPPORTS THEM

The Building and Construction Trades, an umbrella union of 450,000 workers, and the bigger Labor Federation behind them, support SB 6, while the state carpenters union and affordable housing developers backed AB 2011. The bigger unions dropped their lethal opposition to AB 2011 once the Assembly and Senate struck a deal that let both bills through. Pro-housing Yes in My Backyard activists, or YIMBYs, who have been trying to increase density through similar measures for years, are among the proposal’s loudest cheerleaders.

WHO IS OPPOSED

Dozens of cities and local control advocates say the bills take away critical neighborhood input to development decisions and worry local governments may lose tax revenue from commercial properties. The Assembly bill, which razes more neighborhood forums, has a longer list of opponents. Equity groups who originally pushed for higher affordability requirements in both bills had to settle for less, while developers worry the labor and affordability standards will be too high to meet.

WHY IT MATTERS

California needs 2.5 million more homes by 2030 and almost no one wants them in their backyard. These bills would unlock a glut of empty stores, offices and parking lots for as many as 1.6 million housing units — market conditions permitting — without contributing to urban sprawl. The labor truce also matters: Following years of heated debate and dead bills, unions put their differences aside, at least for this year.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed both bills on Sept. 28.

After calling housing affordability “the original sin” of California, Newsom said that these housing bills would be different. “This is a big moment as we begin… to take responsibility,” he said at a press conference in San Francisco. “Not to give the same speech and expect the same applause, but to begin to do something about it.”

✅Student housing versus CEQA

Student housing at Fresno State on Feb. 8, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela for CalMatters
Student housing at Fresno State. Photo by Larry Valenzuela for CalMatters

By Mikhail Zinshteyn

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

SB 886 by Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat from San Francisco, would excuse public college and university housing from regulations of the  California Environmental Quality Act, a 1970s-era law that developers deplore but that environmental groups and some cities champion as a safeguard against pollution. The bill is meant to address the chronic student housing crisis by sparing development from environmental lawsuits that in the past have slowed down dorm construction. Campus projects for student and faculty housing would have to check off a long list of environmental and labor-relations musts to evade CEQA’s, which cities and community groups cite in lawsuits to challenge development. Housing projects would have to be on campus-owned land and not displace affordable housing.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

A vast constellation of student groups, labor unions, business organizations and “YIMBY” activists who support more housing development. They view the bill as vital to protecting much-needed housing development from environmental lawsuits. They argue the bill will lead to more dorm beds faster.

WHO IS OPPOSED

Some environmental justice groups, the city and county where UC Santa Cruz is located, a town adjacent to UC Santa Barbara and three state Democrats who cast the only dissenting votes against the bill. The barrier to more student housing is poor university planning and insufficient funding, the California Environmental Justice Alliance argued.

WHY IT MATTERS

Is CEQA the bogeyman it’s made out to be? Opponents of this bill point to research showing that only 2% of housing development projects face CEQA lawsuits. But the environmental law was catapulted into national prominence when UC Berkeley was almost forced to cut its new class of students by a third until state lawmakers bailed out the campus with another CEQA exemption in March. Backers and foes of this bill say they want the same thing: more student housing. They just don’t agree on how to get there or that this watershed environmental law is the culprit. 

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 28.

✅ Abortion: Protection from prosecution

A Planned Parenthood location in Highland Park on August 8th, 2022. Photo by Raquel Natalicchio for CalMatters
A Planned Parenthood location in Highland Park on Aug. 8, 2022. Photo by Raquel Natalicchio for CalMatters

By Kristen Hwang

WHAT THE BILLS WOULD DO

As other states move to criminalize or severely restrict abortion, a cadre of bills protecting women and medical providers from prosecution are headed to the governor. Headlining that effort is AB 2223 by Democratic Assemblymember Buffy Wicks of Oakland. It protects a woman or pregnant person who chooses to end a pregnancy from prosecution, even if the abortion is self-induced or happens outside of the medical system. It also abolishes the requirement that coroners investigate stillbirths and protects someone who helps a pregnant person end their pregnancy voluntarily from criminal or civil liability.

AB 2626, by Democratic Assemblymember Lisa Calderon of Whittier, prevents professional licensing boards from punishing doctors, physicians assistants, nurse practitioners and nurse midwives for performing abortions by revoking their license. It also prevents licensing boards from denying licenses to medical professionals who were punished in other states for performing abortions.

Stacked on top of those protections are enhanced safeguards for medical records. AB 2091, by Democratic Assemblymember Mia Bonta of Oakland, prohibits medical providers, health insurers and prison staff from disclosing abortion-related medical records to out-of-state law enforcement officials who seek to use that information to prosecute an individual for getting an abortion. It also protects someone who has knowledge of an abortion from disclosing the identity of the person who got the abortion. In a last-minute amendment, lawmakers also snuck in protections for medical records related to gender-affirming health care.

WHO SUPPORTS THEM

The Future of Abortion Council, created by the governor, supports all three bills along with Attorney General Rob Bonta, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis and a number of professional medical groups and patient advocacy groups.

WHO IS OPPOSED

AB 2223 garnered the most opposition, spurring heated protests outside the Capitol amid allegations that the bill is overbroad and legalizes infanticide, which supporters strongly deny. Notably, law enforcement has not weighed in. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Prior to state legislators focusing on creating a bulwark for abortion rights, two women in Kings County were imprisoned and charged with murder after delivering stillborns and testing positive for methamphetamine use. The controversial cases spurred Bonta to issue an alert to law enforcement not to prosecute women who miscarry or have a stillbirth. Abortion rights advocates contend that the cases open the door to prosecute people who pursue a self-induced abortion and seek to prohibit that outcome.

AB 2091 also seeks to outmaneuver laws in places such as Texas, where private citizens may sue abortion providers. More than a dozen states have announced plans to model abortion bans on Texas’ law. California providers report already seeing patients from many of those states.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bills on Sept. 27. “An alarming number of states continue to outlaw abortion and criminalize women, and it’s more important than ever to fight like hell for those who need these essential services. We’re doing everything we can to protect people from any retaliation for accessing abortion care while also making it more affordable to get contraceptives,” he said in a statement.

✅ Funding abortion access

Pro-abortion demonstrators marched in Sacramento in protest of the recent Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe vs. Wade, June 25, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
Pro-abortion demonstrators marched in Sacramento in protest of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe vs. Wade, June 25, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

By Kristen Hwang

WHAT THE TWO BILLS WOULD DO

Legislators introduced more than a dozen bills this session designed to improve and protect access to abortion in California. The two centerpiece bills of the Future of Abortion Council’s package — SB 1142 and AB 2134 — were guaranteed $60 million in the June budget, but legislators were left to hash out how that money would be spent.

SB 1142, by Democratic senators Anna Caballero of Merced and Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, incubated the Abortion Practical Support Fund, which was established in the budget. The $20 million fund will give grants to groups that help women cover the cost of travel, lodging, child care and other expenses that commonly create barriers to accessing abortion. This measure increases oversight over the fund, requiring annual reports be made to the Legislature, and directs the state Health and Human Services Agency to create a website outlining abortion services available in the state. Legislators also made last-minute amendments  to the health omnibus budget bill that allow non-Californians to use money in the fund, a change that advocates rallied hard for in the final days.

AB 2134, by Democratic Assemblymembers Akilah Weber of San Diego and Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens, would establish the California Reproductive Health Equity Fund to offset the cost of free or reduced-cost abortions or contraceptive services for low-income patients. Legislators approved a one-time $40 million appropriation for the fund as part of the budget. That money was to be allocated over six years, but this bill makes the appropriation continuous.

WHO SUPPORTS THEM

The bill is supported by the California Future of Abortion Council, a collective of more than three dozen reproductive rights groups convened by Newsom in 2021 to examine abortion access in the state. Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California co-sponsored both bills and sits on the council’s steering committee.

WHO IS OPPOSED

The California Catholic Conference has led the opposition on all of the abortion bills, including these two, and is among a handful of other religious groups opposed. The California Department of Finance is opposed to both bills, noting that the fiscal effect is unknown but potentially in the tens of millions of dollars.

WHY IT MATTERS

Even before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal abortion protections, Democratic leaders in California positioned the state as a reproductive health “safe haven.” Now, with dozens of other states moving to ban or severely restrict abortions, California has become the nearest abortion provider for an estimated 8,000 to 16,000 people. Already, providers like Planned Parenthood and ACCESS Reproductive Justice California have reported influxes of out-of-state patients.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bills on Sept. 27.

✅ Abortion digital privacy

Social media applications on a smart phone. Photo via iStock Photo
Social media applications on a smart phone. Photo via iStock Photo

By Kristen Hwang

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

Up until the last day of the session, Democratic lawmakers responded to shifts in the national abortion landscape with amendments aimed at curtailing some of the ripple effects of the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. Democratic Assemblymembers Rebecca Bauer-Kahan of Orinda, Mia Bonta of Oakland and Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens inserted an amendment into AB 1242 preventing California-based tech companies from disclosing user information to out-of-state law enforcement agencies seeking to prosecute someone for obtaining or providing an abortion. That means companies like Facebook, Apple or Google — all of which facilitate private digital communications — could not turn those records over to another state where abortion is illegal.

The measure would also prohibit California law enforcement agencies from arresting anyone who obtains or performs a legal abortion and prevents them from cooperating with out-of-state law enforcement agencies investigating an abortion.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

This measure was sponsored by Attorney General Rob Bonta and is supported by the Future of Abortion Council, the California Public Defenders Association, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and the University of California.

WHO IS OPPOSED

It is opposed by the Right to Life League, which also opposed AB 2223 and AB 2091.

WHY IT MATTERS

Digital security has become a hotly debated topic in the abortion world following Roe v. Wade’s overturn. The proliferation of period-tracking reproductive health apps along with a high-profile Nebraska case where prosecutors subpoenaed Facebook messages from a mother charged with helping her daughter get an illegal abortion has led to scrutiny of how tech companies handle patient privacy.

And, as more out-of-state women travel to California for abortions, this measure seeks to protect California abortion providers from criminal and civil liability elsewhere.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 27.

✅ 'Pink tax:' Gender-based price discrimination

Products at a Walgreens at Sunset & Vine in Hollywood. Photo by Fred Prouser, Reuters
Products at a Walgreens at Sunset & Vine in Hollywood. Photo by Fred Prouser, Reuters

By Ariel Gans

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

AB 1287, authored by Assemblymember Rebecca Bauer Kahan, an Orinda Democrat, would prohibit an individual or business from charging a different price for a product based on the customer’s gender. By banning this practice, this bill would eliminate the “pink tax,” which supporters call the additional costs to female consumers. Two products are considered “substantially similar” if they share a brand, as well as similar materials, functions and designs. The bill authorizes the attorney general to seek a court order to stop violations, and courts to impose a penalty of as much as $10,000 for first violations and $1,000 for each subsequent violation.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Women’s rights organizations, nonprofits and political advocacy groups comprise the bulk of the bill’s supporters. The California Teachers Association wrote in a supporting opinion that higher prices for products marketed to women reinforces gender inequity. In turn, these messages reinforce gender-based stereotypes that are harmful to children, supporters say. The California Commission on the Status of Women and Girls added that the bill is necessary in order to “ensure women achieve parity.”

WHO IS OPPOSED

There are no groups in opposition on file.

WHY IT MATTERS

Studies have shown that women pay more for similar products, including deodorants, shampoos and, to a lesser extent, clothing. On average, products marketed toward women cost 7% more than similar ones marketed toward men, according to a 2015 study from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs. Connecticut, Minnesota and New Jersey have also proposed “pink tax” legislation in the past year, and a federal bill was  introduced in Congress in June 2021.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 27, as part of a package of legislation on equity for women. “These measures bring new transparency to tackle pay gaps, end discriminatory pricing of products based on gender and expand supports for survivors of abuse and assault,” he said in a statement.

✅ Nursing home licensing reform

A man sits in his wheelchair down a long nursing home hallway. The California Department of Public Health faced tough questions about its oversight of nursing homes at an informational hearing Tuesday in front of the Assembly Health Committee. Image via iStock
The California Department of Public Health has faced tough questions about its oversight of nursing homes. Image via iStock

By Jocelyn Wiener

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

AB 1502 would close certain loopholes preventing people from purchasing nursing homes before they have licenses to run them. The bill followed a series of CalMatters’ stories exposing the problems caused by these loopholes, which have allowed owners to operate homes while license applications are in yearslong pending status, or even when the licenses have been outright denied. The bill, carried by Democratic Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi of Torrance and Jim Wood of Santa Rosa, would also institute time limits to prevent such delays.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Several advocacy organizations for nursing home residents, including the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine, support this bill. The California Department of Public Health was involved in drafting more recent versions of the bill.

WHO IS OPPOSED

The bill’s original sponsor, California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform, yanked its support for the bill after it was amended earlier in the year and has since voiced strong opposition. The group contends that it has been gutted and now serves as a lifeline to problematic nursing home owners.

WHY IT MATTERS

Some 10,000 California nursing home residents died during the pandemic. Advocates on both sides of the bill have for years called for reform of the licensing system. They want to see better state oversight of who owns and operates nursing homes in the state.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 27.

✅ Burial option: Human composting 

A freshly dug grave awaits a burial at Rose Hill Memorial Park and Mortuary in Whittier on Jan 26, 2021. Photo by Mike Blake, Reuters
A freshly dug grave awaits a burial at Rose Hill Memorial Park and Mortuary in Whittier. Photo by Mike Blake, Reuters

By Sameea Kamal

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

After failed attempts in 2020 and 2021, a bill to legalize “natural organic reduction,” or turning bodies into soil as an after-death option was resurrected this year. AB 351, authored by Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, a Democrat from Downey, establishes licensing and regulation processes for human composting. It would also require the state’s public health department to regulate the “reduction chambers” where it’s done to prevent the spread of disease. The regulation would be funded by a maximum fee of $8.50 per reduction — or per body — paid by licensed facilities to the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Cemetery and Funeral Bureau.  

WHO SUPPORTS IT

The bill was supported by the environmental group Californians Against Waste and by two companies who offer sustainable burial services, Better Place Forests and Recompose. 

WHO IS OPPOSED 

The California Catholic Conference opposes the bill, saying that scattering the remains of multiple people in the same area is “tantamount to a mass grave.” 

WHY IT MATTERS

Garcia said the state needs more environmentally friendly burial options, since traditional methods put chemicals into the ground, or release carbon into the atmosphere. The National Funeral Directors Association estimates that about 67% of people were cremated in 2021 – and that number is expected to rise. Cremating one corpse can release almost 600 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Supporters of the bill say if each Californian opted to be composted after death, the carbon saved would be enough to power 225,000 homes for a year. It would take effect in 2027.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill into law Sept. 18.

✅ Tackling greenhouse gases

Traffic on Highway 50 in Sacramento on June 30, 2022. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters
Traffic on Highway 50 in Sacramento. Photo by Miguel Gutierrez Jr., CalMatters

By Nadia Lopez

WHAT THE BILL DOES

AB 1279, authored by Democratic Assemblymembers Al Muratsuchi of Torrance and Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens, codifies California’s commitment to reach carbon neutrality by 2045. To achieve this target, the state needs to reduce its fossil fuel use by 91% – a target that the California Air Resources Board has prioritized in this year’s climate change blueprint. Carbon neutrality means balancing the volume of greenhouse gases that are emitted with the amount removed from the atmosphere. 

It was part of the climate action plan that Gov. Gavin Newsom pushed legislators in mid-August to help meet the state’s carbon-neutral goals. One ambitious bill for tackling climate change, however, was shot down by the Assembly: AB 2133 – which would have ramped up goals for reducing greenhouse gases — failed at the last minute.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Newsom and environmental groups are top supporters. Supporters say the world could exceed the 1.5 degree celsius threshold of dangerous warming as early as 2030, and that California must do its part to avoid the dire effects of climate change. 

WHO IS OPPOSED 

The Western States Petroleum Association and the California Chamber of Commerce were two of the most outspoken opponents, as were farmers and grower associations. They labeled it a “job killer,” insisting there is no clear plan to achieve the goals and that the rapid transition to a carbon-free economy would cause many workers to lose their jobs. Instead, the groups are advocating for more market-based approaches that trade credits and capture and store carbon while still allowing continued use of fossil fuels. 

WHY IT MATTERS

California has long been a global leader in tackling climate change, enacting bold policies to reduce its carbon footprint. Though the state is responsible for less than 1% of greenhouse gases emitted globally, it has the fifth largest economy and helps drive global policy changes. California enacted AB 32 in 2006, which required the state to set strict emission limits, including a target that greenhouse gas emission levels must reach 1990 levels by 2020. The state achieved that target four years early, but it’s not on pace to meet its current 2030 goal of a 40% cut — much less a larger one.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed this and other climate bills on Sept. 16. “This month has been a wake-up call for all of us that later is too late to act on climate change. California isn’t waiting any more,” he said in a statement. “Together with the Legislature, California is taking the most aggressive action on climate our nation has ever seen. We’re cleaning the air we breathe, holding the big polluters accountable, and ushering in a new era for clean energy.” 

✅ Keeping Diablo Canyon nuclear plant open

Aerial view of the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant in San Luis Obispo. Photo by Lionel Hahn/REUTERS
The Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo has been providing electricity since 1985. Photo by Lionel Hahn, REUTERS

By Nadia Lopez

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO 

SB 846, authored by Republican Assemblymember Jordan Cunningham of San Luis Obispo and Democratic state Sen. Bill Dodd of Napa, would keep the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open until 2030 and give its operator, Pacific Gas & Electric, a $1.4 billion loan to do so. The plant is currently scheduled to shut down in 2025. The contentious measure mirrors draft legislation Newsom proposed on Aug. 12, with a few key differences: Newsom wanted to extend the life of the plant for ten years, which received widespread opposition from legislators. The bill also includes stronger protections for ratepayers, and the loan would be allocated in increments. Lawmakers will have to approve spending of state funds in excess of $600 million. The state has a Sept. 6 deadline to apply for federal funding

WHO SUPPORTS IT 

Newsom, ​​U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and the California Independent System Operator, which operates the state’s power grid were supporters. They say the plant is critical to California’s efforts to provide a steady power supply as it builds its renewable energy sources, cuts greenhouse gases and reduces reliance on fossil fuels. 

WHO IS OPPOSED

Some energy experts and environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Union of Concerned Scientists, were opposed. They raised concerns about spent nuclear waste and safety issues due to the plant’s proximity to seismic fault lines. They also say the plant’s extension could delay much-needed investments in renewable energy. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Facing extreme heat, prolonged drought and wildfires, California has increasingly faced challenges in providing reliable electricity. Diablo Canyon provides about 10% of the state’s power. So far the state’s investments in solar and wind have lagged behind its goals.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

As expected, Newsom announced on Sept. 2 that he was signing the bill. “Climate change is causing unprecedented stress on California’s energy system and I appreciate the Legislature’s action to maintain energy reliability as the State accelerates the transition to clean energy,” he said in a signing statement. “Senate Bill 846 facilitates the actions necessary to keep the option of (Diablo Canyon) as a statewide reliability asset beyond the current 2024-2025 retirement dates of the plant’s two units.”

✅ Setbacks for oil and gas wells

Oil pumps in the Kern River Oil Field near Bakersfield on July 6, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
Oil pumps in the Kern River Oil Field near Bakersfield. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

By Julie Cart

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

Senate Bill 1137 would prohibit new oil and gas wells or extensive retrofitting of existing operations within 3,200 feet of homes, schools, nursing homes and hospitals. Carried by Democrats Lena A. Gonzalez of Long Beach and Monique Limon of Santa Barbara, the bill also would require operators to take certain steps at the thousands of existing wells within that buffer zone. Included is a plan to monitor toxic leaks and emissions, and install alarm systems. In addition, new requirements would include limits on noise, light, dust and vapors.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

The governor threw his support behind the bill by including it in his package of legislation to combat climate change, joining health groups and environmental organizations representing the fenceline communities where many oil and gas facilities are sited.

WHO IS OPPOSED

The legislation was vigorously opposed by the oil and gas industry, refiners and drilling specialists. It also was labeled a “job killer” by the state Chamber of Commerce, a criticism that has been taken up by trade unions. Some oil industry groups suggest that the setback rules would increase importation of oil from countries that don’t have robust environmental regulations.

WHY IT MATTERS

Nearly 3 million Californians live within 3,200 feet of an active or idle oil or gas well, mostly in Kern and Los Angeles counties. Scientific and medical analysis indicates that people living near wells are at higher risk of asthma, respiratory illness and some cancers. Many people living near the wells are low-income people of color, creating an environmental justice imbalance.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed this and other climate bills on Sept. 16. But on Sept. 29, the secretary of state cleared for circulation an industry-backed referendum to seek to overturn the law on the 2024 ballot.

✅ Interim goals for 100% clean energy 

The Kettleman City Power solar farm on July 27, 2022. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local
The Kettleman City Power solar farm. Photo by Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local

By Nadia Lopez

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

SB 1020, authored by state Sen. John Laird, a Democrat from Santa Cruz, sets interim targets for generating clean energy. The current law already requires 100% of retail electricity to be fueled by renewables such as wind and solar by 2045. This change requires 90% by 2035 and 95% by 2040. In addition, all state agencies must source their energy from 100% renewable sources by 2035, ten years sooner than the current law requires. 

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Gov. Gavin Newsom, environmental justice groups and The Utility Reform Network, a consumer advocacy group. Newsom has made this one of his top climate priorities this legislative session. 

WHO IS OPPOSED

The Western Electrical Contractors Association, a trade group, raised concern that the measure could increase energy costs, reduce competition in the energy market and “discriminate against otherwise qualified contractors.” State Sen. Brian Dahle, a Republican who is running against Newsom for governor, said the bill would set an arbitrary goal that could drive up rates and contribute to the state’s high cost of living.

WHY IT MATTERS 

California’s fight against climate change requires a massive shift away from fossil fuels. The bill sets phased-in targets to assist the state’s transition to 100% renewable energy. Accelerating greenhouse gas cuts is essential to meeting the state’s goal of carbon neutrality by 2045. 

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed this and other climate bills on Sept. 16.

✅ Strategies for carbon removal and capture

An oil refinery operates in Martinez on January 23, 2021. Photo by Michael R. Lopez via iStock
Oil refineries like this one in Martinez are sources of greenhouse gases. The state’s climate plan includes installation of carbon-capture technologies on industrial plants. Photo by Michael R. Lopez via iStock

By Nadia Lopez

WHAT THE BILLS WOULD DO

AB 1757, authored by Democratic Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia of Bell Gardens and Robert Rivas of Salinas, would require the state to set targets for removing planet-warming carbon from the atmosphere with nature-based methods, such as planting trees, restoring wetlands and scaling up public landscaping and urban forestry projects. 

SB 905, authored by Democratic state Senators Nancy Skinner of Berkeley and Anna Caballero of Merced, directs the California Air Resources Board to develop a program and set regulations for carbon capture, utilization and storage projects at polluting industries, such as oil refineries.

Both bills are part of a climate push from Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed in mid-August. 

WHO SUPPORTS THEM 

AB 1757: Newsom and environmental justice groups were supporters. They say protecting and managing forests, grasslands, wetlands and farmland is important so they can serve as a carbon sink.

SB 905: Newsom supports it, saying capture and storage strategies are necessary tools to remove carbon. 

WHO IS OPPOSED

AB 1757: Farmers and grower associations opposed the bill, saying it would be economically unfeasible for them. They say the state could develop targets based on technologies that are not accessible for most farmers and drive small farms out of business. 

SB 905: Environmental justice groups are opposed, saying carbon capture, use and storage technology is unproven. They say it will prolong the use of fossil fuels and the lifespan of other polluting industries. However, the oll industry also is opposed. The Western States Petroleum Association and the California Chamber of Commerce say the measure falls short because it would stop the oil and gas industries from using the technology for enhanced oil recovery. They also say the bill delays pipelines needed to transport carbon to where it can be injected and sequestered permanently underground. 

WHY IT MATTERS

Carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, exacerbating severe weather events and causing global changes in temperature and precipitation. Many experts warn that achieving carbon neutrality may not be possible without removing existing emissions from the atmosphere and capturing carbon from smokestacks. 

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed these and other climate bills on Sept. 16.

✅ Kids’ privacy online

Social media applications on a smartphone screen. Photo via iStock Photo
Social media applications on a smartphone screen. Photo via iStock Photo

By Grace Gedye

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

If AB 2273 is signed into law, businesses that provide online services or products likely to be accessed by kids under 18 would have to provide greater privacy protections by default starting in 2024. For example, the bill would generally prohibit companies from collecting, selling, sharing, or keeping kids’ personal information other than to provide the service that the kid is actively interacting with. It was co-introduced by a bipartisan group of Assemblymembers: Democrats Buffy Wicks from Oakland and Cottie Petrie-Norris from Costa Mesa and Republican Jordan Cunningham from San Luis Obispo. The state attorney general could bring civil lawsuits to enforce the measure.  

WHO SUPPORTS IT

A long list of consumer, tech, and children advocacy groups who argue technology is harming kids, and say a similar law has already spurred positive changes in the United Kingdom. The bill was sponsored by Common Sense media, a non-profit that reviews entertainment and technology for families and schools, and 5Rights Foundation, a UK non-profit whose founder led the charge on a similar law now in place in the UK. It’s also backed by California Attorney General Rob Bonta and the former head of monetization at Facebook.

WHO IS OPPOSED

Trade groups for businesses and tech companies, including California Chamber of Commerce, and TechNet, which counts among its members Google, Airbnb, Meta (formerly known as Facebook), Snap, and other major tech companies. They say the bill is overly broad, and that setting privacy regulations state-by-state could create confusion for businesses. 

WHY IT MATTERS

It would be a first-in-the-nation law requiring broad privacy protections online for children under 18, and would represent yet another step California has taken to lead privacy regulation.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill Sept. 15. “As a father of four, I’m familiar with the real issues our children are experiencing online,” he said in a statement, thanking the bills sponsors and the tech industry “for pushing these protections and putting the wellbeing of our kids first.”

✅ Courts compelling mentally ill people into treatment

Lawyers address a judge in Madera County Superior Court in Madera on Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2021. Photo by Larry Valenzuela for CalMatters - COVID California courts
Lawyers address a judge in Madera County Superior Court in Madera. Photo by Larry Valenzuela for CalMatters

By Manuela Tobias

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

CARE Court is a proposal put forth by Gov. Gavin Newsom and pushed through the Legislature in SB 1338 by Sens. Tom Umberg of Garden Grove and Susan Talamantes Eggman of Stockton. It creates a court framework in every county to compel people with serious mental illness, many of whom are homeless, into housing and medical treatment. Participants would be ushered to the front of the line for supportive services during the year-long program, after which they could either graduate or be referred to another year of treatment. If a person refuses to comply, or “fails out,” they could be considered by the court for conservatorship — just as if a county fails to provide the necessary services, they could face fines of up to $1,000 per day. The counties of Glenn, Orange, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Stanislaus, and Tuolumne will have to start the program by Oct. 1, 2023, while the rest of the state will have until Dec. 1, 2024.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

Newsom and dozens of cities and mayors desperate to deal with the worsening mental health crisis on the streets. The California State Association of Counties, which initially opposed the measure, dropped their opposition after slowing down the timeline and receiving an additional $57 million to put it in place.

WHO IS OPPOSED

At least 140 organizations and more than 400 individuals registered their opposition to the bill because they say it “sets up a system of coerced, involuntary outpatient civil commitment that deprives people with mental health disabilities of the right to make self-determined decisions about their own lives.” Instead of building up the critical housing and mental health infrastructure people need, the costly new court process will simply re-traumatize people struggling with mental illness, they say. Disability rights groups from across the country worry the model sets a dangerous national precedent.

WHY IT MATTERS

California has struggled for years to keep up with the very real and visible issue of increasing numbers of seriously mentally ill people living on the street. In poll after poll, voters say they are fed up. While the state has finally started to backfill the critical demand for more housing and mental health services, lawmakers believe more is necessary to ensure that the state’s neediest population now languishing on the streets gets the help they need.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

Newsom signed the bill on Sept. 14. “This is one of the things I think we’ll look back on with tremendous pride, when we’re done,” Newsom said during the signing ceremony in San Jose, where he first announced the proposal in March. “We get a moment in time, but this might live on, if we make it real. And that’s the hard work of the next year.”

✅ Regulating fast food workers’ wages

Fast-food workers protest outside of a Jack in the Box restaurant in Sacramento on April 28, 2022. Photo by Alejandro Lazo, CalMatters
Fast-food workers protest outside of a Jack in the Box restaurant in Sacramento on April 28, 2022. Photo by Alejandro Lazo, CalMatters

By Jeanne Kuang

WHAT THE BILL WOULD DO

AB 257 creates a state-run council to set labor standards across the fast food sector, including on wages, safety and other workplace conditions. The council would consist of fast food workers, their advocates, restaurant owners, fast food corporations and the state’s labor and business departments. Assemblymember Chris Holden, a Pasadena Democrat, carried the bill.

WHO SUPPORTS IT

The Service Employees International Union and its Fight for $15 campaign for low-wage workers, the California Labor Federation and other unions backed the bill. 

WHO IS OPPOSED

A swath of business and restaurant groups representing individual franchise owners and corporate chains, including a number of minority chambers of commerce, opposed it. 

WHY IT MATTERS

The bill is a first-in-the-nation attempt by a state to regulate a broad range of working conditions across an industry that this year employed roughly 700,000 Californians. It’s also labor’s foothold toward bargaining power for a low-wage workforce that has been difficult to unionize because of widespread franchise ownership. Business groups say California’s labor laws already are onerous, and new regulations would raise costs at a time of record inflation and threaten a business model that has allowed many minority entrepreneurs to advance.

GOVERNOR’S CALL

On Labor Day, Newsom announced he’s signing the bill in a Twitter video. “California is committed to ensuring that the men and women who have helped build our world-class economy are able to share in the state’s prosperity,” he said in a statement. “Today’s action gives hardworking fast-food workers a stronger voice and seat at the table to set fair wages and critical health and safety standards across the industry. I’m proud to sign this legislation on Labor Day when we pay tribute to the workers who keep our state running as we build a stronger, more inclusive economy for all Californians.”

The fast food industry, however, is trying to qualify a referendum for the 2024 ballot to overturn the law.

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