Decision day for hot-button bills
California’s legislative session ends tonight at midnight, but the intense lobbying surrounding some of the most high-profile and controversial bills is far from over.
That’s because Gov. Gavin Newsom has until Sept. 30 to sign or veto the hundreds of bills sent to him by the state Legislature, and you better believe interest groups are going to continue making their case to him for the next month.
We’ll be up late tonight watching the session’s frenzied final moments, which in recent years have seen everything from angry protesters throwing menstrual blood on lawmakers to legislators running out of time to vote on key bills.
Things seem to be going more smoothly this year, though longtime observers warned against jumping to conclusions for fear of jinxing the proceedings.
Indeed, lawmakers have yet to determine the fate of many contentious proposals, including a bill to strengthen California’s concealed carry weapon law — which failed to garner the necessary votes Tuesday but could be reconsidered today — another to allow youth 15 and older to get vaccinated without parental consent and another to allow legislative staff to unionize.
And they’re set to vote on key elements of Newsom’s last-minute climate package — including a bill to bolster the state’s energy supplies by prolonging the lifespan of its last nuclear power plant — amid a late-summer heat wave that California’s grid operator warned Tuesday will “likely strain the grid,” resulting in possible “emergency notifications” and potential calls for voluntary energy conservation over Labor Day weekend.
- In a Tuesday letter to the governor’s office, the California Independent System Operator, which oversees the state’s electric grid, said it supports keeping the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant online: “We should ensure new sources of clean electric supply are in place before retiring non-emitting generation that plays such an instrumental role supporting reliable electric service,” wrote president and CEO Elliot Mainzer.
Amid the flurry of negotiations, votes and complex legislative procedures, it can be difficult to keep tabs on which bills have actually landed on Newsom’s desk — which is why CalMatters is back with our annual tracker of bills before the governor. We’ll continue to update it as more proposals pass, and we’ll also track whether Newsom eventually signs or vetoes them. So make sure to bookmark it and come back often!
Meanwhile, here’s a look at what some of the noteworthy bills lawmakers approved during marathon Tuesday floor sessions would do:
- Criminal justice: Restrict the use of solitary confinement in jails, prisons and private immigration detention facilities; permit state medical regulators to discipline doctors for spreading “misinformation or disinformation” related to COVID-19; prevent women from being held criminally or civilly liable for their pregnancy outcomes.
- Tech: Significantly expand online privacy protections for children under 18; force social media companies to be more transparent about their terms of service.
- Education: Mandate kindergarten for California children; allow higher school board salaries in Los Angeles Unified School District.
- Water: One proposal would create a first-in-the-nation program to help low-income Californians pay their water and sewage bills, though the state has yet to allocate any money for the effort, CalMatters’ Rachel Becker reports. Another bill would offer universal basic income to farmworkers who can’t work due to drought.
- Equity: Require companies to post salary ranges on all job listings and force companies with more than 100 employees to reveal median gender and racial pay gaps; block companies from charging different prices for similar products based solely on the gender to which they’re marketed; prevent companies from firing employees who use cannabis when they aren’t at work.
- And then, as a category unto itself, human composting: After two failed attempts in 2020 and 2021, a bill to legalize human composting as an after-death option made a comeback. As CalMatters political reporter Sameea Kamal notes, the bill would go into effect in 2027, establish licensing and regulation processes and require the state public health department to regulate the relevant facilities to prevent the spread of disease.
The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 10,268,137 confirmed cases (+0.3% from previous day) and 94,120 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data now updated just twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.
California has administered 79,522,958 vaccine doses, and 72% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.
Other Stories You Should Know
1 Newsom’s subtle but significant shift
Some of the most heated debates of the legislative session that ends tonight — such as whether the state should make it easier to force severely mentally ill people into treatment and housing, or whether it should extend the lifespan of its last nuclear power plant — can be traced back to Newsom. It’s a marked shift for the governor, who in the final year of his first gubernatorial term has sought to enact some of the most significant pieces of his policy agenda through legislation, rather than relying on executive orders or the state budget process as he has in the past. But what’s behind the change, and what does it signify about Newsom’s evolution as governor and his possible national ambitions? CalMatters’ Alexei Koseff takes a closer look.
- Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat: “It’s an ongoing process of trying to decide how to work together. … He sort of is trying to decide when to step back, when to step in.”
- Daniel Zingale, who advised three governors and worked on strategy and communications in Newsom’s first year: “He has a certain humility about the legislative process. … It’s natural over time, as a governor becomes more familiar with the process, for a governor to assert a broader vision for all the people of California.”
2 Rural California beset with high crime, incarceration rates
When it comes to crime in California, the conversation tends to focus on urban parts of the state, such as Los Angeles and San Francisco. But, according to a study released this morning by the Prison Policy Institute, the rural counties of Kings and Shasta have the state’s highest rates of incarceration, with more than 660 residents per 100,000 in prison — more than double the statewide average, CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports. The nonprofit’s analysis is based on Census data provided by the state, which for the first time in 2020 counted prison inmates in their home districts instead of the cities and counties in which they’re incarcerated. Although incarcerated people come from neighborhoods with a higher percentage of Black and Latino residents than the state average, prisons tend to be located in majority-white counties, the report found.
- The result, according to the report, has been the “siphoning of political power from disproportionately Black and Latino communities to pad out the mostly rural and often predominantly white regions where prisons are located,” as Census data determines a district’s representation in the U.S. House as well as the amount of federal funding it receives.
It’s the latest report that suggests all is not well in rural California: Kern, Merced and Tulare had the highest homicide rates in 2021 among counties with populations of at least 100,000 people, according to data released last week by Attorney General Rob Bonta. And San Bernardino County supervisors, angered by what they say is an inadequate level of state funding, are pushing a November ballot measure to consider seceding from California.
CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: California’s last nuclear power plant is too vital to shut down.
California can’t waver on water regulation: If the state approves local groundwater management plans that aren’t sustainable, more wells will go dry, people will lose water, wetlands will wither and animals will die, argue Samantha Arthur and Ngodoo Atume, members of the Groundwater Leadership Forum.
Other things worth your time
NYC, California pensions ask credit card firms to help track suspicious gun buys. // Reuters
Why a single phrase almost derailed Newsom’s bid to keep Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant open. // Sacramento Bee
Bill, designed to help taxpayers get most when public land is sold, dies. // Orange County Register
California lawmakers reject bill to ban ‘secret settlements’ that mask public health risks. // San Francisco Chronicle
Advocates warn bottle recycling bill could give millions to one wine company in California. // San Francisco Chronicle
California budget deal sends $25 million to address homelessness on American River Parkway. // Sacramento Bee
Judge lets Oakland noncitizen voting measure stay on ballot. // Mercury News
Judge throws majority of Mission Viego’s city councilmembers off dias. // Voice of OC
California Rep. Eric Swalwell says caller threatened to kill him with assault rifle. // Los Angeles Times
San Francisco program would give a bed to people awaiting criminal trial. // San Francisco Standard
California senior center serves cleaning liquid to residents, woman with dementia dies. // USA Today
Kaiser mental health clinicians in California enter third week of open-ended strike. // CapRadio
For second time in two years, state halts all Medi-Cal payments to Borrego Health. // San Diego Union-Tribune
UCLA professors allegedly charged some students extra fees. // Los Angeles Times
S.F. high school athletic director who abused a student was allowed to ‘quietly resign,’ lawsuit alleges. // San Francisco Chronicle
Famous California rock climber arrested for alleged sexual assault at Yosemite. // San Francisco Chronicle
SDSU athletics director says it’s ‘absolutely not true’ that football program ignored rape allegations. // San Diego Union-Tribune
San Diego police launch portal that allows sexual assault survivors to check on their evidence kits. // San Diego Union-Tribune
How a decades-old law led to death doulas’ lawsuit against California’s funeral bureau. // Los Angeles Times
Death in Navy SEAL training exposes a culture of brutality, cheating and drugs. // New York Times
Tesla illegally banned union shirts at California plant, labor board rules. // Bloomberg
As Michelin-starred chefs walk, mom-and-pop restaurants persevere against COVID challenges. // Mercury News
With Oakland’s port jammed, walnut exporters look for alternatives. // Bloomberg
California’s different Labor Day story. // Forbes
See you tomorrow
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